Monday, July 22, 2013

How to get Students to Watch Videos

CC Courtesy of Sign Dvd Music Video Icon 
by Nemo on Pixabay
Probably one of the most frequent questions or concerns I've heard about flipped learning is "how do you get kids to watch the videos?" It is a fair question and the purpose of this post is to share tips for motivating and building accountability into video viewing.

But before I begin, I'd like to share two things. First, there is no magic bullet; there is always the potential for noncompliance. Second, noncompliance for video watching should be seen as and treated as any other behavioral issue. I wouldn't accept fear of noncompliance as a valid obstacle to flipping. Any educational model will present students with the opportunity to misbehave.

Tips for building video watching accountability and motivation -

1) Need to know: the most important tip is the video ought to teach students things they need to know. For that reason, I prefer the explore-flip-apply and problem based learning models over traditional flipping because students watch videos after doing some exploration. The exploration generates some questions and illuminates unknown information that can be shared in the video.

2) Time: students are less likely to watch long videos. I've heard flipped vets recommend 1 minute per grade level. So a 10th grader can watch a 10 minute video and 8th graders can watch an eight minute video. I'm unsure if these guidelines are based on research but I strive for 7-8 minutes and usually end up at 10 minutes. Anything above 10 minutes seems excessive to me. 

3) Accountability during and after video: 
  • During the video, I have students take notes (just as they would've done in a classroom lecture.) I provide them with an optional guided note sheet. 
  • After the video, they have to complete a google form with understanding-level questions. Their answers get sent to me and organized into a spreadsheet. 

4) Make it interactive: just like any presentation, students will be more engaged if the video is interactive. Instead of just lecturing through content, work though problems together and ask questions. I like to post a question, have students pause the video, then continue watching to work through the rest of the problems and video.

5) Good production: disclaimer here, I don't think students will watch because a video is high quality but they sure will avoid videos that are hard to view and hear. Make the video as painless as possible by thinking through visibility, color scheme, volume, transitions and annotations. I also like to add a catchy tune at the beginning and end of each video to build some excitement.

6) Make it personal: some teachers are not fans of the screen in screen option but I always feel more of a connection when I can see the face of the instructor in their video. There's something distant about a faceless presentation with just a voice over. 

7) Make it required: I personally prefer a flexible model where students can choose how to learn content. However, if video viewing is of utmost importance, then make it required. In addition to using your normal techniques, make sure you don't bail out students. While it's appropriate to help struggling students, don't reteach the content in class for students whom neglected to view the video. 

If you have other suggestions, please feel free to leave comments. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Mastery Learning Cycles: a Mash Up of Mastery Learning & Explore-Flip-Apply

When I began to flip my class, I was instantly struck with the additional class time I had to engage students. The biggest change was students spent more time designing, executing and evaluating experiments. But honestly, something was missing. The class wasn't fundamentally reinvented. 

In hindsight, I now understand that a framework for flipping was missing. It could be argued that I had a quasi-mastery course since students worked at their own pace and did not progress to the next unit of study until they produced satisfactory work. I'm reminded of an article on Mastery Learning. In a traditional course, the variable is the amount of learning but the constant is the amount of time; in the mastery model, the variable is the amount of time but the amount of learning remains constant. In other words, all students are expected to demonstrate learning but are given the amount of time they need to do so. Typically, students are rushed through content at the same speed, which allow some students to learn while others are not as fortunate. In the late 60's, Bloom's research demonstrated that students perform at a significantly higher level when they are engaged in mastery learning. For this very reason and the positive feedback from students, I assumed that I would continue this model in my second year of flipping. 

Then enter Ramsey Musallam. His critique of the mastery model in science is well documented online. His major contention is that the mastery model encourages students to race or "plough through content." The side effect is a death blow to inquiry. The critique goes as follows. Students are assigned a video to watch then practice skills introduced in the video. Unfortunately, there's no inherent motivation to watch the video. Ramsey's response was to adapt the inquiry learning cycle of Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate and Extend and morph it into Explore-Flip-Apply (EFA.) In the explore phase, students are tasked with solving an engaging problem. The problem is a higher order thinking task which requires direct instruction of content; this direct instruction can take the form of a video. Once students acquire content, they use it in the apply phase. The strength in Ramsey's model is students are challenged in the explore phase and in order to be successful, they are given tools they need in the videos. It is similar to students generating a list of what they "need to know" in the problem based learning model. 

