Flipped Classrooms and the Global Audience

When I tried flipping math lessons for my third grade class, the initial audience was my class of 18 students. In the video narration, I speak directly to this audience, saying things like: “Today in class we learned…” or “Your homework for tonight is….” The videos were published on youtube, however, with a public setting, so anyone surfing the web could access them.

Shortly after posting the videos, I noticed the number of views quickly jump into triple digits. Even if you added the other third grade class from my school, and each student watched the videos twice, it was clear that other people were using the math tutorials.

Youtube’s data analysis service is excellent, so I went into the statistics of the videos to see where the clips were being watched and how people were finding them.

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As you can see, students from across America (where our math program originates) were looking for help with their homework and found these tutorials. A student’s mom even posted a thank you comment:

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This happened within a week. Over time, more and more students will find these videos to enhance their learning. For example, all of my students’ “Plants” videos from last Spring have views in the hundreds, and my colleague Alex’s middle school and high school biology videos also have hundreds of views.

While I’m happy others are finding the tutorials helpful, what excites me even more is the idea of my students being motivated by this same global audience. As I will show in my next post, creating videos is not difficult, and it is the perfect opportunity for students to clarify their thinking and develop communication skills. My main question is what project will work best for third graders. More math tutorials? Something to do with language or units of inquiry? I have some other ideas, but I will explore those in another post.

Flipping the Elementary Math Classroom

Last Spring, after flipped classroom proponent Alan November visited my school, I briefly experiment with a “light” version of the flipped classroom. Rather than teaching my 3rd graders entirely through video, I introduced new content and skills in class and then created homework tutorials to assist students who needed extra help. By the end of the year, my students were creating tutorials of their own.

As I wrote in the Spring, the videos went over well with my students, and this school year I was keen to experiment further with the flipped class model for math. As an IB Primary Years Program school, we attempt to integrate as much math as possible into our units of inquiry. We also use the “Everyday Math” curriculum, however, and I thought the step-by-step nature of the program’s computational algorithms lent themselves well to video lessons.

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At the beginning of the school year, I still stuck with the homework tutorial model. Here’s an example of the videos students have been watching:

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Last week, however, I had the perfect opportunity to try to teach entirely through video: Typhoon Day! We learned around 10 AM that school for the following day would be cancelled due to the approaching typhoon. We also were getting ready to learn two new algorithms, so when my students went to Art class, I created two longer-than-usual tutorials. My students were supposed to watch and learn during their day off:

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Both algorithms were completely new to my students, so as soon as they returned , I was eager to see how thoroughly they learned from the videos. For the easier addition method, the entire class figured it out from the tutorial alone. For the more complicated subtraction algorithm, about 75% of the class was fine, and the remaining 25% needed more assistance.

The reaction from students was also positive, so I will keep experimenting with flipped learning throughout this school year. For my next two blog posts, I will discuss some unplanned benefits of posting the videos, and I will also explain exactly how I made the tutorials.

Videoscribe review – a whiteboard animation and presentation tool

When our Coetail face-to-face session spent a day discussing digital storytelling, I was already familiar with the topic. A year ago I attended a workshop with digital storytelling expert Jason Ohler, and my third grade students have created several fiction and non-fiction digital stories. When we had the afternoon to experiment with movie-making tools, I decided to find something new.

I was curious about white board animations–videos where you see a hand drawing pictures and text on a background while a voice narrates the presentation. A famous education video based on a Ken Robinson speech used this technique:

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After chatting during break with Coetail colleagues, I learned of an ipad app that allows you to create simple yet similar videos. The app is called Videoscribe and was created by the company Sparkol.


There is a paid version of computer software (with a free 7 day trial) as well as an ipad and android app. I paid $4.99 for the app, but at the time of this writing, it looks like it’s free (with plenty of opportunities for in-app purchases).

After downloading the app I started experimenting right away. My first idea was to use it to publish the results of a big experiment that my students conducted on heart rate and exercise. This is how far I got:


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I didn’t bother adding music (lots of tracks available) or a voiceover yet. While it looks cool, I’m not sure if it’s worth the time invested. With technology in education, I am primarily concerned with tools that will allow my students to communicate, create, and express themselves, and after making this short video, I think videoscribe may be too much for third graders. Teachers of older students may want to look into it, and at the very least you could use it to add introductions or credits to other movies created by students (which is what Philip‘s student did for her around the world in 40 hellos project).

I may change my mind in the future, but at this time, videoscribe seems to be a little too complicated to be an effective communication tool for young learners. I am interested to hear if other teachers have tried it with their students.

Road Movies – a quick, easy, and free digital storytelling tool

A few weeks ago, after a 7 hour coetail session on digital storytelling, I went to some friends’ house for dinner. As I opened their apartment door, I was greeted by an iphone camera pointing in my direction. After a full day of exploring various digital storytelling tools, it was surprising to see a real person making movies in the real world (as opposed to coetail people living in a coetail world).


My friend explained that she was using a new iphone app called “RoadMovies,” created here in Japan by Honda. Using your phone camera, you create a 24 second movie with short clips. You can choose 24 clips of 1 second each, 12 clips of 2 seconds, or 8 clips of 3 seconds.


When you are finished, you choose an instagram-esque filter, add a moody Japanese song as a soundtrack, and you’re ready to publish. Since it’s made by Honda (ostensibly for road trips (preferably in a Civic or Accord)), they also add the time and distance traveled to the end of the video.


It’s so easy, I downloaded it right away and made a film of my post-dinner trip back to my apartment:

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My friend was the first person to tell me about this application, but a quick search showed that it’s the most popular free app in Japan and gaining popularity in Korea. And while it’s fun to document your dinner party or trip to the beach, I’m curious how this could be used in classrooms and schools.

Off the top of my head, I have a few ideas:

  • a fun way to record and share field trips or festivals
  • a communication tool to give parents a glimpse of what went on during a day in class
  • a creative challenge for students to tell a 24 second narrative
  • a brief highlight video of a sports practice or game
  • video mini-lessons; for example, how different types of music change the feel of the same video clip

I am planning to try a few of these, but please post a comment if you have other ideas.