Flipping Out: Expert Advice on Flipping Your Class by Troy Cockrum

You’ve heard about the flipped classroom? At its simplest, flipped learning is delivering direct instruction outside of class using technology (often video) and allowing students to work and collaborate in the classroom. There are teachers in all content areas that are flipping.I’ve been flipping my middle school English class for 2 ½ years. I also host the “Flipped
Learning Network Podcast
,” where weekly I talk to flippers worldwide. The following is advice that I offer based on my experience and practice.

1. Start gradually. Teachers don’t have to flip every lesson, especially from the start.
Gradually flipping allows the time to do it right. Just as the teacher needs time to adapt to this new instructional method, students need time to transition, also.

2. Create and Distribute. Troubleshoot different methods of creating and distributing content until you find one that works for your classroom. Some systems work for one teacher, but not another and some tools may cost more than you initially want to spend. There are free screen casting tools that can get you started.  I recommend that you make a large percentage of your own videos, while supplementing with other resources. With a little searching, you can find tons of resources online. Please view samples of a few of my videos here. By making your own videos, you have more control over the content and can make sure that it is directed toward your objective.

3. Find Help.  If you cannot locate someone else in your school or community with whom you can work, then join an online community like the Flipped Learning Network Ning or connect with the Flipped Learning Network for more options. Collaborating on videos, problem solving, or brainstorming with other professionals makes the transition for teachers more productive.

4. Solicit Feedback.  Don’t be afraid to ask students for feedback. I regularly send out a
Google Form to my students to find what is working and what is not. This feedback has allowed me to have amazing conversations with them. Being sensitive to your students’ and their families’ needs is imperative to making a flipped classroom work well.

5. Flexibility. I often get the question, “What do you do about students who have limited access?” A meeting with the family is helpful to determine what choices they have available.  For students with little-to-no access, teachers can burn videos to DVD, load videos onto loaner flash drives, offer before or after school time, make iPod or smartphone friendly videos, or work with the local public library.  I even allow my students to watch their videos in class as long as they are able to complete the other assigned work. Access issues can be overcome with a little creativity and open dialogue with the students’ families.

6. Extra Time. Be prepared to find yourself with more time to work with your students in your classroom. Many flippers are surprised as they progress through the year that they are covering more content and running out of projects and activities. I developed a student choice project that has been wonderful for teaching students how to learn. I was also able to experiment with student made videos. Many teachers believe the extra time that they have with students in the classroom is quite possibly the best part of a flipped classroom.

With these tips, any teacher can begin the process to successfully flip their classroom, and be glad they did!

Troy Cockrum is a middle school English teacher at St. Thomas Aquinas School in Indianapolis, Indiana.  He has been flipping his English class for 2 ½ years and helps other teachers flip their classes. He is a Google Certified Teacher and is currently writing a book on flipping an English classroom that is to be published this fall. He can be reached via email and on twitter.

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