Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Flipped Classroom Experiment Begins!

All year, I have been experimenting with the Camtasia software to record videos of my laptop screen.  Most of my videos, however, were designed to demonstrate some important function, like signing on to our school's VPN or using the WYNN text-to-speech program.  I have yet to try a truly instructional video with my students.

As we approach the end of the year and the pages in my plan book are actually labeled all the way through exams in June, I realized that we are in "crunch time."  We are behind where we were last year, but mostly because we added a unit of study back in October that the kids really wanted.  Either way, we have an entire unit to fit in before exams in June and I am really getting creative on how to cram it all in.

A few days ago, I decided to create a flipped classroom video of one of the sections of the textbook and the notes that go along with it.  I planned on assigning the 18-minute video over this long weekend so that we can fit another lab in before the quiz instead of using all of our classtime for reading and notetaking.  It is also almost time to begin my presentation on my Personalized Professional Development concept - flipped classroom - and I need something to present!

I learned a few things while preparing this video today.  First of all, for every minute of video, plan to spend about 3 minutes getting it ready.  It took me about 5 minutes to set up my laptop for recording, 18 minutes to record it, and another 20 minutes to edit.  Once it was ready, the computer must "render" and "produce" the mp4 file.  I have no idea what the computer is doing while it is rendering, but I do know it takes about as many minutes as the video is long.  I went and made some copies while it did its thing.

Uploading the video to my SchoolTube Channel only took a few moments, then finally my video was ready for students to view.  As I looked up at the clock this afternoon and realized that it took about an hour to make my 20-minute work of art, I briefly wondered if it was all worth it. 

It should be fairly obvious that the best days in science class are those packed with labs and activities.  We often get into great discussions on reading notes days, but they're not really any one's favorite.  On a typical reading notes day, I would spend most of the time walking around the room listening to the kids read the text, then filling in with explanations.  The classes are 45 minutes each and I repeat this same process three times back-to-back. 

Even though the creation of the video took about an hour, I am saving myself and the students a little over two hours of traditional instruction.  Theoretically, the students can also go through the video at their own pacing.  If a student needs to spend more time, they can, and they need not be whisked along at the speed of the rest of us.  There are also precious few days of the rocks unit left and I would rather fill them with labs and activities than more reading and notes.  In the end, I decided that it was definitely worth it.

Tomorrow I will give the kids a quick run-through of how to access the video.  Given that SchoolTube operates almost exactly like YouTube, the kids should be pros right away.  I will also explain my expectations for the notes.  When the kids return to school on Monday, I would like to conduct a quick survey about how the experience was for them. 

I certainly hope that it is a success, but either way, I will post the results here!


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