Educators trying “Flipping” on-line to help students


You’ve probably heard of “flipping out,” meaning getting very excited.  But Minneapolis and other metro area district and charter teachers are using the word in a new way.   Both national and local talent is being used to help students and families gain the benefits of video. That’s good news for students and a compliment to teachers who are seeking new ways to help students learn more. 

For a great example, check out a video that cleverly focuses on negative numbers.  It was done by students and faculty at Minnesota Transitions, a Minneapolis inner city charter school.  It’s called “Don’t be Negative.” 

Kathy Kraemer, K-12 Technology Integration Coordinator for Fridley IB World Schools  explained that the district is “in the process of ‘flipping’ many of our courses in the middle school and high school. Flipping basically means that the content that was once taught during the day, is now taught at night in our online courses in the way of teacher created video tutorials. With flipping, the students can watch the video tutorials as many times as needed to “get” the content before it’s discussed in class the next day.  In short, discussion and homework is done during the face-to-face class time while content work is done at home. This night-time prep is proving to be a better way to engage students and make them want to learn more.

Here’s an example of one of 7th grade math teachers who is becoming a YouTube phenomenon and expert flipper with his students. 

In West St. Paul, Assistant Principal Pat Johnson wrote, “Our ESL department also utilizes videography for their ESL 1 level students to critique their speaking skills.  They also belong to a collaborative group where the teachers each bring a taped lesson to share and evaluate each month.   They are a great team.  

Sibley also has done a great deal with videos in Physics. Peter Bohacek, a Physics teacher, and Dann Hurlburt a  film studies teacher have worked together on this.  Bohacek explained:

“I think that video is the most exciting and powerful new teaching tool for physics. We are using video primarily in two ways in our physics classes. First, we are making videos that we can use like traditional word problems. We film real life events that illustrate physics concepts, both in the lab and in the field. Students make direct measurements from the videos and use them to solve physics problems and apply physics concepts. These problems are intended to be more realistic and engaging than traditional word problems. Here is the youtube clip that Dann Hurlbert and I made to describe this: 


Second, students make “video lab reports”. They video tape real-life situations and apply physics ideas to them. Then they make a short video clip describing their methods, calculations and results. The videos include shots of the event they are studying, graphs, text, calculations. Students seem to enjoy making video lab reports, which can provide a  rich, compact means of delivering complex material. Here is the page on my website that describes the project and shows examples of student work.


Bohacek is “currently working in collaboration with the physics faculty at University of Wisconsin-River Falls, who is adapting these and other similar techniques to their curriculum. I will be teaching a course in their graduate program this summer, working with teachers to continue to develop methods to use video to teach physics. In addition, I have begun to share this work at conferences, such as the CyTSE conference in Berkeley last year, and the upcoming MnSTA.”

Julie Cook, a Milaca math teacher, is doing the flipped method of teaching with her intermediate algebra classes.  The students watch the instruction via the video clip outside of class.  The students then have more work time with the expert during class time.  


Cook reports,” I have had positive reactions from most of my students. They like this method because they can watch the videos multiple times if needed and they are able to ask questions and work through the problems in class where I am able to help them. Of course, as with all new things, I had a few students that struggled with the change, but after a few weeks most of them are now telling me how much they enjoy it. Their scores have also shown the benefits of this approach.

She continued:

“There are many kids that are quiet and even though they have questions they are afraid to ask, but with the added time they are given in class I am able to stop by and check on them and I am the one initiating the questions. I think, for some students, this is the best way for them to get help.

“Also, with the extra time in class I am able to see where the students are having troubles and able to address those right away to the whole class, instead of having them go home and struggle through the assignment.   There are still some students that don’t have access. Our school’s computer lab is open from 7:30-4:30.  This allows the students the ability to watch them before, after or during school. I have many students that watch these videos during their study hall as well. I also give the students access to my school ipad if they would rather watch the video in my room, but I only allow this during their study hall, before or after school.”

Duane Berkas , Director of Teaching and Learning, Columbia Heights Public Schools, explained,

“We are seeing that technology can be a very powerful tool to engage students and provide multiple levels of support to them. Just yesterday I met with several high school and middle school math teachers who have been collecting data from students on what they feel makes a good or poor math teacher. The number one complaint has been the fact that teachers move on before they are ready. Film provides another way students can slow down instruction, repeat instruction, and review. It can a power tool for differentiation.

Bob Noyed, Executive Director of Communication and Community Relations for Eden Prairie Schools told me that the district has been doing a great deal with what is known as “flipped instruction.” This is the idea that teachers prepare an on-line lesson that students (and in some cases parents) watch ahead of time. Then students can spend more time applying the ideas in the video.  Teachers also have more time to give individual assistance to students, since the overall presentation happened “on-line.” 

Noyed  provided several examples: “Below is a link to content used to support the Algebra II curriculum at Eden Prairie High School:


Josef Haas, Assistant Principal, Delano Middle School explained,  “We currently have a 7th grade math teacher who is utilizing videos and the ipad with the free app “show-me” in order to share with her students the process of solving math problems that they did during class. Here is the link – and then you would have to click on the show-me links for the videos. 

Our math teacher likes this option because she can create this on her own time, and doesn’t not have to videotape herself while teaching the lesson. We are taking baby steps towards this, but she told me she has gotten great feedback from the kids who have gone on to watch the video. She anticipates more kids utilizing this option if the future once word gets out how it has helped their classmates out.

