Friday, June 29, 2012

Flipped Classroom Workshop at Muskegon Reeths-Puffer High School

***This post was generously contributed by guest blogger David Fouch.***

Learn how to use Camtasia Studio, SnagIt, and Moodle inside the Flipped the Classroom.

Any West Michigan teachers interested in the Flipping model I would highly recommend this conference.  Jon Bergmann, who is known as the Godfather of the Flip, will present and offer his insight to Flipping.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Using Audio to Enhance Your Flipped Website

This is the third part in a brief series on strategies to create/improve your flipped class website (or course management system, ex. Edmodo).  

Although creating screencast videos is part of the flipped class model (although far from the only key component!), I think creating audio files is an easy and efficient way to make your online learning environment even more engaging.  

For example, you may want to provide a quick overview of a unit or assignment, but do not necessarily want to go throughout the process of scripting, recording, and publishing an entire screencast video.  A quick and relatively simple solution is to create an audio file.   For example, Mr. Rose and I (Mr. Driscoll) created very brief audio introductions to accompany our profiles on the "About" page of our website.   We recorded the MP3 file using Audacity (freeware).  Here are the links if interested:

Mr. Rose Intro

Mr. Driscoll Intro 

Another option is to use SoundCloud.  This web-based application is very easy to use and embed into an existing website or course management system.  One of my grad school professors used soundcloud to create brief audio intros for each week.    It may not sound like much, but this adds a personal touch to the online learning environment that students really do appreciate.

Although MP3 files are pretty simply to make, SoundCloud may be your best bet if your do not have much experience with creating audio files or if you are simply pressed for time.   Also, invest in a USB mic!  It will only cost about $20 and will sound 1000x times better than a $7 analog mic that sounds like you are recording under water...

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

My First Year of Flipping

***This post was generously contributed by guest blogger David Fouch.***

As I am writing this reflection on my first year of Flipping the Classroom.  I can only think about and wish I was in Chicago at the 2012 Flip Class Conference.   I finally have had some time to reflect on the on my first year of the flipped classroom model.  I just finished my 5th year of teaching and the first year that I used the "flipped" method.  When I was first introduced to the "flipped" method my reaction was this is going to save me a lot of time and create more time in class for individual instruction.  

As my students walked in the AP US History the first day they were told horror stories, by previous students, of the amount of homework they would have a night.  Some students told me we could have up to 4 hours a night of homework.  They were ecstatic when I explained the flip would cut their homework time in half but they were confused on how that was going to happen.  Some students did not know what to say or do because their entire school career they have been told what to learn and how to learn it.  

What the Flip method looked liked in my classroom....

  • 4 days a week the students would watch a vodcast, that was created on Camtasia Studio and uploaded to, these vodcast would cover content through using Powerpoints, note sheets, Prezi, and videos. These videos replaced the lecture I would give in class.  This saved me a ton of time, in years past I could only go as fast as the slowest note taker. Now a 25 minute lecture can be recorded in a 8-12 minute vodcast.  

  • During class time everyday we would do a bunch of different activities. This where I need help in creating new projects/assignments for daily use. We would work on discussion questions in small groups, projects, analyze primary sources, watch a video, work on writing for DBQ and FRE questions, and class discussions.

  • We had to move at a very quick pace for AP US History.  My kids need to be prepared for the national AP test by the first week of May.  I always joke that we have to cover our content from when the earth cools till President Obama takes office.  Thus, we do a chapter a week and test on Monday.  Sometimes the tests are multiple choice and other times they are writing prompts.  

  • The Flip method allowed me to spend more time in class preparing students for writing DBQ’s and FRE questions.  We would spend a time on just writing thesis statements, introductions, body paragraphs,  etc.  

Changes I plan on making for next year....

1.  Videos will be no more than 10 min.  Sometimes the vodcasts went a little long and students became disinterested.  
2.  Videos will only be created 3 days a week.  
3.  More hands on activities.
4.  More class discussion covering content.
5.  More differentiation of assignments and class work.

All these changes are coming from my exit reviews with my first class of flippers.  This first year was very successful for the first year of flipping.  I am looking forward to expanding the flip to regular US History.  

Monday, June 18, 2012

Developing Your Flipped Website: Optimizing Visualizations

Optimizing Visualization

 According to dual coding theory, learners possess both verbal and visual cognitive processes.   Research has demonstrated that carefully developed visuals that incorporate verbal aspects can help improve comprehension since the information is stored both verbally & visually.   As the learner develops a more concrete mental model based upon interrelated verbal and visual information, recall and application of prior knowledge will improve.  Another advantage of visualization is that it can reduce cognitive load when engaging in higher order thinking such as problem solving.  On the other hand, we must avoid including too many visuals or texts for fear of triggering excessive cognitive load, therefore impeding learning.   

