Sunday, August 19, 2012

Engaging Content for the History Flip

***This post was generously contributed by guest blogger Ryan Folmer.***

My old VoiceThread on the French Revolution

For the past several years I have been experimenting with different aspects of the flip model in my social studies classes. I think the key element of the model is to get students activated in the classroom (and throughout instruction) and to move away (as much as possible) from content delivery (something that new resources and technology can do just as well, or better.) I would much rather have my students learn an combination of content and skills through discussions, document analysis, historical investigations, projects and the like. This is really nothing new, John Dewey explored constructivist methods of education more than a century ago. Since that time, social constructivist theories and connectivist theories have expanded Dewey's ideas for the 21st century environment. As a result, the flip model brings together 21st century instruction techniques such as screencasting, social networking, and bring-your-own-technology and combines with with techniques such as project, problem, inquiry and passion-based learning.

Crash Course World History -  The French Revolution

As a result of the flip instruction model, a lot can be done in the history and social studies classroom. I began this process myself by moving to a more inquiry and project-based model in my world history classes and supplementing the content material by moving my traditional lectures to Voicethread for students to view on their own time. This worked pretty well, but I still had issues with students relying on lecture-based content delivery and my issues with overburdening students with homework.

History Teachers - "Revolution in France."

So, I continue to experiment and rethink how I will implement my instruction to best help all of my students. I know that my focus will further be on how authentic history learning can be employed both inside and outside of the classroom. I am particularly interested in reducing the amount of content consumed at home while at the same time making it more interesting. For my world history courses, this means utilizing one of my new favorite resources - Crash Course World History. The (what will soon be a series of 40) videos created by the team here do a great job covering the basics of most of what I want my students to know. I would also supplement this with the musical talents of the History Teachers - History for Music Lovers, a great set of topic specific videos based on recent pop hits.  It all comes back to the idea of teachers being great curators. As a result, I am thinking of reducing my VoiceThread screencasts to general overview of topics at the beginning of a unit, to topics not covered by the resources mentioned above, and for review purposes at the end of the unit. By bringing the other videos into VoiceThread or embedding them in Edmodo, I can still give my students a way to interact and ask questions of me. Plus, I know the creators of the videos listed above monitor their YouTube channels and answer student questions, adding another great interactive resource.

I think there are a lot of possibilites for increasing student engagement both with online content and what is done in the classroom. For more insights on this, read Tom Driscoll's post here.  In a bit of serendipity, we were thinking about similar issues at about the same time.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Rethinking the Screencast

 Many of us have spent a part of this summer reflecting upon our year and racking our brains to improve in 2012-2013.  Although we all know its not just about the videos, one of the many areas I would like to improve next year is the quality of my screencasts.  I made about 12 during the second semester last year, but after further research of flipping techniques (including Jon and Aaron’s book) and taking a course in hypermedia this summer, I realized that I was making several mistakes.  I will start with these:

  • My screencasts were too long.  Some ran about 20 minutes, a lot to ask regarding the attention span of the “YouTube generation."
  • Each slide contained too much information and too many visuals.  Students (actually any learners), can only process so much as once.  Including 5-8 lines of text, 3-4 visuals, and audio narration put too much strain on what theorists call “cognitive load."
  • The videos were not interactive in any way. They were primarily a digital version of the same passive lecture style that we have all come to accept but deep down despise.

Here are some of the changes I am making for this year’s screencasts, thanks in part to the new and improved Camtasia Studio 8.

  • Shorter videos that are overviews of one topic. For instance, instead of one 25-30 minute video on Ancient Greece, I am creating three separate 8-10 minute videos.
  • Switching from PowerPoint to Prezi, each slide will only include one line of text and one visual.  There will be more slides overall, but each will have a primary focus regarding content.  I also think this will add better “flow” to the presentation since each slide is only up for about 30-45 seconds.
  • Videos will be interactive using Camtasia 8’s quizzing and hotspot features.  Students will be prompted for their name and email before starting the quiz.  There will then be 5-6 questions embedded at different times in the video, and responses will be sent to me via a spreadsheet.  Not only will the scores be reported, but also the percentage of the video actually being viewed by the student.  Hotspots will be included that will be “clickable” links in the video to online resources relevant to the material covered in the video.

Here is the link to my first video using these methods (and Camtasia Studio 8):  

I’m sure once the school year starts, I will realize that there are 10 other changes I would like to make.  If you feel this way too, that’s ok.  As Jon and Aaron say in their book, its not whether its perfect, its whether its done by Tuesday… That being said, hopefully this will help you consider how to best create your screencast videos regarding student learning in the limited time-frames we have to produce them. 

If you have any comments or questions, as always, please comment below or contact me at the following:

*** IMPORTANT:  If students are viewing the interactive videos (hotspot / quiz) on an iPhone, make sure they download the TechSmith Smartplayer App, otherwise these features will not work correctly. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Research Proposals and Your Insights

 What research do you think would prove valuable regarding the flipped class “ideology” and social studies education?


This fall, I will be conducting research to complete my MA (Computing in Education) at Columbia University (Teachers College).   If you are wondering how a teacher living in RI is doing this, I was part of the first completely online program offered by the college.   In sum, the program is spectacular and I fully recommend others to consider enrolling if looking for an advanced degree in instructional technology or related fields.

My integrative project (think thesis) is going to be based upon the flipped class “ideology” and social studies education.  Here are some of the possible ideas I have floating around in my head:

  • Aligning “flipped methods” with solid research on learning and cognition (with a focus on humanities)
  • Developing  Instructional Design Model(s) for flipping social studies
  • Comparing the types of flipping (traditional, mastery, explore-flip-apply) regarding their utility in social studies education
  • Incorporating PBL (both “Project-Based” and “Problem-Based”) into a flipped environment
  • Designing the physical (and digital) learning spaces in a flipped social studies classroom.

*** This is not meant to be a study that sets a “control” and “experiment” group that compares test scores.  I would rather focus more on theory and design of learning environments.

As you can see, I am a bit all over the map regarding this.   Since I have learned so much from you all on Twitter and through this blog, I am again reaching out to you for input, guidance, wisdom, and inspiration!  

What other topics (or those mentioned above) would you find useful in moving the conversation forward? 

Please comment below or contact me directly, it is greatly appreciated!