From the Diary of a Flipped Classroom Newbie

From the Diary of a Flipped Classroom Newbie


Like any teacher passionate about his or her subject, I LOVE working problems in physics with my students. During my first year of teaching, class time was spent largely on concepts and examples. But only on the rare occasion did time permit ample student practice--a critical component for student success. If students make a mistake consistently, correction does not come easily without instant feedback. If questions arise while doing the work, too much time will pass before they can ask.

But I quickly realized--if we were to shift basic concepts and introductory examples to outside of class, we could be discussing problems and allow for more practice time in class. The logical solution: going flipped. I learned about the “Flipped Model” during my junior year of college, and had wanted to run my classes on that model from the beginning.

So, after making a mid-year test on electrostatics for my AP Physics class, I decided from there on out that the rest of my class’s lessons were going to be flipped. And so began a beautiful friendship.

Planning out the flipped lesson

After making the electrostatics test, I took out my school-issued iPad (every teacher and student at my school has one) and fired up Explain Everything, a $2.99 app for which our district paid (though you could use Educreations or another free app).

I had used Explain Everything before to solve a problem for my students so they could see the method. But now, I just wanted to deliver concepts; the application and deeper thought would be reserved for class time.

I began by importing a PDF of my slides into the app, though now I just make my own in the app. This provided me with a template from which to highlight key points and concepts. The end result was a twelve-minute video describing batteries in series and parallel, as well as how to draw batteries, resistors, and other circuit elements.

It was the ideal guinea pig.

Sharing the video with students

After recording my voice and writing over the slides I had included, I saved the file and exported it to that place all videos someday go: YouTube. (You may find alternatives like Vimeo, TeacherTube, and Dropbox to more favorable when delivering videos, especially if your district blocks YouTube.)

Once the video was up, I was able to share it with my students using Edmodo, the learning management system that our district uses. (Had I not had an LMS, a link or shortened URL to access later would work.) With the relative inexpense of flash drives, I could have provided "physical" copies to my small class of a dozen students. This route is particularly appealing if the students have computers, but no internet access.

Finally, the beginning of my flipped lesson was ready. Before we took the test, I told them about the transition so that they knew to watch the video and that a quiz was coming the next day. In retrospect, it was a quiet beginning for something powerful.

After assuring them that the questions would be straightforward and derived from the content (rather than from application), my students seemed more at ease.

Putting together the perfect assessment

Making the video was only part of the process. Now, I needed a way to quickly assess whether the students watched the video that I could convert to a grade. Otherwise, where was the incentive? This was their homework, and it needed to be treated as such.

As a first-year teacher, I was not excited about the prospect of grading a ten question quiz every one or two days. That is why I turned to Socrative, an instant response system that all of my students have on their school-issued iPads. These apps (Socrative Student and Teacher) are available for free on iOS, Android, and web browsers, though instant response clicker systems like those sold by SMART Technologies and Turning Technologies provide the same results (i.e., grading multiple choice responses instantly).

When class began, the students logged into our Socrative room, and took their quiz. I was able to view live results as they responded, and we were done in minutes. From then on, my students spent class time working on problems that I would have previously assigned as homework. The difference was that now they had people they could ask for help when they hit the proverbial wall, whether it was the teacher or their peers.

Not sure about Socrative? Since beginning my flipped class, I have begun exploring other assessment tools, including Schoology and eduCanon, a tool that incorporates the questions into the video so students can answer them as they watch the video. On eduCanon, students log-in to see the videos, so you can actually see who has watched the video and who has not. It also keeps track of how far the student watched based on where you embed the questions. This works because the videos do not proceed until students answer questions or acknowledge embedded helper text.


From planning a flipped video to assessing with tools Socrative or eduCanon, the process to flip a lesson takes between 30 minutes and an hour per lesson. But in the end, the real benefit is that videos and assessments can be reused and re-modified for future use.

And the results! In the two months since I began flipping my lessons, I notice that my students are more engaged in the material. Students tell me how much they prefer the new format, and that they feel they are learning more. Numbers-wise, their test scores improved from an average of 84 before to an average of 89 (despite the introduction of more challenging material like magnetism and electromagnetic induction).

By no means is the system I have in place perfect, but I am constantly revising it and visiting other methods to incorporate or revise. But flipping my physics class has proved itself to be one of the best things for my classroom. My lessons are now more student-centered because class is driven by what the students need to understand their problems, not what the teacher wants to show them. Concepts are covered more quickly because class is used exclusively for student understanding.

And most importantly, since I began flipping my lessons, the following sentence has disappeared from my classroom:

"Oh yeah, I didn't get how to do that on the homework."

NOTE: This article is part of EdSurge's Fifty States Initiative

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