Applications and methods for creating and delivering digital course materials, so you can experiment with flipping the classroom.
Over the last 6 months, I’ve researched and written a number of articles about Reverse Instruction. I’ve also lectured on the subject and am looking forward to presenting at The College of Westchester later this month, and at Campus Technology 2012 this summer. (For a primer on Reverse Instruction and how teachers are using it, check out the post, “7 Stories From Educators About Teaching In The Flipped Classroom”).
My writings and discussions on this topic so far have focused on the many ways in which instructors are using “flipped classroom” techniques, and their reasons for doing so. Once teachers become interested in the topic, they are often still hesitant to consider trying it because of concerns like, “creating online content looks difficult and complicated”, or, “I don’t have the skills or the time to do it”.
The good news is that you can start small, creating and testing the concept with short bits of content, and evolve at your own pace and comfort level. You can also start with digital materials you have already developed. Cost can be another concern – but there are free tools that you can get started with.
In this article (the first of several on the topic) we will kick off our effort to learn about tools and techniques that instructors can use to create online content by focusing on ways to leverage existing materials you're already using. Once available online, these learning materials can consumed by students outside of the classroom, freeing up valuable classroom time for review, reinforcement, or working through assignments that might have typically been homework.
Using What You Already Have
There are many free tools available today that can be used to create online versions of content that you have traditionally delivered in the classroom. You may also find that this encourages you to evolve that content a bit to make it more effective as stand-alone learning material.
Here are a few free applications that let you share digital learning materials:
Slideshare is an easy, popular, and free tool for putting PowerPoint or OpenOffice slides, as well as many other file formats like PDFs and Word docs, online. The viewer doesn’t need to have PowerPoint or whatever app the original file was created with, they only need web access (free Slideshare accounts only allow for public uploads, meaning they will be available to everyone. For private uploads, one needs to upgrade to a Pro account, which starts at $20/mo.).
Of course, simply putting a slide presentation online may not make for particularly exciting delivery of content, but there are ways to improve on this. It is certainly possible for a slide-deck to constitute good delivery, as in this award winning presentation (about Cigarettes, great for a health class or even some science lectures), but your slides may need some work to play better as a stand-alone presentation. Another common technique to take your presentation to the next level is to add voice over, but this requires different tools (more on that next week).
For a quick introduction to using Slideshare to share course materials, check out this 4 minute Youtube video from instructor D. Caskey.
Google Docs (docs.google.com)
Another easy way to put pre-existing digital content online is to upload and share them via Google Docs. Google Docs is free and accepts many different file formats. There are plenty of advantages to using Google Docs, including collaboration capabilities. Check out this overview or the “Get Started” page to learn more about Google Docs.
For a more in depth examination of Google Docs, here’s a great series of Webinars and videos focused on Google Apps for Education (these also get into other free Google apps that are being used in education).
This segues nicely into another common approach to sharing course content …
Many practitioners of reverse instruction utilize a Wiki website for delivery of course materials. While this may sound complicated, there are plenty of easy to get started with wiki sites, and it’s not as challenging as you might think. This video, “Getting started with Sites as your class wiki” explains how to get started using Google Sites as a classroom wiki where you share materials, and gradually build on that over time to create a more robust course participation web site.
For some great examples of wikis being used in the instructional setting, check out “Best Educational Wikis of 2010”, from Wikispaces.
Course Management Systems and Learning Management Systems
I have to mention that the CMS/LMS tool set is a great way to deliver course content, so if your school has one, it’s a great place to get started. If you don’t have one but like the idea of using this type of tool for course content delivery, you might want to try Edmodo or Room21 (check out this article to learn more about these and other social learning platforms that provide some CMS/LMS functionality).
What if students don’t have Internet access at home, or have limited computer access?
Not every student will always be able to access online materials across the web, and it is important to keep that possibility in mind. There are ways to be prepared for this, such as burning content to jump drives or emailing content (not links, but the content itself) to students. If students have access to computers on campus or in a local library this may also be an acceptable solution. Some students may not have easy access to a computer, but do have smart phones on which many types of content can be consumed, so that’s another possibility. The bottom line is that this needs to be planned for if it is a potential issue with any of your students.
To Be Continued …
In the next few weeks we’ll dig deeper into applications and techniques, including tools for creating new content or building on existing course materials (like screen casting apps that let you lecture over your digital materials), creating your own ‘flipped’ text book, taking advantage of the thousands of open source free lectures already available online, and many other ways to get started with “the flip”.
In the meanwhile, don’t forget, readers love to learn about other teacher’s perspectives on topics like these, so if you have questions, ideas, or experiences you want to share, don’t hesitate to comment! Thanks.
Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
Succeeding With Reverse Instruction – One Instructor’s Inspired Approach
Education Technology Leadership Spotlight: Celebrating the Work of Salman Khan
7 Stories From Educators About Teaching In The Flipped Classroom