Content Matters.

I know this has become a somewhat controversial position to hold as a teacher but having information to draw from is a necessary foundation for critical and creative thinking. That said it is also true that much of organizing a classroom is dealing with the opportunity costs owing to our finite class time. Deciding how much time to dedicate to content acquisition can be a tricky proposition.

Over the last few years I have been working through ways to use the “flipped classroom” style to maximize the higher order thinking moments in this limited time. Since we can never have enough acronyms in education I have worked out a method I call “QWIQ” Notes.

  • Q – question the title
  • W – watch the recording
  • I – identify the main ideas
  • Q – question from the student

There is a bit of setup necessary for this system. Additionally, I believe it works incredibly well with Cornell Notes systems.

Pre-Flip Setup

I record my own videos. I keep them to a single topic and less than 2 and a half minutes. Every video begins with a title bar that describes the content in the recording. It is possible to use premade content from sites like Khan Academy or YouTube but if you do I would recommend chunking the recordings inot digestible thematic pieces. Sites like EdPuzzle and PlayPosite will allow this segmenting though I believe they went to Pay formats.

I also like to create YouTube Playlists of the recorded segments. This is a recognizable format for students and allows the teacher to create multiple playlists with the same recordings. YouTube Playlists can also be embedded in my Google Sites easily and doing so eliminates the ads that usually surround the YouTube Screen.

QWIQ Flipped Notes First Date Analogy

I teach Juniors so they get it when I tell them that taking notes in the QWIQ method is like going on a First Date. You shouldn’t expect to find out every single detail about someone on a first date. You are looking for the big important stuff on a first date and mostly just trying to find out how much more time you want to spend with the person. Similarly, a note taker should not try to write down every-single-word a lecturer says. It is not only extremely difficult to do it is also not necessary. At best in a recorded lecture it means that the student will be continuously pausing the video and will spend hours on a relatively short recording. At worst it is mindless transcription that will not be remembered because nothing was being processed. Taking notes should be like a First Date; get the big ideas and get to know enough to have a conversation on the Second Date (a reflection, an activity, etc). This is the point of the QWIQ Flipped Model – Content, Creativity, and Critical Thinking are a relationship to be nurtured not a throw away One-Nighter (for the record that last part is NOT something I would say to students).

QWIQ and Cornell Notes

As an AVID school my school requires students to use Cornell Style Notes. It is a pretty useful system but, honestly, not one that I would have been thrilled with as a student. Here is an outline of the format.

Cornell Notes (done correctly) encourage those 2nd and 3rd “Dates” with the information. I encourage students to use the QWIQ Cornell Notes which helps to steam line the process a bit. It starts with the first “Q”.

Q – question the title

The “Q” in the acronym is a reminder to turn the title of the recording into a Question.

In this video title the S4.4a tells the student that this is the first part (a) of the Standard 4 Indicator 4 notes (S4.4). That is not as important as the theme which is “Gilded Age Farmers Struggles”. The student should turn the theme statement into a Question. For example “What were the struggles Gilded Age Farmers faced?”. Ideally this takes 5-10 seconds. The best part for the students is that this new Title-Based Question should go in the left side of the Cornell Notes.

W – watch the video… PENS DOWN!

The next step is the hardest for students because it violates so many of the norms they have been taught through their schooling. I tell them to not write anything; just watch the recording. I don’t want them mindlessly transcribing. I don’t want them reading the Closed Captioning while their music plays. I want them listening and thinking about the BIG IDEAS.

They should be trying to answer the question that they wrote in the first step. They are processing information and making content connections.

I – identify the big ideas.

After watching the video, pick up the pen and answer the Title-Based Question.

This doesn’t have to be an exhaustive answer but it should capture the big ideas from the recording. This is why I chunk the videos into short 2-3 minute segments.

Q – questions about the recording?

After writing out the Big Ideas students should write down any questions that they have about the recording content. They can also jot down any interesting connections they are making with other recordings. Since I have lots of time to conference with students during class (see Stop Collecting Papers) I want this part to be a conversation starter in class.

QWIQ and Repeat

Repeat as needed for the rest of the Recordings.

Final Steps

After finishing all of the recordings the final step is the Summary at the end. I encourage students to only summarize after watching all of the videos and not necessarily at the end of each page. In this step students should start by making sure they included the essential question at the top of the page.

I added the essential question in this final set of notes at the end to highlight the QWIQ steps but I would usually have students add this before beginning the note taking process. The summary should attempt to use the content of the notes to answer the essential question.

Final Thoughts

I used to include an “R” for Rewatch if necessary but honestly this was causing some students to go back and rewatch several times which ruins the whole “First Date” Point. I want them to get big ideas and get it over with. I do offer some class time to complete these recorded notes but I also allow students to create their own schedules so many chose to do these notes outside of class. I do not want them spending hours at home watching 20 minutes of me.

This might be referred to as a “Modified Flip”. Since I have a “Open World Game Blended Model” I refer to this as Battle Prep and is one option out of many questing possibilities. Since this is the option that my presence is least necessary for I encourage students to do this away from me so that we can do more creative and critical thinking activities together. It allows me to be more of a Gandalf and less of a Sauron.

The QWIQ System isn’t perfect but it allows me to balance the content acquisition with other critical assessments and activities that need this content foundation.