As an elementary virtual education teacher I have found that having adequate time with my students in class is difficult to do. Unlike a traditional classroom teacher, I do not have several hours to work with students in class. Instead I get an hour or two at most with my students a day. In years past I have taught the lesson and then sent my students to breakout rooms to complete the activity to check for understanding. But does it really give me data on how they understand the material? Not really, because all I am doing is taking one assessment piece and applying it to all my students within the last few minutes of class without regard to different learning abilities and styles. This is especially cumbersome when you have 50 to 60 students attending your classes.
In my first year as a virtual education teacher, I spent a lot of time making sure my lessons aligned with the Common Core State Standards, but I always felt they were still lacking quality content. I would have to skim the surfaces of topics because if I did not, there would not be any time to check for understanding. Rather than lecturing to my students for an hour a day, I wanted to create a classroom atmosphere that supported individual student learning styles with room for collaboration among peers and the teacher. My focus was to move away from teacher-centered instruction to student-centered instruction.
At the end of the 2015 – 2016 school year I was conversing with one of the fifth grade teachers who had used the flipped classroom model in her virtual classroom for years. I wanted to know more because I needed a change from how I was teaching and I knew it was not fair for my students to sit in front of a computer screen for ninety percent of class time just to watch slides move across the screen with my voice instructing them on the lesson. This is especially true since we do not interact with each other in person. I began thinking of the implications if I were to use that same model in my classroom the next school year. As our conversation progressed, I began to see how beneficial the flipped model is for virtual education classrooms. With sixty kids in a classroom at once you need to give students the opportunity to show growth throughout class by engaging with their peers virtually.
I knew I could be successful in integrating this, as I want to be able to give my students the opportunity to apply language arts content – learned before coming to class – by participating in group discussions, projects and alternative assignments. By flipping my classroom, I am able to meet the needs of all my learners and allow them to master the language arts concepts being taught in a way that is suitable to them.
Creating valuable content is the next step in flipping my classroom. I want to create language arts videos that take the “teaching” part of class outside live class. This is where using videos to teach the content before class is vital. I found a website, called EDPuzzle, which allows me to create login accounts for all of my students. From there I can create a class in which the video would be assigned for students to watch. The video content that I create is often from scratch. This is because there is no previous content already available on EDPuzzle to use and I want to have authentic information that comes directly from myself. The videos are prepared through PowerPoint, recorded on the computer and then uploaded to EDPuzzle. Once the video is uploaded, I have the ability to add quiz questions, audio voiceover, as well as trimming the video to suit my needs. The same can also be done for videos that are already embedded within EDPuzzle.
Next, I assign the video, add a due date and click the box to prevent students from skipping through the video. By adding a due date, it informs students when the video needs to be watched so they can complete part of their morning tasks before class. The added bonus of not allowing students to skip through the video forces them to watch it from beginning to end. If a student opens up another tab on their browser the video stops where they last left off. If the student accidently closes out, it also stops where they last left off.
In order to ensure students are actually watching their WSVs I watch their progress on the EDPuzzle website. Each week a video is assigned to them, I can see where exactly they are within the process of the video. I can also see if they have had to review certain sections of the video more than once as well as if they answered the quiz questions correctly and what information they still may be confused about after watching their WSV. By informing my students they have not watched their video, it holds them accountable for not following instructions each week.
The flipped classroom model provides a new way of teaching with technology in the 21st century. With its use of videos that engage and focus on student learning, the flipped model offers us a new way of using student-centered learning to solving real-world and complex problems. It also allows better teaching for success in differentiation, virtual education and the flipped classroom model. This is why using the flipped model in virtual education schools can enhance student learning.