Flipping the Classroom: Exposition at Home?

Thank you, blogosphere. Here’s an example of an idea from somebody else that made a positive difference in my classroom (and gave me a topic to post about)…

A while back, @TeachingStatistics wrote about flipping the classroom: all the exposition takes place in videos that kids watch at home, leaving more class time for groupwork and actual one-on-one interaction with students. The guy she referenced—Aaron Sams, in Woodland Park, CO—has this inspiring vlurb:

This idea has lots of plusses, of which two are the time savings and the fact that the kids are watching videos all the time anyway, so why not for learning?

And one big minus: you have to make the videos. “I love Camtasia Studio,” he wrote. Well. I may not know Camtasia Studio, but I have made short instructional videos (for Fathom) using iMovie and the like, and I knew firsthand how frigging much time it takes to get it all right.

But then several things happened. One is that I did that ignite talk, for which I made my slides in Keynote, and another is that someone, maybe my chair, reminded me not to to let the perfect be the enemy of the good, or something like that. Besides, I usually regret spending exposition time in class. When I get started, I usually talk too long. And it’s just not a great way to transfer information.

So I tried it, using Keynote (Apple’s PowerPoint; I assume PowerPoint has the same features) and as little time as possible in production. Keynote makes the technology part easy; I made the slides and then just recorded me presenting them. I reviewed the slides, thought about what I wanted to say, and usually got the voiceover right in one take. Well, not “right,” but good enough. We were just starting the new semester, and a new topic, probability. So over a couple weeks, I made an eight-part series, each one about 5 minutes long. It covers some fundamental ideas in probability, area models, and tree diagrams. The videos set us up for conditional probability without actually opening that door. Think of it as a one-short-period lecture on basic probability, broken up into chunks.

Anyhow, they were a hit. Students actually did the homework (“watch these videos”) and knew, at the beginning of class, some of the things I “covered” in the vids. And we could start with what they didn’t know. Furthermore, kids who did understand some technique from the video could help others in the discussions about the homework. And one even said (without any prompting) that the videos helped because you could stop them and go back. Hooray!

It still takes me quite a while to make each one, but all that is in getting the slides to do what I want. I don’t know PowerPoint, but Keynote’s graphics capabilities, though simple, are capable enough to do useful animations.

The biggest possible improvement: have the kids make the videos. Stay tuned.

If you look at them, I know I have to redo #6. If it looks OK, that means I fixed it… 🙂 Suggestions welcome.

(Here is a link to the 8-part probability series.)

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Published by

Tim Erickson

Math-science ed freelancer and sometime math teacher. In 2014–15, at Mills College in Oakland, California.

4 thoughts on “Flipping the Classroom: Exposition at Home?”

  1. I’m so glad to read that it is working for you! Right now, the videos I’ve made have been with Jing (a free screencasting software) and more for remediation, but I plan to flip AP Stats next year and I’m really excited about! Right now, we are in the midst of a blizzard, and I was thinking – gosh, if I had this set up, I wouldn’t lose instructional time during snow days! Anyway, I look forward to reading more about how it goes throughout the semester.

    Thanks for sharing!

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