On another note, I was just in a US history class, and they were using Edmodo, which is a school safe social media site to debate the Bill of Rights. I cannot give you a link to this, as it requires a password from the teacher, but this is another way to have more engagement in discussion because all students are giving their input at the same time – without interrupting each other.

From an Assistant Principal perspective, I really like the way our staff is starting to utilize video, and social media in order to try to help more students learn, and engage more kids! Our students really like the idea of utilizing technology in order to help their learning process. I am hoping in the future, more and more teachers embrace the opportunity to utilize video in order to help students learn outside the walls of the classroom; to enhance what is happening in the classroom. 

Using another Math example, I often hear the frustration in parents’ voices when they feel they are unable to help their child in Math – due to it being so long since they had Math. The video affords the opportunity for the parent(s) and child to watch the video together to help with the process of solving the Math problem. The video may trigger something in the parents’ memory that allows them to help their child more than they normally could; or if parents have to work late and cannot get home to help their child, the video is there (the child can watch it over and over, can pause it, rewind it, etc.). “

Les Fujitake, Bloomington Superintendent wrote, sent “three quick videos created by students. I’m including my one sentence assessment of each. Below that I am including a quick sentence about the actual YouTube channels the teachers are using. I think the channels are an excellent example of our integration. Because we have incorporated Google Apps for Education our teachers have a place to organize and publish student work. It’s a fairly exciting application of our district tools.”

Teacher – Lee Gillis

YouTube Search Story – This video was made using a template tool on YouTube. It requires a student to come up with seven search terms to try and tell a story. Relevant to literacy skills and practical application of technology, this is a great example of integrated student work.

Chris – Search Story


Teacher – Todd Anderson

Social Studies Project – News Cast – The two videos below were created using only an iPad. It was recorded and edited on the device. Both are great examples of alternative methods for students to demonstrate their understanding. I particularly enjoy the various personality of the students are evident. It’s fun to see kids be creative and enjoy their learning.


Four Loggers – Student newscast demonstrating a particular point of view about Amazonian rain forest history.


3 Rubber Tappers – Another video demonstrating a different point of view about Amazonian rain forest history.


The Channels – Each of the videos below are contained within a teacher channel. These channels are en excellent example of how teachers are beginning to use the tools in Bloomington Apps to go beyond collaborative productivity. Teachers are leveraging tools that students use everyday to help engage students and provide relevant experiences that will apply to their day-to-day life outside of and beyond their school experience.


Olson Middle School This channel uses the YouTube Search Story for student “reports”. All collected in one place, it’s easy for students  to view and respond to each other’s work.

Oak Grove Middle School  This channel was created by a middle school teacher piloting iPods in the classroom. Each of the videos contained in this channel were created, edited and published using the iPad.


Lisa Hendricks, Director of Partnership Academy Charter in Richfield wrote, “Our school has 3 school-wide service learning days a year when every student goes out into the local community to provide service. At the end of the day we have a school-wide assembly to celebrate their great work of giving back.


 The Haiti video was created as part of a school-wide Service Learning project that was lead by the second graders called “Soles for Souls”.  Their goal was to collect 500 pairs of shoes for the children of Haiti.  They were actually able to collect 514 pairs of shoes! Students were very proud of reaching their goal to help children their own age so many miles away.


Each grade level has a “flip-cam” so teachers use video on a regular basis. For example, the 5th graders made a video to share their New Year’s resolutions titled “Your 3 Words” where they had to share their goals for 2012 in just three words (the idea came from Good Morning America, apparently they do something like that every week)…..also, we have done slideshows and videos for Kindergarten and 5th grade graduation ceremonies. 


We have also used videos as part of our professional development for teachers.  We have found it helpful to record students computing math problems and be able to discuss as a professional learning community how our instruction needs to adapt to the needs of the child.  It’s a lot more beneficial when it is actually the students you teach!  We do it for many of the same reasons professional athletes watch film of the game to improve for the next game! 


Flipped education has been happening for the last couple of years but we are really seeing a huge increase in the application of computer screencasting as a way to flip the instructional model.  Here are a couple of examples

 Our Math teachers have been the pioneers, here is one of their Youtube channels.

Here is how an elementary art teachers flipping instruction 

Finally here is a page of examples of screencasting.  Some of these are flipped instruction and some are more like tutorials


Jeffrey McGonigal, Anoka-Hennepin’s Assistant Superintendent reported that a number of teachers in that district have created videos for students to watch before and after class, to help them master ideas.   For example:

McGonigal showed me something called “HippoCampus: , which is offered through collaboration of the Minnesota State Department of Education, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, and University of Minnesota. This website has hundreds of creative videos that are available free for educators, students and families:

Finally, West St. Paul Sibley High School teachers sent several videos they have created.  The first helps explain how they are replacing word problems with video problems.

Sibley teachers also are helping students make their own videos illustrating physics principles.  If you can explain something to others clearly and accurately, you know the subject well.

In talking with people from more than 30 districts and charters, I saw enormous creativity.  I hope we’ll find ways to share teachers’ best work around the state.

Joe Nathan, formerly a Minnesota public school teacher, directs the Center for School Change at Macalester.  Reactions welcome,