Category Archives: flipped classroom

Siemens and the Flipped Classroom

2014-06-24 11.39.17During my trip to Germany with The Center for International Understanding (@GlobalCIU) and 32 other educators, we had the opportunity to visit the Siemens (@Siemens) Professional Education Center in Berlin, Germany.

Before I really sell home my idea…here is a rundown of what you could expect as a teacher or student in the Siemens Professional Education Center.

  • The average age of the first year student seemed to be around 20, but I met some 18 years old and some 25 year olds who were just getting started.
  • The Siemens Professional Education Center is a cross-over between a trade school, a community college, and a 4-year college.  Students have completed high school (and some even college) and they are learning a unique skill set (electrical engineering, mechanics, etc.).
  • These students are being trained to join the Siemens workforce, but theoretically, their training would allow them to work for any company offering the same job they are being trained for.  Their education is highly specified for Siemens, but the core principals can be applied in any similar setting.  As a Siemens’ teacher pointed out, his students should be able to walk into any factory and identify and fix any problem with a production assembly line.
  • Lecture/lessons is always accompanied by intensive, collaborative, problem-based learning projects.
  • Team work is a STRONG focus at Siemens.
  • They have just started an international program, but you are expected to learn German within two months.
  • Teachers are very highly respected and the environment appeared more relaxed than traditional American schools.
  • Many of the teachers (if not all) were products of the same school.
  • Siemens spends millions of dollars on their professional training center in Berlin.  When asked, “what is their monetary return for their company on this huge financial investment?,” the director of the Siemens Educational Department replied, “our future.”
  • Knowledge is important at Siemens, but the vast majority of the knowledge is obtained through practice and real-life application, which leads me to my overall point…

I noticed more and more that what Siemens prides itself on about its Professional Education Center are the same principals that are rooted in the flipped classroom.  The flipped classroom – if done correctly – works so well because of the focus on real-life application.  Students are provided with a small amount of basic content via videos, VoiceThread, or any other multimedia.  Then the students are asked to investigate a topic even further and deeper and apply what they learn through that investigation to a larger, more applicable problem.  A flipped classroom allows for a problem-based learning environment that many teachers say they do not have time for, and Siemens also recognizes the value in a similar approach.

Siemens incorporates the flipped classroom ideals (minus the videos) in an effort to help their students become highly successful and knowledgeable employees.  Flipped classroom teachers incorporate the videos, the investigation, and the application in an effort to help their students become highly successful and knowledgeable citizens (assuming we never mention standardized testing).  Slightly different outcomes with very similar processes.

***The picture above features a once gas-powered car that was converted to an electrical-powered car by students at Siemens.

Cool Tool – eduCanon

Below is a post from another place that I blog (  I thought I would share it here as well. Enjoy!


Recently, I hosted a flipped classroom tour at Durant.  We visited Mr. Dunton, Mrs. Holland, Mrs. Miles, Mrs. Desmarais, and Mrs. Myers.  At the end, the tour group sat down with Ms. Hodges, Mrs. Kensmoe, and Mrs. Richardson.  I received a lot of very positive feedback from the group.  They really enjoyed their visit and learned a lot about the flipped classroom from some great teachers!

Now…I tell you all of that…to tell you this.  Teaching is learning, and I learned just as much from them as they did from us.  They shared a lot of great resources and ideas with me.  During that tour, one of their teachers and the principal both mentioned a tool called eduCanon.  It’s a very powerful tool for the flipped classroom or really any classroom interested in incorporating video!

In a nutshell, eduCanon allows you to make any YouTube video into an interactive video lesson.  You can add questions throughout a video that require students to pause the video and answer the questions.   In fact, the video pauses itself and requires students to answer.  This feature helps students to stay focused while watching the video and avoid zoning out.  Students can rewind to review material, but they cannot fast forward to skip the video.  It’s impossible to bypass the questions and just scrub through the video.

Teachers can also assess how much students know as they watch the video.  EduCanon records each student’s answer, ties it directly to their name, and records their grade.  No more need to go around and “check” video notes.  You can log into eduCanon and see which students completed the video, correct or incorrect answers, and grades.  Just transfer the mark into your gradebook based on your grading preferences.  It’s all right there for you!

Check out the video below…and yes…I know Mrs. Covington (formerly known as Ms. Gimbar) is in the video.

Mobile Devices in the Classroom

In the past 2 or 3 years, I have pushed aside the traditional notion that students should leave their phones in the locker during class time.  I usually allow my students to bring their phones almost every day because they have no idea when I want to use them.  Sometimes I use them as instructional devices.  Sometimes I use them as research devices.  And sometimes students just listen to music as they work.  All in all, I have seen an increase desired to participate, learn, and engage when students are using their own mobile devices in my classroom.  Not too mention, with the lack of tech resources in my school, I have sort-of, kind-of adopted my own BYOD, which has introduced a whole new set of guidelines and policies into my classroom, but that is for another blogpost at another time.  However, I wanted to take a second to discuss 3 mobile device tools that I use frequently in my class.

