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Using the flipped classroom model in the secondary classroom.

A partly flipped, blended classroom with paper and pens (the busy teachers way!)

www.passbiology.co.nz - based fully in google sites.

As a secondary teacher with 4 hours a week in front of my senior classes and what seems to be an ever growing curriculum and literacy requirement I have trailed many methods to make more effective use of my time and better prepare my senior students for their NCEA examinations. I love the idea of the flipped classroom but dont have the time to make online video tutorials and activities. I thought there must be a better way!

My view on effective ICT use in the classroom is constantly changing though one thing has remained constant. No matter how attached a student is to their device or online blended world the assessment they sit is still in the hall or classroom, at a desk, with a pen and paper. Any electronic device is banned and this seems to be sticking around for the foreseeable future. Now of course there are exceptions for some internal assessments but even in these cases the internet browser stays in the bag. On top of this in my subject the external literacy requirement has increased to the point of 9 hand written essays in 3 hours and this is Biology, traditionally a practical based subject.

Now it’s definitely not all doom and gloom but what it does mean is that quite a few ICT initiatives around the country are being put in place for the wrong reasons for the current secondary environment. Learning should drive everything in education. If a device/ app or online tool increases the achievement and learning outcomes of a student then it should be used. Having a class set of tablets is great but only if there is a learning need to be met and as much as my students would hate to admit, being engrossed in a shiny online app with amazing sound effects does not increase their ability to structure a scientific essay about the trends leading to bipedalism in primates. What it does do though is provide a stimulating way to learn the scientific content in a more interactive and contextual way, at their own pace, in their own time.

The online world in my subject area is huge, there are multiple countries education departments producing interactive tools, videos and websites that are relevant to the NZ biology curriculum. Amazing educators ranging from the Khan academy to Paul Anderson, an American biology teacher make streaming lessons that are amazing and useful for senor students. New Zealand teachers are all making the same resource multiple times in their own private classroom online space and I would love to see a less competitive resource sharing being undertaken amongst teachers.

So how have I approached this problem? After surveying my classes I quickly realized they had a 100% ownership of browser capable devices and the vast majority had broadband at home.  Where this was not the case the schools internet could be used. I wanted to provide a platform where students used their own initiative to drive their own learning and the classroom to be a time where building skills, discussing ideas and working on assessment relevant problems could take place and also a place where the confusion of the internet could be aligned to the secondary standards I was teaching. I still wanted to teach important concepts and make sure my students were confident in the paper and pen literacy requirements of the subject so aspects of the flipped classroom model seemed to be the way to go. I originally started with a closed environment in our schools Moodle. However, this I found clunky and the students found the need to log in and find the course all they needed to put them off accessing the content. To get around this I purchased a domain name and after trying Weebly and getting frustrated settled onto Google sites due to its integration with YouTube and ease of site creation. Also making the site public and watching the user numbers increase has motivated me more to add to the site which was an issue with the Moodle site. As I am not creating the majority of the content the time it has taken to construct has not been that high. I would say similar to making a single animation that I have linked to.

My students use the site for revision and homework tasks. They are prompted to work through the area and view the videos and in the lesson I refer back to these. Paper and traditional textbooks have a place in my classroom but students can instantly have access to the website through their devices, they do not need to login and can be viewing.  The flipped classroom has some limitations and I am hesitant to rely on it fully as the medium for learning content but following this model has been beneficial for both my students as their online learning is more directed and others as they can also gain from the site for their own learning.  I hope to continue to build it into a useful resource for all New Zealand Biology students. Currently the site is being visited over 200 times a day and this spikes to the thousands in the weeks leading up to exams, well worth the effort!


  • Diane Mills

    Great work Mike!  With assessment being the high stakes issue it is for all schools, change is slow and traditional methods of measuring achievement and success still dominate.  I am sure your students and obviously others who are using the site, will appreciate the opportunity you have created, for them to log in and have access to information and resources.  Would Andrew Douch's Biology Podcasts also be of use as a resource on your site?  

  • Mike Wilson

    Thanks Diane and Happy New Year (: Yes will look into adding those, they look great.