As educators who are using and/or creating online media to facilitate learning, we must consider a few things.  First, the visualizations should include textual explanations and symbols to highlight important features and processes.  Effectiveness is also enhanced when auditory narration accompanies the visual.  Another consideration is the “streamlining of information.”   For instance, is there extraneous information or imagery that does little to address the overall goal of the graphic?   If so, this is an unnecessary addition to the learners cognitive load and should most likely be removed, even if it is aesthetically pleasing.    

Below are two examples of visualizations that I have included in this year's flipped class screencast lectures with brief commentary on their perceived effectiveness. (See time ranges to cue to the location)

Example 1 (“Room for Improvement”)

This clip from one of my first screencasts exhibits how to incorporate visualization into an online video lecture.  In particular, it demonstrated how to create a flowchart visual with embedded text and auditory commentary.    Although the information presented was targeted and on topic, therefore reducing cognitive load, it could be improved in several ways.  First, I could have slowed down and explained the historical significance of each “component” of the flowchart.  I could have also embedded pictures of the inventors/inventions to add another opportunity to store information in visual memory.

Example 2 (Better Overall Design)                        
Auschwitz (10:00 – 13:00)

At about the 10 minute mark,  I included this “professional” overview of the Auschwitz extermination camp.   This brief clip includes many of the design principles characteristic of effective visualizations.   For example, the European map includes the labeled camps, along with text of the audio narration along the bottom.  There are also images of the camp included in the presentation as the narrator progresses.  Additionally, animated symbols (arrows, diagrams, etc.) that accentuate points and show routes help learners comprehend historical processes and change over time.   One critique is that since there are so many components of the visualization occurring simultaneously, lower skill learners may experience cognitive load issues.   Since it is an online video, however, those students could always pause and/or review the material if necessary.

 Of course, designing web-based visuals for the flipped class (or in education in general)  is still in its relative infancy, so there is considerable room for improvement.  It is nevertheless exciting that ditigal technologies have enabled educators and instructional designers to created visualization to improve student learning in new and innovate ways. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Developing Your Flipped Website: Hypertext

Most social studies teachers applying the flipped model are using some type of online course management system or online platform.  Some "flippers" are even building websites from the ground up.  After using a combination of wikispaces and edmodo, I am embarking upon designing a new site starting from scratch using Dreamweaver.  Luckily, I am enrolled in a class through Teachers College that is helping me with the task, both practically and theoretically.

The next few posts, therefore, will provide some insight into the design of websites as I develop my new site over the summer.   We will start with what most people consider the most basic element of web design: hypertext

We are all familiar with the many perceived advantages of hypertext and hypermedia.  A website can include interactive graphics, links to other sites, videos, poll questions, slideshows, and more.  All of this is aimed at providing the user with a variety of sources in an interactive environment.  There is something to be said, however, with the simplicity of traditional text.

Should web pages be designed based upon 19th century textbooks?  Of course not.  But too often users, particularly those with difficulty with comprehension, have a difficult time navigating through today’s hypermedia.    As DeStefano and LeFevre’s study suggests, the strain that hypermedia places on cognitive load may actually hinder a user’s comprehension of material.  Therefore, I propose the following suggestions when creating hypertext on your flipped class website:
  • Try to avoid excessive embedding of links within a text.  If your goal is to have the reader complete whatever text is composed, consider how these links may lead the reader astray and possibly never back to your original piece. 
  • Visuals and interactive graphics are helpful, but consider placing them at the beginning or end of the article or important textual element.  Similar to the pitfalls of embedding links everywhere, try to limit the degree of distractions.
  • This concept also applies to the sidebars.  If your site is loaded with colorful animated widgets, imagine how that will play out with your "easily distracted" students?  Consider the goal of the webpage and try not to stray too far from whatever it is you are trying to get across. 
  • Get to the point.  As much as Twitter is mistakenly neglected by many educators, it is a great way to practice making your point in a clear and concise way.  Although 140 characters may seem extreme, consider this when designing hypertext.  How long do you actually expect the reader to scroll down the page or keep clicking “next.”  I suggest making your point, and then adding additional links for further reading at the end of the page if necessary.
Of course much of this depends upon the goal of the hypertext and hypermedia that you are creating, but the concepts of limiting distractions and presenting material in a concise manner may help reduce cognitive load and increase reading comprehension among users.