Needless to say, both models have their strengths. The self-paced-revise-until-mastery model and the authentic process of inquiry that builds a need-to-know model are both attractive. 

Venn Diagram comparing Mastery Flipped Learning & Explore-Flip-Apply Models

I wondered if both models were mutually exclusive. After much reflection, I decided, not only were they not mutually exclusive, but they could be combined into a new model of flipped learning, a mash up: Mastery Learning Cycles. I would keep the self-paced and revise-until-mastery but would organize units into the EFA phases. Basically, I would run an asynchronous version of Ramsey's EFA with the added requirement that students demonstrate certain standards before moving onto the next unit or learning cycle. The standards can be assessed in one out of four levels, inspired by Blooms Taxonomy: no evidence, understanding, applying and owning/mastery (adapted from @mrsebiology's I can statements.) 

Each learning cycle will have the following phases:

1) Engage & Explore  - highly engaging prompt, discussion, question or video relevant to the unit. Students complete a hands-on activity or lab where students make conclusions and generalizations; they also make initial attempts at applying what they learned with only partial information and tools.

2) Flip - usually a video, provides the missing content and tools for successful application. Students are assigned understanding questions to answer after watching the video. Answers are submitted via google form and the link to the answer key is shared in the edit confirmation page of the form.

3) Apply -re visitation of the original application task and additional practice built into this phase. Answer keys are usually shared with students to ensure instant feedback. Preferably, this phase includes a second lab or at least part two of the exploration lab. Students meet application level after earning 100% on a Moodle quiz. Students can retake the quiz as often as needed, since a new version is generated each time.

4) Mastery - students have an option of demonstrating mastery level of competency on desired objectives by completing higher order thinking assignments/mini projects aligned to the analyze, evaluation and creation levels of Bloom's Taxonomy. 

After meeting mastery or application level on each learning goal, students progress to the next Mastery Learning Cycle, as depicted below.

Schematic of subsequent Mastery Learning Cycles

Below are MentorMob playlists of the Simple & Complex Inheritance Mastery Learning Cycles.

Create your own Playlist on MentorMob!

Create your own Playlist on MentorMob!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Versatility of Videos in a Flipped Class - a Post Flipped Learning Course Reflection

CC Courtesy of Choices by Derek Bruff on Flickr
There are so many take home messages from FlipCon13 and the Flipped Learning course that I couldn't possibly document them all. In addition, deciphering whether these revelations came from the conference and/or the course is unlikely. But I am sure that seeing the final projects of my classmates was simultaneously humbling and empowering. We were tasked to create a video as part of a flipped lesson. The quality and diversity of video projects were staggering. One major revelation: videos can have many uses in a flipped class. When I made my video and lesson (summarized in a previous post), I assumed it would have to teach content. But after seeing the work of my classmates, I'm reminded of the Choices image to the left because a teacher has so many choices of how to use videos in a flipped class:

1) introduce the course to students, administration and parents;

2) explain a project with instructions and expectations;

3) give feedback on a paper or project;

4) act as hook to a unit or activity;

5) act as a trailer to summarize and highlight a unit or a project;

6) document a process; and

7) demonstrate how to use software or equipment.

Aside from being overwhelmed by these choices, I am excited by the possibility of offloading content and the housekeeping of the class. Housekeeping and content combined have dominated most of the class time. And now as a flipped teacher, I'm excited that this time can be reclaimed for mastery, inquiry, standards based grading, and student voice & choice.

