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Flipping the classroom with itslearning

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Secondary school teacher Elisabeth Engum from Bergen, Norway, has been described as a prime example of how personal learning environments can contribute to innovative teaching. Inspired by the ideas of the “flipped classroom” she is finding new ways to structure her teaching and motivate students.

Basically, flipping the classroom means to deliver instructional videos online that students can watch outside of class and move the homework into the classroom. When they come to class after having watched a video, they work on exercises that take their new knowledge and test it, stretch it and build on it.

Elisabeth first tested flipped classroom teaching in her geometry classes during the spring semester of 2011. She began by producing theory-based instructional videos and examples, and then uploaded the videos to YouTube and published them via Google Sites. But Elisabeth soon realised that the students didn’t use Google sites, and decided to publish the videos on itslearning instead.

Combining videos and good classroom teaching

Award winner
Elisabeth Engum was one of three winners in the Creative use of a learning platform at the 2011 category at the Share & Use Conference in Sandvika, Norway. She was nominated because of her work with the flipped classroom and itslearning. You can find Elisabeth as @PGelisa on Twitter – and see her videos on her YouTube channel.
During the course, the students are asked to evaluate themselves via evaluation forms in the itslearning survey tool. This shows Elisabeth how well her students understands the videos, and reveals if anything is unclear. But there’s more to it than fancy videos.

“One thing is to create good videos; another is to have good classroom teaching. I think it’s important to have a balance between video lectures and classroom teaching,” Elisabeth explains.

The students she had last year expressed that they wanted both: some periods with classroom teaching and some with video lectures. According to Elisabeth, the most challenging aspect of the flipped method is finding a structure for the resources she publishes that will enable her students to make the most of them.

The itslearning planner central

Elisabeth uses the itslearning planner to structure her teaching. She divides the plan into small parts, and adds videos as notes. itslearning allows her to connect each video to learning objectives in the curriculum, which makes it easier to structure her resources in the planner.

Elisabeth publishes her videos on YouTube and then embeds them into itslearning. “I use YouTube because I want the videos to be available everywhere – even on the bus. YouTube videos can be watched on most hardware and platforms, from PC and Mac to mobile devices.”

Pros and cons

Even though her students are mostly positive, the flipped classroom also has its disadvantages. One is that it takes time to produce the videos; another is challenges in the classroom.

“Traditional classroom teaching requires little from students,” says Elisabeth. “But the flipped model calls for the students to take responsibility for their own learning. If they haven’t seen the video before a class, it may be difficult for them to follow. On the other hand, students enjoy watching lectures over again, and it gives me more time to provide them with guidance during class. The videos also make it easier for absent students to catch up.”

Paving the way with the flipped classroom

Elisabeth is one of the flipped classroom pioneers in Norway, but she admits that she’s been inspired by others. She picks up ideas from conferences and social media channels, such as Twitter, and then creates something of her own. This was how she learnt about flipped classroom.

“I got the idea last winter when I read articles about Khan Academy and the flipped classroom,” says Elisabeth. “My ideas are largely inspired by two Norwegian colleagues – Roger Markussen and Bjørn Ove Thue – who started with the flipped classroom a couple of months before me. They inspired me, and I largely base my teaching on their model.”