04/03/12 — New class rules: Video learning

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New class rules: Video learning

By Kelly Corbett
Published in News on April 3, 2012 1:46 PM

BEULAVILLE -- It's Wednesday night, and Tiavonni Wooten is home watching YouTube.

The East Duplin sophomore is not looking for just any video. She is is watching her biology teacher's lecture on allele frequencies and evolution.

She takes notes, rewinding when she needs to hear the information again.

The next day, she is ready for the seven-question PowerPoint quiz.

"For me, I could learn, but with the videos, I can take notes and learn them better," she said.

Watching 5- to 10-minute videos of lectures is the new homework for all of Kirk Kennedy's honors biology students. It is all part of a new concept called a "flipped classroom."

In this new approach, students are able to watch videos of the lectures multiple times, at home, until they feel comfortable with the material and their notes.

Ms. Wooten said that allows her to learn more -- and to be better-prepared for the questions that will come the next day, which, in a traditional classroom, she would be answering by herself at home as homework after hearing the lecture during the school day.

After the quiz each day, the students participate in activities designed to reinforce the concepts they learned the previous evening.

On this day, it concerns dominant and recessive genes. The students are paired up to maneuver 100 red and white beans, or bunnies, to see what would happen if the red, dominant beans and white, recessive beans are in an environment together.

"So what's going to happen over time based on what you know?" Kennedy asked his class.

Ms. Wooten hypothesized aloud that the furred bunnies would outlast the furless bunnies.

Kennedy was the first East Duplin High School pioneer, but the flipped classroom is catching on throughout campus ever since an article from the National Education Association's Priority Schools Campaign inspired discussion about the new teaching method last semester.

"I knew he would just run with it," said Jeannie Maready, East Duplin's media coordinator.

Other teachers in the high school have since decided to flip their classrooms, too, and the method has been discussed at Duplin County school board meetings.

Most of Kennedy's students watch the videos on YouTube, but he provides the eight of his 46 students who do not have Internet at home with DVDs of the videos.

"About two to three times a week, I give them a video to watch," Kennedy said.

When Kennedy first started flipping his class in November 2011, he said he wanted to do a trial period of three weeks before talking about the method with other teachers or using it in his other biology class.

"The first day I knew it was working," Kennedy said.

He said he heard students talking about what they learned from the lesson the night before instead of hearing them ask peers for the answer to a question or trying to rush to finish homework.

"That was the first time in 17 years I had heard that," Kennedy said.

He said he also looks at past class averages on specific chapters to see improvements, and he has found certain chapters jump from a low C average to a high B-average or even low A-average.

"I'm tricking them into learning," Kennedy said.

Before flipping his classroom, Kennedy said he spent 70 minutes of a 90-minute class lecturing, with a 10-minute break and a 10-minute time slot for questions. Now, Kennedy only spends about 10 minutes on lecture and the rest of the class period helping students with activities.

"I'm working harder than I've ever worked before, but that's a good thing," Kennedy said.

He said he has six more videos to make before he is done, and he has already made a total of about 30 videos.

A history teacher at the school who will be on maternity leave in the near future has also begun using the flipped classroom method. Kennedy said some teachers have chosen to flip their classrooms for just one day at a time, if they know they will be out, but added that he felt the method would best benefit math, science and history classes.

Honors biology student Jenny Boyette said she usually watches the lectures a couple times to make sure the information sticks. She wants to see her math and writing classes flipped as well.

Fellow student Evan Main said he has seen an improvement in his grades. "I think it's awesome ... much less time for homework at home," he said. "Science, last year, was one of my weak points, and this year, it's the highest (grade) I have."