Category Archives: TechSmith

School Leader Magazine Article

I was asked to write an article for School Leader Magazine–a magazine published by the NJ School Board Association. For those of you not a Superintendent or BOE member in NJ, I wanted to share my ideas with you.

Let’s Stop Talking About Flipped Classrooms and Start Talking About Flipped Learning

A chemistry teacher describes how he refined his approach to a flipped classroom
By Marc Seigel

I will never forget the exact moment that I became complacent.


It was October of 2010, my tenth year in education. I walked in on a Monday, sat down at my desk, opened the folder of my laptop that contained all of my PowerPoints, opened the one pertaining to the unit I was starting that day, and suddenly felt like I was punched in the gut. You see, I hadn’t spent a single minute over the weekend preparing lesson plans or even thinking about what I was going to be teaching that day. My instructional routines had become so automatic and my grasp of the content so precise that I didn’t even have to engage my brain to produce a lesson for the day. My classroom was generally running on autopilot. I knew at that moment that something needed to change and it needed to happen fast.


It just so happened that about two weeks later, I was skimming a publication from the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and stumbled across an article about two chemistry teachers (Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams) in Colorado who were using videos they had posted online to teach content to their students. About two years prior, I had begun recording example problems on an interactive whiteboard using a video camera and posting them to my website, but they were only there to supplement what I was already doing. I never considered recording my entire lesson for my students to watch. My students commented how helpful it was to see those problems a second time when they were at home so why wouldn’t seeing an entire lesson help them? So began my flipped classroom story.


Flipped Classrooms: 101 A “traditional” flipped classroom centers on the idea that lectures normally given in class are recorded and posted in some form for the students to watch for homework. The videos might be posted to YouTube, a teacher website, copied to a flashdrive, or burned to a DVD. A typical 45-minute lecture could be boiled down to about 10 or 15 minutes. Students would take notes, just like they would normally do in class, then come to class ready to engage in something to reinforce the material they learned the night before.


This is exactly how I began my first flipped unit. I chose a fairly easy unit (since I teach chemistry, I chose writing and balancing reactions), something with which my students had always found success. They would go home, watch the videos I recorded using Camtasia Studio from TechSmith and posted on my YouTube Channel (http://bit.ly/seigelchemistry), come to class, and do the homework they normally would have done at home. It was fantastic! Every time a student began to struggle, I was right there to answer his or her questions. The students wouldn’t go more than a few minutes being confused and would immediately get right back to getting their work done. I still gave the same checking-for-understanding quizzes I had always given, the same labs, the same tests. The only thing that changed was where the homework assignment and the lecture happened.


The best part about this method, for me, was students could move at their own pace. Some students would watch all of the videos in one weekend, show up on Monday and just plow through all of the graded assignments. Some students would have the laptops open on their desk (at the time we had Dell mini-laptops, but I now have a cart of Chromebooks) and watch the video as they completed the homework. Some failed the homework assignment even though they took good notes, went back to the videos in class, and had the opportunity to fix the mistakes they made. None of this would have been possible in a traditional model with me controlling every aspect of the daily routine.


This system worked really well. But then I soon realized things were starting to unravel. Since everyone was completing the same homework assignment, and different students were moving at different speeds, slower students figured out that if they just wait for the faster students to complete the assignments, they could just copy their work when it was returned. Also, students who were not good at managing their time in class properly, fell far behind (sometimes weeks behind) and were turning in an entire marking period’s worth of assignments on the last day before grades were due. This last situation caused a tremendous amount of work for me and meant that the students were not getting the timely feedback they needed to be successful.


Once again, things needed to change, and fast.


Stop Focusing On Classrooms and Start Focusing on Learning Those educators who have been successful with a flipped classroom have begun to move to a flipped learning approach. Both are centered on the essential question: What is the best use of my face-to-face time with my students? However, it is the mindset that is different.
  • Flipped Classrooms allow students watch lectures at home and engage in homework in school. Teachers guide students through a series of worksheets or more traditional activities that help them reach objectives and gain the knowledge necessary to pass assessments.
  • Flipped Learning allows educators to use a variety of teaching methodologies to help students reach a learning objective. (www.flippedlearning.org) Rather than focusing on the content they need to learn, students are engaged in activities that teach both content and skills that are necessary for success. The classroom is a dynamic and collaborative environment where all levels of learners are supported.


So, what does this dynamic, collaborative learning environment look like? Well, that’s the beauty of flipped learning–every educator customizes it to fit his or her school, students, and personal abilities. Some teachers use pre-made videos on the Internet; some make their own. Some are the only teachers in their building/district flipping; some are part of an entire flipped school. Some teachers use only their traditional assignments; some allow the students to design their own work. This is not a pre-packaged curriculum–something you just order from a company and everything you need is already inside. Let me tell you what a typical unit looks like in my flipped environment.


