It’s never too late to begin flipping your classroom

by Stacey Roshan and Wendy Roshan, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Stacey Roshan is the daughter of Wendy RoshanStacey is a math teacher at the Bullis School in Potomac, Maryland. Wendy is a math teacher at the Madeira School in McLean, Virginia.

Stacey: Soon after graduating from college, I decided to follow in my mother’s career path and become a high school math teacher. My mom helped me with this transition to the teaching world, as I had no prior educational training. I looked to her for guidance on things such as structure, timing and pacing. As I began teaching, I mimicked a lot of what my mom was doing, but with a modern spin – I was always looking for technology that I could use in the classroom.

By my second year, I was teaching AP calculus. While I enjoyed teaching these students, my classroom sometimes felt like a stress bomb waiting to explode. (I am overly sensitive to stressed-out students because I was one myself.) So when the end of the class period felt like stepping off of a treadmill that had been running at full speed for 45 minutes, I knew I had a problem. I had talked as quickly as I could, and students had responded with as many questions as they could get in, but most of the time they had many unanswered questions and frequently found it necessary to come in after school for extra instruction.

That summer, two awesome things happened that would change everything.

First, my mom decided that she wanted to teach AP calculus, so for the first time we were teaching the same course. Second, I attended the Building Learning Communities Conference and learned about Camtasia, software that would allow me to record my screen and audio, complete with rich editing features, and easily produce and share these videos with my students. Immediately, I knew I had an answer to the problems that had existed in my AP classes the previous two years.

When I got home after the conference, I started to flip my classroom. I immediately began turning the PowerPoint slides I had used all year into videos, accessible through iTunes and Screencast.com. In these videos, I provided the lecture I would give in class, with examples.

When classes began in the fall, I told my students that video lectures were going to be watched for homework, and class time would be used to discuss and work through problems. While they were at first worried about the amount of independent learning being required, they were reassured that they would have class time to ask me questions and to work with classmates. Even though I spent a lot of the year creating the video lectures, I was enjoying the way my classroom was running and found that it was erasing the anxiety level while maintaining, and even increasing, the rigor of the course.

Wendy: When I began teaching AP calculus, I was 58, and I had been teaching the same way my entire life. Since Stacey and I were teaching the same course, we often spent time in the library together planning our lessons. During these “library sessions,” Stacey would tell me about the video lectures she was using to flip her classroom and how her students were significantly less stressed because of it. I was keeping a very close eye on what she was doing, and I could see her glow with excitement as she talked about flipping, but I didn’t have interest in flipping my class.

Stacey: My mom was definitely hesitant to the idea of flipping, but after enough persuasion, she decided to give it a try. I had also just received my students’ AP test scores after the first year, and there were dramatic improvements – 78% of my students scored a “4” or “5” on the AP exam, and no one scored below a “3,” whereas the previous year, just 58% of my students scored a “4” or “5” on the exam.

Wendy: When Stacey suggested I join her in using the flipped model, I said it was great for her, but not for me. I was used to my method of lecturing and didn’t want to try anything new at my age. Well, somehow Stacey convinced me that I needed to be fearless and try new things to become a 21st century teacher. I decided that I would trust Stacey’s judgment and began using some of the videos that she had made for her class. My students absolutely loved the videos and said the videos really helped them understand the material better. Since that day, I’ve been flipping my class.

I’m really enjoying the new class format and my students are too. Flipping has re-energized me as a teacher, and now I have so much time to work one-on-one with students, which is really my favorite thing about teaching. I love walking around the room and seeing their minds work to solve problems on their own, with students helping students, and only asking me when they’re stuck and need a little hint. The students are also so much happier with this method of working through problems together or with my help, rather than doing them alone in their rooms at night with no one to ask for help.

Stacey: Using technology has allowed me to bring compassion back into an otherwise overly stressful classroom environment. The flipped classroom has transformed the relationships that I am able to build with my students, and has made class time incredibly more pleasant for everyone. Quite simply, the flipped classroom has allowed me to create a calm, inspiring environment where students can learn, thrive and feel supported, which is truly a magnificent feeling.

Wendy: There are so many benefits to the flipped class. I no longer have to worry about talking too fast when I’m lecturing, and if a student is absent, it’s so easy to catch up. The most rewarding part is that after my first year of flipping, 80% of my students scored a “4” or “5” on the AP exam, with half of the class earning a perfect score!

Before I flipped my classroom, all I could think about was my retirement. But now I’m completely re-energized and looking forward to flipping next year for all of my classes.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Wendy Roshan and Stacey Roshan.

My View: It’s never too late to begin flipping your classroom – Schools of Thought – CNN.com Blogs.

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“The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.”

- John Maxwell

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