Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Flipped Class and Computers

Computer issues, such as holding class in a computer lab, using Google Drive, or computers as a distraction in class were the fourth largest class of complaints about the flipped class (5 of 27, 18.5%, 5 of 216, 2.3%). (Change 7, 8, 14, 20, 22). None of the students who mentioned an issue with computers suggested that I drop the flipped method.

Curiously enough, this category includes both recommendations that my classes be held in a computer lab and one complaint that the computers are a distraction to the class. One student wrote: "maybe you should start teaching class in a computer lab. that way if we have a problem with something it can be solved right then and there. also this would allow us to do more work in class, simply because everyone would be on the same page." That seemed a really good idea to me, so I arranged for my subsequent classes to be held in a computer lab, only to have another student write: "maybe having a class in the lab it was not that helpful after all...It distracts students too much!" I confess that classroom management shifts when students are faced with a screen that is just two clicks away from Facebook, but neither I nor most of my students see this as a significant drawback.

Note, too, that very few students had any complaint about the use of computers or access to computers, especially after I switched the class to a computer lab. Almost all students were able to access the outside, online work, and most seemed satisfied with completing their writing in class, online, especially with me there to help them.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Personal and Scaffolding Issues with Flipped Classes

The second major issue my students had with the flipped composition class was personal dislike. I received comments such as "It didn't work for me" and "I didn't really get it" with no elaboration. Of the 27 students who reacted negatively to the flipped class, 9 (33%, 9 of 216, 4.2%) simply disliked the flipped class, and 7 of those 9 students recommended that I stop doing flipped classes altogether. This was, by far, the largest group to recommend dropping the flipped class technique.

The third major complaint had to do with scaffolding issues. Seven of 27 students (25.9%) (7 of 216, 3.2%) expressed some discomfort with their lack of preparation for the flipped class. Unlike the above group, 6 of these 7 students wanted to modify the flipped class rather than drop it. In other words, the students eventually bought into the concept, but they wanted more scaffolding in the class to prepare them.

One student captured this attitude well when they said, "I would emphasize at the beginning of the term that you are not expected to fully understand what is going on and that we will discuss it during the next class. I know that you said not to worry about it when we had questions or concerns in the beginning but I don't think it was stressed enough. After week two you know what to expect and you get it that you will be reading and doing things that you will have questions or reservations about but when you get into class you do make it clear."

From the beginning term, I had listed the flipped class as one of the primary educational strategies in my composition classes, but I did not discuss this very well, especially in my first term. I made the unfortunate assumption that my students would understand what I meant by
Composition I/II/III is a flipped class, which means the content is delivered outside of class through online lectures and readings and the writing is done in class. Weekly online quizzes guide preparation for class.
This seemed obvious to me. It clearly was not obvious to many of my students. By the second and third terms, I was incorporating outside videos and readings about the flipped classroom early in the course. By the second year of flipping my classes, I was asking students to write about the flipped class in their class blogs and class documents, which I believe has the most effect on improving their attitudes about the flipped classroom.

I made another big change by scheduling all my composition classes in computer labs so that I could guide students through the activities that the course would expect them to perform outside of class on their own. Even though most of the outside, online activities are no more difficult than setting up a Facebook account, students are very anxious about performing well for a teacher and not appearing dumb. Going through each activity in class, in groups, with no penalty for failure eased their minds tremendously.

Then, I began incorporating smartphones more and more into the class, showing students how to download the various computer apps that we use in class onto their smartphones. This gave the students much greater confidence that they could always find a way to their online work to complete it. By the end of the last term (April, 2013), many of my students were doing their blogs, their weekly assessments, and even some of their formal documents on their smartphones. Although I have a non-traditional student population, the combination of personal computers, tablets, and smartphones means that almost all of my students have relatively easy access to their work when off-campus.

Finally, I changed the way I graded their outside, online work. Most of the activities received a participation grade. In other words, they didn't have to perform a task correctly—they just had to try. Simply attempting the online weekly assessment earned the student a 100 mark toward a score that amounted to 10% of their grade (a full letter grade). Of the more than 200 students this past year, less than a handful did not master the outside, online work.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Coordinating the Remote with the Local