One unit my students learn about is solutions. On the first day, the students will participate in a guided-inquiry activity called Introduction to Solution Making (http://bit.ly/seigelsolutionmaking) in which they will learn about calculating concentration of solutions by making two cups of fruit punch. There are no procedures other than for them to make two cups of fruit punch the way they like to drink it. After they make the drinks, they read farther down and it tells them to use the mass of powdered drink they measured and the volume of water they used to calculate the concentration. This is when they realized they didn’t measure anything and have to start again.  Note: While learning how to calculate concentration is the main learning objective, students learn more through their mistakes of solution making. At the end of the activity, the students are free to drink their solutions while they watch the instructional video about calculating concentration (which is linked in the Google Doc of the lab).


The video on concentration is embedded in a Google Form. Below the video are three self-check questions for the students to complete at the conclusion of the video. These questions are modified questions from the unit test and align to the district quarterly assessment. When they answer the questions and hit “submit,” a tool called Flubaroo provides both the student and the teacher feedback on the student’s understanding of the material, and he or she can ask the teacher questions about any errors or misconceptions and get the immediate assistance they need.


Students now move through a series of both required and optional assignments for the unit, which have been detailed on an assignment chart distributed on Google Classroom and on the first day of the unit. (bit.ly/seigelsolutions) While some assignments are labeled as required, I have given the students the freedom to either supplement or replace these with assignments they have designed. This gives all students the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding in ways that better suit their needs.


The Future of Flipped Learning Is Now The flipped model does not only apply to teachers and students. Administrators can flip faculty meetings or professional development by giving teachers something to read or research in advance and then engaging them in discussion and activities when the group comes together. Advisors can flip club meetings. The culture of learning has changed for students and schools. When the accumulated knowledge of the human race is sitting in your pocket, teachers no longer need to be the sole source of content knowledge, but rather, need to direct students toward ways to find their own understandings of how to use that content appropriately.
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My thoughts on #flipcon12

There is so much to say that it is difficult to decide where to begin.  I finally got to meet some of the amazing people with whom I have only ever conversed in 140 character conversations (each of the previous words links to someone’s twitter profile).  There were fantastic conversations with people from all over country (and Canada!) who are looking to transform what education will look like in the future.  There will be lots of blog posts talking about what everyone learned or took away from this experience, but I want to focus on something a little bit different.  I want to talk about the sponsors.  No I am not kissing up.  Each of the following companies represent a small group of people who realize that 1) teachers are people who need individualized attention, 2) education is no longer about making cogs in a machine, 3) need our support in helping them help us make significant change in the way education happens in the future.

One evening, each of the sponsors hosted a dinner at a different restaurant.  I had already been to a dinner with TechSmith at ISTE11, and as much as I love those guys (more to come on them later), I wanted to hear what one of the smaller, lesser known sponsors had to say about their company.  Tammy Stephens was our host and she brought us to this fantastic tapas restaurant.  Food was outstanding!  But eclass4learning is a way for teachers to get training on Moodle and for schools to host their Moodle site for a low cost.  While there is a few, eclass4learning helps school districts by taking the administration of Moodle and the need to have extra serves to host it out of the responsibility of the district.  The cost is relatively low considering that private hosting companies are charging $6-$10 per month per site.  The company is based out of Wisconsin and they seen the need to make things as easy as possible on the teachers involved.  They provide webinars and on-site training to get the school up and running.
This was the first time I had the chance to use MentorMob even though I had seen information about them before.  MentorMob was one of the conferences main sponsors and we had the opportunity to visit their offices (2 rooms) in Chicago for pizza and beverages.  The site is a great way for all of the presenters to host their presentation materials in one common location and for conference organizers to disseminate handouts and other information in a paperless environment.  Now, I honestly don’t know if I would use it in my class on a regular basis, however, I am definitely thinking about them for TeachMeetNJ in a couple of months.  What struck me about this company was they are just a few people in literally 2 corner offices (the entire company crammed into the small space), but they conduct themselves as if they are giants in the software world.  The employees were extremely friendly and were so gracious to have us there.
I have talked about TechSmith before.  Their products (Camtasia Studio, Snagit, Jing) are all in the top 5 programs that get opened on my computer.  The company sponsored my presentation at NJSTA last October and the Middletown Web Challenge this past February.  I cannot say enough great things about the conferences number 1 sponsor.  Oh, they also gave all attendees a free copy of Camtasia AND Snagit.  At the end of my 2nd presentation, I guy walks up to me and starts talking to me about some of the things I said and how I use TechSmith products in my classroom.  We are talking for awhile, he hands me his card, and I realize he is one of the Directors of the company.  So I am not just sitting with some sales rep, this is a guy who sits with the CEO and advises him on how to run the company.  But most importantly he is really listening to my ideas.  At the end, he asks me to email him and offers to come to my school personally to train my students in how to use Snagit.  How many companies would do this?  Sure they might send you a free software, but how many would volunteer their time to help out teenagers better use the software for learning?
Like I said, there will be lots of people who blog about what they learned from the different presentations, but I wanted to highlight some of the caring companies who are not big names that are truly supporting teachers and students, and trying to help schools really teach 21st century skills.

