Honestly, for me it’s about the personalization of learning. Recorded videos are simply another tool to use to allow students to progress at their own pace, prioritize their needs, and use the 1-on-1 time with me to clarify. But it took a while for me to see this.

I’d heard about flipped learning for a number of years through the Khan academy and others. But I always thought that was for different disciplines. English is a skills-based course: the emphasis is placed on discussion, not lecture.

The Epiphany

But then something strange happened when I was providing after-school help to a number of students: I found myself repeating the same explanations of concepts or skills over and over again. I saw how the resources I created to further clarify a skill for one student could be used with another student.

It was then that I realized I could use videos to help individual students reach proficiency. It wasn’t about capturing lectures, it was capturing explanations. Rather than sit with a student for 5 minutes to explain a skill, then another 5 minutes to overview an activity, then another 10 minutes reviewing the activity, I could simply focus on reviewing the activity and answering questions; the extra time could be used to help other students. And that’s the key: extra time.

The Process So Far

I annoyed my colleague Ross McGlothlin, who now has over 130 flipped videos, with my questions, which included:

  • Is it better to use a tool like Screencastomatic or stand in front of a whiteboard?
  • How do I go about planning and preparing a video?
  • How much time should I spend in editing?
  • How do I choose what should be covered in a video?

In response, he created this video explaining his process:

Some of my questions were answered. The most revealing was that every skill I spend time explaining, and every activity I present to practice that skill, could be filmed. It seems English teachers do lecture, but in tiny bits. Of course, that is one of the core tenants of flipped learning: keep it short.


Despite that, I realized I needed to experiment with different approaches. The English-associated impediment I continue to face is the need to show a lot of text—that’s what English is about, after all. While a whiteboard works fine for something simple (like how to structure an introduction), it wouldn’t work for many concepts.

Although Ross advised against it, I tried using a projector and filmed myself in front of it. You can see from the screenshots that having the visuals project on my face is rather distracting:

proj 1 proj 3

I then tried Screencast-o-matic, a program that allows you to record what is on your computer with you speaking (perhaps a grandchild of the program Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams used). But I discovered a new problem: my carefully constructed slides, following the tenets gleaned from PresentationZen, wouldn’t work because my face covered key elements.

bad screencast 1

To solve the problem, I had to readjust the layout of my slides. Here’s the current result:

The Future

One of the goals of flipped lessons is that the teacher is the one presenting the information so students feel a connection. The question still remains: does this method distance me from the students? If so, what solution do you have to allow text-heavy information, or multiple slides, without Screencast-o-matic? That’s right: this is a direct plea for feedback on my flipped video.

Because the reality is that teachers—and students—have too little time. Nothing can replace the direct interaction (if you carefully read the results of online learning you’ll notice the problem is a lack of personal interaction with the teacher, not digital tools). BUT, in order to focus that interaction on things students can’t get alone—feedback, answering questions, brainstorming—we need to make the passive input accessible outside of the classroom. Frankly, anything that makes face time more productive is a step in the right direction.

P.S. If you’re interested, please provide feedback on these two other methods of flipped learning. Which model works best?