I'm grouping my students' complaints about the flipped classroom into the following issues, listed in order of frequency:
  1. balance and coordination issues, such as changing the mix of online viewings, readings, and assessments with class activities and explanations, justifying having in-class sessions. (Change 2, 4, 10, 12, 13, 15, 20, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, Drop 9) (13 of 27, 48.2%)
  2. personal issues, just didn't like it. (Change 11, 16, Drop 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8) (9 of 27, 33.3%)
  3. scaffolding issues, such as lack of explanation of and preparation for flipped technique. (Change 3, 5, 14, 19, 21, 22, Drop 10) (7 of 27, 25.9%)
  4. computer issues, such as holding class in a computer lab, using Google Drive, computers distracting. (Change 7, 8, 14, 20, 22) (5 of 27, 18.5%)
  5. assessment form issues, such as which questions matched which activities. (Change 9, 13, Drop 7) (3 of 27, 11.1%)
  6. logistical issues, such as conflicts with work schedules. (Change 1, 6) (2 of 27, 7.4%)
  7. effort issues, too much work. (Change 16) (1 of 27, 3.7%)
  8. learning style issues. (Drop 1) (1 of 27, 3.7%)
The biggest issue (13 of 27, 48.2% & 13 of 216, 6.0%) that my students appear to have with the flipped classroom is the lack of balance and coordination between the in-class activities (the local practice of content) and the online, outside readings and lectures (the remote delivery of content). I think this confusion results from two distinct causes:
  1. my students unfamiliarity with the flipped classroom technique, demands, and rhythms, and
  2. my own failure to emphasize and to make explicit the connections between the online, outside work and the in-class work.
I think my failure is the most grievous, mainly because I can't correct my students' lack of experience with the flipped classroom. By a show of hands, I've learned that almost none of my students have ever heard of the flipped classroom, much less have engaged one. I suspect that this will be much the case for the next few years, perhaps forever, if the flipped class isn't more widely adopted.

I can, however, change how well I build the connections between the work done outside of class with the work done inside class. I attribute my early failures at this clear articulation as evidence of my own lack of experience with the flipped class. I forgot that what was clear in my mind is seldom clear in my students' minds. For instance, if the preparatory online lectures and outside readings are focussed on developing a strong thesis statement in academic documents, then I must use every opportunity in class to emphasize and echo the thesis meme. Most students do not necessarily make the connection between the concepts the cover outside of class with the work that they do inside class.

One of the first changes I made was to incorporate the weekly assessment into the class discussion. I display the assessment on the screen, along with the charts and graphs that Google generates, and we discuss their answers. I try to draw the implications for the work that we will do in class.

I also ask the students to write blog posts about the topic of the week, which gives them a chance to use writing as a tool for learning, a key instructional and pedagogical strategy in my classes.

The clear articulation between the remote instruction and local practice is not a finished process. Rather, it is something that I must work hard at every week, and there are always weeks when I lapse. I must continue to develop new strategies that help my students (and me) clarify the connections between outside and inside the class. There should be a true circular causality here, a feedback loop, by which the outside content informs and modifies inside practice which feeds back to inform and enrich the outside content. This loop is short-circuited when students don't see the connections between what happens outside and inside the class.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Problems with the Flipped Class

The first thing to notice about the student responses is that of the 216 student responses, 82.9% of students (179) said that they wanted to keep the flipped classroom as it was, as Chart 1 shows. In other words, better than 4 out of 5 students like the flipped classroom and believe that it helped them succeed in the class.
Chart 1: Distribution of percentage of responses about flipped classroom.
Chart 2: Distribution of responses about flipped classroom

Negatives by Term
12 Win13
12 Spr5
12 Sum9
12 Fall10
13 Win0
Chart 3: Distribution of negative responses by term

As you can see in Chart 3, of the 37 students who wanted to change or drop the flipped class technique, 13 (35.1%) were enrolled  in the 2012 Winter quarter, the first quarter that I used a flipped class. This means that 13 out of 62 total students for that term (21%) were in some way unhappy with the flipped class. This was the highest percentage of negatives for time period monitored, and it suggests that I did not manage my flip very well the first time that I tried it.

I think the students told me where I failed, and they made some excellent suggestions for correcting my mistakes. I'm listing all of the comments from the 37 students who said they would change or drop the flipped classroom method. I will try to make sense of these comments in my next post.

