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Flipping with Other Videos

Brian Bennett
Teacher and Contributing Writer

July 2017

In November 2015, an independent model from Tubular Labs showed that YouTube received around 500 hours of video content uploaded every minute. There are 1,440 minutes in a day, meaning there was roughly 720,000 hours of video uploaded every day.

That’s a lot of videos.

Granted, many are of cats, kids, and Barbie Jeep Racing, so it’s not necessarily quality content, but you can find a lot of great videos for flipped classrooms if you’re not quite ready to make your own yet.

Where to start?

Before looking at how to choose videos, let’s define the goals of using video as an instructional tool (not method) in the first place. Don’t ask yourself, “How do I get rid of lecture?” because it’s too narrow a focus. The intent of using video should be to create space for students to explore ideas with the support of a teacher.

Ramsey Musallam, a chemistry teacher from San Francisco, says it well: “Good teaching, regardless of discipline, should always limit passive transfer of knowledge in class, and promote learning environments built on the tenets of inquiry, collaboration and critical thinking.”

Flipping can help accomplish the goal of increasing student interaction with material, and using existing videos is an easy way to start that process. When it comes to choosing videos to use with students, I focus on 3 main things:

  1. What value does the video bring?
  2. How well is it presented?
  3. How will it expand on what’s happening in class?

Videos should supplement, not replace your work in the classroom. Your students have a relationship with you, not a video personality. It is important that you frame using outside content as a supporting factor in the interactive and collaborative work happening in the classroom. Otherwise, you run the risk of losing student trust because it might appear that you’re taking the easy way out.

What value does a video bring?

There are situations when a video can help you immediately reclaim some time. Algorithmic processes—solving a problem, correcting grammatical mistakes, putting together a timeline of events—are great starting points. They’re usually short and to the point and they become a self-help library for students.

When you’re in the middle of a larger activity, these can be a “first line of defense” when students ask procedural questions. At the same time, you can pay attention to which videos you’re referring to the most and address those in class together.

The value here is that you’re not bogged down answering the same small question over and over. You’re also not obligated to stop the entire activity. You’ll be teaching students self-reliance by curating helpful instructional videos to get the habit started. Eventually, students will go off and find their own help when they need it.

From another angle, resources are often limited. I can’t always provide concrete examples in the classroom. Using videos to bring in those topics and examples is a great way to bridge the gap.

How well is the video presented?

Presentation isn’t everything, but it is important. As you’re vetting content, pay attention to the content, obviously, but also make sure it isn’t mind-numbing to watch. Audio is very important in this case. A video that is crystal clear but sounds like a drive-through intercom is just as bad as a grainy video you can’t see. Don’t pick the first result in the search, either. Take some time to find a video that fits your needs and won’t cause more confusion for you later.

How will the video expand on what’s happening in class?

Keep the big picture in mind. You’re the teacher, and you set the tone of the course with your students. Any video you choose—instructional or exploratory—should fit in with your day-to-day work. Be explicit and specific about why you’re assigning a video to help students see the big picture. Without making connections for the students, you run the risk of looking lazy, and the videos become another assignment, not a helpful tool.

If you can’t make a solid connection to the learning process, perhaps a video isn’t the best means. It’s a good idea to perform a self-check to make sure you’re providing engaging and meaningful assignments throughout the learning cycle.

A healthy mix of curation and creation

Online video is here to stay. The amount of content available is staggering, both in scale and in the potential to positively impact learning behaviors. In the end, starting with existing video can help you build a foundation for using video as a learning tool. The major time commitment on your end is starting to curate those materials. Most video sites have playlists that you can create and customize, so start saving videos you like to build your own library.

You may find that you can’t locate a video that effectively covers the topic(s) you’re teaching. Don’t be afraid to make your own. You have the relationship with your students, so you are the person who knows what holds their interest best. Making a short video is easier than ever, and you can find several tutorials online to help you get started.

Focus on enhancing the class time. Use the questions above to guide your thinking as you look for materials. If you’re not sure where to start, here are some of my favorite channels:





Smarter Every Day

Videos exploring engineering, biology, and physics



Physics and the culture of science


Flipping Physics

In-depth physics


Bozeman Science

All sciences


It’s Okay to Be Smart

PBS Digital Studios—all sciences