How to Flip Your Classroom:
Technology Ideas for Your Music Program and Rehearsals
By NAfME Member Meghan Cabral
Article originally published in New York State Band Directors Association’s Band Stand.
Classroom flipping is showing up in many classrooms across the country and is becoming much easier and more accessible. You may be flipping your classroom currently and not even realize it. So how can we flip a music classroom?
What Is It?
When teachers flip their classrooms, they record lessons through video or podcasts to have students watch the night prior to class. I view these as “mini” lessons or introductory lessons. A flipped video is not a 40-minute video lesson, but rather the introduction to the lesson. For example, when I teach dotted quarter followed by eighth notes to my students, it does not take me 40 minutes to explain how to count it; it takes maybe 7, which includes students writing in their counting charts, echoing my counting, and counting a few examples together. The students and I then utilize class time to reinforce the counting and put it into practice, but the actual flipped lesson takes a short amount of time.
So How and What Can You Flip?
There are many, many programs out there to help you flip successfully. Here are a few I’ve tried that I have found to work appropriately to my needs as a music teacher.
1. Smart phone or tablet
This is an easy way to record yourself since most people have access to their smartphones or tablets quickly and easily. If the lighting in the room is good, you can even utilize the flipped camera so that you can set it up quickly. It is very easy to trim a video on the phone or tablet to erase the beginning or end as you start and stop the video.
- Issue: The issues I have encountered with this is memory and video transfer. If you do not have enough memory on your phone to hold a full 7- to 8-minute video, it will shut off before you have finished recording. The other issue is transferring the video to the computer, or YouTube. If you are recording in school and you have Wi-Fi access that allows you to upload videos, then you are fine. Otherwise you must utilize your own data, or wait until you get to Wi-Fi to email yourself the video or to upload it to YouTube.
- Flipping Ideas: Recording yourself showing students how to buzz, practice on their mouthpieces, or how to sit with good posture. Recording an excerpt, you want the students to learn or practice.
Yes, I realize it is not 2009 anymore, but the FlipCam works great because it typically has a lot more memory then your phone, and it has an easily accessible USB cable to immediately transfer videos to computer for easy upload.
- Issue: Make sure you have new batteries!
- Flipping Ideas: Same ideas as with your smartphone or tablet.
3. Smart Board
If you have a smartboard installed on your computer, you have the Smart software. With this software comes a camera application that can record your computer screen. The Smart recorder has settings to record your entire computer screen or a portion of it. You can start and stop the video as you are recording. You can also record anything that is on the screen! The Smart recorder can be used to record not just in smart notebook but also PDF files or other documents or even videos.
- Issue: You need a microphone attached to your computer. If your Smart Board projector buzzes, you will get a buzz in your video recording depending on the microphone you have. If you make a mistake, you cannot delete just a section of your video while you are recording. You would have to continue recording and then utilize iMovie or Moviemaker to edit the video.
- Flipping Ideas: You can record lessons on rhythm, for example, how to count dotted quarter notes. Students can see step by step exactly how you can go through a measure and section and break it down. You can record other lessons for students having them practice counting along with you. Theory lessons can be recorded on major vs. minor intervals, scales, enharmonics. Anything that you would usually teach with a smartboard or whiteboard could be recorded!
If you have PowerPoint slides you already use in class, maybe for Theory class or introductions to pieces or what a march is, you can record the lesson through PowerPoint recorder.
- Issue: You need a microphone; however, unlike recording with the Smart Board, you can set it up on any computer, so you can do it in a quiet office. My biggest issue though is you cannot write on the screen easily if you want to write counting in while you are talking, unless you are utilizing a Smart Board.
- Flipping Ideas: You could record major scales with the scale on the screen. You can for example have a D major scale in a PowerPoint, show the students the “problem” notes to look out for, and then play the scale and have the students play along with you while they are watching the video.
Educreations: This app is great. You can input a picture or just draw on the screen. I was able to save a PDF file from my e-mail as a picture onto my photo stream, and then I inputted the photo into Educreations, and I recorded my dotted quarter note followed by eighth note lesson. This allowed me to write on the screen and record. The positive of this app is that not only can you start and pause your recording as you are doing it, you can also edit out or trim a section while the recording is paused. So, if you make a mistake, you can immediately take the mistake out, watch the video from before the mistake, and then keep recording.