Change the flipped classroom. How would you change the flipped classroom?
  1. 01/12 ENG0099 MW 12:30 The only problem I had is I work a lot on the weekends so it was kinda hard from to do the homework on the weekend.
  2. 01/12 ENG1001 MW 8:30 Just balance out the time spent online with the time spent reading the textbook and class activities
  3. 01/12 ENG1001 MW 8:30 I would emphasize at the beginning of the term that you are not expected to fully understand what is going on and that we will discuss it during the next class.  I know that you said not to worry about it when we had questions or concerns in the beginning but I don't think it was stressed enough.  After week two you know what to expect and you get it that you will be reading and doing things that you will have questions or reservations about but when you get into class you do make it clear.
  4. 01/12 ENG1001 MW 8:30 I would have exercises in class more and have them review with the videos a bit. It was great as is, but i found that the exercises towards the end were really helpful and more or less helped review things that we older students look over. The maps for example, were great for preparation of a paper. Overall, it was great but more class exercises in the beginning. The most basic tools are the easiest to look over.
  5. 01/12 ENG1001 MW 8:30 I don't want to say drop the flipped class just explain it better. It is hard to enter a classroom after 20 years of not being in school and have that introduced to you. I think once again it is going outside my comfort zone and opening up to new experiences and technologies. The flipped classroom also made me feel that I wasn't getting everything done properly, I would get so busy with my other classes studying and doing papers that I would forget to watch the video until Friday or Saturday and it just made me fell like something was never finished. I watched a lot of videos online about the flipped classroom and understand the concept it was just new to me and most of the class.
  6. 01/12 ENG1001 MW 12:30 The only problem I had is I work a lot on the weekends so it was kinda hard from to do the homework on the weekend.
  7. 01/12 MW 7:50 maybe you should start teaching class in a computer lab. that way if we have a problem with something it can be solved right then and there. also this would allow us to do more work in class, simply because everyone would be on the same page.
  8. 01/12 MW 7:50 the flipped classroom was great because we learned the subject at home and let it marinate in our heads. then being in class, we can actually put it into work with fellow classmates, while having access to you for any and every questions. also i would suggest for you to request a class room with computers just so we wouldnt have to seperate from the class and you be in another room , not being able to walk us through right then and there.. alot of people are more of a hands on textile learner. to me would seem much easier and more comfortable learning experience with the computer lab. 
  10. 01/12 ENG1001 MW 7:50 I understood more outside the classroom with the help of the videos, perhaps more explanation in the classroom would help
  11. 01/12 ENG1001 MW 7:50 I don't know it was ok but not so much for me.
  12. 04/12 ENG1001 MW 6:00 More discussion in class would have been better.
  13. 04/12 ENG2001 MW 7:50 I feel like more emphasis on the book and assignments in class based on the book would be helpful in learning the writing techniques. I sometimes felt confused about the lessons. 
  14. 04/12 ENG2001 MW 7:50 Needed more guidance on how the flipped class works and really should have a option not everyone is computer literature beyond checking their accounts on Face book. I was kind of clueless on writing papers on the computer.
  15. 07/12 ENG1002 MW 8:30 I am not a big fan of the flipped classroom. I wish we did more reading in class and a bit more explaning in class. Sometimes we come to class just to write and sometimes a feel a bit lost. Sometimes I might read something at home, but dont really understand. I just rather more in class reading.
  16. 07/12 ENG1002 MW 8:30 to much work i didnt like them
  17. 07/12 ENG2001 MW 10:30 I wasnt really interseted into the flipeed class I think that it shold be on a topic that we all want to talk about.
  18. 07/12 ENG2001 MW 10:30 I would keep the flip class, but require a set number of outside resorces to be posted through google plus and writing or discussing three of the subjects in the class room, hence cutting back on the blog.
  19. 07/12 ENG2001 MW 10:30 It help but for me I'm a more hands on person so just telling me to do it and not showing me make it a little harder. but this help my computer skills when i first started the class i didn't know what this was but now I'm very much inforned and can go on learning with a finish hand on computing.
  20. 07/12 ENG2001 TR 6:00 "There was not enough working in class for me, just limited to questions online and not exercising in groups... maybe having a class in the lab it was not that helpful after all...It distracts students too much!"
  21. 10/12 ENG0099 MW 8:30 Due to the status quo flipped classroom caused confusion to me. It didnt work so well for me because I wasnt properly informed about it then again in the begining I was usually late for class. Either way flipped classrooms are confusing.
  22. 10/12 ENG1001 MW 12:30 I like the flipped class, but agin I think it would be hard for those of us who aren't always on the computer or know how to use it to our benefit. If it's explained a little better, i think more people will really get into it. 
  23. 10/12 ENG1001 MW 12:30 I do enjoyb the flipped class, but sometimes I find it a bit confusing. I think we should go more into detail in class on what we are talking about. When we have assessments to do at home that comes from the book, I feel we should go over it more in class. 
  24. 10/12 ENG1001 MW 7:50 Again, we didn't really talk about the assesment, so either change them or don't use them. I don't know how to fix problem.
  25. 10/12 ENG2003 MW 6:00 I loved the flipped class. I do feel however that I would have enjoyed hearing Professor Hamon read a bit more of the literature with us in class or even online as online lectures as I found this to be even more effective in helping me to understand the stories or poems.
  26. 10/12 ENG2003 MW 6:00 I liked the flipped class on one level because it gave me a chance to think about an assignment completely from an untainted perspective, before talking about it in class. I just think maybe we should have spent more time deciphering some of the literature in class as well. So maybe a more blended version of a flipped class.
  27. 10/12 ENG2003 MW 6:00 It was different, but personally I would prefer most of the work to have been done in clss and the internet things as a guide or reference. The google doc was the main thing that I really really enjoyed as it helped organize and keep track of papers without having to carry around a flashdrive. But this is a writing class, so it is expected, of course, as we are writing our final online. It is definitely something to get used to and I would not be surprised if more courses or all will soon be the same in the early years to come. 
Drop the flipped classroom. What was strong and/or weak about the flipped classroom for you?
  1. 01/12 ENG1001 MW 7:50 I am more of a visual learning so flipped class didn't really help me much.
  2. 01/12 ENG1001 TR 8:30 The whole thing.
  3. 04/12 ENG1001 MW 8:30 It didn't work for me.
  4. 04/12 ENG1001 MW 6:00 I rather the proffesor just force a topic upon us and then we do the research on the topic. This is probabbly due to the fact every single proffesor works with style and so it's better to just continue to work on what were used to. Especially when there a grade invloved.
  5. 07/12 ENG1002 MW 8:30 I didn't really get it. 
  6. 07/12 ENG1002 MW 8:30 Didnt like. Really dont care to share we stronger.
  7. 07/12 ENG2001 MW 10:30 I didnt really like that i kept forgetting to do those and when i came back to class the next day that swhen i remembered that we had to do them.
  8. 10/12 ENG1001 MW 12:30 I really didnt care for it, because I was blogging more to my own class. 
  9. 10/12 ENG1001 MW 12:30 It was great to see everything that was do or would be do online - remembering to check the wiki, etc. was a different matter.  It made attending class more difficult aqs it was clearly a more or less online class...So it wasn't clear what the in class sessions aimed to accomplish.
  10. 10/12 ENG1001 MW 7:50 I felt overwhelmed with the flipp class, until I got the hang of it, I did not know how to keep up. Also I feel more students will attend class, and perhaps complete more assignments.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Flip by Term

