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How I Accidentally Monetized My Flipped Classroom

Apr 26, 2022

I don’t know if I’ve ever told the full story of how I flipped my classroom and what happened once I had flipped.  You know, like the whole story, start to finish.  Sure, I’ve told it in bits and pieces as was applicable to the episode or post on our website, but not the story in its entirety.

Well, buckle up because I’m going to share it in this episode with a focus on the absolutely unexpected surprise I got in my inbox shortly after publishing my first videos, and the surprise that just keeps on giving now that I’m 12 years past flipping for the first time.

After listening to this episode you’ll see the bonus, and what was hidden advantage of flipping your classroom that may or may not be a perk to you, but at least lets you know the possibilities of flipping so that you can make the most informed choice for your unique classroom.  You’ll be ready to start flipping and see the worldwide impact, yes worldwide impact, you can have with your new classroom that surpasses the limitations of its four walls.

Even if this idea of monetizing your flipped classroom is of zero interest to you, the potential global impact might be.  Not to mention how prepared you’ll feel for any and all of your current and future students who someday could be reporting to you in any number of ways, not just in person.  And I firmly stand my ground here that flipping your classroom is the BEST way to make your content accessible to your varyingly attending students while remaining sustainable for you.

So if this sounds like something you want to learn more about, well, teacher-friend this episode is for you.  And, it might be for one of your teacher-friends as well.  So if you could, please grab this episode link or a link to the show and share it with your friends, and I so appreciate you for it.

Alright, let’s get to this episode.

I taught for ten years at a high school just outside of Cincinnati, Ohio after graduating from college in 2009 and not finding a job for year where i subbed all over the place in order to get a year of experience and retirement.  Shout out to all of you who have subbed before.

After my second year of teaching and dabbling in the idea of flipping my classroom, I decided over the summer to go all in and flip my entire course (only one course of the four I taught, mind you).  I took the summer to research the world wide web for any educator who had taken on the task before and learn as best I could from their experience.  To say the least, there wasn’t much out there to learn from, so there was more learning by trial and error than I would have preferred, but it worked out for the best.

Fast forward a few months into the first year of fully flipping my classroom in which I posted my videos on my YouTube channel, and I open my email inbox to find a message from a student across the world thanking me for my clear and concise explanation of topics inside many of my videos.

It was a small occurrence in the grand scheme of things, but in this young, third-year teacher’s brain that was used to questioning and doubting every move I made as a newer teacher, it meant the absolute world to me to get this kind of feedback.

Fast forward a few more months, and I had dozens more emails from students and teachers alike, from all over the world who were using my videos for their own learning in preparing for their own test or that of their students.  I was floored to say the least.

Fast forward a few years and I transfer my videos to my own, personal YouTube channel, and not only do the emails and comments of gratitude continue, but now my channel is monetized simply because I made my videos available outside the four walls of my classroom and others get to benefit in tangible ways in their own learning, bringing an extra few hundred bucks of passive income every single month for my family and I.

There’s a few things that I would like to note here before I move into how this happened and how you might be able to do it too, and it’s a focus on what it’s not.

First, I am not skilled in graphic design or video editing.  I’ve never even taken a course or even Googled the art of video production.  There are massive education rockstars on YouTube with millions of views and followers who have crazy skills in video editing and production.  That is NOT me.  I was simply making videos of my content with a focus on teaching that content in a streamlined, easy-to-follow way that made it relatable to my students.  And by doing so, and using a simple software to edit out any huge mess ups, my videos are still getting views and are helpful to those who watch them.

So the big takeaway there is that I am NOT a YouTube star, nor are my skills overly stellar in video editing, which goes to say that you too can make great content-focused videos.

Secondly, what resulted was NOT my intention.  My intention in posting my flipped videos on YouTube was that it was the simplest platform that 1) my student could access and that 2) integrated well with Google Sites and eventually Google Classroom - because no, Google Classroom didn’t exist yet when I started flipping.  I bring this up to say that it truly was a pleasant surprise that other students and teachers found my teaching helpful in their own learning.

What I would like to do now is give you a few steps to take with what might be your own videos, or provide what might be some preemptive advice if you plan on flipping your classroom in the near future, regardless of if you’d like to post them on YouTube right away for others to view.

Understand Proprietary Rights

Before you go making videos and posting them online you want to be sure and understand the proprietary rights of your school district if you are doing either of two things:

  1. Making any resources or recording videos on school administered devices, or
  2. Making any resources or recording videos on school grounds.

I am by no means an expert in contract (or any) law, so I can not and will not give legal advice.  But I will share what has been my experience, and hope that you can benefit from what I’ve learned along the way.

Long story short, you could spend hours reading in your contract if you have proprietary rights to anything you create on your school device or on school grounds.  Or you could play it safe, and be sure to use your own personal device and create videos at home.

I want to clarify… you do NOT have to only create videos at home or on your personal device in order to flip your classroom.  Absolutely not - it will benefit your students and it is work you’re doing as an educator employed by your school district, so by all means, use your teacher laptop and record them in your classroom.

