Flipping so Kids Can Rewind May be a Bad Idea

There are times where I wish I could go back, rewind what happened, and listen again. Daydreamers, you know what I’m talking about. Even though it’s not in the official pillars of Flipped Learning, a reason I hear people flipping their instruction is so kids can pause, rewind, and re-watch a portion of the instruction. It sounds powerful, and it gives a great visual of students working hard on their notes, but it may not be as helpful as it initially sounds.

What does the research say?

A 2005 study focused on how students studied using video lectures. I know the technology in 2005 was far inferior to the on-demand video content we have today, but that particular point doesn’t really matter. What I want to focus on is the fact that there are some indications that pausing and rewinding content can be disruptive to the learning process (emphasis added).

Students tried to view an entire lecture in a single session; however, some discovered that pausing was necessary. All participants who interrupted viewing reported that pausing caused a serious problem which involved returning to the break point. Students reported that even though they returned to the precise point at which they stopped, they lost the context and didn’t immediately understand what followed. The following example illustrates this point:

“A pause in watching video is worse than a break in reading a book, because I felt that I have no place to return to. I lost context.”

This is just one example of a more poignant point I’m trying to make – don’t distill the benefits of your methods down to one idea or another. Look at your strategies holistically and be able to explain how they work together to your students’ advantage.

There were interesting counterpoints to the above example in the same article:

Navigating the video backward and forward was difficult and disadvantageous for some students, whereas others found it easy and advantageous. Some examples:

“…it wasn’t easy. You sit in front of the computer for two hours and you can’t mark [content]. Rewinding is annoying.”

“…an advantage is that you can repeat something over and over, like I sometimes do when I read a book; however, I never did it. A few times I stopped and ran the CD-ROM backward and then played it again. It was easy.”

What does this mean for me?

One research study does not a law make. However, the feedback from the students in this study is interesting. In addition to the findings about rewinding content, the authors sum the study up in an interesting way:

Our first finding is that most students tried to study from video as if it was a book; in other words,

these students attempted to transfer learning strategies from one medium to another.

The point is that we have to be careful about two things:

  1. Be careful about how you use video with your students. There is consistent frustration with students not watching them, or watching them ineffectively. Make sure your students understand how their attention patterns for instructional videos have to change. Most of our students use video as background noise – it’s in the back of their minds. If you don’t teach them how to listen for instruction, they will struggle.

  2. Be careful about how you talk about video with other people. Again, think about your students – if they’re pausing and rewinding, is it because they want to hear that piece again for clarity? Or because they missed it the first time through? We need to be cognizant of what the bigger picture is with instructional videos and not continue to promote surface-level ideas with deeper implications.

Other methods for repetition

Repetition isn’t a bad thing – the methods we typically rely on for repetition aren’t so great. Here are some ideas for how to revisit ideas with your students:

  1. Spiraling. Be explicit in revisiting previous concepts in subsequent lessons. This is easy to do in science and math, where content builds throughout the year. Look for thematic similarities in English and History. Ask students to draw parallels between what they’re currently learning and what you’ve done in the past.

  2. Context is key! Put your students into situations where they’re forced to think back to previous work. This is similar to spiraling, but it’s more than just mentioning, “think back to when we did…” Planning is important as making contextual connections in your lessons will help students solidify their understanding.

  3. Examples. Homework keys aren’t much fun, but various examples of how to solve a particular problem or answer a prompt can help students make connections. In fact, I started flipping by recording homework examples for my AP Chemistry students. They saw the ideas again, but in context.

Lastly, remember “getting it” isn’t the important part. Yes, we want our students to have multiple opportunities to get a concept, but that’s just step one. If they don’t understand an idea the first or second time through a video, a third or fourth time through may not help much. Don’t fall back on, “Have you watched it again?” Be sure to ask questions, see what they do understand, and then build out a plan from there.

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