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Posted by on in Flipped Classroom

Confession. I am a YouTuber. ( www.youtube.com/hiphughes) Now before you stop reading, I should tell you I also am a teacher with 19 years of experience, although I prefer being called a FOLE. (Facilitator Of Learning Experiences -which of course I have a video on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BmJ-_G5VR-A )

The story of how I became a YouTuber is a story of teaching. To summarize, it was 2007 and I had a YouTube account and I taught at a school in Buffalo where attendance was killing me, mostly students missing an average of 20% of classr. So I figured I should at least record my lectures so they can watch them to review for the exam. I call these early videos, my "hostage videos".  By the end of the year, my room was a DVD burning factory and I was handing discs out like it was nobodies business. As the years progressed and the digital divide began to slowly close, the shift became less about using the videos for review and more as a way of freeing up time in my class.

I should tell you something. I love kids making videos as much as I love making them. In 2002, I was fortunate by being one of the first people in a program called, City Voices, City Visions which was run out of the Graduate School of Education at the University of Buffalo. CVCV was a digital video boot camp for teachers. We learned how to make videos. Not lecture videos but Public Service Announcements, Commercials, News Broadcasts and other genres which we believed could be used to facilitate our learning objectives in the classroom.  We made videos to learn how so we could teach kids how to "write" with multimodal literacies. Wow! That sounded fancy! But my 3rd year in the classroom, my students were producing videos, videos about Govenrment and US History. And as they made those videos they were reading, researching, writing, storyboarding, filming, editing, screening and most importantly being engaged in their own learning! My problem was always time, how could I make sure I still "covered" enough of my course and gave kids the time to create?

Perhaps you have figured it out. By flipping my class and pushing my lectures out of the class (and trust me I still did review lectures) I was allowed the time to become a facilitator of learning rather than just a content explainer. I was now not the stage on the sage but the conductor of learning. Now, you may be asking, how do I find the time to make videos? And my answer is you don't have to, unless you want to. There are thousands of teachers on YouTube already doing this; so go google, "Best (insert your content area) Teachers on YouTube" and go steal; steal like a gangster and see if you can free up some time in your classroom so your kids can become creators of meaning and not just consumers of content.

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Posted by on in Flipped Classroom

I didn’t always hate school. In fact, I used to love it. I still recall exactly when I fell in love with school, and precisely when I started disliking everything about it.  

The image is dim, but I can vaguely see the front of the classroom. I see the teacher, and I see me. We’re decorating the walls for the new school year. Yup! Just me, Miss Jones, lots of construction paper, Elmer’s glue and Scotch tape. The process was creative and fun. She made me feel like the project we were doing really mattered, and I felt connected and valued. I was somewhere around six years old and utterly convinced that school was cool.

Fast Forward…

Don’t know why my sisters and I moved to a new school, but I remember everything about the culture shock. We went from being one of 10 kids in a class to be one of around 30. I can’t remember any of my teachers’ names and wonder, in retrospect, if they ever knew mine. I do recall feeling invisible and disconnected. I went from sitting in the front of the room to hiding out in the back. Eventually, my body was showing up for class, but my mind would leave the building.

Fast Forward Again…

Both of my sisters are now educators.They have advanced degrees and a three-decades-long history of walking through school doors. They apparently loved school enough to go back again and again. Not me… I bolted for freedom at the earliest possible opportunity. I was going to be a pilot or an entrepreneur -- whichever one didn’t involve algebra.

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Posted by on in Flipped Classroom

 shareasimage 96

Classroom flipping involves significantly more than merely recording and posting instructional videos online. For starters, this developing approach involves giving students more control over their learning, while allowing teachers more time and freedom to offer quality instruction.

The best, most enterprising flipped champions do so much more. They don’t pay lip service to wanting change. They use evolving technologies to promote self-directed learning. They actively encourage self-reliance over conformity, perseverance over idleness, and care over apathy.

Few defend this stance better than Jason Bretzmann, who recently compiled entries for Flipping 2.0: Practical Strategies for Flipping Your Class. “[Flipping 2.0] is normally characterized by focusing on higher-level thinking as a goal, creating a more student-centered classroom, and determining the best use of face-to-face time with students,” he writes.

