Teachers take technology in classroom to a whole new level

Using YouTube videos to 'flip' the classroom


MELBOUNE, Fla. – These days, you can find just about anything online.

If you're looking at YouTube, you can find all kinds of videos; everything from entertainment to music to how-to videos to educational videos.

In fact, YouTube actually has their own Education category, that features more than 1,000 channels, comprising more than 850,000 individual videos. It's actually one of the fastest rising categories on YouTube by view count, many viewed more than 100,000,000 times, according to a YouTube spokesperson.

Your children have probably used those educational videos before to help them study.

"Whenever I don't understand a lesson, I'll Google it or go on YouTube," said a teen we asked.

"I'd just YouTube search the topic and it would come up with videos that would teach you how to do math problems and problem sets like that," said Ben Brockman.

Dennis Amico is a math teacher at Ascension Catholic School in Melbourne. He said for many kids, math is the most difficult subject.

"Math is one of those things where kids walk in saying, 'I hate math, my parents can't do math, I hate math, when are we ever going to use this stuff?'" said Amico.

That's why when he heard about "flipping his classroom," he was all ears.

"I was like, 'Hey, that's pretty cool, I like that, I need to do something different to connect with my students,'" said Amico.

So what is a flipped classroom?

Math class used to be where the teacher would check your homework, go over every problem and answer any questions, all before getting into that day's lecture. After class, you would head home and do your homework by yourself and hope you remembered how to do the problems correctly.

But when the classroom is flipped?

"I'd videotape my notes and my lecture and post it on YouTube and the students would go home at night and take the notes from the video. Then when they came in class, we did the work in class," said Amico.

Amico said doing the homework in class is the whole point. In the past, he said just checking the homework could take up to 20 or 30 minutes, not leaving much time for the new lecture.

"I'd get 30, 40 percent of the kids saying they didn't know how to do it," Amico said.

But now-- the kids are working together to understand the concepts.

"By them watching the video and then working in class, now, they were getting about 47 minutes of it. They were getting it right," said Amico. "Not only were we getting the skill, okay, solve for x. Then we put it into a word problem because that's more of what we're getting to with Common Core."

Common Core is Florida's new education standards, which the Department of Education said are more rigorous than ever before. Those standards lay out the knowledge and skills students are required to know at the end of each grade level and are being phased in right now, to be complete by the 2014-2015 school year.

They're being adopted nationwide, and for math, focus on building on previous concepts, and being able to apply those skills. The goal is to make sure all students are better prepared to head to college or into the workforce after graduation.

Amico said when those standards were initially introduced in 2010, it was difficult to fit everything in with the regular coursework. But now, he said the "flip method" has made that all much easier.

"When I finished the year before, when we took our end of course exam, there was a chapter I couldn't get to, I didn't have time," Amico said. "This past year, we finished everything we were supposed to cover, had a week and a half to study for the end-of-course exam and in that whole thing we took 7 class periods out and did a project where we built a roller coaster, looking at slope."

He said the YouTube videos he made even made review for the end-of-course exam much easier and more comprehensive for students.

"I went through and I did every problem, I did them in a video," he said. "I had like 10 videos, so I worked every problem, so the kids could be at home working the problems out and they can go online and see if they did it right."

Students said that kind of review was beneficial.

"I can rewind it if I don't understand something, so I can watch step by step exactly how they did it," said one student. "I can understand what step I'm getting confused on and just rewatch that until I understand it."

Amico said parents also love the idea.

"Absolutely, even me, when I have to learn something when they don't get it, I'll watch it and I'll remember and go, 'Oh, ok, I remember now,' and then I can help them," one parent said.

Amico said one of the coolest things about the videos he makes, is he said he's not only helping his own students; he's even gotten 'thank you' emails from kids around the world.

"My wife and my daughter started kidding me, calling me 'rockstar' and stuff," Amico said. "All this stuff is coming in and I'm just shaking my head. I never dreamed other people would be watching this kind of stuff."

Another Catholic school in Brevard County, Our Lady of Lourdes, also has several teachers using the method. Parents and students are saying they love it.

"The landscape of education is changing, and the "flipped" classroom will be an integral part of this change. I think it is amazing that Joey and his classmates have the opportunity to be engaged in this cutting-edge learning environment," said Alan Paternoster, the father of a 7th grader.

"Flipping is a creative way to understand math concepts. In my opinion one of the biggest advantages is that flipping allows the student the ability to go back as many times as necessary to grasp the concept being taught or explained," said Chip Allen, who has a son in 8th grade. "For a subject like math, this is VERY helpful. Repetition and practice is so important in mathematics."

"I liked flipping because it allowed me to learn the lesson from the video the day before, which gave me more time in class to work on my Math worksheets and do other activities," said 8th grader Branden Hall. "It also gave me opportunities to ask questions and receive more help if I needed it. The videos were also not as long as the regular class lectures."

Other schools in Central Florida are using the method, as well, with officials from local public school districts saying most have at least one teacher using the method.

For students who need help on other topics, there are a variety of YouTube teachers with an assortment of lessons. Other teachers included in the video above are a math teacher from St. Petersburg, Rob Tarrou, and history teacher Keith Hughes.

If you're looking for science videos, try Steve Spangler, or Alex Dainis. You can even learn Japanese from Loretta Scott. For any other help, head to YouTube's education category.

About the Author: