– Jake Habegger –
When I started flipping, I assumed all students would love learning from videos instead of lectures. I later realized that I was wrong. As we all know, every student learns differently. Yes, the student engagement and academic results were much higher than before, but that did not mean it was perfect. My individual space has evolved to meet the needs of my students through the use of student feedback and self-reflection to create a differentiated approach to meet learners – however they learn best.
One of the most effective techniques I have incorporated in my class since flipping is the use of student feedback surveys. When I began trying new ideas in class, I wanted to be sure they would truly be beneficial for students. In my surveys, I ask about many different aspects of my class (Link to sample survey). Several years ago, I decided to differentiate the direct instruction, giving the option of taking notes from slides in addition to my videos. These were not like the slides a teacher would use when lecturing; these had detailed descriptions that were designed to be used without a teacher present. I predicted that about 10-20 percent of my students would like to have this as an option. After seeing the survey results, it appeared that I had just moved all of my students from the “lecture box” to the “video box.”
I was shocked. “They don’t like my videos?” Instead of feeling pity for myself, I felt joy! My students were discovering what learning styles work best for them. As we all know, students learn in different ways. To truly meet the needs of all learners, this was a necessary step in my evolution as a teacher. The amazing thing to me was that about 41 percent of students recognized that there were advantages to different types of media based on their needs. Some students went back and forth based on their needs while others took notes from one and then viewed the other to make sure they had not missed anything!
Two years later, I decided that two more additions could make these slides even more powerful for my students. The first step was quite simple and based solely on student feedback. My students were getting confused about which parts of the slides were meant to be added in their notes and which parts were for context, background knowledge, etc. The solution for me was simple: I added three different colored borders to slides for students to know how to interact with each slide. A green box meant to take notes, a blue box meant students should make sure they had a firm understanding of the information, and a yellow box meant it was background knowledge, context, etc. (See below for example slides.) This system increased the efficiency of my students since they no longer were taking unnecessary notes or asking me what needed to be written down. (I do want to point out that I teach 8th-grade students. For students in high school or beyond, I may not have done this step. For me, this is a stepping stone to later abilities of discernment to decide for themselves what should be included in their notes.) Tech Tip: I used Google Slides to create a square shape around the slide. I changed the thickness and color of the shape and then copy and pasted it onto my other slides, changing the color as needed. I then clicked arrange to send the shape to the back. If the shape is in the front, you cannot click on any links!
The second upgrade was the use of slide narrations with micro-videos. For many of my slides, there are very few things that could be misinterpreted/misunderstood. For the slides that I believe could be misunderstood, I began to record micro-videos over specific slides. Students who are confused about a slide can click on the micro-video embedded into the specific slide to get context and more understanding about the material on that slide. This combination took the best from slides and videos and combined them into one powerful, differentiated resource with the best from both worlds! Students have responded very well to this new addition. My students who are nervous to ask questions appreciate the fact that many of their clarifying questions have already been answered, while others are able to bypass this unnecessary explanation and keep progressing in the curriculum. This is true differentiation. Tech Tip: I have Screencastify and Loom save directly to my Google Drive. On the slide, I click “insert video” and choose the video from my Drive. The link is then ready to go! Always make sure you have a space in mind to place the video on your slide, so it does not cover up content. *If I want to link a video that is not in my Drive, I take a screenshot of the video itself and insert the picture taken into the slide. I then click on the picture and go to Insert-Link and attach the link to the video.
When I first started flipping, I was making all green screen videos, which were extremely time-consuming. Now, I finalize my slide deck and then record a screencast with a program such as Screencastify, Loom, or Camtasia of the actual slide deck itself. This action helps me maintain consistency across the differentiated sources of content and helps me check to see if my slides make sense talking through them. After I record the video, I then go in and make the micro-videos per slide where I think the content could be confusing for students due to the complex nature of the material.
The takeaway here isn’t that everyone should do what I do. Instead, the challenge is to see how you can differentiate your direct instruction in the individual space. As I learned, not all students learn best from videos. Based on your content and grade level, there may be a completely different way differentiation can and should occur. Regardless of what is taught, there are ways that we can differentiate, and many times, it is our students who can give us the ideas of what is possible. Ask your students for feedback, and continually think outside the box to have an even greater impact on your students by meeting them where they are as learners!
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