I am grateful for the many lessons learned in this course from classmates. I almost feel guilty that I couldn't write a more profound reflection and promise to continue blogging about the lessons learned. Nevertheless, this is where I am today: digesting feedback about my first Camtasia video and figuring out how I'm going to get the first few units done by September. There will be time for deeper thought and analysis. I'm just happy that I've had the opportunity to learn and share. I thank Kristin Daniels for leading me through this journey and all of my classmates, whom I hope will be part of my PLN moving forward. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Flipping is really not about the videos: a post FlipCon13 reflection

CC courtesy of No videos on Flickr, Please
by Muhammad Ghouri on Flickr
As a baby flipper, I was intrigued by the “it’s not about the videos” talk during FlipCon 13. In protest, I thought “it’s easy for you to say; you already know how to make videos!” I still have remnants of that protest feeling, especially after realizing I’ll have some important edits to my first Camtasia video. But after FlipCon 13, making my first Camtasia video, associated MentorMob playlist and observing that the video was only one in twenty steps of the playlist, I’m convinced that flipping the class is definitely not about the videos!

Below is a video I made about Punnett Squares. It is about 11 minutes long.

As a novice, this video took me days to create and edit and it still has some important flaws that need to be reworked. I expect the editing time to decrease as I gain more experience. This 11 minute video is the only time that I provide planned direct instruction. It is the bulk of the Flip phase of the mastery learning cycle of Punnett Squares. The students also have to record guided notes from a template handout. After watching the video, they have to complete a google form, which contain understanding-level questions and allow students to pose questions. All of the responses get sent to me prior to class, which can help me plan accordingly. Students see the answer key for the video questions by submitting their responses in the google form. So even within the Flip phase of the learning cycle, the video is accompanied with guided notes and google form questions.

The Flip phase only makes up a part of the learning cycle. In fact, the learning cycle begins with an engage and explore phase, which are conveniently combined into the Explore phase imaged in the learning cycles below.
Mastery Learning Cycles - inspired by @Ramsey Musallam 

In the exploration phase, students are first met with the mastery objectives for the unit. Students are expected to keep track of which objectives they have "met" and which level of mastery they reached. They are also responsible for providing evidence for their perceived level of mastery. After seeing the objectives, they are engaged with a controversial question about designing babies. They complete a poll and participate in a virtual discussion online. The second half of the exploration phase is an activity in which they simulate making babies with a classmate. They use their traits, which were inventoried in a previous lab, to make deductions about their genetic makeup. Once they have ascertained their genetic makeup, they "reproduce" with a partner and make predictions about their offspring using the rules of genetics introduced in the baby making activity. After making two offspring, they answer questions which culminate with an application task to make statistical predictions about future offspring. I expect that some students will be able to derive a way to tackle this application question but most will have some difficulty. This is where the flipped video comes into play. They'll learn about Punnett Squares while reinforcing and introducing vocabulary and seeing a sample problem solved in the video. 

After watching the video and completing the other requirements of the Flip phase, students enter the Apply phase. They apply what they learned from the video (and explore phase) to complete different activities. There are several choices (a problem set and two online simulations) but they all require creating and solving Punnett Square problems. Students get instant feedback. They then return to the application questions from the baby making activity. At this point, they should easily be able to make generalized predictions about their offspring. 

Once students finish the Apply phase, they can demonstrate different levels of mastery. In my current version of this learning cycle, they can choose assignments aligned with the higher order thinking levels of the revised Blooms taxonomy: analyze, evaluate, create. Completion of the mastery task allow students to take a Moodle quiz, which gives each student a different version each time. Students who are unsuccessful on the quiz, can enter a remediation phase. Once students successfully complete the quiz, they complete a mini project where they research a genetic disorder and create a presentation, which must include a genetics problem incorporating the disorder.

All of the steps of the learning cycle are captured in the MentorMob playlist below. Hopefully, through this demonstration, you'll be convinced of one of my major understandings from FlipCon13: flipping is not just about the videos!"

Create your own Playlist on MentorMob!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Concerns from a Devil's Advocate about the Data Supporting the FlippedClass
CC Image courtesy of Flipped Learning Network
If you've been following the flipped class, then you've probably observed the infographic on the left several times. Like dozens of educational reforms, the flipped class has been scrutinized for it's lack of data concerning student outcomes. I must admit that, even though I buy into the flipped class and see it's potential, I worry that some of the data is not convincing - at least not yet.

In my graduate school course, I've read a few papers regarding the flipped class. The Flipped Learning Network, Pearson and George Mason University sponsored a "Review of Flipped Learning." The paper is an extensive review of some preliminary findings and case studies.

