Ready to Flip? 3 Animated Video Sites for Science Instruction

Recent posts, tweets & articles have anointed “reverse instruction” and flipped classrooms as the wave of today’s future.  (See The Flipped Classroom Network for a short video description, and Dan Pink’s article on Karl Fisch‘s reverse instruction techniques for more examples of this type of instruction.  Or just Google ‘flipped classroom’.)  Teachers across the world are turning their instruction upside-down, delivering knowledge-focused content that would normally comprise class time as video homework instead.  Generally (though not always) lecture-driven, these videos open up opportunities to bring the application of content knowledge into the classroom, skills that had previously been saved for “drill & kill” homework.  It’s an interesting concept- one that I expect would appeal to those looking for ways to get more authentic learning opportunities through the classroom door, or others trying to shed the label of “sage on the stage” in favor of becoming the “guide on the side”.

Of course, in order to offer “take-home” exposure to content, one must have access to quality videos about the topics at hand.  As with anything else, you can either make them or find them elsewhere (or some combination of the two).  

Hence this series of blog posts, a collection of links to websites containing some interesting videos of all styles and subjects, any of which could potentially fit a teacher’s “flipping” needs.  Over the next week, I’ll publish posts where I have sorted video sites into one of four categories: Animated Video ExplanationsLecture-Style VideosMade-for-TV Videos, and YouTube DIY-Style Videos. For each site, I have tried to summarize by including information about

  • content areas collected on the site,
  • the intended grade level/age of viewers, and
  • the type/style of video (e.g. lecture with written notes, music video, made-for-TV)

There should also be an example video posted along each title.  Between the description, the links, and sample video, you should end up with a pretty good idea of what you’re getting into.  (Note: after being organized into categories, these sites are listed alphabetically by title, not based on any evaluation of relative quality.)

Animated Video Explanations

Brain Pop http://www.brainpop.com/

Content Areas: Earth, Life & Physical are all represented, as is Engineering (and several other disciplines, too)

Intended Age Group: In the site’s Standards Search, there are related videos and activities PK-12.

Style of videos: Animated cartoon characters responding to e-mail questions

Sample video: http://www.brainpop.com/science/energy/windenergy/ 

Description: These videos are usually between 3-5 minutes in length (something common among most of the more effective sites), making the point clearly and concisely.  Following each video, students have the option of completing an activity, taking a online quiz, or going into the FAQs to learn more.  The stories in the videos themselves bring some context upon which students could build within class time.  There’s also a nice little Educator’s Corner with some resources (including those for the IWB) that might be of interest.  One downside: This is a paid site.  While there are several “freebies” available on the site, those only help you out if they apply to your curriculum.

CommonCraft http://www.commoncraft.com

Content Areas: Organized into 4 categories: “Green”, “Money”, “Society”, and “Technology”.

Intended Age Group: Generally a site intended for adult learning, though I’ll bet kids grade 3 and up could follow just fine, depending on purpose.

Style of videos: Narration over cut-out images and hand gestures that visually represent the narrative text

Sample video: CFL Light Bulbs in plain English

Description: These videos are intended as “plain English” explanations of normally complicated Web 2.0 buzzwords: RSS, Cloud Computing, Blogs, and Social Media in the Workplace are but a few of the topics addressed by the site.  This is the first place I go when looking for ways to explain technically complex IT topics.  Fear not, those looking for non-tech content: the folks at CommonCraft have also created a couple of explanations around more people-centered topics such as Electing a US President and CFL Light Bulbs.  If nothing else, it’s worth looking at this style of video to give you some ideas of ways to present content to your own students.  And if you’re looking for a little laugh, check out Zombies in plain English.  “Remember, zombies don’t eat candy.  Only brains!”

P.S. Commoncraft also has a YouTube channel.

Hippocampus http://www.hippocampus.org/

Content Areas: Biology, Environmental Science, and Physics, as well as several other disciplines

Intended Age Group: These videos seem to align to high school textbooks, though most students of any age could probably follow along.

Style of videos: Predominantly one speaker over animated slides of information

Sample video: Water & Life: An Overview

Description: HippoCampus is a project of the Monterey Institute for Technology and Education (MITE). According to the website, “the goal of HippoCampus is to provide high-quality, multimedia content on general education subjects to high school and college students free of charge.”  All in all, this is a pretty solid ‘first stop’ on the road to finding the right content for a flipped classroom concept.  While other paid websites may house more ‘engaging’ presentations than some of those available here, this site is so dense and full of great info that it would be a shame to pass it by.  Hippocampus is also in development of a new look for their site to serve more as a curator of free online digital content– as it fills out, the site would be another great place to kick-start ideas for your classroom.

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If you know of other sites that would fit this criteria, please share them in the comments section below.  Happy flipping!
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