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Getting more from distance learning with a flipped classroom

The education landscape has changed dramatically over the last month as schools get to grips with the effects of the COVID-19 virus and associated shutdowns around the world.

As teachers, students and families move to a distance learning environment, the opportunities presented by a Flipped Classroom model have become increasingly important. 

One of the biggest challenges is managing time for face to face interactions and the need for students to be more independent in their learning. Flipped Learning offers teachers a way to support and direct their students' activities at a distance. Precious time spent together online can then be used more productively and the student can continue to make good progress, with personalised feedback and guidance.

So what can teachers do to make this transition as painless and effective as possible?


Step 1: Take a deep breath!

Adopting something new can sometimes feel like a significant challenge, but it is important to realise that, just like teaching, there is no “right way” to achieving a flipped classroom. The model is a continuum of styles and teachers will find one that works for them and their students. Do not feel that you have to be immediately churning out high quality videos if this is not something that you are comfortable with. Flipped learning is a concept, not an instruction manual and one that you will become more comfortable with over time.


Step 2: What tools will you use?

Whatever approach you decide on, it is important to choose the tools that suits you and your students; if you’re going to make it work, you must feel comfortable with what you’re using. 

To start with, don’t forget that you will already have your own materials and resources that you can use with your students. If you do want to try something different, the good news is that technology is constantly simplifying, with opportunities to create resources now that would have been impossible not that long ago. 

Online textbooks from Classoos allow you to share textbooks quickly and easily, whilst video platforms such as Khan Academy, Youtube, Clickview and Planet estream have a host of educational videos available for schools. If you’d like to try your hand at making your own videos, tools such as Explain Everything and Powerpoint make it easy to create your own. 


Step 3: What is the best way to share your resources for a Flipped Classroom?

Once again, you need to find something that suits you and your students. If you have a platform already in use at your school then that would be a good start; this has the advantage of being a route that your students are already familiar with. 

Organise your material into lesson sized chunks so that students know what they need to work through, without having to search for the relevant document or file. Make sure that they have clear instructions to follow and a list of what they should know once they have gone through the resources. 

If you can, provide them with a forum for asking questions in advance of the lesson as this will allow you to identify those areas in need of further explanation before you talk to them. However, the most important thing is to make sure your material can be accessed on multiple devices. Students are more likely to take to flipped learning if they can get hold of material on a device they use regularly. 


Step 4: Start making your material

Make sure that your resources cover the essential points and are engaging for your students. If you’re using Powerpoint you may need to adapt your presentations to make sure that you have everything you want to say in the slides.  In this situation, more is definitely less - don’t let flashy transitions and animations get in the way and distract from the material. Using a combination of approaches is always a good thing, bringing slides, worksheets and videos together helps to ensure that your students have variety in their learning, just like they would experience in a classroom.

If you like the idea of making videos, but don’t want to “perform” on screen, use screen-casting tools like Explain Everything, Vittle or QuickTime. They record your activities on screen along with your narration and are great for working through diagrams and graphs for example. If you are making videos they need to be short and to the point. Remember, you’re not expected to produce films like the BBC or Hollywood; you know how to speak to your students and they will appreciate simply hearing your voice.


Step 5: Introduce the flipped classroom to your students

This is probably the most important part of the process. Spend a session with your students explaining the concept to them. Let them know how you want the process to work, what your expectations are and how you will still be working to support them. Flipped learning is not there to replace teaching, rather it is a different way of supporting students, helping them to become independent learners and ensuring that face to face time can be used most effectively.

Finally, reach out to other teachers. There is now a huge amount of resources being shared widely on a variety of platforms, along with advice and guidance on the best way forward. Schools have had to adjust rapidly to a new reality and it has been truly inspirational to see how teachers have been working together and supporting each other over the recent weeks and months.

Trying to teach every lesson in a face to face, online environment can be exhausting and is not sustainable for most teachers. Flipped learning provides us with a model that allows students to work independently, whilst making sure that when classes do get together online, they are able to collaborate and work together more effectively.


If you’d like to see how Flipped Learning might work in Firefly, here is a recording of our recent webinar on the topic.

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