Flipping my Classroom

So recently I bought and read the book “Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day” by flipped classroom gurus Aaron Sams and Jonathan Bergmann. First of all, if you haven’t read this book and you are a teacher…read it. If anything, it is a great read. Quick, easy to follow, and thought provoking.

I have been thinking about flipping my classroom, even before reading this book. It has a lot of great insightful ideas on why you should flip your class and what kinds of issues you might run into. I found the book at Barnes and Noble but you can just as easily order it offline. By the way (btw) if you don’t know what I am talking about with this “flipped classroom” business…get the book.

So here is what I am thinking…

First, I know that I want to flip my classroom but I have many constraints including budget, time, trying to master content at my early teaching age (3  years) and teach it all  like a master teacher…so, at first my mind exploded, well not literally but figuratively. Then I sat back and decided that I could take this a step at a time.

I thought that I should at least start figuring out how I wanted to present my material. Many people seem to use videos, and that isn’t the only way to flip a classroom. However, I am a very “connected” individual and videos are something I have been doing for a while, so I thought “Why not?”

Therefore, my first quest in approaching the flipped model as a relatively new teacher was to figure out how to make these instructional videos. I know they take a lot of work but I want to start off right. This year I plan on just recording myself as I teach from a more traditional setting (something they recommend in the book). However, I will want to produce higher quality videos of example problems using a more “Sal Kahn” style approach. Looking online and talking with teachers it seems that one of the easiest ways to do this is to get some equipment and play around. Here is what I have acquired…

Annotation Tablet – I bought a wacom bamboo (capture). It was $99 and works great! You can get a slightly larger one called the “create” but it isn’t necessary if all you’re doing is annotating information or screencasting example problems.

Camtasia Studio – This is a pricey program if you are just starting out but it is well worth the money. If you have done your flipped classroom video research you will have probably seen those videos where a teacher is annotating an idea and the little image of them in their webcam is in the bottom corner of the screen. If you see that, they are most likely using Camtasia Studio. It is cheaper for a mac but you can get a single license version for a PC for about $179. Yeah, the price point is not the best but it works. You can achieve similar effects with mimio software (recorder) or other techsmith software like jing and screencast.com but camtasia is the way to go. Give it a try for free by clicking HERE.

Webcam – This is probably one of the cheaper things you need. You can get a real simple webcam with built in microphone for anywhere around $20 to $50. Our flipped gurus recommend a webcam with PIP (Pause in Play) which allows you to stop your webcam and then re-engage it without it stopping the video entirely. I also recommend a simple HD webcam so  you are easily seen and not fuzzy when you actually publish your videos. You don’t need a webcam but you will need a microphone, therefore I recommend getting the two in one.

Now the hardest part of this whole process was not the equipment but finding a good program to work practice problems out on. My wacom tablet came with a good program called AutoDesk which I really like. You can also use a program (which is free) called Smooth Draw. It works great and it is simple enough that anyone who is apprehensive about screencasting can use it and feel comfortable with it. You will see a lot of programs that are designed for iPad that do what camtasia, the wacom tablet, a webcam, and smooth draw can do. They are great, but take practice, and an iPad with a good stylus can cost as much as $600 plus (not including case). If however, you want to take the iPad approach, I recommend using these two programs:

Explain Everything

Show Me 

Anyways, I am just a beginner and these are the things I have discovered in the process. I am sure I will have more to say as I attempt to flip my classroom in the days, weeks, and months to come. If you see this post and have something to recommend or to add, please feel free to contact me. Thanks!

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