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Flipped classroom offers Phoenix High teacher more time with students

Pasha Souvorin, left, discusses the flipped classroom concept of his video production class at Phoenix High during an open house visit on Wednesday as senior Andrew Brewster, right, works on a project. (Staff Photo: Keith Farner)

Pasha Souvorin, left, discusses the flipped classroom concept of his video production class at Phoenix High during an open house visit on Wednesday as senior Andrew Brewster, right, works on a project. (Staff Photo: Keith Farner)

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Phoenix High senior Amar Kurta works on a video production project about why people collect specific shoes and how shoes are valued. Kurta said he hopes to finish the self-paced class before the end of the semester so that he could look for a part-time job. (Staff Photo: Keith Farner)

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Phoenix High senior Andrew Brewster watches a video on Wednesday of teacher Pasha Souvorin teaching a lesson on video production during his self-paced class using the flipped classroom model. (Staff Photo: Keith Farner)

LAWRENCEVILLE — For his latest project in video production class, Amar Kurta is learning how to make a video to show why people collect shoes and what specific shoes mean to them.

Working in a self-paced environment called a “flipped classroom,” Kurta is within two classes of graduation, and if he finishes before the end of the semester, he could begin a search for a part-time job.

“I like that it’s more independent, I can do the work as fast or slow as I want,” Kurta said. “I’m going faster because I want to finish this class before the semester ends.”

His teacher at Phoenix High, Pasha Souvorin, said in the last three years that 64 percent of students have finished class credit before the end of the semester, and therefore can move on ahead of schedule. On Wednesday, Souvorin hosted an open house for visitors to learn more about the learning concept.

On the first day of each semester, Souvorin tells his students that every lesson is already loaded on a web site where he’s recorded himself giving lessons in a video format.

“For the most part, it’s fairly mundane stuff,” he said. “Most of the students get most of what they need just from watching the videos, and that gives me the extra time to help them at the moments that they need the most help.”

In this video production class, the students learn every facet of making a movie, from lighting and set design to acting, recording, composition and editing. And in the ever-growing local film industry, Souvorin said his students see immediate opportunities.

“Some need to go to college and study directing,” he said. “But some may be able to walk directly into a studio as set designers, light designers and have learned stuff in this class that lets them go straight into industry if they want to.”

The concept allows a one-on-one environment where the teacher could be a coach, mentor and project manager instead of giving a lecture to a room full of students. That allows him to spend time with a student who may be struggling with an assignment.

“In a traditional school, if you’re lecturing, there’s one-third of the students who already know that stuff who are ready to do some advance stuff,” Souvorin said. “If you’re teaching at the same pace for everyone, you have no idea the work you’re capable of doing.”

Four years ago, Souvorin earned a degree from the University of Georgia in learning, design and technology, which showed him the most useful way to leverage technology to help students learn.

It appeals to senior Andrew Brewster, who is in his first year taking the class.

“It’s easier to focus on your work,” he said. “You can always go back and do it at your own pace. That’s what I like about it. You can do it at your own pace, or at home. You can’t do tests at home, but other than that, you can do everything.”

When he began teaching the class, Souvorin said his voice boomed as if speaking in front of an entire class, not to each student listening on headphones. Then he recorded long, 10-minute segments.

Now the video segments are softer and shorter.

“Now I’ve broken it down into snippets,” Souvorin said. “Each video has one goal and teaches one thing.”

The next step in the flipped classroom model will be more interactive, Souvorin said, after it assesses a student’s prior knowledge to determine which lesson fits them best.

“Some students might be able to bypass whole blocks of instruction if they test out of that,” Souvorin said. “Instead of one tutorial, it’ll branch and allow them to move through a web pattern instead of a linear pattern.”