Real Life Stories
Videos, Google Forms and the Flipped Classroom
Whether they be conventional, flipped, blended or active, today’s classes can don many different forms depending on the nature of the material that is being taught, the learning objectives and the teacher’s personal interests. It was a bit of a fluke that I integrated the flipped classroom approach into my pedagogy during the winter of 2012. In the beginning, it was a solution to ensure that classes would start up again after the student strike. Since then I have been using this method by choice and for the pleasure of the experience of flipping some of my classes. With the right tools and the support of the ICT Education Advisor from my college, the transition to a flipped classroom went very well.
Towards the Flipped Classrom
Flipped classrooms are primarily a way of teaching that allow students to get acquainted with the course content at home and then apply it in class through different tasks. The students develop and test their knowledge in a group with the support of the teacher and their peers, instead of doing assignments individually at home. This type of support facilitates learning just as well as traditional teaching.
An amusing short video on the flipped classroom (in French)
I teach Physics, and in the past few years I’ve often taught for technical programs (Architectural Technology and Mechanical Engineering Techniques). These are courses where the content is rarely found in textbooks written specifically for the subject matter, unlike regular Physics courses. For many years I primarily taught the courses using lecture notes (theory, examples, practical exercises, etc.). To facilitate note-taking, the students would obtain a copy of my course notes and then work on them in class or at home.
During the “printemps érable” student strike of 2012, the College was forced to shorten the winter semester. A special law came into force that reduced the 15 week semester to 12 weeks. To prepare for my return to teaching and the challenge that awaited me, I decided to create some refresher video clips to allow my students to review the material that they studied before the strike.
At the end of the semester, I asked them to watch the videos that covered part of the theoretical aspects of the course on their own time so that we would have more free time in class. I had unwittingly thrown myself into a flipped classroom adventure.
I am not an expert on new technologies. For a neophyte, digital tools can be intimidating, but they are not so difficult to master. Many helpful resources exist in the college network to help teachers appropriate these technologies. I opted to attend some training sessions offered on-line by APOP such as:
- Flipped classrooms and podcasting
- Camtasia Studio: A software for computer screen recording and video editing
- Formative evaluation on-line
- WordPress: An open tool for building web sites
These training sessions helped me to learn how to create my own video clips. They also helped me ramp up to progressively integrate a flipped classroom approach based on my own needs. Daniel Bourry, our college’s ICT Education Advisor, also helped me a great deal.
I documented my approach so that I didn’t get too lost on this new path. It was mainly for personal use, but then I began publishing everything on a blog. My introductory videos on recording screencasts and creating forms with Google Forms were posted to the blog, as well as some capsules on flipped classrooms.
I think that the flipped classroom is different from one teacher to another. We adapt it to our approach. My class isn’t always in flipped mode:
- Some of my classes have 2 hours of theory and only 1 hour of homework per week. Therefore I cannot flip all of the program’s content.
- The material itself also influences the choice of what can and cannot be flipped. For example, I flipped a large part of the content associated with static and resistance, but everything to do with acoustics was taught in a more “traditional” manner, by adding interactive demonstrations in class.
Between each class I ask my students to fill out an on-line questionnaire in Google Forms. These questionnaires allow you to integrate the following directly into the same document:
- Videos presenting the theoretical notions.
- Questions to evaluate the students’ comprehension of the material.
The results are instantaneously accessible and serve as a “barometer” for me: I can choose to spend more time on a certain subject rather than another when it is time to review in class. I also noticed that the students that reflect more on the concepts before coming to class are much more active and receptive once they are in their groups.
All the videos are organized by means of a table of contents on the web site. The student can go back and review any video without having to go into the questionnaires.
A website built in WordPress containing all the videos for the course Physique appliquée à l’architecture II.
Let me tell it like it is: The greatest success of a flipped class approach is that it really helps students that have greater difficulties. They receive better support, have frequent reviews, and complete access to the course material. All of these things are a great help. That said, the strongest students don’t necessarily find that flipped classrooms are more efficient than traditional teaching. They are already autonomous and don’t necessarily see the advantages. To motivate them, I create activities that emphasize the benefits of collaboration and teamwork.
My courses change from one year to the next. I started using a blog as a way of supporting the flipped class, then I started using Google Forms in the last two semesters. This winter, I jumped head-first into the active learning classroom. The active learning plays nicely with a flipped classroom approach. For the moment, when technology is required, we use laptops. Soon, the college will have a classroom that is specifically configured to facilitate this type of approach. Here as well I’m taking baby steps. At first glance, the students’ reaction to the active learning activities seems positive. It’s not surprising, since this approach is dynamic, collaborative and can easily be adapted to the material in the program which is being taught.