backflip-250One of the most popular topics in education today is the Flipped Classroom, a model in which teachers send their students home with a lesson (usually in the form of a video) and then engage in exercises and practice in the classroom after the fact. It has many advantages, namely getting the basic nuances out of the way and working on projects and problems with the teacher in the room.

This year at my school, I’ve been inspired by this model to flip our tech-related professional development.

Videos usually work best

When I flip my educational technology workshops and staff events, I use a variety of tools -primarily screencasts, instructional videos, and some step by step how-to lists. I’ve generally found providing videos to be most successful.

There are a myriad of tools available for recording video on screen (I love Camtasia and Snagit by Techsmith for capturing directly from the screen; if I want to do an iPad video I use them in conjunction with AirServer). I keep videos brief (no more than 4 minutes, ideally 2-3) and always strictly on topic. I also clearly label them so that a teacher can find exactly what they’re looking for quickly. My motivation in providing a flipped environment is to provide educators with greater flexibility in their own learning and just enough support after the fact.

The general flipped model directs you to provide the lesson in advance and then work out the problems in the classroom. However, I have found that you should flip appropriately for the context of your professional development. I have found success in a variety of Flipped PD methods using several different models. Here are some techniques that have worked for me.

Flipping in Advance

Teachers are exceptionally busy, especially during the school year. I flip in advance only when I’m presenting a quick and easy-to-follow task for them to accomplish. For example, if I am leading a professional development session on Google Drive, I will, in advance, have them login, accept the terms of service, and set their password. As support, I provide them with a short, 2-minute video with step-by-step instructions on how to do this. This way, the focus of our training time together can be on how to use the tool rather than simply getting into the system.

By keeping the introduction short, explaining why they should do this in advance, I find that I get more buy-in from my staff. They come ready to learn and we do not have to spend a good chunk of the session getting people logged in for the first time.

Flipping After the Fact

After a professional development session, I like to provide my faculty with a series of videos that highlight what we did in the session. This is a great way for them to later return to topics they found useful, at a time when they might be most motivated to learn.

I generally keep an agenda for my training sessions and then make sure that I provide a brief video highlighting each topic. For example, in a session on Google Apps for Education I will provide brief videos on:

  • google-apps-illusHow to log into the system
  • How to personalize your account
  • How to create & share A document
  • Different share settings & what they mean
  • How to create Groups
  • How to create & share a folder
  • How to upload & share a file
  • How to download & login to the Google Drive app
  • How to upload pictures & videos using the Google Drive app

I also hold training sessions on internet resources such as Edublogs and Wikisites, and other various tools and apps that we have available on campus. I ensure that there are short, supportive videos for each of these resources that take faculty step-by-step through the training session. I have found that by doing this, teachers are more likely to continue to implement what they learned in one of my sessions – to use the tools for real purposes and continue with their own training. They are more comfortable when they can go back, in their own space, and review material they have forgotten or were confused about.

Flipping for Enhancement

Many of my faculty members are comfortable with technology or feel empowered after initial training. So, in addition to providing “review” sessions, I like to give them videos to help enhance the skills they learned with me.

For example, after a workshop on Wikispaces, I provide the teachers with a playlist highlighting the more advanced tools, such as widgets, embedding videos, and inputting a variety of multimedia. After training them on Google Drive, I will provide videos that explain how to use the research tool, how to grab the embed code from a document, and even address highly sophisticated techniques such as importing video from a smartphone, opening it on a tablet, and then importing it into another app for further modification (a concept known as app-fluency).

By providing faculty with additional tools and information that may be more challenging, they have the option to accelerate their professional development according to their comfort level and individual needs.

Flipping for Continual Support

Both my faculty and I have incredibly demanding schedules. Often, it is a challenge simply to find a time to meet to go over a concept or a tool. I find that if a faculty member asks me a quick question — “How do I add users to my class edublog — it can be faster for me to make them a short “how-to video” rather than trying to navigate our calendars for a joint meeting. They are able to get their question answered directly and quickly and both of us get to be active conservators of our time. Plus, I have a new resource to add to our video library, expanding my support throughout the community.

Concluding Thoughts

For me, flipped professional development has been highly successful when blended into a more traditional model. I can hold workshops, training sessions and other professional development activities in person with my faculty and continue to support them outside of that face-to-face environment.

Flipping PD has allowed me to make my training more efficient from the get-go, provide continuous support, and allow everyone flexibility with their schedules. It’s now a proven model that I will continue to use; its success has been greater than any previous training experience I have provided.

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