Last week, I reached out to Bretzmann to gain deeper insight. He’s also concerned with making students the “lead learners,” as well as helping them develop comfort in—and eventual preference for—pursuing learning on their own, without yearning for traditional, sage-on-the-stage instruction.

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Posted by on in Flipped Classroom

      As fellow teachers know, there's no such thing as a "normal" week. However, this one has been free of assemblies, testing, snow days(!), and other craziness. Therefore it seems useful to describe my current week to illustrate one type of flipped-classroom model.

      First the basics: I teach Social Studies to four daily sections of 8th-graders, always in the same classroom for 48 minutes a period (38 mins on Tuesdays). About 30% of my students have an IEP or 504 plan for learning disabilities, but I only have in-class support for two of the four sections. Therefore I have to design class activities that keep everybody engaged for every minute. You can witness my amazing(ly pathetic) classroom decoration skills here.


  • Students received their results from last Thursday's quiz about nationalism, because I was absent on Friday. There are details about that quiz and its related video on my other blog. Then I told them that a new video was posted about the opposite of nationalism: sectionalism in the same time period. Quiz on Friday!
  • Next, I announced this week we will use primary sources to explore the Indian Removal period (which we started last week). Students received a packet with 8 different documents. The first was Andrew Jackson's 1830 message to Congress, in which he explains and defends the Indian Removal Act.  That's a challenging document, so I wanted students to focus on certain elements in Jackson's message and in the other documents.
  • Then I gave students 3 colored pencils: a red, a yellow, and a blue. For the next 15 minutes they watched the video below and followed along. A few days earlier, I filmed it with an iPad Mini and a shotgun microphone in two takes. I combined the clips with iMovie, but the simple Youtube editor would have worked too.

  • While they watched on the big screen, I could walk around and make sure they were coloring properly. I paused a couple times to keep them on-track and briefly answer questions. That was a whole lot easier than repeating the same coloring routine 4 times today. 


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Posted by on in Flipped Classroom

jigsaws I always liked the concept of jigsaw activtities: to give students more ownership of their learning, to use class time differently, to invite some creativity, etc. The Expert Groups meet for 1 or more class periods to learn about a sub-topic and to prepare a short presentation about it. Then students break into the Home Groups to spend another class period or two teaching each other. However, in real life these activities can quickly get messy and unproductive: 

  • Some students read their material more slowly than others; other students rush through the individual work in their Expert Group. 
  • The volume level in the classroom distracts some students as they try to learn their topic for the first time.
  • What about students that were absent on the learning day? Jigsaws typically take 2 or 3 days to complete, so you get the problem of a student who missed the time in their Expert Group... what's he/she supposed to do now?

 If you flip your jigsaws, then the Expert Groups can learn the material outside the classroom, at their own pace and with as much multimedia as you provide. Give them a couple nights to watch / listen to / read whatever you provide. Each student takes the time he/she needs, in a more appropriate location, regardless of their attendance at school. The small group peer pressure should help ensure that most or all come to class prepared. Let the Expert Groups meet briefly (less than a class period) to prepare and align their mini-presentations -- this is an important quality assurance step.  Then break student into the Home Groups and let the teaching begin!   


organizationThe Civil War Trust has a fantastic set of informational videos about various aspects of the war.  Last June, I used these topics for the Expert Groups in a flipped jigsaw. I'm very glad that I assigned such short videos, because students re-watched them to improve their understanding. We use Schoology, which allowed me to individually assign videos. On a regular website you could list all the video links on the same page, and then list the names of individuals or groups next to their assigned video.

 I believe this strategy will work for veteran flippers AND any first-timers.  You don't need to establish a special grading policy, quiz format, or website.  It can be a good way to try different video formats and providers (some watch a Youtube clip, others view a TEDTalk, etc.), and introduce your students to this kind of homework. If the flipping flops, then you can walk away without having wasted much time and effort. If it flipping rocks, then build on the strengths and lessons of this experience to try again with your next unit!

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