Quick, Low-Tech Ways to Film Instructional Video

I like to film quick, low-tech, no-editing instructional videos for students.

Quick, because I’m a teacher and who has enough time?
Low-Tech means that I use items around the house and classroom or items that are cheap to buy.
No-Editing, because my students don’t care, and they find it funny when I make a mistake and keep going on. And… of course.. for time. And research backs me up in that no-editing is fine for student learning.

Here’s an explanatory video of how I use my iPad and iPhone to film video.

Ideas for holding up your device

A empty set of plant lights with a flexible arm clamp works for demonstrating labs with an overhead view.
The arm can be twisted to get the shot I need.

I filmed this Fecal Coliform Bacteria demonstration using the above method.

Use the flexible arm to film yourself at a whiteboard or at your desk or other location.

I used the flexible arm clamp on a lab table to film this Gross Primary Production/Net Primary Productivity demonstration. (Note, I did edit this video, but that’s because I had the time, its not necessary to edit most of what you film).

For funding ideas to purchase any of these items, read this post.

Good luck!

* AP® is a trademark registered and/or owned by the College Board which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse this site.

How I Structure My Flipped Class

My “flipping” method has evolved over the past 3 years. This is my current approach for a flipped class. For reference, I teach on a traditional schedule of 55 minutes per day. For research, best practices, advice, and computer access, read this post.

Notes at Home on Video

I recorded all my sticky-note videos for my textbook (Environment, the Science Behind the Stories by Withgott and Laposata). The videos are about 30-45 minutes of per chapter (broken up into smaller videos). Students watch at home and sticky-note their own book (there are other options for students that you can read on my sticky-note post). The time is typically 1 to 2 nights of homework depending on length of chapter. Students will pause the video and write so it takes them 60-90 minutes at home. Students watch these videos on Edpuzzle with questions that I embedded. Students get their first “notes” grade for their accuracy on Edpuzzle questions as a homework grade. Students do this assignment first to introduce the chapter.

This is my own son doing his sticky-notes at home.

Reading and Edpuzzles at Home

Homework other nights during the chapter consists of reading 1-2 sections of the chapter (The Withgott book typically has 4 sections per chapter). Along with this, they are assigned several mini-videos (2-5 minutes each) from YouTube, Bozeman, National Geographic orTed-Ed that are found on Edpuzzle. These mini-videos help reinforce what is read. Students are graded for accuracy on answering questions embedded in Edpuzzle as a homework grade.

These are the mini-videos assigned with readings for chapter 22 in my textbook.

Reading Quizzes in Class

After 1-2 nights of readings and Edpuzzle homework assignments, students take an online reading quiz. Usually 2-3 quizzes per chapter. The quizzes are on my textbook’s companion website “Mastering Environmental Science” by Pearson. I give 11 questions for 10 points (they get a freebie point) in 7 minutes. Randomized and not every student gets the same 11 questions. Accuracy counts and it is a quiz grade. Some students do not read and only watch Edpuzzles, but they don’t do well on the quizzes and they soon learn as their grade in the class slowly drops.

Physical Note Check in Class

I check notes for 2 chapters at a time the day before an exam. Students can bring in their books with sticky-notes, or the same information written on lined paper or show me their virtual sticky notes on an e-book. I go around the room and flip through the pages or stamp papers and mark on my seating chart. I do not collect. This is their second “notes” grade in my flipped class and is a homework grade (or sometimes a lab/activity grade if I want more compliance).

Note Check

What Do We Do During Class Time?

I often remind students of the items that used to be homework that I now allow during class. This helps them understand why notes are at home and gets it out of their brains that they have more homework in a flipped class. They actually have LESS homework and notes at home are easy. The hard stuff is now done during class. Its kind of funny, but I actually still run out of time in class for everything I want to do.

  • Labs and Activities-My labs are not as rushed with a flipped class and students have time to think and process data.
  • Time to discuss difficult analysis questions based on science practices with groups and finish lab reports in class. Prevents copying and much stronger reports turned in by students.
  • Time to do group lab reports on Flipgrid for a few labs (like EcoColumns).
  • Math is done in class so students can get help and I can make sure they’re doing their own work instead of copying. I can afford lots of days in class for math which really helps kids on the AP Exam.
  • Online tutorials on the Mastering program. This used to be homework, but students would screenshot the answers in group texts. Now in class, they do authentic work and learn the material for the exam.
  • An important film that reinforces content.
  • Difficult content such as El Nino, Air Pollution or making graphic organizers.
  • Graphing practice or other new skill such as LD-50.
El Nino Notes

AP® is a trademark registered and/or owned by College Board, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse this site.

