Chatting with a friend today, I explained the premise of the flipped classroom:
1. Teacher makes videos of shortened versions of lectures.
2. Students watch lectures at home.
3. In the physically shared space of the classroom, the community practices at the learning.
I think I’ve got a way to make the whole experience better.
Stop making the videos.
I hesitate to write this. The flipped classroom is as close as we’ve come in a long time to an institutionally-backed shift from teacher-centered to student-centered classroom practice. The mastery system is an improvement from the traditional way of doing things. The model frees teachers to provide students with individual attention. These are good things.
Part of me wants to say, “Keep the videos so long as it transforms classrooms to studios, labs, workshops and playgrounds of learning.” But there’s a way to make less work for teachers and students in this equation:
1. In the physically shared space of the classroom, the community practices at the learning.
The Internet is replete with videos, how-tos and step-by-steps explaining almost any lesson a teacher could conjure. What’s more, many of these resources are better than what a typical teacher has time to create.
Some tips for a half-flipped classroom:
- Use diigo, stumble upon, delicious or another social bookmarking tool to collect any and every resource students find in connection to the learning they’re engaging in at the moment. Come up with a class tag, unit tag, lesson tag and challenge students to find the resources that make the learning work best for them.
- Give time in class to talk about what they’ve found and how they found it.
- Have a class space for the curation of content. It doesn’t have to, and shouldn’t be, any one kind of space. Wiki? Great. Google site? Tremendous.
- Be available and encourage student availability. For me, this meant creating a google voice number that fed student text messages to my e-mail account, being available through Facebook, twitter and IM. For anyone else, it might mean any one of these or something else.
- Learn along. Nobody likes a know-it-all, but everyone likes to know it all. Any chance I had to learn along with my students, I took it. They knew more about more than I did. I knew literature, grammar and writing. That’s what I brought to the room. From there, I was genuinely curious to learn what they knew – not from an assessment standpoint, but from a learning standpoint.
I’ve two other arguments against the fully flipped classroom. They are the natural derivatives of the Law of Unintended Consequences. First, we’ve taken enough of our students’ time already. Though our hours or 45-minutes with them at a time might seem always too short, they experience a school day full of these bursts. Giving them more to do “for us” won’t make our classes more important. They’ll merely seem more urgent. Play is an endangered species. Let’s respect the ecosystems of our kids’ lives.
My second argument against full flipping is that we’re fooling ourselves if we think our students will continue to watch these videos over years. At some point, the novelty will wear off. The Freakonomics folks posted today about the Indian government’s issuance of masks to workers in the field who were in danger of tiger attacks.
Because tigers attack from the rear, workers wore the masks backwards to fool the tigers.
It worked – for a while. Tigers have started to learn the masks are just that.
Rather than masking students’ experiences in the novel, let’s outfit the experiences with the authentic.