I was recently invited down to San Francisco to attend a seminar on “flipping” classrooms with ScreenFlow. An accomplished educational “flipper,” Rachel Iufer, gave a wonderful talk on utilizing ScreenFlow for this revolutionary instructional theory. I invited her to share her story of evolution as a teacher, and how ScreenFlow has helped to make her classroom a dynamic, engaging and successful teaching environment. (Not sure what “flipped classrooms” are? Learn more here)
I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. After getting my degree in biology, I went right into student teaching. My cooperating teacher was a brilliant and intimidating woman whom I admire greatly. She taught the same way I had been taught in high school and I endeavored to teach like her but with my youthful sort of energy.
My first full time job was in a small rural school where I taught all of the junior high and high school science classes. The students were very responsive to my lectures and generally liked my classes but they weren’t going very deep into the subject. I chose breadth over depth in most cases, until I tried a few inquiry labs and projects. They were so amazing! I only wished there was more time in class for students to dive into these projects.
The next year I became a founding teacher at a new charter school in Chico, CA, Inspire School of Arts and Sciences. I was determined to use as much inquiry as possible in the classroom, but it wasn’t until I flipped my classroom that I really saw big changes in the students. After learning about screencasting and ScreenFlow from a colleague’s presentation at the NSTA (National Science Teachers Association) conference, I spent my spring break building a website and creating my first recordings. I turned my presentation lectures into videos that students watched for homework so that lecture no longer took up class time. Changing structure in the middle of the year was difficult for some students, mostly the “A students” who were accustomed to the standard classroom model, but by and large the students loved using the videos instead.
In class I had much more opportunity to work with students individually and help them as they needed. The projects, labs and activities in class were engaging and thought provoking for students. They knew they would have to use their brain actively in my class. I remember one student coming to class and begging, “can we please just have an easy day of lecture and notes?” I laughed, but it reminded me that lecture is passive learning that doesn’t require my physical presence. They could just as easily hear my lectures online!
The next year all of my classes followed the flipped model and it was a huge success. Students who had been absent would arrive to class already caught up on the content because they watched the videos in bed, some students would re-watch the videos from the unit before the exam, and many told me they loved how convenient it was to watch the videos on the bus on the way to school. There were students who still didn’t do their homework, of course, but they knew it was their responsibility, and I found that parents would blame their child, not me, for any lack of learning. Student learning was deeper, students were happier, and felt more confident in their science abilities.
Flipping has yielded amazing results, but it certainly wasn’t easy. I often spent two hours each night creating presentations or modifying them to suit the online mode. The act of recording itself was easy because of ScreenFlow and my MacBook Pro. I just used the built-in microphone and found a quiet room in my home to record. I uploaded the videos to my own website, which I had to pay for and build because the school district had no system in place for teacher websites. This also meant I had to do all of my own tech troubleshooting. The hardest part of flipping, however, is figuring out what to do in class now that there was no more lecturing! I had to find or create new labs, investigations and activities and that took most of my time. The time I spent creating the videos pales in comparison to the time I spent creating inquiry lesson plans. But all of that time was well worth it. The way the students were able to learn, and learn deeply in the same amount of class time was incredible.
I think the flipped classroom model will continue to grow in popularity and may even allow teachers across multiple subjects to come together to create lessons that stretch across classrooms and provide more real world context. I hope to see more service learning projects and community involvement in the classroom as a result of the change that the flipped classroom creates.
If you are an educator thinking about, or just starting to screencast, here is my advice. First, be yourself and have fun! Pretend you are actually telling the information to one of your students and be excited about the material. Second, don’t worry about being perfect at first, you can always make a new video next year and change it. And third, if you are unsure, just try flipping one or two units in the beginning and see how your students, and you, like it.
If you want to see how Rachel has Flipped her classroom, visit her site here, or watch her videos made using ScreenFlow! Do you use ScreenFlow in your classrooms? What about for any sort of education? Let us know in the comments, and don’t forget to subscribe!