- Issue: The app itself is free. You can record videos for free, and Educreations will give you a link directly to the video for you to share. It does take you to an Educreations website to watch the video. You cannot download the video unless you pay for the subscription. There are monthly and yearly subscription options, so you could just pay for the one month to download your videos when you make them.
ShowMe: This app is very similar to Educreations. You can input a photo and draw directly on it. The only difference, to my knowledge, is that you cannot trim the videos here, so if you make a mistake, you need to either record the entire thing over, or you need to keep recording redoing the mistake, and then download the video to trim out the original mistake. However . . .
- Issue: Same as Educreations, it is free to download and make a video, but if you want to download it, you have to pay a fee
Flipping Ideas: Anything that you can save as a picture you can record utilizing these apps. In addition, anything that you would usually teach utilizing a white board or a smartboard (or even a chalk board!) you could record in one of these apps.
*Suggestion for any tablet or smart phone recording:
- Make sure you have a stylus. It does not have to be a fancy pen, just a pen with the “squishy” part on the back to write on touch screens. This is MUCH more accurate than your finger.
- Practice with the stylus before you start recording.
My Flipping Process
The videos below are in two parts. They are both a recording of me recording a portion of my lesson with our Smart Board. This gives you a look into “how” I record flipped lessons for my band class. The students do not see the recording like this, they would only see what is on the Smart Board screen.
After recording this, I realized that our new Smart Board projector buzzes, so it interfered with the sound quality of my recording. Since the sound quality was not good, I ended up recording the same lesson on Educreations. Here is the finished product for you to view or utilize.
As you will see in the video, the red line around the smart notebook application is the section I am recording. During the recording, I was able to pause the video in order to fix the pen size and move some words around. The students or viewer would not see me changing the pen size. At one point, I had to pause the video because I forgot to put a “Recording in Process” sign on the door and my colleague was coming into the room. As I recorded the original version, I realized that my metronome tempo was WAY too fast, so I adjusted the tempo when I redid the recording with Educreations.
My Flipping Thoughts
As you can see, flipped classroom lessons do not need to be fancy. For this video, I utilize a screenshot of the rhythm method we use, “Teaching Rhythm Logically.” The flipped lessons also do not need to take a lot of time. I have found the most frustrating thing for me is not the time the recording takes but the sound quality of the recording.
The other issue with flipping your lessons is that it is very HARD, at least for me, to be interactive on a recording, when you are not interacting with students. The lessons sometimes sound very dry. As you see from my recording, there are times when I want to just point to something on the Smart Board, as I would do if there was a classroom full of students. The students watching the lesson, cannot see me point to something to show that a dotted quarter note and a quarter tied to an eighth note are the same thing; so instead I must remember to circle or highlight the idea whatever it is that I want to emphasize to the students.
What Else Can Be Flipped?
- Listening Lessons: Create a SurveyMonkey survey, a Google survey, or Microsoft forms, for students to fill out while listening to a recording. (SurveyMonkey has a free version, as does Google!) Require students to give at least “x” amount of specific comments and ask them to include specific measure numbers. You can then export the surveys into Excel and sort by the measure numbers. Then take these comments and rehearse just the measures the students thought needed improvement over the next few rehearsals.
- Self Evaluations: If you have access to Google Docs, a blog, or Microsoft 365 you can easily flip your self evaluations with the students.
- Recordings: Students can listen to their performance or run through and make comments and suggestions for improvement. Students can do this on their own or in a collaborative file such as a Google Doc or a Microsoft document.
- Professional Recordings: Students can watch a video from YouTube or listen to a professional recording and give observations. Students again can collaborate through a cloud-based document, or they can give individual feedback to the teacher.
About the author:
NAfME member Meghan Cabral teaches middle school band and works in Carmel, NY. Meghan is a GRAMMY-nominated Music Educator Award™ quarterfinalist for 2017, has written for many music publications including The Instrumentalist Magazine, NAfME’s Teaching Music, Music Educator Journal, NYSBDA’s Band Stand, as well as NYSSMA’s School Music News. Meghan is an active guest conductor as well as clinician for music departments and at state conferences. You can follow Meghan on Twitter @band_mcabral, or Instagram @band_cabral, or contact her at email@example.com. To find out more information about Meghan check out her website, or her new publication, “A New Band Approach,” which includes flipped classroom videos ready for day 1 of beginning band, as well as specific posture charts and more for each individual student with “tricks” and helpful hints at www.anewbandapproach.com.