Flipped Classroom-Reflections and Changes for Year 2

I recently finished the second year of a flipped classroom for AP® Environmental Science and my students did very well on the AP® Exam. I have a lot of first-time AP® kids that aren’t the typical honors student. Flipping helps not only these kids, but all students learn content at their own pace.

For year two, I changed a few things.  (You can read about how I flipped the first year here and you can scroll to the bottom for a sample week’s assignments). After the first year, student feedback indicated that an overwhelming number of kids liked and learned well from this method, but 10% hated it. They explained that they thought there was more homework (there wasn’t), learned better from an in-class lecture, were used to copying homework, and/or were too lazy to do notes at home.

My goal this year was help all kids understand and embrace a flipped classroom since it can be very helpful to students and the vast majority of my students love it. And, more importantly, kids learn more and achieve higher scores on exams.

Caveat: A flipped classroom is not for every teacher, class or school. It can only work if students have access to resources at home. I work with the 1-2 students each year without computer or internet access to provide them with an individualized, easy solution (borrowed device, videos on a flash drive, etc). I also don’t think its good for NGSS where most learning is inquiry with labs or via literature, not lecture. 


  • Communication. This year, I constantly referred to Bloom’s taxonomy, Depth of Knowledge and AP® Science practices (which are posted in the front of the room) when explaining an assignment. The AP® Exam is 2/3 higher level thinking and I tell them that. I reiterated periodically to students that they don’t have more homework with a flipped classroom, just different homework. For example, some days, I told kids at the beginning of class that they have today’s class time to do this lab write-up since notes are at home.  Notes are the “easy stuff”, skills and AP® Science Practices are the “hard stuff” and will be done in class. More about communicating to parents and students can be found here. Communicating worked, sort of. I still had 9% of my students who didn’t embrace flipped (shown on the graph below with a 1 or 2 ranking), but they didn’t say that they felt that I gave more homework.The great news is that more kids chose a 5 below which indicated that they understood why this method works for their learning.
    On the graph below:
    1: No I didn’t learn well this way.
    5: Yes, it was great to learn this way.

The vast majority of students reported that they learned better with a flipped classroom.

Here is a sampling of why they chose the number they did.

This is a sampling of student responses about flipping.

Overall, I am still very pleased with a flipped classroom. The kids learn well from it and enjoy class time more.

  • Lecture/Notes before reading assignments. On the suggestion of my students, I switched the order of homework after the first few months. I used to have students read at home and do in-class reading quizzes for homework and then do lecture notes (I do sticky notes) for homework using Edpuzzle for accountability. Then, I switched to doing lecture note videos first for homework, followed by reading assignments and in-class quizzes.  This was their feedback.

My students preferred sticky note lecture before reading assignments.

I think that kids understood material in the book better when I went through the chapter via sticky note lecture before they had to read it. I plan to continue with this method in my flipped classroom.

  • Gave less reading quizzes by combining sections. My textbook has about 4 sections per chapter. I used to give one section to read and a few little Edpuzzle videos (2-3 minutes) for homework followed by an in-class, open-book, timed, randomized, online reading quiz the next day. I started combining sections for the quizzes. I still gave only one section per night, but a quiz every other day (I am on a traditional schedule where I see the kids for 55 min each day).  This forced kids to read more carefully.
  • Check and give credit for notes 2 ways. My sticky note lectures are on Edpuzzle. Students must get most of the questions correct for credit. The questions are embedded from what I say, not what I write. This ensures that they actually LISTEN to my lecture instead of watching it, taking notes and listening to their own music. In addition, I do a note-check the day before the exam (two chapters at a time) to make sure they did the physical notes. These count for more credit.

Sample Week for a Flipped Classroom in APES

  • Weekend homework: Chapter 9 Sticky Notes on Edpuzzle
  • Monday class: Lab Set up
  • Monday homework: Read 9.1 and watch 3 mini Edpuzzles (ones that give visuals for 9.1)
  • Tuesday class: Math review and practice
  • Tuesday homework: Read 9.2 and watch 2 mini Edpuzzles
  • Wednesday class: 9.1/9.2 reading quiz (open-book, 10 questions, 7 minutes, randomized). Discuss results of quiz and misconceptions. Gather lab data.
  • Wednesday homework: Read 9.3 and watch 3 mini Edpuzzles
  • Thursday class: Finish lab data and questions, plan for group lab report on Flipgrid.
  • Thursday homework: Read 9.4 and watch 4 mini Edpuzzles
  • Friday class:  9.3/9.4 reading quiz. Film flipgrid with groups
  • Weekend homework: Chapter 10 sticky notes on Edpuzzle

Students like the flipped more classroom and more importantly, they learn from it. Here’s some feedback this year from my students:

By the way, I also ask them ways I can improve…but I didn’t post those here. 🙂



Communicating “Why I flipped” to Students and Parents (or Admins)

I believe explaining WHY I do something in class is important for students. While they don’t get to decide or vote on the way my class is run, explaining the thought process or data behind a method models higher level thinking — which is the whole point of a flipped class.

