Flipping History: Streaming the Sage on the Stage
This is a summary of a talk I gave on May 23, 2013, as part of the Albright Teaching Showcase. Now that I am 2/3 of the way through flipping my HIS 153, I am going to backtrack and work my way to the present with the blog.
Not that I am a sage, but my title is meant to convey some of the opportunities and challenges that flipping my HIS 153, US Since 1865, have presented. Changes in education are increasingly impressing themselves upon us, for good or ill, and I decided to dabble in some of the new techniques, but also try to make sure we do not throw the baby—me, the sage, after all, insert joke about the professoriate here—out with the bathwater.
My understanding of a flipped class
Flipped classes are not new, though the jargon may be new to many of us. In a very simple sense, a flipped classroom is homework, no different than assigning novels to be read at home or assigning films or TV events. The flipped classroom as I understand it can take multiple forms, and is very malleable. In my case what flipped means is 15 or so video modules from 15-40 minutes in length—one per week—created from captured lectures.
Over the course of spring semester 2013 I recorded every single one of my lectures in History 153: The US Since 1865. I will edit them down into 15 short subjects, if you will, that I will assign my students to watch prior to a class meeting. I intend to design new in-class exercises, projects, discussion for which the knowledge presented in the lecture is implicit or will be discussed.
Why Flip A Class?
There are multiple reasons I decided to flip my HIDS 153: continuing administration pressure to use the web, the continuing demands of assessment, the feeling that there are new kinds of learners who are accustomed to incorporating technology into their lives in new ways, the sense that I was wasting potential resources by neglecting the internet, curiosity, and a measure of boredom with a class I have teaching every semester for the past decade. When I first encountered the notion of the flipped class in a clipping from a University of Minnesota alumni magazine my mom sent to me via snail mail, I decided to look into it.
Possible Benefits of Flipping HIS 153
I see several potential benefits. The class may become more of a place to work through problems, advance concepts, and engage in collaborative learning. I can rethink the way I teach and what I teach. I may be able to focus more on critical thinking, classroom engagement, problem solving exercises, team exercises, surprise, and serendipity rather than content delivery. I may be able to engage more struggling students, rather than the outgoing overachievers by working through problems in class, and those advanced students may be able work through material more quickly. In general I hope to have more time to speak with students rather than at them, and I hope there will be fewer bystanders in the classroom.
There is a lot of up front investment in time and planning. I will be spending a great deal of time on editing, learning new software, and designing a new curriculum. Errors I make in lectures will be more or less permanent, lectures I record cannot incorporate new scholarship, and in the end I a, to an extent merely repackaging the same old thing—the lecture and all of its attendant limitations.
I do have concerns about access as well. I will be posting my videos on Youtube—we do not have the capacity to efficiently and effectively host them ourselves. While students will have 24/7 access (students can watch as many times as they feel the need, slow down, pause, rewind, speed up playback and have mobile access), and while there are ways of initially limiting the access, like anything on the internet, I must presume it is public and anyone can and will view it. I will have to check my ego at the door, but also expect misunderstandings and miscommunications.
I will be capturing my lectures on one tripod-mounted video camera and using a wireless monaural lavalier microphone. There are technical concerns to keep in mind: room for tripod? camera turned on? lens cover off? Am I recording? Is battery life sufficient? Can I plug in an AC adapter? camera angle appropriate? are there blind spots? Is there sufficient lighting? does the mic have batteries? Is it turned on? Is it plugged in to the camera? Are the audio levels ok?
A note on Consent
Pennsylvania’s wiretapping law is a “two-party consent” law, and it is a crime to intercept or record a telephone call or conversation unless all parties to the conversation consent, when the parties to a conversation have an expectation of privacy. I believe that I, and my students, have that expectation, so I will be having my students a consent form to sign at the end of every lecture I capture.