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The Power of Flipped Video and What to do When Students Don't Watch

Apr 21, 2020

A very common question I get from teachers about flipping is about the videos themselves.  Particularly best practices in making them and what happens when students DON'T watch them.

These are SUPER important questions that you want to be crystal clear about before venturing into flipping.  You don't want to put all kinds of time and energy into making these videos just for them to be boring, poor quality, and your students rarely watch them.  What a waste.  

When I hear teachers ask these questions about flipped video, here's what they are really asking...

Is all the work and time investment in making these videos going to be worth it?

Teachers want to know upfront, as they should.

Now that we have a clear understanding of what we're all dying to know before we start flipping, we can give it an equally clear answer.

I'll answer this question by pointing out the power of flipped videos because it will help clarify the impact we will have as flipped teachers, but also remind us of WHY we are making this shift in our classrooms so that we are clear on the vision that will guide the decisions we make in our flipped classrooms.

1. No rushing through notes

All teachers have at least one of every type of student I am about to describe.  Let me describe each of these students for you, while you visualize who they are, and then I'll explain how powerful flipped videos are in each of these children's education.

Student Type: The Sponge

This student is one who when they hear something once, it's encoded in their brain in such a way that it's easily accessible when they need the information, like on the test.  They generally don't need to work very hard, if at all, to ace the test.... that is, IF they listen in the first place.

It sounds kind of nice to be a "sponge" of information, doesn't it?  But, like most teachers, we know that this is a slippery slope for a young kid to be on when it's easy to fall into apathy and laziness due to his/her ability to just soak it up.  They get impatient with in-class notes when other students are asking for you to repeat something or asking what he/she believes to be less than intelligent questions.

Enter stage right flipped video notes.  If this student is able to, they can get through the video of lecture without pausing because they hear you and they register all that you're saying.  Plus, you're prepared with a formative assessment to give this student to make sure they actually received the important information so they then can move on to enriching and applying their knowledge.

Don't let the faster pace of this student working through the curriculum scare you.  There are plenty of strategies to implement when the responsibility of enrichment is placed on the student, but also remains scaffolded and guided by the teacher.  But, FINALLY, a class this student can move through at their desired pace, all thanks to flipped video notes.

Student Type: The Silent (Non)Objector

This student is one who takes a while to digest and register new information.  They might do relatively well in school, but their slower pace is less than ideal, and often times they get left behind.  Meaning, they would be performing MUCH better if class time provided the opportunity for this student to ask questions and work with information in a way that allowed them to truly understand, but because ain't nobody got time for that, a less than mediocre understanding is what they're forced to move on with.

I call this student the silent (non)objector because, for one reason or another (whether it's their introverted personality type or a long school career of learning to remain silent) this student will NOT raise their hand to ask you to repeat something during lecture, and probably won't ask for your help outside of lecturing when the opportunity is a bit more available (like during an activity where students are working independently or in groups).  No matter how much you tell this student to please interrupt you and to PLEASE, for the love of Pete, ask questions, they just won't do it.  And, yet again, they get left behind.  

This fact isn't necessarily the teacher's fault... it's the nature of the beast, so to speak.  The beast of the amount of standards we're forcing down kids' throats, as well as the beast that is the slower pace this student needs to move at in order to fully master the standards.  But that's not the student's fault either.

Enter stage left, flipped video notes.

This silent (non)objector student can now actually "object" (raise her hand to ask you to repeat something or slow down, so to speak) when he/she needs to, and, here's the most beautiful part about it, NO ONE EVER HAS TO KNOW!  Imagine the freedom this child will feel when they realize they get to take as long as they would like on one set of notes.  Granted, you'll want to encourage them to keep a certain pace so that they don't truly get behind, but them taking their time on these notes means they'll master even more content than if they were forced to move quickly through notes and activities in the past.  They'll reach more mastery with just the video notes alone.

No more humiliation at having to raise their hand, no more mediocre scores, no more being left behind because of the ridiculous fast pace.

