The Number One Tool Your Classroom Needs Right Now

Mar 30, 2021

Hey there and welcome to the Sustainable Teacher Podcast/Blog about the number one tool your classroom needs right now. 

We are in a time of transition in education as we head back to normal or at least to some sort of new normal.  You are probably right in the middle of the teacher-hustle, and you’re reflecting on the changes you want to make to your daily teaching life so that it’s a bit more sustainable, am I right?

Either way, the tool that I’m going to tell you about today is one that’s going to help you take practical steps towards a more sustainable and effective classroom in the modern times of education.  It’s going to help you take steps towards more evenings focused on your family and less weekends spent grading papers, all while maintaining or even increasing your effectiveness in the classroom.

Want to know what the number one tool is?

It’s the Flipped Classroom Starter Kit I’ve built to help you do  just that, get started flipping your classroom.

In today's blog, I’m going to walk you through the first three steps of this starter kit, the same ones you’ll take to flip you classroom, so make sure to grab that kit by clicking here so you can take some notes, or when you’re finished listening.

Today you will learn three steps to take to start flipping your classroom with confidence, and where to go to learn two more important steps so that you don’t feel alone in this big change you would like to make, and so that you know the intentional steps you’re taking now will pay off big time when we’re living in the new normal of education soon.

Here we go…

Alright we are just going to get right into it.

Is the Flipped Classroom Right for  Me?

The absolute first step of flipping your classroom is to make sure you fully understand if flipping is a good fit for you.  I am not one to say that any one strategy will work for absolutely everyone - nope, not at all.  So you want to be sure you’ve fully considered this option through the lens of your unique classroom and student-needs.

In the starter kit there is a quick quiz to find out if flipping is a good fit for you.  So be sure to grab the kit and take the quiz, but right now I’m going to elaborate a bit on this point.

First, you’ve got to know exactly what the flipped classroom is.  You may have heard about flipping, and if you haven't, I'd like to take a moment and explain it a bit more here.

The flipped classroom technique was coined in the early 2000s by two teachers who realized the need to take what are the easier parts of learning (note-taking, lecture, content delivery) and put that outside of class so that in-class time can be spent on the harder parts of the learning process - practice, application, analysis, synthesis, etc.

If you consider the traditional classroom where content delivery takes up most of the class period and homework consists mostly of the practice and application of the content, then you see how the flipped classroom simply flips when and where both of those tasks occur.

In the flipped classroom, lecture or content-delivery is now done at home (or in other ways with an in-class flip which we'll talk more about soon), and students come to class with the notes and new knowledge ready to do what was traditionally homework - practice, application, analysis, synthesis - in class, in the presence of their teacher and classmates so that they have proper support for the harder parts of learning.

This is just scratching the surface of flipping.  There are so many other benefits that I will be diving into on this blog and on my weekly Facebook lives; I encourage you to come find me on Facebook by  joining our private Sustainable Teacher group here.

Now that you know a bit more about the flipped classroom and what constitutes flipped learning, you are wanting to know if it's really a good fit for you, your course/class, and unique students.

This is absolutely the best spot you should be in when considering a new technique like flipping, meaning I am ENCOURAGING you to question the validity and application of flipping to your situation... it means you are already thinking of how to make it work for your unique classroom.

So although this seems like a step you’re taking before you flip, I argue and actually teach in my online course, Flipped Classroom Formula, that what you’re actually doing is considering  the most important  aspects of your flipped classroom and how to set them up for success..

Here's the thing - no two flipped classrooms will or should look the same.  So when I talk about my flipped classroom, or another teacher talks about theirs, you may be tempted to make yours exactly the same.  And  although there are foundational aspects that you’ll want to emulate, you must take what  exists and tweak it to make it fit your circumstances.

With this understanding that no two flipped classroom should look the  same firmly in mind, although you definitely want to know in concrete ways if flipping will work for you, you also have to keep in mind that although there are best practices, you can take those best practices and make them fit and work for YOU and YOUR CLASSROOM.