Higher Level Thinking

Flipped classrooms provide more time for higher level thinking.  For Depth of Knowledge, that’s levels 3 and 4.  Levels 1 and 2 are important, but they’re easy. During the first week of school I hand out copies of Depth of knowledge, Bloom’s Taxonomy and AP® Science Practices.

Image from this blogsite

I ask the kids “Which level/s do notes mostly fall into?” and we discuss that notes and textbooks mostly cover DOK 1 and DOK 2.  But the AP® Exam mostly tests on DOK 3 and DOK 4 using content learned in the lower levels.
Then we look at Bloom’s Taxonomy which identifies exam questions. We discuss that learning the lower 2 levels is important because they need content knowledge and lots of it in AP, but that’s the easy stuff. I tell my students that the “easy” stuff is mostly at home. 

“Remember” and “Understand” are lower level thinking

By doing the easy stuff at home, a flipped class can focus and spend more time on the harder stuff (apply, analyze, evaluate and create) during class time.  I also give them the exam breakdown–over 60% of the exam is higher level and the way to get better at it is to practice. How?

  • More time in lab for data collection and analysis
  • More time in class to practice word problem calculations (a HUGE weakness)
  • More time in class for making graphic organizers to help memorize harder information
  • More time for student collaboration and discussion which improves thinking skills
  • More time in class for online coaching tutorials (that came with my textbook and have a lot of higher level activities)

Some of these higher level items (lab reports, math practice, data set analysis) used to go home, but with rampant copying, its better to have it done in class (see Authentic Work below).

I broke down the 2016 APES exam by DOK and Bloom’s Taxonomy. You can find that info on this page. 

(On a side note, explaining why higher level thinking is important for college and future careers and informed citizenry is a good thing for kids to hear–its not all about passing a test)

AP® Science Practices

The higher level questions on the AP® Exam come from the AP® Science Practices. I post these practices and discuss with kids.  Reminders throughout the year of the purpose of activities help to reinforce the “why are we doing this.”  In our course, it seems that a large portion of the higher level questions come from science practice #7.

A high proportion of exam questions apply #7. This is one of the reasons the AP® exam is so difficult. Students may memorize a bunch of knowledge, but connecting it in new and novel ways is challenging for some.

Authentic Work

The past couple of years has seen tremendous changes in technology. Students now have access to information through the internet that I never did. 99% of my students have smart phones which is great for looking up information, but also great for taking pictures of homework and sharing it via group text. Anything I want to make sure is not copied now has to be done in class or submitted through a plagiarism site.  By doing notes at home in a flipped class, students are supposed to copy notes from the video-its not meant to be authentic work.

Other sites for basic knowledge and content, such as Edpuzzle,  account for students logging in on their own and watching an entire video with embedded questions.  This also encourages authenticity.

Notes take less time

An hour-long lecture in class usually only takes 15 minutes of video. This is because I don’t have to pause and wait for students to copy notes.  On video, students can work at their own pace. This helps the fast writer as they don’t get bored and eliminates anxiety for the slow writer who can pause the video as much as needed.

Its NOT more homework

A handful of students last year complained that I gave them more homework since notes were at home. This was not true, but they didn’t have a good reference since this was their first and only AP® class.  This year, I plan to discuss and discuss again to dispel the myth of more homework in a flipped class.  A lot of the items I gave as homework, are now done during class time. On the flip side, the majority of my students LOVED the flipped lectures.


Research About Flipping the Classroom

A flipped lecture shown on Edpuzzle.

I recently led a couple of workshops about Flipped Classrooms for a technology institute. (Discalimer: I’ve only fully flipped for about a year. I’ve done a partial flip for several years. So….not the expert, BUT, I spent hours finding research, studies, and helpful videos from the experts.) If you are interested in my experience and how I did it, go to my blog: Why and How I flipped this year.

