Round Rock High School
Biology and Flipped Classroom
Modern High School
I’m Marla Menchaca, 9th grade Biology teacher at Round Rock High School. RRHS is located in the small city of Round Rock, Texas. It’s a large high school, welcoming around 1000 freshmen each year.
Back in 2014, we decided to introduce the concept of a flipped classroom. Together with a team of other biology teachers, I have been using Explain Everything for over two years for our lessons in this teaching model.
I teach 9th grade biology at RRHS, and I was one of the first teachers at the school to start using Explain Everything. First, I enrolled in and completed the Explain Everything Hands-On Webinar and took part in several others. Afterwards, I shared the original hands-on video and information with other members of her team.
A little bit of history
A Flipped Classroom, also known as Flipped Learning, is a form of blended learning which intends to take students out of a passive role and put them in a more active one. This instructional design approach focuses on how students’ time and attention can be better used depending on a given context. For instance, when a student is working independently (at home on their homework), how might their time be best used? When a student is in the classroom with their peers and their instructor, how might group and discursive interactions be best leveraged?
Video plays a big part in this teaching model. From conceptual explanations and procedural walkthroughs, direct instruction via video allows students to have increased control over the timing and pace of that direct instruction within their educational experience. Live instruction, especially conducted by experts in that setting, can certainly be engaging. Video-based instruction lessons create new opportunities for engagement considering that it may not necessarily be fair or realistic, despite teachers’ best intentions, to expect all students to be “paying attention” in the exact same way at the exact same time during live instruction. When “together” time is thoughtfully used for activities that are better done together (e.g., group work, discussion, feedback), the “flipped” approach is delivering on its intentions.
our teaching model
Why Explain Everything?
The high school started using Explain Everything as their go-to digital whiteboard back in 2019. Teachers adopted it into their biology labs and, as of the 2020-2021 school year, seven Biology teachers at RRHS are using Explain Everything with their students.
Concepts are introduced via an engagement activity during class time with a teacher. Next, for homework, students watch interactive lecture videos made in Explain Everything by their RRHS biology teachers. These videos allow students to watch at their own pace as they take notes, and also allow the students to pause, rewind and rewatch any part of the video at any time. This way, instead of spending class time passively listening to a lecture, students can apply and expand on the content through hands-on activities and labs in the classroom – under the supervision of the teacher, of course.
Explain Everything allows simple, hassle- and stress-free video editing, and for this reason, RRHS teachers initially used Explain Everything mainly to create unique and targeted flipped videos. Then, as we became more comfortable with the platform, we started to differentiate the content we produced in order to have dedicated videos for students at various levels. The lesson topics vary from osmosis and diffusion to ones as complex as DNA mutations.
Explainer videos as an aid for ESL students
No one said biology is easy – and it definitely isn’t if you’re learning it in a second language!
A number of students attending RRHS speak English as a second language.
Most of these students are native Spanish speakers; however, there are also those whose first languages are Chinese, Korean, Japanese and French. RRHS teachers have found creating Explain Everything projects incredibly helpful when it comes to ensuring ESL students are keeping up with their native English-speaking peers. As the explainer videos created by the teachers include both audio and visuals that align (thanks to custom creation), this allows for the simultaneous acquisition of both vocabulary and content. Explainer videos have been instrumental in helping students keep up with their schoolwork by giving them the opportunity to rewatch a video as many times as they need to understand it.
Flipped learning during the pandemic
There’s no doubt that 2020 was a difficult year for all of us, and especially for schools! But teachers faced the challenges thrown at them head on, and one of the ways they succeeded was by using the flipped classroom model.
Labs became more difficult to do. I suggested and produced virtual labs using the Explain Everything platform. I would set up the lab and film it using Explain Everything stages, one slide at a time. This allowed me to highlight the critical portions of the lab and to reduce the length of the video. By producing it in this manner I was also able to intersperse text slides with data, etc.
The biology team at RRHS continued to conduct their lessons at the school – the only difference was that their students were watching the lessons from their homes. The flipped classroom was an effective way for teachers to carry out their experiments, record and edit the video footage using Explain Everything, and then send it off to their students.
Explain Everything for multilingual and flipped classroom
Observation is an important skill, especially in the sciences. Observing both phenomena and procedures can help students better grasp a concept that may have been introduced to via reading or a presentation.
Explain Everything has proved to be the ideal solution for both a flipped classroom and multilingual classroom. The short and easy-to-make videos make the learning experience more personal, as students tend to understand material better when it’s created by their own teacher. Today, as students are finally returning to the classroom, the teachers at RRHS will continue to use this method of recording experiments for students who are absent or who could benefit from watching an experiment again.
Explain Everything for Education
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