The Flip Class concept has been a education buzz word for the last several years. If you’ve been to any educational conference, someone has been talking about it. There are now tons of resources to learn easy ways to make video lectures. But I believe that something is tragically missing from these discussions . . . pedagogy.
A great debate erupted online this summer with the Mystery Teacher Theater 2000 contest. While Khan Academy makes use of 21st century tech better than most education sites today, it riles on the 19th century chalkboard pedagogy. Some think the real appeal of these videos is the conversational methods which Sal uses and their 24/7 availability. Coming from the world of venture capital, Sal also has the skills and contacts to grow his vision faster and with more press than any teacher could dream.
But with so much positive press, including 60 mins, few people were discussing his pedagogy. Then on June 18, two math teachers used the Mystery Science Theater 3000 technique to critique a Khan Video:
With this inspiration, the Mystery Teacher Theater 2000 contest was born. (You can find more info on the MTT2K contest here.) I even made my own critique about his lecture on atoms, elements and compounds (link). Among other mistakes, he informs the viewers that humans are ‘mostly made of carbon.’ But while its fine to critique another site, it’s important to create better alternatives.
With this in mind I want to look at two concepts around videos and learning. First I will discuss what ways videos can add value to lessons and second I will talk about how to make your videos more effective.
So how can video fit in to a modern classroom? I believe that technology should only be used when it adds significant value to the lesson. Video can do this for the classroom in two main ways: time-shifting and visualizing the abstract.
The main selling point of the flip class model is the ability to time-shift lectures. This then ‘makes’ time for more activities and problem based learning in the classroom. In this way, it can also allow for blended learning, by allowing students to review and move through a lesson at their own pace as often as they need.
Videos can let me teach my students while I’m sick or traveling.
You can use it to record demos and labs. This makes it easy to tie material together throughout the year. It also makes it possible for kids that are absent to see what they missed in a lab or class.
You can also post videos to prompt questions and inspire future investigations. In this video, I learned how to make thermite in a bar.
Finally, you can use time-shifting to do how-to videos before a lab or activity.
Visualizing the Abstract
Now chemistry is unique among the high school sciences because we rapidly move between the points of view: the macroscopic, the atomic, and the symbolic.
With video we can demonstrate concepts in each of these views in an easy way. In the following video, I show the reaction of Magnesium and Oxygen from each point of view.
And here is an example of a short animation, an art teacher friend of mine made for me, showing nitrogen freezing.
Making Effective Videos
When thinking about how to make effective science videos, I recommend reading and watching all the great work that is being done by Derek Mueller. He received his doctorate for work on making effective physics videos and now runs his own Youtube channel called Veritasium. While he also did a great critique on Khan (link), I really enjoyed this video explaining his approach:
All of his commentary comes down to the fact that students enter our science classes with numerous misconceptions about the world around them. While they don’t know it, they’ve been scientists all of their lives, coming up with theories for what books don’t slide or why water boils. This misconceptions are dug in and hard to dispel. This often makes science videos ineffective. Derek found that we have to directly address these misconceptions through dialogue or direct refutation in our videos. Practically this means you need to think about, or determine what your students really think about a subject before you can make a successful video. There are many great resources about misconceptions in chemistry. The Royal Society of Chemistry has one of the most extensive (link).
Another issue with videos replacing class time is that they are usually a very passive experience. To remedy this, I use two approaches. First, I use youtube annotations to make interactive multiple choice questions. In the following video you can jump to the 8:00 mark or 22:30 marks to see examples.
I’ll be posting a how-to video for these types of questions soon!
For another route, I have adapted the WSQ method from Crystal Kirch (link) to work with google forms. After each video, I’ve added a short google form that asks the students to summarize what they learned in the video in5-10 sentences and ask at least one question that arose while watching it. Since my school uses google apps, the form records their login, time of completion, and answers in a google spreadsheet that is easy for me to review. I can make sure students are thinking about the videos when they complete them.