When I first flipped my classroom by recording video screencasts of my lessons, I was suddenly struck with two terrifying questions:
What if my students aren’t engaged in the content I spent all of this time creating/curating?
Now that they are plugged into my videos, what am I supposed to do during classtime?
Student engagement is a critical part of any classroom regardless of how it is structured. If students don’t engage with the content they will not learn it or retain what they have learned. We all know what engagement looks like when we see it… or do we? Student eye contact is often a key indicator of “attention” but we shouldn’t mistake it for engagement. When students were viewing video content in my flipped classroom did engagement mean students who were looking at the screen were engaged? That question is easy for me to answer… No. Many times I have seen a student watch a tutorial video and then immediately turn to me and say “So what am I supposed to do?”
Engagement has to be active in some way. Asking questions, reflecting, revising, building, doing or making. My students create 3D models while viewing my videos, that’s one way, in which I can measure their engagement. In other classes students might create visual representations or models of the concept they read about. Students might re-enact a core concept in a skit, have a debate or simply ask and answer each others questions. Many of the technology tools I mentioned in my previous post had built in features for engagement like questions that pop up over a video at a certain time. Simple tech tools like Google Forms can be used to assess how much students understand the content they are reading or viewing with simple exit ticket or quiz templates. Gosoapbox.com even has a slider they call a “confusion barometer” that lets students flip between “I’m Getting it” and “I’m Confused” for instant teacher feedback during a lesson or activity.
When I removed myself from the front of the room as the sole source of knowledge, I needed to find a new role in the room. Besides simply monitoring student engagement, I was finally able to do the things I knew were good teaching practices but never seemed to have time for before. I would check in with students who were not engaged or struggling. I would find students who were excelling and find ways to challenge them to go further in their thinking. I would find ways to group those two types of students together so they could support each other and be more effective members of small groups and teams. I could give students real world problems to solve like “What can we design and 3D print to fix the door that won’t latch in our bathroom?” I could give faster and better feedback to students on their work. In short, I got to better know my students: what they needed, what they wanted and where they are headed in life. In the end, that’s what the biggest impact of flipped teaching has been for me. Not saving time grading or even being able to use a recorded lesson again the next period, the real shift was in my ability to serve my students.