"Did you just waste my time?"

  • Do you use a video–e.g. Youtube or alternate–to inform, to impress, to elucidate a point, to bolster an argument, or just to bluff your way through a debate? Whether you do or think of doing so, you may find this recent article interesting; I did.
  • Exploring how MVHS teachers use YouTube videos in class

  • Definition of Flipped Learning: “… often defined simplistically as “school work at home and home work at school,” Flipped Learning is an approach that allows teachers to implement a methodology, or various methodologies, in their classrooms.”

    • “Flipped Learning is a pedagogical approach in which direct instruction moves from the group learning space to the individual learning space, and the resulting group space is transformed into a dynamic, interactive learning environment where the educator guides students as they apply concepts and engage creatively in the subject matter.”
  • The four pillars of F-L-I-P

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In my view, unless the plan is to throw out the “factory” model of education where everyone roughly the same age have to advance at the same rate or be lost, all these efforts are just band-aids to treat measles. Modular learning where students can take their time in order to understand a unit of material is more fair to all students and enables slow learners to actual grasp something before moving on.

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Flipped classrooms work great for students who want to learn and/or are willing to put in the effort. You don’t even need fancy videos for that, a boring old textbook would work just fine. For me a good classroom consists of a mixture of traditional lecture and student based learning activities working in conjunction with one another. You need both in my district.



I suppose the modular/packet learning I’ve seen could count as a “flipped classroom” since there were no lectures – in fact coming up with a useful lecture when with say thirty students there more than half that many different levels students are at is difficult at best!
One that I saw was in Indiana where the Chicago metropolitan area spills over the border. It was begun with a set of students whose parents were at their wits’ ends from trying to get their kids to succeed in the public schools and had tried a couple of schools run by churches (Catholic, Episcopalian, Lutheran, as I recall) with only marginal improvement. I think it was a teacher at one Lutheran school who got the ball rolling and with the help of parents pushed through the bureaucracy to get a very novel school started.
At any rate when this school opened it was literally a one-room schoolhouse with kids who’d been failing in grades five through nine, all of them “problem students” where they’d been. No one would have described any of them as wanting to learn, but over the course of six months that changed as they were essentially turned loose to study what they wanted, with the teacher/facilitator helping them find the level they should start on. Some actually started from the beginning, initially because since they were required to complete a certain (small) number of packet lessons each day they figured they could effectively slide by completing lessons on material they already knew, but as they advanced and came across things they’d never completely (or at all) grasped before and could take their time until they understood one of those things, enthusiasm started to emerge as they managed to understand what had escaped them before. At the same time, any student was a potential ‘tutor’ for any packet they’d completed: say a struggling student needed help on a certain packet; they could consult the classroom wall chart showing who had completed what packets, find someone ahead of them, and go ask for help – so a lot of teaching was being done by students (and sometimes in teams if the first person who got asked decided more help/insight was needed).
One thing that delighted me as I riffled through packets was that there wasn’t just one way presented for doing something. The example that sticks in my mind was basic division; there were like four different ways shown, so a student could pick the way that “fit” his or her understanding.
As students started to do well, the school attracted students from the “gifted” end of the spectrum as well, which meant there were more students who were well-advanced in the various subjects to call on for help.

They didn’t have any “fancy videos”, and the only textbooks were ones on a resource shelf, and those didn’t get used often because the packets covered pretty much everything any published text had plus more. When I visited, they had students at grade-equivalent levels from first to eleventh and they were all, “difficult” students or not, roughly 20% ahead of where their age would have indicated in traditional schools. They were also working up a program where students could go observe and learn where things that interested them were being done, a sort of semi-apprenticeship approach.

So if we can get out of the straitjacket of factory learning, even “average” students could achieve what one at that school had: he’d started there from failing in a repeat of fourth grade at a traditional school and at fifteen years old was spending a chunk of each day taking courses at a local college plus evenings in an actual apprenticeship program, and of the time he was at the school he spent much of it helping other students. I’ve never seen anything that even comes close anywhere else.

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One of our professors tried flipped and unflipped versions of the same class and got the same results with students liking or disliking both equally. Having the student do the learning doesn’t work if the student doesn’t do anything. I think that the flexible rate of progression approach would be very good, but it does also require a high teacher to student ratio (which requires paying enough teachers) and classifying students by their level of achievement, which is unfashionable but essential for effective teaching - the teaching has to aim somewhere. Encouraging students to help each other is good; depending on that as a substitute for adequate teaching staff is bad.

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The teacher-student ration at that school using packets was one to three dozen and it worked quite well. It wouldn’t have at the start because getting students aimed at the level they were actually at was pretty intensive, but once it was up and running the more advanced students turned out to be quite adept at helping new students find their levels.

That’s the brilliance of switching from being a teacher to being the resource person: with a little help students find their own levels, and with the help of other students they actually teach themselves.

It wasn’t just “helping each other”; more advanced students effectively became teachers and a fair portion found they were very good at it – and discovered that they improved their own understanding by working to explain to someone else.

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Teaching does that. It also helps you be creative in finding analogies to illustrate concepts.

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