Below is a nice PBS Newshour article explaining what a Flipped Classroom is like:

In  my research, I came across data that showed teachers were happier overall.  I can tell you that this is the first year in a long time that I’ve not felt completely burned out by the end of the year.  Here’s some other benefits from an articled called “Flipping the Classroom 2.0” from NSTA’s “The Science Teacher Magazine”:

  • “It is efficient. Lecture content can often be transmitted more effectively in a video than in a live lecture. McCammon consistently finds that a 60 minute in-class lecture can be effectively delivered in as little as 10 minutes via video.
  •  It improves the life of each teacher. Flipping allows the teacher to cover the material once on video instead of repeating content class after class, day after day, and year after year. u It strengthens relationships. First, students are able to “take their teacher home” as they watch videos. Second, more class time is freed up to increase teacher student interactions.
  • Third, when students watch videos at home, parents often get a peek into what is happening in the class.


  • Fourth, administrators can watch the videos, establishing trust and accountability. It improves the quality of teaching. By recording content and reflecting on the video, each teacher becomes better at communicating content to students.  
  • Flipping the classroom opens up more class time for student collaboration.
  • Flipping the classroom provides the time and structure needed to differentiate instruction.
  • It allows a blended (online and face-to-face) and selfpaced instruction more aligned to how this generation of students learns.”Brunsell, Eric, and Martin Horejsi. “Flipping the Classroom 2.0.” The Science Teacher (2013): 8. Flipping Your Classroom in One Take. National Science Teacher’s Association, Mar. 2013. Web. June 2017.

One of the biggest things to understand is that a flipped classroom is not really about videos. Its a whole new pedagogical approach to teaching.  Videos at home enable higher level activities in class–the stuff that’s harder for students and need more help from the teacher.

A controlled study in a college level Biology course can be found here.

This article, What You Should Know Before Flipping For Flipped Learning, discusses this as well.

And this one:  Why Good Teachers — Not Good Videos — Are Key To The ‘Flipped’ Classroom

Jon Bergman, the guru of flipped classrooms, discusses what a classroom should look like in this video:

How do I make videos?  Don’t be nervous.  Most of my videos are honestly just pointing my iPad at my textbook and recording.  The kids don’t care about quality–seriously.  They think its hilarious when I drop something or my kid is practicing trombone in the background.

Here’s a research article about best practices.

You need to make your own videos, however, not just use Bozeman or others that are pre-made. That’s what the research says for the best student learning. Bozeman videos are awesome and my students are required to watch as review, but the initial learning needs to be slower and come from you.  You can also work in personal examples from your area that a pre-made video will not have.  Work with another teacher who uses your book–each record half of the video.  Don’t worry about editing.

Make them short.  Research shows that 10-15 minutes are best.  This is because when one video ends and another begins, the students’ brain resets and they can focus better.  I will often assign two or three 15 minute videos for notes in one night at the AP® level.

Here are the different tools for recording:

Here’s Paul Anderson’s method of making videos:

One of my new favorite ways to make videos is on the Explain Everything app on my iPad.  You can load on documents, powerpoints, videos etc. and write all over them while you’re speaking.  Here’s a video I made using this app:

What about kids who don’t have access to the internet at home?  Since I don’t have very many with this problem-usually only 1-2 kids, I work with them on an individual basis to find a personal solution.  I usually ask about their access in a “getting to know you survey”.  Also, I make everything I send home mobile friendly as many kids have smart phone if they don’t have a regular computer.  Here are some other ideas:

1. If making videos using existing powerpoints, perhaps print out a copy for the kids who don’t have computer/Wifi access at home and have them do Cornell notes or some other type of extended note-taking. That way they’re interacting with the notes for deeper learning even if they’re not hearing you talk on a video.
2. If a kid has an ipod for listening to music, perhaps save the audio of the notes for the kid along with a print out of the notes.
3. For math videos, you can screenshot the video several times for a printout of the notes. Or, allow only the kids without internet access to watch the video in class with problems at home–the traditional way. Here are some videos with more ideas

What if kids don’t watch the video? 

In an AP® Class, kids who don’t watch the video will just get behind and have to catch up before the exam. Since my videos are on Edpuzzle, its part of their grade also.  Here are some other ideas:





Why and How I Flipped this Year.

Why I decided to Flip

I decided to do a full flip in 2016/2017 out of self-preservation. My sections of AP® grew from 3 to 4 to 5 per day and I was exhausted from the constant rushing. Lecture days were hurried from bell-to-bell and labs were rushed.  I still have 15-20 years of teaching before I retire and while my expertise is growing, my stamina is declining. Something had to change.

 For many years, I did a partial flip-in terms of requiring content through reading the book. Kids were expected to read the textbook and take an online quiz at home and then we went over the pages of the textbook via “sticky-note lecture” in class.  (See this post about sticky-notes). Students brought their books to class and sticky-noted their books along with my document camera and my master book.

