When Frank Fedel’s students finish a test, they don’t have to wait a week to get the results. They simply scan their multiple-choice test using the camera in Fedel’s laptop. The software Gradecam instantly corrects the test and the score is recorded in a virtual grade book.
“Students love it and hate it,” says Fedel, an assistant professor in the School of Health Promotion and Human Performance at Eastern Michigan University. Students that do well in Fedel’s class love seeing their grade immediately. It goes without saying those who struggle
are less enthusiastic about the bad news.
Gradecam is just one of many tools Fedel uses in his classroom. He’s a technology enthusiast and an inventor so experimentation comes naturally. Fedel is constantly trying out various edtech tools with the goal of providing his students with information in a way that caters to different learning styles. It was this pursuit that led him to stumble upon the flipped classroom.
“I initially wanted to give the students who had different abilities a little more time to think about what I was saying,” says Fedel. As a result he would record his in-class lectures for students to review. Fedel also began creating videos for students to watch in preparation for the next class.
“It all just came together and turned out to be what they call a flipped classroom,” says Fedel.
Tools to Help You Flip Your Classroom
Fedel has been flipping his classroom since 2009 and has since developed a set of very specific tools that form the core of his flipped classroom technology. He has even invented an acronym for it, WIMPI.
The “W” stands for white board. Fedel uses an interactive white board to display 3D models in his anatomy and physiology class. By using the interactive white board to pull up the 3D images via the Internet, Fedel avoids having to draw the models by hand. Students also retain a digital copy of the models and any added notes for later reference.
The “IM” stands for information management. “I had the programmers here at the university create a customizable database,” says Fedel. The database contains everything from the URL for source material to the location of a particular book needed for class. Students can search the database for any information they might need over the course of the semester.
The “P” stands for Panopto, Fedel’s lecture capture software. The “I” stands for iclicker, the student response system that is used school wide. Students are actually required to purchase a clicker before beginning the program.
The final tool, not represented in the acronym, is GradeCam. “It’s basically an image recognition software,” says Fedel. The company provides you with a number of templates for designing a multiple-choice test. You can have anywhere from 10 questions to 100. The tests are then printed out and handed to students. Students are assigned an ID number for identification when scanning the finished exam. In Fedel’s classroom, this number is the last five digits of their student ID.
Running a Flipped Classroom
All of Fedel’s tools come together to create a unique learning experience for his students. Homework assignments are often mini video lectures students are required to watch before they come to class. The subject is typically something the students may be struggling with.
“Instead of a reading assignment, it’s a watching assignment,” says Fedel. “They’re watching it on their phones and on their iPads and all the other devices they have.
The videos are created using Panopto software and a Web camera. Fedel also captures all of his in-class lectures for students to review at home. He says there are pros and cons to this method of live recording.
“It doesn’t seem sterile when you do it that way because it’s real, it’s live. You’re actually teaching the class,” says Fedel. “The downside is that every class is different so if you have someone that asks a question during a lecture recording then you have that question embedded in that recording and that may not be a question everyone is going to ask so you’ve wasted three or four minutes of your time there.”
Once the lecture is recorded it’s stored on the Panopto database. Fedel places a link in his own information management database as well. Anytime the students watch a video as part of a homework assignment, they are required to submit questions to Fedel to be discussed in class. Every class begins with an iclicker quiz to assess where the students are at in terms of understanding a particular topic. Then Fedel discusses the questions submitted by students.
“Really the idea of this was conditional teaching in which I find out what they [students] need the most help with and then try to give them the resources to get that help,” says Fedel.
Understanding the Flipped Classroom
Flipping the classroom is about taking the focus off of the teacher and creating a student-centric education model. In-class learning is less about absorbing information from the teacher and more about critical thinking and discussion.
“A big part of this is changing the mindset of the instructor. I’m not going to be the person up front here doling out the information. That’s not my job,” says Fedel. “Our job is guiding them [students] when they start to go off course and then doing accurate assessments and evaluations of where they’re at to give them feedback on how to get to the next step.”
Flipping the classroom is now the status quo in the Orthotic & Prosthetic Program at Eastern Michigan University. All of the professors flip their classroom to some degree, although not everyone’s classroom operates at the same level as Fedel’s. He likens himself to a pioneer in this respect.
“What I try to do is take all the arrows. Pioneers take the arrows,” says Fedel. “I’m up in front making all the mistakes and forgetting to do this and saying you have to remember to do that.”
Fedel’s colleagues also have the benefit of his established tool list and his inventive spirit. He constantly scours technology magazines and the Internet for tools that will help him reach his students no matter their learning style.
“Some people are visual, some people are auditory, and some are tactile. There are different ways of learning,” says Fedel. “People have different rates at which they process information. I wanted to do certain things so then I had to look for certain tools to do those things.”