During the summer of 2013, I interviewed successful classroom flippers Jessica Rice and Megan Ahlberg. Together they have flipped their pre-calculus classrooms and made screencasts for intermediate algebra support classes at Kennedy High School in Bloomington, Minnesota. They began their journey in the fall of 2011, because they wanted more class time to directly support their students in acquiring new mathematical concepts.
Megan and Jessica tried other screencasting products, but found Doceri and never looked back. Megan said that the great thing about an iPad app is that you can create your screencasts anywhere and don’t have to be at school, at a desktop computer, or near a big electronic board. Jessica said that Doceri’s sound was superior. They both agreed the hand writing capability in Doceri is smooth.
The first year the duo began their flip by creating one video per day. Their focus was very much on the videos. At first, the reactions of their students was less than enthusiastic. There was a certain amount of nervousness among their students. However, it did help that Megan and Jessica were making their own screencasts, and the kids were familiar with their voices. After a while their videos became shorter and more concise, and enthusiasm for the videos grew in their classroom cultures.
Jessica created algebra videos for a support course for struggling math students. It is called Intermediate Algebra Support, and the students take this course at the same time as their regular Intermediate Algebra course. This is a preventative strategy to support 9th graders in math. The videos allowed for differentiation and review in class. Some were used in an after school credit recovery course to allow students to review the material at their own pace and then test out of the content after practice.
Later, they learned that it wasn’t really important to produce a video every night, because not every lesson warranted a video. Now that they are more judicious with their video production, the kids watch them with more consistency and come in with more questions consistently. This process helps make the classes far more engaging.
Megan said that the best result of the flip was how much better that she felt she knew her students. Buy-in to the lessons was more successful, because they spent more time with the kids and got to know how their students think rather than knowing just the kids’ test and homework grades. Formative assessment occurs every day in their flip classes. Kids will come in with more questions than they did before the flip.
I believe you can count Megan and Jessica as brave, due to the fact that they did a full flip of the curriculum on the outset rather than easing into it with a lesson here or there. There have been bumps in the road. Each teacher said getting started on Doceri was easy but did require a bit of a learning curve to learn all of the ins and outs of the app.
However, the reward has far outweighed the time it took to master the program and screencasting in general. Higher level learning seems to happen more often since more time is devoted to inquiry and investigation in the classroom instead of instruction.
The two flippers export their videos straight to their own YouTube Channel. They communicate with their students and quiz them through Google Forms and various scripts.
In all Megan and Jessica stated they are continuously reworking and rerecording their videos. It’s great that they now have a library of videos as back up, but the fact remains that Megan and Jessica enjoy the video production process and continue to improve on their previous work. The two master teachers agree that Doceri continues to make their jobs easier because of the engagement factor the software brings.
To Jessica and Megan other whiteboard apps just are not sophisticated enough to do what they want to do for their students. In the end, their students are making great strides because of these two dedicated teachers’ daily efforts. Megan and Jessica’s students are more willing to do their homework than the average math student.
Students know that what they questioned the previous night will be answered the next day – or at least it will lead to more relevant questions. Isn’t that all that teachers want from their students?
Both Jessica and Megan presented a workshop on flipping the class with Doceri and Google Scripts at Flipcon 2013. The duo will be presenting at the TIES Technology conference December 14 and 15, 2013.
Jessica is now making screencasts as part of professional development as the Secondary Curriculum Coordinator for the Bloomington School District.
Megan continues to teach math at Bloomington High.