A former principal used to say that “There are no challenges, only opportunities.” This was usually uttered right before we received a really big, new difficult opportunity. The phrase was used a few years ago when my district received a grant to implement 1:1 tech integration. The expectation was that teachers would find innovative ways to ‘modify’ and ‘redefine’ instruction based on the SAMR model. I had (unsuccessfully) experimented with Flipped Classrooms in the past because students lacked devices. When the 1:1 implementation emerged, my mind immediately jumped to improving the Flipped Classroom model.
Flipped Classrooms and the more recent Blended Learning models are both darlings of education reform advocates. The theory behind these learning structures is sound. Essentially, students obtain low level content knowledge through recorded materials. In a Flipped Classroom this is typically given as homework and Blended Learning classes use independent digital material as one element of instruction. This allows the teacher to transition away from low level whole group instruction (i.e. lectures). The newly freed teacher then facilitates student engagement with higher order thinking skill activities.
The practical application of the techniques has several challenges opportunities—not every district is blessed with a 1:1 tech integration, not all students have internet access at home, not all departments have faculty interested in trying new things—but these are mostly out of the individual teacher’s control. The bigger opportunity is to create digital content and flipped activities that engage students when the teacher is not present.
One of the benefits of flipping (from a teacher’s perspective) is that students are more engaged during class. The trade-off, though, is that the “boring stuff” is shifted onto the student’s time. The risk is that students who are not engaged with this low level material while being monitored will not be engaged away from the teacher. There is also an overload concern: that too many teachers are assigning too much low level work for homework. At some point time becomes a factor and students don’t always prioritize the work we consider important.
So the question becomes: How do we create a quick and meaningful process for students to acquire the basic content information necessary to accomplish the higher order thinking activities in class? This is an opportunity to build better digital content and to do this we need to rethink what our digital content can be. My solution speeds up the viewing process while transitioning lower level thinking to higher order thinking through a design in a structure I call QWIQR.
In order to create a “flipped classroom” the teacher must first design digital materials students will interact with at home. Pre-made content can be modified but screen casting technology makes teacher-created content more feasible. Teacher-created digital content is a great way to make sure the material aligns to local standards while also showing the teacher’s content expertise. Whether creating original digital content, or modifying pre-existing content, teachers should use the following guidelines to produce recorded materials for student use.
- No PowerPoints – If presentation slides are included, students will pause, copy, repeat all while listening to any number of distractors. Instead, provide visual aids in the background. My American History digital content includes primary sources, charts, maps, and other visuals that connect to the content.
- Keep the segments short – Break long recordings into shorter thematic chunks about 1-2 minutes long. The content will be more focused and the overall time reduced. Short segments can be linked but every couple of minutes students need to do something to process the information which is where QWIQR is used.
- Have a title and a purpose – Each short segment should have a title corresponding to a main idea and supporting information.
Streamlining recorded lectures will reduce the time students need to watch the videos and is important for the QWIQR note-taking process.
These guidelines also help to implement QWIQR flipped note-taking which tries to speed up the process while transforming it into a higher order thinking activity. This acronym stands for:
- “Q”uestion – Students turn the title of the short video segment it into a question. They are previewing and recalling what they might know about the content in this phase.
- “W”atch – Student should put their pencils down and just watch the recording. They should not take any notes. The goal is to answer the question from the “Q” phase while they evaluate the main ideas and key terms turning the viewing into a higher order thinking skill instead of mindlessly copying.
- “I”dentify – Students identify the main ideas, key terms, and answer the question in writing.
- “Q”uestion – This second “Q” is a reflection. Students should write down questions they may be left with after the initial viewing.
- “R”ewatch – This step is optional. The point of the QWIQR method is to decrease time spent on flipped lecture note taking. If students do not feel the need to rewatch they should not.
The QWIQR flipped structure is the first step to increasing student engagement with digital content. Products like edpuzzle.com or educannon.com can enhance student experiences and provide assessment solutions. I have also gamified my digital content with a class based narrative, badging systems, and including cooperative social elements to the experience. There are many opportunities in our increasingly tech based education world and QWIQR is a simple solution to enhance digital engagement.