Photo Credit: Breanna Smith/Raider Star
Photo Caption: Mr. Brand puts this sign on his door while recording videos for his classes. Recording often takes hours and is done in the evenings or over weekends.
By Breanna Smith
For the last two years, Mr. Brand has been working on transforming the way his math classroom works.
“Instead of lecturing in the classroom, the kids watch the lecture outside of class,” Brand explained. “That way they have time to work and ask me questions during class, so instead of just sitting here and listening they are actually doing things.”
This method of teaching is known as “blended learning” and his classroom is described as a flipped classroom.
“Basically I made this change so that instead of my classroom being teacher-centered, it’s student-centered, with the students learning the knowledge and being able to ask questions and being engaged in the material,” said Brand.
The way his classroom works, the timing of the class relies solely on the students. There is not an assignment due every day; instead, students are given a deadline by which they must have all of the work for the unit finished.
This forces students to be responsible, and sometimes this can be an issue.
“I think a lot of it depends on whether students are able to focus and be disciplined with what they’re doing. It’s not necessarily about how smart a student is, but it goes off of how hard they can work because if they’re disciplined in what they do they’re able to get help in class,” Brand said.
However, Brand does not see this as a major problem because he says it is something that happens in every class and in this situation, it’s actually pretty easy to fix.
“You’re going to face the issue of people not getting their stuff done no matter what type of classroom you’re in,” said Brand. “With personalized learning you move at your own pace, but at least if kids aren’t getting their stuff done outside the room, I have the 45 minutes of class time in here to make them do their work.”
It has been a long process for Brand to get his classroom to where it is now. He began preparing his flipped classrooms two years ago, and now all of them but one are flipped.
“All of my classes are flipped except for College Algebra because I can’t do everything at the same time. Pre Calculus became fully flipped last year, and then Calculus and Algebra II this year,” said Brand.
The reason it takes so long to set up his classroom is because there is so much planning ahead involved.
“I can’t even count the amount of hours it took me to get it all set up. It’s so much prep time at the beginning, but the good thing is in the later years there isn’t a lot of lesson planning going on,” Brand said.
The preparation for each class varies, but all of it is equally tedious.
Brand said that for Algebra II, videos are generally around 15-20 minutes. In Pre Calculus there are normally two videos for one section with each video being about 20 minutes long, and some Calculus videos can go for about an hour.
“The time I put into them is a lot more than that because I’m making all of the notes and planning the presentation. It normally takes me about three hours to completely plan one section,” said Brand.
While he has put this much time into his classroom already, there are still things that Brand that would like to change in the coming years.
Brand said that next year he is going to start a progression board for Algebra II students. He also plans to make Algebra II a more structured classroom schedule.
“There’s a difference between a structured flipped classroom where students have something due every day (which I think would work better for younger students) and an unstructured system which I’d prefer to use with Pre Calculus and Calculus classes,” said Brand. “I would rather use the unstructured system with the advanced classes because it teaches a sense of what classes in college are going to be like.”
The flipped classroom follows a schedule that can often become continuous and make students bored. Brand said he hopes to change some things to solve this issue in the future.
“While the flipped classroom is good, it does get monotonous at times, so the other thing I’m going to bring into it in the future is some project based learning. I want to have students do things that are a little more fun,” said Brand.