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Evolution of a Flipped Classroom

Welcome to series of Blog Posts brought to you by some amazing past Siemens STEM Institute and STARs Fellows. Today's guest blogger is Azucena Overman who teaches geometry and coaches the UIL Number Sense, Calculator and Mathematics teams at Cedar Ridge High School in Round Rock, Texas. Take a moment to discover more about Azucena  following her  post. Please be sure to read and share…  make sure you give us a  follow on twitter at SiemensSTEMAcad .  As always, thanks for joining us at the Siemens STEM Academy!  Now… read on… and  have a STEMtastic week! – Mike Gorman

When I first signed up for Flipped Classroom training in the fall of 2012 I did not realize how much it would impact my classroom.  I had already been experimenting with doing video lessons for my substitutes but the workshop made me rethink what my classroom could look like.  Here are a few of the reasons I decided to make the switch:

  1. My biggest personal challenge was pacing.  I can explain well but I like to spend a lot of time questioning the students which extends the lesson.  I also had to spend time on classroom management while teaching the lesson.  Add in the irksome interruptions like messages coming from the office, phone calls, etc. and I was lucky to get sufficient practice time before sending my students off with their homework.
  2. I was excited about having the videos as a resource for students who were out sick or for school activities.  It was my first year teaching high school and I didn't realize how handy this would be in the spring which is even worse than the fall for student activities.
  3. I also hoped that my ELL students would take advantage of the fact that they could do the video at their own pace and rewind and pause as needed.

I knew that the best way to fail is not to commit so I decided to completely flip starting in January 2013 and worked on flipping the next unit over Christmas break.  It was my first year of teaching Geometry and I discovered that flipping makes me work further ahead making me a better prepared teacher.  The other reason that I completely flipped was to establish a routine and structure for my students so they wouldn’t have to guess if this lesson would be flipped or not. Here are some of the big pieces of my flipped classroom and how they have evolved.

  • Videos: I create my own videos because as the teacher, I want to be able to shape the lesson.  Secondly, I felt that my role as video creator establishes my credibility with both students and their parents.  My prior substitute videos were too long so I wanted to speed things up.  Instead of capturing video as I wrote the lesson, I prewrote the lesson and animated each step.  Initially this may have involved scans of notes but I noticed that many of my students preferred to use their phones with their smaller screens to do their homework so now I primarily use PowerPoint, so I can have larger handwriting and fonts.  I create the slides and then add in handwriting using the ink tools and animate each step.  This provides the advantage that I have carefully thought out the lesson and I am almost always able to capture it in one take.  I also intersperse screen capture video of virtual manipulatives like Geogebra to better illustrate the concepts. I used to try to capture the entire lesson in one video but find it is better when I parse the videos into the 2 or 3 main concepts.  Now that I am using Cornell notes, I frequently have 1 video for each page of notes.  It’s not necessary to create fancy videos.  My most popular video with over 4000 views shows how to find the apothem with just a document camera, a sheet of school paper and a few markers.  This illustrates how a well-structured lesson is more important than all the bells and whistles.  That said, I still like bells and whistles so I also created a short history of geometry video by capturing myself drawing the illustrations and then speeding up the video and adding in narration and a royalty free soundtrack.  That’s my second most popular video.  For students who have internet access challenges, I have burned DVD’s that could be played in a normal DVD player.  I have noticed a large drop in demand for this just in the past year.
  • Notes: Geometry is highly visual and good images are important so I was already creating notes for students to fill in.  Additionally, note-taking is one of the most effective strategies to improve student learning.  I initially started with a combination of fill in the blank notes and few examples.  I graded the notes for completion as I took attendance.  It’s surprising how many high school students initially only copy the answers instead of the work for the examples.    I noticed that my students improved at showing work on their tests and quizzes because they had to show work when copying the examples in the notes. This past spring I made a switch to a Cornell notes framework where I still use some fill in the blank but now add in questions on the margins for them.  I would have all of the information for the right side in the videos but would just pose the questions in the margins.  At the beginning of class, we recap the lesson by having the students provide their answers to the questions.  In the fall, I will still start with a more complete framework but will migrate the students to creating their own questions over the course of the year.  Some teachers ask what happens if they don’t do their notes.  Since I personally check the notes as I take attendance and set an expectation that they will do it, a fairly large portion will do the notes. Admittedly, they may have just copied them from a classmate but on the bright side, I got them to write notes, which was always a challenge in the traditional classroom.
  • Classwork:  After doing a warm up and a quick review of the notes, the students work in pairs or small groups.  Their packet includes answer keys because it’s impossible for me to assess everything done by everyone in the classroom.  Because they have the answers, they are expected to show work to support the answers.  Surprisingly some students refuse to look at the keys and forget that they are there.  I spend most of the class walking around helping students which gives me the luxury of also getting to know them better mathematically and personally. After a specified length of time, we regroup as a class to discuss the answers and fix common misconceptions. It sometimes surprises me how much more engaged they become during group work as the year progresses because they learn to help each other and question each other.
  • Geogebra Applets:  I also find and make my own Geogebra applets to better illustrate the concepts.  These are both shown in the videos but links to the applets are also on the lesson web page so the students can play with these on their own.

How will this classroom evolve next year?  Well I was fortunate enough to be selected as the pilot for the Next Generation Digital Classroom on my high school campus.  Currently we are looking at getting a classroom set of tablets.  Now instead of hoping my students will play with the Geogebra applets on their own, we can have the entire class use them.  Taking it a step further, they should even create their own applets.  I’m also incorporating Edmodo and Twitter in the classroom since accessibility will be less of an issue.  I’m looking forward to spending this summer exploring apps to make their lessons more engaging and relevant.  

Azucena Overman, Round Rock, TX ..... Cedar Ridge High School

Azucena Overman teaches geometry and coaches the UIL Number Sense, Calculator and Mathematics teams at Cedar Ridge High School in Round Rock, Texas. After obtaining a B.S. in Physics from the University of Texas at Austin, she worked in various industries, including analytical instrumentation, rapid prototyping, advanced materials and structural health monitoring, eventually earning a Masters of Business Administration at the University of Texas Executive MBA program in Austin. After joking for many years that she would teach math when she retired, she stopped waiting and was accepted into the Texas Teaching Fellows program for teachers in high needs areas including mathematics and science.  "Having worked in technology and education, I can see the importance and challenge of preparing our students to be future real world problem solvers. The Siemens STEM Institute is an invaluable opportunity to enhance my classroom with real world STEM experiences and increase both rigor and student engagement."  

We hope you enjoyed reading about making that STEM Tech Integration plan with Azucena.  Please take the time to retweet and pass this information out to other STEM educators you think might be interested!  Now is also a great time to sign up for an RSS  feed and also follow us on twitter at SiemensSTEMAcad.  We have more great STEM information coming your way including more STEM ideas from our past Fellows. Have a great week  and take some time to start making your own STEMtastic learning connections… today. – Mike Gorman (21centuryedtech)    

Posted on July 20, 2014 by Michael Gorman








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Meet the Contributors

Mike Gorman

Mike is an advocate for transforming education and bringing 21st Century Skills to classrooms. He was awarded Indiana STEM Educator of the Year and honored as a Microsoft 365 Global Education Hero.
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Lance Rougeux

Lance has been featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer and was recently highlighted in The Emergency Teacher, a book about urban teaching.
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Kyle Schutt

Kyle has worked with educators throughout the country to help them better understand how technology and digital media can be used to support instruction, motivate students, and increase passion for learning.
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