I videoed all the lectures for absent kids a couple of years ago so they wouldn’t get behind. Some kids already watched these videos ahead of in-class lecture.  When I decided to do a full flip, I made these videos mandatory at home and took some of the items that used to be homework and made them class work. Examples are lab reports, online coaching tutorials, math practice. 

How I Flip

I assign a section in the textbook (Withgott, 5th edition) to read for homework. My chapters are usually broken into 4 sections. Most nights, I assign one section, but on occasion, I assign two short sections. The reading assignment is supplemented by a few short videos on Edpuzzle (usually 2-4 minutes long). These Edpuzzles reinforce and give visuals to what is read in the section.

In the example below, I assigned two Edpuzzles for each night, March 28th and March 29th. Edpuzzles work on a phone so all my kids either have computers or smartphones to use to watch.

Edpuzzle dashboard. Mini videos are assigned along with reading.

The next day in class, students take an online quiz to check if they read. I allow  books or notes for the quiz. They can also access an e-text on this site if they don’t want to bring their books to class.  The quiz is timed at 10 minutes so kids do not have time to “wing it” and try to look up all the answers in the allotted time. To do well, they had to read.  I usually assign about 10-15 questions per section.

Sample online quiz question.

The site I use for quizzing is “Mastering Environmental Science” from Pearson which comes with the Withgott textbook Environment: The Science Behind the Stories. There are a lot of free quizzing sites available online if you don’t have one through your textbook.

Instant formative assessment results:

This graphs shows me the questions that kids didn’t know. Instant feedback.

After the online quiz, we will do other activities, labs, videos, practice math etc. in class. Flipping allows the higher level and harder stuff to be done in classtime.

After the students have read all the sections and taken the online quiz, they are assigned “sticky notes” on Edpuzzle for homework.

This chapter has two sticky note lecture videos of about 15 min long.

Students watch the videos (about 15 min each) and answer the questions on Edpuzzle while sticky-noting their own books.  Alternately, students can write the notes on pieces of notebook paper-with pages indicated. You can read more about sticky-noting here

I will do a “note-check” the day before an exam and check that the kids actually wrote the notes and didn’t just watch the videos.  I note-check about 2 chapters at a time, because I test 2 chapters at a time for most exams.

Sample week:

Monday                Tuesday              Wednesday              Thursday               Friday

15.1 Mastering quiz

Water Analysis Video

HW: Bring water samples
Read 15.2
Edpuzzle-CA water


15.2 Mastering Quiz

Water Quality Lab Day 1

HW:  Rd 15.3


15.3 Mastering quiz

Aquifer Demo

Water mini-videos
Oxygen Sag Curve (BOD)
Diagram handout

HW:  Rd 15.4
Edpuzzle-CA Drought Fix-OC’s
Reclaimed water,
desalination water treatment


15.4 Mastering quiz
Water Quality Lab
Day 2

HW:  Conclusion
and questions
on Turnitin


SCV Water notes

Experimental Design

HW: Chapter 15 Sticky
Notes (3 long Edpuzzles)
Due Mon night


Student feedback:

This method worked well.  Here’s the feedback from my students via a survey at the end of the year:

1 = No, I didn’t learn very well this way

5 = Yes, it was great to learn this way.

Why did you choose this number? (Below are what students typed in response)

  • it made us study at home
  • Reviewing at home helps prepare for more interactive learning in class.
  • easier to focus on what i was writing at home
  • I learn much better from doing the notes in class
  • like learning in class better because wont slack off better
  • It was helpful, however a little more instructional time in class would have been helpful in order to complete the online mastering assignments.
  • It helped me to retain the knowledge because I was forced to do it at home.
  • I feel like I would have learned more from the notes if we had done them in class instead of trying to get them done as fast as possible at home for homework
  • I feel like we spent too much time at home learning, when the activities that were done in class could have been homework assignments (apart from labs)
  • Instead of copying notes in class you had more time to actually teach and talk about concepts.
  • I have a tendency of skimping out on homework and just paying attention during class time. As a result, this class structure harms myself.
  • I thought that it gave us more flexibility when we were learning the material.
  • I loved having class time to do more hands-on activities

Results?  Mostly positive.

80% of my class gave it a 3,4,5

20% of my class gave it a 1 or 2

My Personal Reflection on Flipping: 

Most students benefit.  They liked the flexibility of doing notes at home at their own pace. Most liked doing labs in class.

Some struggle with flipping.  Why?  Time management? Not understanding? Wanting to sit back and absorb material instead of active learning? Can’t copy homework?

Next year, I plan to implement more discussion of big ideas/essential questions at the start of class to tie together what they learned at home.