I want to see if student attitudes about the flipped class changed from term to term, and they did, somewhat dramatically, actually.

Ratings by Term
12 Win 3.95
12 Spr 4.21
12 Sum 3.93
12 Fall 3.74
13 Win 4.54

Chart 1: Student ratings of the flipped classroom strategy by term

It's curious to me that students had lost some of their enthusiasm for flipping the class by Fall, 2012. I had sensed this uneasiness, especially in one class which was very large and somewhat contentious. I decided over the Christmas break that I needed to address some student concerns with the flipped class or to drop the idea. I chose to address the issues, and I think I did the right thing, as the students were much more positive about the flipped class technique in Winter, 2013.

I should look next at the students' feedback about the flipped class to see if I can isolate the issues that they were having, especially in Fall, 2012.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

My Own Data

So I'm not finding much hard data either for or against flipping the composition class, so I'll look for some of my own.

As it happens, I've been asking my students to assess my classes ever since I've been teaching here in West Palm Beach, so I've put some of this data together, and it seems to add up to something. Consider the following chart:

I've asked my students to rank from 1 to 5, with 1 being the worst, the various instructional strategies that I've used in class. Google Docs/Drive consistently receives the highest ranking (4.48 overall), but the flipped class comes in a very respectable third position (3.95), just edged by the class wiki (3.99). This suggests to me that most of my students value the flipped classroom and believe that it has helped them become better writers. To say it another way, the flipped class receives 4 out of 5 stars. That's pretty good. I'll have to explore the data some more to see what else I can learn.

I just updated my data with the 2013 Winter Quarter, which yields the following results:
As you can see, the overall ratings for most of the items have gone up. The flipped class is now rated at 4.05, up from 3.95. I need to examine the ratings by term to see if this is a general trend. More later.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Flip Your Way

One of the important insights I'm getting from reading about flipped classes is that there are many ways to flip a class. While what you do to flip remains the same—use technology to deliver content remotely and then practice locally—how you do that can vary. Obviously, some people think flipping is a simple matter of moving the lecture out of the classroom and onto Youtube and moving the homework into the classroom, but this preserves a focus on the lecture method of instruction. What if you want to do a discussion? or use a mastery method? Can you still flip? You can, but it changes how you implement your flip.

In her article Educators Evaluate 'Flipped Classrooms' in Education Week ((Aug 27, 2012), Katie Ash reports an interview with Ramsey Musallam, a chemistry teacher at Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory, a private Catholic high school in San Francisco, and an adjunct professor at the University of San Francisco's College of Education. Mr. Musallam cautions teachers to think carefully about what they want to achieve with a flipped class. "It's a thing you do in the context of an overarching pedagogy, not the pedagogy itself."

For instance, my own writing classes do not have so much content as, say, a history class with all its dates, wars, and characters. Rather, writing classes focus on mastering a skill; thus, it's more like painting or playing a musical instrument than learning new concepts or memorizing facts. Thus, I have students write outside the class in ways that prepare them to write in class. Thus, my flipped classes will not necessarily look like another flipped class. And that's just fine.