Here are some things you want to consider when deciding if flipping is a good fit for you (and remember, for a full list and  quiz to take on this very topic, be sure to download the Flipped Classroom Starter Kit link in the first part of this blog).

  • 50-100% of my students have access.
    If a majority of your students have access to a device outside of your classroom, then you've got the ultimate green light to flip.  But, even if you can't check this item off, you don't need to say NO to flipping just yet.  There are some really great options for getting your videos in front of your students.  You’ll want to consider all the benefits of flipping and determine if the return on your time investment is worth it for you - to learn more about this be sure to go back and listen to episode 16.

  • I am not quite ready to be 100% Project/Problem-based Learning.
    Although you understand the value and benefits of PBL, and letting your  students take the reigns in your classroom, you have quite a bit of content that you know is best delivered from you (or another expert in the field) so they get a clear understanding and then can build off of that understanding.  So  you aren’t ready to give up quite that amount of control just yet, but you still have a strong desire to make your classroom more student centered and one that increases your students accountability and engagement.  If this is you, flipped learning is absolutely a great fit for you.

  • You have some amazing things you want to be doing in class
    ...but you've just never had the time.  You spend so much of your time in the mundane and/or just covering content.  But you really want to be spending class time on the more engaging, even fun stuff.  If this is you, then flipping will fit like a glove.

  • Multiple ability levels in your one classroom.
    If you have students in your classroom performing at a variety of levels but want to streamline differentiation in your classroom then flipping is the answer for you.  This, teacher-friend is the power of one flipped video.  We dive deeply into that topic in episode 15.

  • You're ready to explore a technique to improve scores.
    Whether you've rocked it with student performance before or not, you know there is either room to improve overall or with certain groups of students.  You want to reach that certain group of students, and want the time to build relationships with them in the process.  Flipping allows you to reach all of your students because of the built in differentiation, but it more so allows you the time to have those meaningful conversations with  students on a regular basis.  No more falling through the cracks.

Flipped Classroom Videos

The second step you’ll take in flipping your classroom revolves around the videos you’ll make.

Back when I was working one-on-one and at conferences, and now in online courses with teachers to flip their classrooms and prior to the pandemic or distance learning being a thing, I told teachers when they decided to flip to ONLY FLIP ONE CLASS (or subject) at a time.  Well, then flipped learning techniques became an absolute necessity in March of 2020, and ain't nobody got time to make that many videos - that is videos for every course or subject you teach.

I say all of this to explain to you that although making your own videos is absolutely ideal and most effective with students (in most cases), it is not sustainable or an obtainable thought that you could create all of your videos for all of your courses/subjects in one school year.  So don't do it.

With that being said, you can still totally flip all of your courses, you just won't make your own videos for all of your courses - do that one course/subject, and do it one year at a time.  Seriously, you'll thank me later.  Decide which of your courses you will make your own videos for (maybe you already have one course of videos done, and can work on the next), and which courses you are going to implement any of the other options that I actually list out in the Starter Kit you can grab in the show notes.  Make your plans and jot them in the notes section for each of your courses.

Now that you've decided which course or subject area you're going to make your own flipped videos for, you have another decision to make.  And it's an important one so let's look at some of the benefits.

Will you record just your audio or from your webcam too? My recommendation is to absolutely use your webcam as much as possible, but I want you to decide for yourself so I've listed some pros and cons here for using your webcam.


Your students see you in the classroom, it gives great context then to see you in your videos.

Your added (visual) personality will allow students to connect with you even more, which is rather lacking in the current/post distance learning world.


You'll  have to be as camera ready as you deem necessary - shower, comb your hair, dry shampoo, put on a clean shirt.

You may feel awkward on camera at first, but I PROMISE you get used to it and eventually feel just like you're talking to your kids.

You'll need to sit by a window or with a light facing you so students can best see you (no shadowy Dateline-esque silhouette please)

After you’ve decided if you’ll use your webcam or not there is another important decision to make about your flipped videos that you’ll want to make before you click record, which I describe in that starter kit, so be sure to download it by clicking below in the show notes.