And the winner is….

As you know, I was running a contest to see who would win a full version of Camtasia Studio.  The amazing people at TechSmith were nice enough to sponsor me at the NJSTA conference so I figured I would spread the word about their equally amazing products.

I received 12 comments on the post.  I put the numbers into random.org and came up with the following:

I looked at the list of comments and the first number, luckily, corresponded with a comment of a Mac user.  So CONGRATULATIONS LOU C!!!  Here is the comment he left:

Marc,
I was at the presentation (Mac user in front row) and I enjoyed and appreciated your enthusiasm for the flipped classroom. I teach Chem concepts, Chem 1 (essentially CP) and AP at Westfield (NJ) HS. I recently started using the flipped approach (albeit imperfectly) for my unit on sig figs, scientific notation & dimensional analysis, units for which I usually find a large percentage of students complaining that they didn’t know where to start with the homework. I’m intrigued by your ability to manage/juggle the multiple activities occurring in your room. Some of it would work for me, and some wouldn’t (our laptops are dinosaurs that won’t connect to the internet, so viewing the videos in the classroom would be a problem). I still have to learn to wean myself off of “checking homework” and going over the material in the front of the room (even as a “review” of the videos) and simply head into working groups. I am the first teacher in the department to delve into this model, and a lot of people are looking to me for the results. I will introduce more flipping into units as I go, and I would like to make it the majority of the units next year, so the resources you provided will help tremendously.
Lou C



The second number I pulled from random.org was:



Which corresponded to the comment left by JOHN VENNER!!!
Flipping Algebra I class at the 7th grade level, have been at it almost since the beginning of the year. I’m not the source of the material right now though, using everything and anything on the web (videos, activities, interactive web sites) to get the material/concepts delivered….I have three forms: Video Note Taking Guide (notes, comments, summary), Video Reflection (more along the lines of summarizing the ideas) and Web Site Reflection (topic, delivery, what did you learn)…this is the basis for their notebook and checked at the beginning of class. We start with discussions, student presentations and reviews…address questions about the “lesson” and eventually move into practice….very rough around the edges but so far so good.


Congratulations again to John and Lou.  As I mentioned in my previous post, please either email me using the link in my profile or DM me on Twitter so I can get your mailing address.  Thank you to everyone for playing.  I am hoping to have more prizes again in the future.  

The contest

Well, the presentation went very well.  I have some choice remarks for the NJSC committee, but that is for a different post.  Let’s just say next time they shouldn’t tell me my presentation was for an hour, but then give me an hour and a half.  Didn’t really matter as the presentation went 2 hours.

I just wanted to thank everyone who attended for the fantastic questions.  I hope I was able to express how important it is to make the flipped class your own.  Simply adopting mine or Jon’s or Aaron’s methods will absolutely result in failure and frustration.  Make the method meaningful and centered around YOUR students and you will see how well they will adapt to it.

Since the presentation took so long, I totally forgot to raffle off the Camtasia Studio software (a $299 value!) TechSmith was nice enough to give me.  So, instead I am going to hold a contest on this blog.  Here are the rules:
1.  You must leave a comment related to your impressions of the flipped classroom.  Include your first name, last initial and what town and state you are teaching in.  Please also include whether you use a PC or a Mac.
2.  You must be a resident of the USA (sorry, international rates are too expensive).
3.  I will use a random number generator to select 2 viewers of the blog.  The winners will be posted on the blog on Monday, 10/17.
4.  The winners will be responsible for direct messaging me on Twitter with their email address so I can get the address to send the software to.

Good luck to everyone!  And winners need only be viewers of my blog; you did not have to be at the NJ Science Convention.

My first presentation

Tomorrow I am presenting at the NJ Science Teacher Convention about the Flipped Classroom.  This will be my first conference presentation so I am both freaking out and really, really excited.  I really love what I do and I want to share that with as many people as possible.  The flipped classroom is really growing in popularity and the attention it is getting is fantastic!  In fact, tonight’s #edchat topic was focused on it.  Some great discussions on both sides about what it looks like and what it could/should be.  I wish that Jon and Aaron could have seen it, but, alas, they are training teachers in Norway about it.

Below is the Prezi I made for my presentation.  When I learned that my proposal was accepted, I contacted TechSmith, the company that makes Camtasia Studio (the program I use for my podcasts), about possible door prizes.  Well, when the box arrived, I was blown away by their generosity.  I have 2 T-shirts, 30 pens, 30 evaluation software CDs and 2 full copies of Camtasia Studio to give away (FYI they are $299 each!!).  It is amazing how dedicated this company is to helping teachers improve their instruction.  If you haven’t used their software, I HIGHLY recommend you do so soon.  Jing is great for creating short screencasts.  And, of course, Camtasia Studio is the tool for anyone doing lengthier, more involved podcasts.

I hope you enjoy the presentation.  If you are at the conference, please stop in and say hello.

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