Recently, I created a Google Docs presentation for my grad school class about  Poll Everywhere creates online polls that allows anyone to text in their answer to a multiple choice or a short answer question.  You can also use a mobile browser or a unique URL to view each question and answer them.  Users can see their responses and others in real time as they appear on the display.  In my experience, Poll Everywhere is best used for quick, fun review games.  It’s fairly cumbersome/expensive to aggregate the data for your classroom and generate data to help teachers assess their own teaching.  There is also not an easy way for students to indicate who they are, which is why I have my students initial their responses.  While Poll Everywhere does not provide opportunities for authentic assessment, it does provide teachers with meaningful ways to engage their students, increase interactivity, and present new information or review previously learned information.  With all that said, my students love this tool because they see their responses in real time like they would on a jumbo-tron and they are using their own mobile devices during class.  I highly recommend this tool to anyone looking for a way to use mobile devices in the classroom in a fun and engaging way.

Another mobile device tool that I wanted to spotlight is called Socrative.  Socrative is very similar to Poll Everywhere in that it allows teachers to create assessments in which students respond to using their own mobile devices.  I was turned on to this tool about a year or so ago by my colleague, @mrscienceteach.  I gave it a shot, and I was instantly hooked! In a nutshell, Socrative is Poll Everywhere supercharged and can be used in very similarly to Poll Everywhere but with more bells and whistles.  You can set up short answer questions, multiple choice questions, games, exit passes, review games, tests, quizzes, etc.  Teachers can generate the questions themselves, and students simply log in and begin.  Socrative is compatible with any mobile device via their app, but you can also use browsers as well to participate.  As a teacher, the best part about Socrative are the reports that it generates for you.  While the answers are not saved and stored by Socrative, the multiple choice activities are graded for you automatically and other students responses are aggregated and sent to you via email in an excel spreadsheet or shared online via Google Docs.  Here is a great blogpost on all the Socrative capabilities.

Another mobile device tool or app that I use is called Remind101.  Remind101 is a safe and easy way for teachers to text students and parents for free.  While this tool is not an instructional tool, it is a great way to supplement instruction by letting students know what is going on in class with important dates, test reminders, links, HW reminders, etc.  Teachers do not have to give our their personal cell phone numbers.  Instead, teachers just have to create an account online and students and parents will subscribe to the account via a randomly generated number.  Once they subscribe, every time the teacher sends a reminder either via the app or a browser then all subscribers will receive a text to their phone with the information.  It’s a great way to stay connected and keep all stakeholders informed.

All in all I think mobile devices are on the rise in today’s classroom and they should be embraced by schools and teachers.  With the increased demand for iPhones and Android powered devices, students are bringing computers with them to school every day and we are making them keep these devices in their lockers.  Tools like Poll Everywhere, Socrative, and Remind 101 are great ways to engage students and make use of the tools they bring to the classroom.  With students providing their own tech tools, the responsibility for learning shifts even more to the student because they now have an even greater vested interest.

A Flipped Classroom (podcast)

Listen to my podcast created for my ECI 512 Emerging Technologies for 21st Century Teaching and Learning graduate class.

Transcript below:

Just this past year in my 8th grade Social Studies classroom I have started to “flip” my classroom.  For the past year or so, my teammate has been flipping her math classes and has had amazing success so far.  She finally convinced me to give it a shot once I began teaching U.S. History.

For those of you who don’t know, flipping classroom, as defined by flipping pioneers Aaron Sams and Jonathan Bergman, is an instructional strategy where the students watch the lecture at home and completed related assignments, labs, projects, etc. in class.  More than anything, flipped classroom is about the meaningful learning activities that replace lectures in the classroom and less about the videos themselves.  Throughout much of their research, Sams and Bergman have written over and over that flipped classroom is a combination of direct instruction and constructivism that allows students to receive instruction at home and spend class time practicing and exploring the content to better understand what they learned.  The whole idea being that students spend more quality instructional time learning in class with the teacher.

So you are probably wondering how does this fit into emerging technologies, well it doesn’t necessarily, but flipping the classroom does fit very well into the idea of emerging 21st century learning ideals and strategies.  I chose to flip my classroom for a number of reasons, but I’ve paired down the list to 4 according to how they relate to 21st century learning.

  1. Students can work at their own pace – Within a 21st century learning environment, students should be able to dictate their own learning pace.  Flipped classroom allows students to do just that.  After teachers create the videos, students have watched them, and the class has completed the activities, students can go back and watch the videos for review or clarity.
  2. Teachers can easily create individualized instruction – In today’s classroom, all instruction should be individualized and customized to the needs to every child.  As a teacher, I know how difficult that can be.  Flipped classroom doesn’t make that 100% possible, but it does make it much easier as I am freed up to meet with students or small groups during a class period.
  3. The learning is centered around the student – One ideal that has been around since the beginning of time is that learning should be centered around the student.  A 21st century classroom only reinforces that ideal.
  4. Transparent classroom and increased use of online tools – While technology is the not the focus of a flipped classroom, it does force teachers to create a more transparent classroom and increase their use of online tools with students.

I’m the first to admit that flipping is not for everyone.  In fact it took me a couple of years and a classroom switch to see the value of it in my classroom.  However, one of the most important practices for teachers in a 21st century learning environment is a teacher’s need for reflection in order to better themselves as a professional.  In article written by Mary Beth Hertz on entitled “The Flipped Classroom: Pro and Con,” Hertz writes that “as long as educators are constantly reflecting and asking themselves if what they are doing is truly something different or just a different way of doing the same things they’ve always done, there is hope that some of Dewey’s philosophies [of student centered learning] will again permeate our schools.”