Flipping Denmark! The book, Flip Your Classroom, that Aaron Sams and I wrote is being translated into many different languages. The Danish translation is about to be released. Below is the Danish forward written by Anders Schunk (@AndersSchunk) www.AndersSchunk.dk. He tells a great story about how he discovered the Flipped Classroom. Enjoy!
The first time I heard about Flipped Classroom was in 2013, while attending Bett Show – a large conference on education technology – which takes place annually in London. By accident, I stumbled on a presentation titled “The Flipped Classroom. Why all the hype?” The presentation was developed and given by Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams, who are the writers of this book. Since the presentation, I have benefited greatly from working with developing Flipped Classroom for a Danish educational tradition in primary and lower secondary schooling.
Flipped Classroom presents an innovative approach to the framework for teaching – a way of turning the traditional template for teaching upside down: the teacher’s presentation reaches the pupil at home through video introductions, produced or selected by the teacher. At the school, however, the pupils are the center of attention, with the possibility to learn collectively, under the competent supervision from their teacher.
When I started working with Flipped Classroom, I was teaching mathematics in primary school, and I was focused on gaining time in class, so the pupils could have more time to work with math. At the same time, I was interested in getting the pupils to learn collectively, so they could benefit from each other’s knowledge, commitment and ideas. For some time, I had been working with incorporating structures from Cooperative Learning, and tried to spend as little time as possible in front of the blackboard. The idea was to create an active learning space, where no one was left on their own. But it was not until I started sending videos to the pupils at home and stopped doing introductory presentations in class, that I felt an increased quality of the lessons. The time I had with the students, and the time the students had with each other, improved greatly. Both in terms of interpersonal relations and educational benefits. The lessons had a greater focus on the pupils, and the possibilities of differentiation were improved.
When I use Flipped Classroom, I do not expect the pupils to be able to sit and listen to a presentation from me. The pupils’ purpose in the classroom is to a lesser extent to listen passively, but rather to participate actively. When they watch the video presentation at home, they can choose for themselves when, where and how they want to watch it. They can watch the presentation as many times as they need, pause it and rewind. They do not need to be quiet, and their classmates cannot disturb their focus. And one thing is at least as important at primary school level: the parents can join in as well.
I have made many different types of videos, which I use in connection with Flipped Classroom. Initially, I made short instructions on my iPad, using apps that allow you to record your voice, while you draw on the screen. In this way I could easily show my pupils a way of multiplication in a video made accessible online. I made other videos by filming myself with my smartphone, while giving instructions. I also used my phone to record small videos of myself explaining a topic with paper and pencil.
The important thing was that I used tools, which were familiar to me, and were not particularly difficult to operate. I also found out that YouTube is more than music videos and cat videos. It turns out that there is a large number of educational videos on YouTube, which can easily be shared with pupils.
When I started using Flipped Classroom while teaching Danish, I wanted to make sure that the videos would not replace the discussions that are a large part of the subject. I initially produced the videos in order to teach grammar, and later I would start creating introductions to literary models, tendencies and effects. I discovered that class dialogue and discussion could easily be carried out in the lessons, even though I did not do introductory presentations on the blackboard. Sure, video is one-way communication, and the student cannot raise questions or comments while watching the video, but it gradually became clear to me that the videos helped qualify the pupils’ participation in the class dialogue. While discussing a text we would be able to more quickly reach the point where the pupils used the correct terms, and more of them participated with their thoughts on the text. Thus, it is my experience that the videos are a medium, to which the pupils respond well, and from which they benefit.
In one chapter of this book, the writers focus on a model called Flipped Mastery. The idea is difficult to translate into a Danish context, but the chapter might inspire the use of video as a kind of extra resource for teachers in the lessons. I have often produced a handful of videos, which work as a step in a sequence of lessons. The pupils watch a video, work with the first tasks of the sequence, watch the next video when the tasks are completed, and proceed in this manner through the sequence on their own or – more often – in small groups. The pupils quickly spread out in their procession through the sequence, but all of them have the chance to be introduced to the next step, independently from the rest of the class.
My role in this kind of sequence is to be in touch with each of the pupils and ask about their answers, give feedback, challenge and motivate. In order to still employ the collective aspect as an important part of learning, we pause at several points during the lessons and talk about how far we have come, and what we are working on right now.
A specific example is from my Danish class at intermediate level. While teaching reading techniques with the novel “The Living Sword” by Cecilie Eken, I made five small videos to function as guides to the reading strategy I had chosen. The videos were made ready on my YouTube channel. While working with the novel, the pupils would need to watch each video. The first video was about how to ask questions for the text; the second one was about writing a summary; the third one was about predicting the plot, and so forth. The pupils watched the videos in class while working with the assignments. In this way I was able to introduce some relevant reading strategies while challenging the pupils’ answers, helping them get started, and arranging class discussions.
Similarly, my colleague, who teaches Danish in the first grade, has actively used videos in her lessons. She produced small video walkthroughs of certain pages of the textbook, which required some extra guidance. The pupils used her videos in the lessons as extra help, when they were stuck on an assignment. Maybe they do not understand the assignment, or simply need to have the instructions read aloud. My colleague was then able to spend extra time in the lessons with those students who particularly needed help.
Over the past few years, the term and the concept of Flipped Classroom have raised significant attention in the American teachers’ community, and the authors of this book have certainly done a good job of facilitating the method. In Denmark, we have only recently started discussing the use of Flipped Classroom, but several Danish teachers are now at work on “flipping” their teaching. Because of this, it is also interesting that the book arrives in a translated version at this point in time. This is the time when Flipped Classroom transcends from geeky discussions on Twitter, into the Danish teachers’ lounges. Simultaneously, Flipped Classroom is discussed in the Danish media, and several researchers are positive towards the method. This is the case, for example, with Niels Egelund, professor at the University of Aarhus, who believes that Flipped Classroom helps accommodate several elements of the recent reform of Danish public schools (Danish newspaper Politiken, January 7th, 2014).
Personally, I see Flipped Classroom as a convincing suggestion for how to transfer focus from my teaching to the pupils’ learning. In my experience, turning things upside down has a positive influence on the pupils’ proficiency and well-being, while providing me with a better opportunity to differentiate teaching and give feedback to students. Also, Flipped Classroom provides new opportunities in the cooperation between school and home, and in creating more inspiring and varied lessons for the pupils. This is why I hope that the words of Bergmann and Sams will also inspire you to get started. In the same way that I was inspired in London, one sunny day in January.
Anders Schunk, Aarhus, March 2014