Students and teachers benefit from ‘flipped’ classroom

| August 28, 2013 | 0 Comments
Rachel Whitney’s eighth-grade “flipped” algebra class was featured last spring on the KARE11 News segment, “What’s Cool in Your School.” Here students talk with news anchor Kim Insley about how they watch video lessons at home and do their homework in class when the teacher is available to help them. Photo courtesy of Presentation of Mary School

Rachel Whitney’s eighth-grade “flipped” algebra class was featured last spring on the KARE11 News segment, “What’s Cool in Your School.” Here students talk with news anchor Kim Insley about how they watch video lessons at home and do their homework in class when the teacher is available to help them. Photo courtesy of Presentation of Mary School

As a teacher, Rachel Whitney wants all of her students to succeed in her algebra class at Presentation School in Maplewood. That is easier said than done, but Whitney has come up with a teaching approach that is making it much easier to accomplish.

Last year, she started videotaping lessons for one of her students who had dyslexia.

“I thought it was a great tool for him to be able to go back and watch the videos at night while he was doing his homework,” Whitney said. “But then I thought, what a great tool for all students.”

She did some research online to see what other teachers were doing. That led to her decision to try a “flipped classroom” approach with her eighth-grade students.

Instead of doing assigned algebra problems at home, students watch a short, 5- to 10-minute video on each new topic at home and then work on the “homework” during class.

“She saw the potential to reach students in a different way, and she wanted to try it out,” said Michael Rogers, the school’s principal.

“It’s really helpful because you do your homework in the classroom, and if you have questions, the teacher is right there,” said Lizzie Ott, a member of last year’s class who is now a freshman at Hill-Murray High School in Maplewood.

Another benefit is that there is less homework, she said.

Benefiting all students

The students who do really well with algebra like this approach because they don’t have to wait for others to catch up. Once they master a concept, they take a test and move ahead, Whitney said.

But it also helps students who struggle with math because they can take their time and go back and watch the videos again, as many times as they need to, and make sure they fully understand the concept before moving on, Whitney said.

“It really gave me a lot more time during class for direct instruction and working with students that needed more help.”

Whitney creates the videos on her iPad, using an app named “Explain Everything.”

“I chose this one because it made it really easy to upload the videos to YouTube and it is just really easy to use,” she said.

Students access the videos on Edmodo.com, a site similar to Facebook. In order to be a part of Whitney’s class on Edmodo.com, students have to be invited by her, so there is controlled access, Rogers said. They can post questions if they need help with a concept, and other students that are logged in can answer them.

“Facebook is a native thing for them — it’s just wired into their brains,” Rogers said. “So when they log on to Edmodo, they’re doing the same thing, but they’re having a conversation about math, which is pretty incredible.”

This approach is good for parents, too.

“You get to see what the kids are learning, which I think is great,” said Michelle Ott, Lizzy’s mom. “It’s not just what’s in the textbook.?It’s hearing and listening and seeing the teacher explain it.”

When your children are doing their homework out of a book, if they need help, you can’t always help them, she said. This way the students have a video they can go to.

“Once that video is in the system, it’s always there, so the kids have access to it,” Ott said.

Whitney said this approach could work with other classes, like history or science. Students could get the concepts down with the videos at home and then have more time for hands-on labs.

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