But, if you plan to monetize your YouTube channel - even if you don't want to right away, and then five years from now you do - you should not create your videos on any school property.

Understand Copyright Laws

The second item to understand is copyright law.  Again, I am not a lawyer or specialist in copyright law.  I am not giving legal advice, but I am sharing my experience which you may learn from.  Which means you should have some due diligence in looking into the law and making sure you’re respecting all intellectual property.

When educators are creating resources there is a bit of leeway in using images and information because you aren’t making any money off what you are creating for your students.

Until you are.  So when you start monetizing your videos, the resources you use inside those videos must be under creative commons or created by you.  Many times we are creating slides or resources using materials from purchased curriculum.  Do not use those resources in anything you’ll be making money on.

If you’ve personally purchased the materials whether it’s slides or handouts you are using in your videos, let’s say you’ve purchased them on a site like Teachers Pay Teachers, make sure to read the acceptable use guidelines the resource came with and then also reach out to the creator to double check that it’s ok you use their resources in your videos.

Be sure to not let any detail go unthought of here.  Think of the graphs, charts, graphics, images, photos… none of it can be taken from others, and all of it must either be created by you or under creative commons in order to be fair ground for using in monetized materials or videos.

Understand Your Value as an Educator

The last tip I want to give you here is less of a what-not-to-do.  The first two tips were very much cautionary or what-not-to-do.  This one is the opposite.  It’s a what-to-do.

When making your videos and then someday monetizing them, whether right away or later on, you must understand your value as an educator.

This is a truth I want you to wrestle with for a moment.  Hear me out for the next couple minutes and then reflect and come to your own conclusions.

Students could Google all the information that is available in your videos - whether parents, students, or anyone else.  They could Google it - all of it.  Shoot - people could Google everything that’s taught in a classroom.  But they don’t, because they know that’s not the best learning experience.  

The same is true for your videos.  Your flipped videos provide WAY more value than a quick Google of the information ever could.  So don’t doubt your value. 

Oftentimes as teachers on our annual salaries, we believe that’s all we should make, which may or may not be the case, but our salaries indicate to us, almost on a subconscious level what our worth is, especially in the public sector.  So that when we start making even a little more we may question its validity and even feel guilty - think of the negative viewpoints of teachers making money on various websites by selling their resources.  It’s a heated topic for some.  Whether a teacher feels guilt or heated about this topic, you can set all of that aside and know that what you provide as an educator in your videos, which is essentially what is provided to an extent in your classroom is valuable.  If it weren’t, schools wouldn’t pay you what they do.

So, know your value, teacher-friend, and be proud that no one has to pay to watch your videos, when they’re on YouTube, and yet, you can make a little side income for your bad-self and all your educator-skills.

Teachers Are Not Replaceable 

One last point I’ll make here is that this last tip of “know the value of your videos and of yourself as an educator, therefore don’t feel guilty about making money on your videos,” and they could just Google all the information in your class….

Here’s the thing - that truth applies to you in your classroom.  What I mean here is that if you flip your classroom, you may be thinking that, “well, I’m doing less now.  I should just teach each of my classes, and not let the teaching be done in a video.”

Sorry teacher-friend, but that thinking is dead wrong.  By taking the content delivery out of the classroom, or at least streamlining it to be more efficient in the form of a video, you are not only STILL delivering content in a more effective way, but you are also creating class time that can now be used on the deeper and harder parts of learning beyond content delivery.

And they can’t Google that.  

No computer, no expert Google-skills, and certainly no flipped video will reduce or replace the impact the educator has in the classroom.

Instead, a flipped video allows you to be more effective because of the place inside the learning process you’ll now be working with students more often - not on the easy content delivery parts… instead you’ll be working with them in the harder application and practice parts of learning.  That’s efficiency and sustainability at its best right there.

Before we close out this episode let’s do a quick recap.

If and when you want to monetize your flipped videos like I unintentionally did way back when, keep the following items in mind.

  1. Understand proprietary restrictions by your school district, only making videos on your personal device and property.
  2. Understand copyright law and always keep respecting others’ intellectual property as a top priority - all the way down to the slides, graphics, and images you may use.
  3. Understand your value as an educator and that monetizing your videos does not make you a bad person or less of an educator - making these videos will increase your impact as a teacher, and if you can keep the lights on in the process because of those videos, then it’s a win-win for everyone.

If this episode has resonated with you be sure to grab the link to it, or to the show itself, and share it with your colleagues and teacher-friends.  We would so appreciate you helping us get our message of sustainability into the ears of fellow teachers.

Lastly, if this idea of flipping your classroom, having more efficient impact with your own students, and maybe even impact across the world with other teachers and students is intriguing to you, be sure to grab my totally free Flipped Classroom Starter KitIt’s available at the link below where you’re listening and its just a click away from being in your inbox and available to print and learn from when you’re ready.

Alright teacher-friend, that’s it for episode 70, and we’ll see you same time, same place next week.  Bye for now.


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