Friday, July 25, 2014

Flipping your classroom: getting started

Completely flipping your classroom with videos, clicker questions, etc. is a lot of work.  One way to make it happen is to do it in stages.  It is better to do a little bit than nothing at all.

The alarm clock approach
The most common use of clicker-questions is to give a multiple choice clicker question about half-way through the lecture to wake students up. This begs the question "why put them to sleep in the first place" but it's better than letting them sleep.  It also gives you some feedback on how much the students have absorbed.

If you feel you can't even spare 5 minutes for a clicker question because you are always hopelessly behind in the lectures then there is something seriously wrong with the way you teach.

An experiment: is lecture necessary?
1. Make a 2-3 question reading quiz on a topic you would like to skip in lecture and that you feel the book explains well.

2. Give 1-2 in-class clicker questions that, if answered correctly by >75% of the student, makes you comfortable skipping the topic in lecture.

3. Repeat a very similar in-class question on same topic next week (yes, you'll need to repeat material to make it stick).

Convinced? Good, now:

The first year
Look through your lecture notes and replace part of lectures where you mostly repeat the textbook with reading quiz and in-class questions.

The second year
Record video lectures where you deviate from the textbook and use the entire lecture period for questions.  This will also free up time for review questions on previously covered topics.

The third year
Rethink the course in light of what you have learned. Is the book helping or hurting the course? Does it cover what you want in the order you want it? If not, consider getting rid of the textbook and replacing it entirely with video lectures. When doing so, consider reducing the curriculum compared to the textbook.

Clicker questions. In my experience I get through about 6 good clicker-questions per 45 min period: about 3 review questions and 3 questions on new topics. It's OK to re-use or only slightly modify questions that you haven't used for at least a week (if you don't believe me, try it).

It's hard to write good clicker questions. Be prepared to replace questions that are too easy or too hard the following year.

Reading quizzes. You need to give a reading quiz before every lecture period where you give clicker questions on new material. The reading quiz shouldn't be more than at most 7 easy-to-answer (if you have done the reading or watched the video) questions. I often use true/false.  It usually takes me 15-20 minutes to write such a quiz.

Video lectures. The optimum length for a video is about 7 minutes. If you already have lecture notes or Powerpoint slides and are comfortable with the recording software you use then making a 7 minute video takes about 15-30 minutes depending on the amount of editing you do. This does not include the upload to Youtube, which can be up to 30 minutes depending on internet speeds, but you can do other things during that time.

Recording live lectures
Another option is to record your live lectures in year 1 for use in subsequent years.  If you lecture with Powerpoint you can use screencasting software to record and use an external microphone.  If you lecture on the blackboard you will have to get someone to record it with a video camera.  Ask your university e-learning office to borrow one.

In either case you should edit the recording into shorter videos no longer than 10 minutes. It is just a boring and off-putting to watch a 45 minute lecture on-line as it is live. If possible insert a question at the end of each video to activate the students.

Other universities have recorded lectures on put them on-line, so you might be able to find what you need just by Googling or searching on Youtube.  Notice that if you only want the students to see part of a video you can specify the start time in the Youtube link.

This post is part of an ongoing series of post on teaching tools and tips collected here.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0

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