The most common questions I get about flipping my classroom are all around the tools I use to deliver content to my students. It is an important question to consider, but it shouldn’t be the first one. That is why I deliberately started this blog series with a big picture overview of the “why” of flipped teaching , and followed it with a post on finding good content. Once you have those components in place, you need to decide on a good tool or platform for delivering that content to students.
There is no shortage of ways to get content to students, many of which are free and easy to learn to use. But before you dive into the weeds, think clearly about a few important determining factors.
1. What kind of content are you trying to deliver and where does it currently “live”?
2. Will this communication platform be: A one way street where information gets to students and they consume it? Maybe a two-way street where students submit work and communicate back to you? Or possibly a roundabout where everyone contributes content and conversation back and forth?
3. What access and needs do your students have in order to interact with the content you are delivering?
After giving these questions careful thought, you have many options to choose from. Here are just a few with which I have experience.
iTunes U: This is a great tool for many reasons. It lets instructors send content of almost any type (video, documents, slides, animations, web links, images, and more) and institutionally affiliated iTunes U accounts allow any file size. It has some features for allowing students to post comments and lets instructors send private or public comments back. They have recently added a hand-in work feature and integrated grade book as well. Students without internet at home can download content to their iPads at school and access them offline at home. The upside of this service is its versatile features that are all free and easy to learn. The downsides? Well, the teacher manages content from a laptop, but the students receive the content on the iPad. Not ideal for many classrooms. Also, the technology support through Apple isn’t very responsive if you do have a problem. I experienced this personally and it’s a reason I walked away from it.
Youtube Playlist: If you are trying to get video content (and only video) out to students, this would be the simplest way to get started. Teachers and students should have access to Youtube and the teacher will need an account. Building a playlist is easy and there are ways to measure student engagement (I will share those in a future post).
Blendspace is a good option for mixing types of content (video, web links, files, photos) quickly and easily to build a “digital lesson”. The site does have assessment tools as well, but not much in the way of two way communication. It also includes a searchable area where other users have shared their lessons for you to use and borrow from. The upside is it’s really easy to get started. The downside is that it only lets you communicate in one direction.
iBooks Author is an Apple product that lets you create a sort of digital textbook that can include video, photos, animations, and even quiz questions. It’s very easy to get started with and feels more like a traditional textbook in digital form. Upside: It’s familiar, simple and easy to start. Downside: it’s ability to have two way communication is very limited.
Playposit (formerly called Educannon) is a great video-only option that is very similar to Blendspace. It has some good engagement features, but it is limited to video content. Upside: you can grab other people’s lessons and assign them to your classes easily. Downside: it’s a one way street, with just video to work with.
Google Classroom This is my favorite option for my 1:1 high school students. It integrates with your Google Apps for Education domain. Teachers can post comments, start discussions, assign work of all types and make announcements. It helps teachers track who has submitted which assignments and actually lets teachers look at the progress students are making LIVE if the end product is a Google Doc, Slide or Sheet. This is great for checking for student understanding or lack of progress. Since it integrates with Google Docs features like commenting, it encourages discussion of student work. Upside: It can be used as a two way street, roundabout or a one way street. It holds lots of content types and lets you check in on progress. Downside: You have to be a Google Apps for Education school to use it because it only works in your domain.
Got a younger group you’d like to work with? Symbaloo is a great tool for younger kids to interact with because it is based on symbols, not text heavy links. Simply link out to the content that lives online and let students go for it. One place for all of your stuff and it’s easy to work with.
So now that you have so many tools to check out, you might be wondering… When I put all of the work into building this system, how do I know if my students will even be engaging in the content I create and distribute? You’ll have to wait for my next blog post to find out.