Biggest Teaching Challenge of 2016: #FlippedLearning

As it’s the first day of January (it still is in Northern Ireland, where I am currently enjoying the holiday), I thought I’d tell you a bit about the biggest challenge I’ve taken on in my teaching (and role as Head of Religion) is to make all senior programs #flippedlearning with YouTube videos. That is, both the Study of Religion (option) and Religion & Ethics (general) courses for both year 11 and year 12 (the last two years of schooling in Queensland, Australia) will watch a 5-7 minute video with the content of the course and then apply it in class.

Let me give you a bit of context for this. I teach in a Catholic private school. I lead a department of 17 teachers, most of whom are specialists in other areas. All of the Religion specialists apart from me will not be returning for the new school year in January. Therefore I have to teach Study of Religion to both year 11 and 12. All heads of year teach Religion to their year group, regardless of their qualifications and knowledge. The other teachers of the senior classes may be excellent teachers, but have little investment in the department, teaching two lessons per week of Religion. So I figured that the most effective way to give students in any one year a consistent (and valuable) experience of learning about Religion was to go flipped.

Here’s how I did it. Following invaluable advice from fellow RE teachers @Ben_Wood_RE @kchalls other teachers like @JoelBSperanza and others, I downloaded and paid for the rewindable screencast-o-matic. I very quickly realised that I couldn’t record my face in the corner as I needed to read notes and look at the screen to click to the next slide (I was also recording at moments in which I may not have looked as professional as I would have liked). I then made a PowerPoint for each lesson and in the notes wrote the script. I put the PowerPoint of presenter mode, read my notes, and made the videos. I put my posh voice on and spoke as slowly as humanly possibly for a Geordie!

Anyway, I have spent a fair proportion of my holiday making these videos – I aimed at one per day but I’m more than half way through the holiday with least fan half the videos made so I’m going to have to pick up the pace – and have therefore made a significant investment in them. I don’t mind that at all. My husband says I’m ‘playing’ when I do the research and make the videos because I love the subject do much. It doesn’t feel at all like work, and I really do need to do the research as it’s the first time I’ve taught the course (and I’d never learnt a thing about aboriginal spirituality until 6 months ago). If I was teaching old school (or non-flipped, whatever you call that) I would still have to do the research and lesson preparation, so it only takes an extra five minutes to record the video.

However, if I was only doing it for myself and not for every teacher of senior classes, I would do it as I go. For my entire career this far, I have planned lessons the morning I was teaching them (being an early bird and always being first one in, first one out) so it has been enlightening planning the curriculum and then planing every lesson in advance. I’m hoping it will give me more time during term to address the other issues that go along with being Head of Department.

Beyond the making of the videos, I have no idea how it will go. I should mention at this point that I have asked for the only non-conventional classroom in school next year (it has round tables and – shock – sofas) and all of year 11 have one-to-one laptops. However, I foresee the lack of devices for year 12 to be an issue. I have also had very little time to spend explaining this to my department (thanks largely to union action in term 4). So fingers crossed they can pick it up in the one hour I have before term starts (I’m going to make them do a bit of it as students).

You can watch the videos I’ve uploaded already on my YouTube channel. I’ll tell you more along the way…

A random pic I took of Durham Cathedral in Lego over the holiday.

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