Flipping my classroom with Present.me

Geordie Raine

Born and raised in Canada but now calling London, England home, Geordie Raine is entering his 13th year in the classroom. The last four years have been spent teaching in the UK. He has an enormous passion for history and a fascination with its interplay with politics. Always keen to innovate and stay on top of the latest research in education, he’d welcome the chance to connect with the likeminded. He has taught and History and Politics at A Level and GCSE at a non-selective state comprehensive school, and is currently the head of History and Politics at Immanuel College in Bushey.

Born and raised in Canada but now calling London, England home, Geordie Raine is entering his 13th year in the classroom. The last four years have been spent teaching in the UK. He has an enormous passion for history and a fascination with its interplay with politics. Always keen to innovate and stay on top of the latest research in education, he’d welcome the chance to connect with the likeminded. He has taught and History and Politics at A Level and GCSE at a non-selective state comprehensive school, and is currently the head of History and Politics at Immanuel College in Bushey.
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Originally published on 28th September 2016 Originally published on 28th September 2016

Three years ago, when the government announced the new linear A Levels, I began looking for ways to help students meet the challenge, both at this level and at GCSE. In History and Politics these changes promised courses would be more rigorous, content heavy, and demanding. While I support the shift to a knowledge-based curriculum, I did share many colleagues’ concerns about the feasibility of adding the demands of this new curriculum to an already incredibly demanding working environment.

I openly wondered how I would have the class time to teach an expanded knowledge curriculum, new and more demanding exam techniques, and give the necessary feedback and the one-to-one attention students require to succeed. In History particularly the new exam structure promised to feature more complicated exam technique, requiring analysis of complex sources in all papers. Beyond this, I hold a firm belief and desire to stretch and challenge my students where appropriate, and class time spent on this might mean I’d likely struggle to finish the curriculum before exams.

In 2014 I began experimenting with alternatives to the status quo. These had to reflect the current academic consensus on how best to integrate enrichment with academic success. This is when I had my ‘Paul on the road to Damascus’ moment, and I began to leverage technology.

I was fortunate enough to attend a"I hold a firm belief and desire to stretch and challenge my students where appropriate." conference where, in a brief breakout session on the flipped classroom, I was introduced to the technology of Present.me. After a successful trial in 2014 I fully adopted the flipped classroom approach. Since then I’ve recorded over 150 videos on Present.me, covering each topic in our curriculum, demonstrating how to write essays, walking students through exemplars of written work both good and bad, giving critical analysis like an examiner would, and allowing students to use the video and screen capture technology to develop their own presentations.

Students access these through a web classroom on Edmodo where I supplement the Present.me videos with differentiated required reading, documentaries, and extensions. They are expected to arrive in lessons prepared with the relevant content. Class time is used to broaden the perspectives on the subject matter through debating unpopular assumptions, challenging historians’ opinions, and to be exposed to a wide range of co-curricular reading beyond what is required.

This approach also allows me more time in class for targeted intervention and work on exam technique. There is no doubt, as the research indicates (Eccles and Barber (1999) & Kayria et al (2002)), that the ability to analyse has improved in my students. Present.me has allowed me to free up class time otherwise used for content delivery to increase student’s exposure to texts and ideas that they wouldn’t access otherwise. Students are now able to draw on a larger range of educational capital. I have also noticed significant improvements in motivation for self-growth and intellectual exploration, which mirrors the findings of Gottfried et al (2005).

My recent success in a non-selective state comprehensive environment lends validity to this vision. Five students in my last A2 History class hold Oxbridge places. Perhaps no better statistic demonstrates the success of my approach than my positive value added exam results across five GCSE and A-Level classes. In 2015 I was one of the very few teachers across the school who could boast this. This year, I replicated these results achieving a positive value added score in all my exam classes with my AS class achieving an impressive +9 value added score.

By and large, the students have been enthusiastic supporters of the flipped classroom and the videos made with Present.me. Unsurprisingly, the parents have been very supportive of the concept, and are often the first ones to tell me how effective and wonderful they are. Some families commented at parent evenings over the last few years that they watch them together. Students on the other hand had mixed views initially. The majority, I would say, liked the idea from the get go. Others begrudged the fact that they would have homework and need to be more active participants in their learning. I even recall one observation lesson where the observer, a member of the SLT, challenged me and my approach over a comment a student made. The student had said that he didn’t enjoy the videos and wished I would just “teach them normal”. The observer questioned if I was “meeting the learning needs of all of my students?”

That student now holds a place at Oxford reading History after achieving an A* after two years in a flipped classroom. There was a noticeable difference in student attitudes toward my use of Present.me during the second year. After an outstanding set of exam results in year one, by the next September students in other classes were asking to be included in my Edmodo classroom so they could access the videos for revision. It was obvious to me what was going on. The students were talking and they saw this as a way to secure good grades. What’s more, after the most recent A Level results were released I received this email from a student who was a predicted a B but scored an A* at A2 History and Politics:

“I just wanted to say a massive thank you for all your hard work over the past two years. I wouldn't have been able to do so well in History or Politics without your dedication to the subjects! I really benefitted from your videos - especially for revision purposes, and wanted you to know how appreciated they were.”

Present.me is great technology. It is simple and easy to use for a busy teacher."By the next September students in other classes were asking to be included." The interface makes sense, the quality of presentations is good, and students and parents find it equally easy to access and very valuable. The cost is minimal. I currently use the ‘Pro’ plan, which gives me 30 recordings a month which costs around £12. Some months I make close to 30, others I do not. I have not yet had the need to upgrade to the ‘Business’ plan, which offers unlimited recordings, but I could see the value of this if the school were to use this as a strategy – which is a very good idea, all things considered.

My journey with Present.me has been incredibly successful. Professionally, I am now on the ‘cutting edge’ of teaching and learning. It has led, I believe, my role as head of History and Politics. In this role I will definitely encourage the department to use Present.me. Flipping my classroom has been a lot of hard work. Making videos for each lesson takes time, but they are reusable if curriculums stay fixed, and the results show that it improves attainment, attitudes to learning, analysis and motivation for self-growth. That is what I wanted out of this foray in the first place. Could it work for you?

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