Alright, step three:

Fill Your Flipped Classroom Toolbox

In this step you'll want to first consider your actual needs.  I will NEVER tell you to add more tech for tech's sake, and I'll always tell you to be a good steward of the tools provided to you by your school district as much as possible.  So when looking at the Tools to Consider list that I lay out for you in the Starter Kit and will elaborate on here, think of the tool's purpose and if you already have something that will work for that purpose.

Screen Recording Software

The first tool you’ll want to find, learn, and love is a screen recording software. Having a screen recording software is key - notice I say software, not cloud based. I don't want to have to rely on the  internet being at top speed so I can record a video. This is why I recommend Camtasia.

Camtasia is a tool that you’ll use for the rest of your career because it is so user friendly, and yet gives you  room to grow as you  want to learn more and make your videos a bit more complex with things like “lower thirds”, introductions, or even thought bubbles, captions, and circling, underlining, or pointing to important information in the video.

To learn more about Camtasia, which is a tool I train teachers on inside of my comprehensive online course, Flipped Classroom Formula, you can head over to teachonamisision.com/camtasia.

Video editing software

The second tool you’ll want to add to your toolbox is software that allows you  to edit a video.  Here’s the thing, editing can take up some time, BUT editing doesn't just add time and things to our to-do list - it actually saves time by allowing you to edit out your dog barking or the bell ringing in the background so that you don't have to start the whole video over!!!  Guess what - Camtasia does that too.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in the middle of making a video and one of my kids  asks  a question or my dog barks or the doorbell rings, or if I’m at school the bell rings or a student knocks on the door.  There are certainly ways to optimize your recording and editing time, which I teach inside of Flipped Classroom Formula, but just  know that the ability to edit, when done correctly, will absolutely save you time.

Inside of the Flipped  Classroom Starter Kit I explain a  total of five tools you’ll want to consider, but for time’s sake, in this episode I’m going to talk about just one more.

A Document Camera

The third tool you'll want to add to your  flipped classroom toolbox is a document camera.

If you will EVER demonstrate something to your students that you normally do on the board in class, solve a formula, demonstrate best writing practices, how to poor acid into a beaker, anything, you will absolutely want a document camera.   Here’s why… there’s then no need for a tablet or fancy new app you have to learn.  Get a document camera and computer paper and another supplies you’ll need, put the camera over your hands demonstrating the skill and viola.  No wasting time learning 14 new apps you could possibly use to do such a simple and crucial aspect of what it is to teach.  I personally love the HUE HD Pro Camera which is linked in our show notes.

Alright, let’s do a quick recap on the first three steps you’ll  want to take to start flipping your classroom.

  1. Know if flipping is a good fit for you and why, so  that you know the exact benefits you’ll be designing your flipped classroom to produce.
  2. Make 3 key decisions about your flipped videos that I elaborate on inside of the Flipped Classroom Starter kit.
  3. And lastly, determine your  small but mighty toolbox  you’ll  be filling for your flipped  classroom so that you are optimizing the tools already at your disposal, but also finding quality tools that will last you beyond any nifty trend of education.

Now don’t forget, there are still two more important steps  to take to even get started flipping, so be sure to dive into those in the Flipped Classroom Starter Kit here.

Now  that you’ve read this blog you can take three steps to start flipping your classroom with confidence, and where to go to learn two more important steps so that you don’t feel alone in this big change you would like to make, and so that you know the intentional steps you’re taking now will pay off big time when we’re living in the new normal of education soon.

Please listen to the podcast link at the top of this page and please subscribe, rate and review the podcast, or even share it with your teacher friends so they too can hear our message of sustainability for teachers, and learn about the intentional ways to build what will be their new normal.

I’ll see you, same time, same place next week.  Bye.

P.S. If you're reading/listening at the this episode will air, I've got an exciting opportunity totally for free for all teachers.  I'm going to dive deep into this topic of flipping and the steps to get started LIVE on Facebook tomorrow, Wednesday March 31st at 8pm EST.  Invite your teacher friends, put on your favorite sweatpants and join me there.


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