Flipped video notes, simply by design, meet the needs of both of these students.  And, get this, you only made ONE video.  You didn't have to make different videos for different levels of understanding.  The video itself is natural differentiation.  That, my friends is the power of flipped video.

2. The ability to rewatch notes

 Often times, students take notes and then never look at those notes again.  There's some sort of disconnect between the notes and students seeing them as an aid when it's time to prepare for the test.

In the flipped classroom, although the technique is not the only one necessary to make this shift, there is a shift in students where their notes now serve as more than just a piece of paper they wrote on in the past.  

When preparing for tests, or when preparing for a semester exam or big end of the year assessment, if students see what holes exist in their learning (that's step one) they are then able to take step two, rewatching notes.  The power in this fact will bring up the scores of all of your students, but especially the top performing ones, the ones that will take action to fill those holes.  These are the same students that are often left to their own devices because teachers are so swamped by all the on-level and underperforming students, and they miss out on their potential of higher mastery and achievement.

Enter stage right, flipped video notes.  Students' notes become living, breathing documents that can be added to, mulled over, and tweaked to help students understand and master more of the content.

3. Absences are more manageable

I don't know about you and your classroom, but student absences seem like a never ending battle.  No matter the reason, when a student is not within the four walls of my classroom, there are ripple effects.  First, they miss the notes.  Then when they return to school all they do is copy the notes from another student, never truly getting the information into their brains, and then have to work on catching up on activities with less than stellar understanding in the first place... all of which takes some of my time to explain and remediate no matter how wonderful of a "When you are absent" procedure I have.

Enter flipped video notes.  In the flipped classroom, not that all students will do this, but all students have the ability (unless are truly very ill, of course) to come back from an absence completely caught up on content.  And, get this... they ALWAYS get the content from ME, their teacher.  It changes the dynamic of the classroom because most students take advantage of this opportunity and therefore seize their own learning as, well, their own.

The big question...

What about when students DON'T watch the videos???

I hope that by reading up to this point you see how the flipped classroom automatically makes it where more of your students will receive more of the content from you than in the traditional classroom.  They will also take more ownership of their learning.

But, there will always be that one student, or a small handful of students, who don't buy in to the whole flipped classroom idea.  In the ten years of flipping my classroom, I've only had a handful of these students total.

Part of my online professional development course for teachers, Flipped Classroom Formula, includes a deep dive into preparing students (and parents, for that matter) for the flipped classroom.  It's one of the many steps I help teachers take in setting up all their hard work, ultimately their flipped classrooms, for success.  One of the areas in this module of the course includes a focus on holding students accountable for their notes.

In the traditional classroom, notes are taken in class, and I would gather that in a majority of those classrooms, notes are not monitored outside of encouraging students during the lecture to pay attention.

One of the biggest lessons that I'll tell teachers about the flipped classroom is that flipping does not have an impact only because of it's basic strategies or any of the powerful facts I point out in this post, it's because of many decisions teachers make within their flipped classrooms.  One of those being that notes are NOT optional.

In most traditional classrooms, notes are optional because they aren't monitored.  In the flipped classroom, obtaining the content, getting the notes is no longer optional.  That is, if the teacher decides to maintain this policy.  It would be easier to actually not check student notes.  But that would ensure your flipped classroom, all your hard work, to be ineffective; or, at least, less effective than it could be.

How you decide to "check" those notes is ultimately up to you.  But I will leave you with one last piece of advice... there are ways to monitor student note-taking without collecting them.  In fact, I beg you, please don't collect them.

If you do, you're just adding to the paradigm of hustle as a teacher.  And that is something I, at Teach On A Mission want to help you overcome and kick to the curb.  

Decisions about your flipped classroom will allow it to be sustainable and effective.  But, like many changes we make in our classrooms, it can also mean more work and more hustle if we aren't careful.  That is what I want to help you avoid.  And I will.  Stay tuned to this blog and go grab the Ultimate Flipped Classroom Starter Kit by clicking the image below.

Until next time,


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