The authors were honest at the beginning of the paper when they stated that "quantitative and rigorous data on Flipped Learning is limited...(page 2.)" In the following paragraphs, they further admit that the present research mostly "consists of teacher reports on student achievement after adopting the model" and offer that these teachers "report that their job satisfaction has improved." I have to admit a certain level of skepticism as I continued to read on. My chief concern was the conflating of different pedagogical approaches with flipped instruction. The authors did a wonderful job explaining how Active Learning, Peer Instruction, Priming and Pre-training lead to improved student outcomes. Although I do see how flipped instruction can make these other approaches possible and the overlap between flipped instruction and those pedagogies, I finished this section feeling a bit underwhelmed about the data supporting flipped instruction.

The meat and potatoes of the review paper were the case studies from Byron High School in Minnesota and Clintondale High School in Michigan.

Byron High School
CC Image courtesy of Flipped Learning Network
Bryon High School was plagued with low math scores on standardized exams. According to the review, the flipped class caused the increase in math scores seen in the graph on the right.

However, upon closer inspection, the department chair came up with a plan to replace textbooks with open source materials, rewrite the curriculum and flip their classes. It's almost impossible to tease out the actual cause for the increased test scores. Perhaps not as significant but an interesting observation, the plan to make those changes was created in 2009.  According to the graphic, Bryon already outscored the rest of the state by 16%. Although, the gap did increase beyond 2008.

Clintondale High School
CC Image courtesy of Flipped Learning Network
Clintondale was in a similar situation as Bryon with low achievement and high failing rates. The failure rates appear to drop significantly (33%) and student discipline cases dropped by 74% in two years. The results of the flipped class appear miraculous. The only question I have about the case study is regarding the graph on the left. I wonder if some of these results are actually significantly different. It's hard to interpret the data without knowing the historic trends. I would love to see the same data for the previous five-ten years to see how much the passing rates fluctuate in the traditional model.

Higher learning
The paper continued with citations of similar cases from the College of Westchester. Unfortunately, they only shared the conclusion from an electrical engineering course rather than supplying the data. However, they did share data demonstrating that the flipped class students performed better on a post test than their non-flipped counterparts. Although, I have to admit that both the flipped and non-flipped students apparently scored poorly, 31% versus 24% respectively.

Teacher & student perceptions
CC Image courtesy of Flipped Learning Network
To date, the most convincing data I've read about the flipped classroom comes from teacher and student reports. There is a bit of quasi-scientific anecdotal contamination here but the majority of flipped teachers and students in those classes report positive results and perceptions about the flipped classroom. The infographic at the beginning of this post, courtesy of Classroomwindow, suggests that flipped teachers unanimously agree that they will continue this approach and the majority report increased job satisfaction.  It's rare to get 80% of students to agree on much so I also found the positive reviews on the right intriguing.

Final Thoughts
From this post, you might get the idea that I'm against the flipped class, or at least skeptical of it. It might sound blasphemous coming from a science teacher but I'm not worried about the lack of data. The flipped class is a new grassroots and largely-undefined movement. While we get a sense that most flipped teachers offload direct instruction through video (and despite the F.L.I.P pillars), there is so much variation in this model. This variation makes it difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of the model. I suspect there are "good" and "bad" teachers flipping their classrooms. I would not expect this model to turn a "bad" teacher into a "good" teacher. Even though I criticized the authors for conflating active learning, peer instruction and other models with flipped learning, I understand why the authors used this strategy. The true power of the flipped classroom is NOT the actual flipping, but the real gift is what the flipped class makes possible! There are data supported strategies that work like Mastery Learning, PBL and Active Learning. For me, the point of flipping is to be able to use the approaches that we know to be effective in the classroom.

How to make Khan Academy Scrolling Screen Videos

For all of the bad rap that Sal Khan gets for his videos at Khan Academy, I find his endless screen trick really helpful. The ability to scroll indefinitely and record what you write on the screen can be used to demonstrate solving multi-step problems, especially helpful for math and science.

Sal uses a PC and his work is explained many places on the web. But I use a Mac and played around with the Paintbrush app. It's worked marvelously so far. I recorded the one-take no frills video above to demonstrate how to create Khan-like videos.