Thursday, September 01, 2011

Gonna Flip it (Updated 9/3)

So this weekend I’m going to Flip my classroom. 
For those of you not totally in the Educational Technology game (or the Ed Fad game for that matter), “Flipping” the classroom is creating or linking of videos for kids to watch in short snippets outside of class, then making your entire class time full of hands-on-activity and engagement.  It’s what Khan Academy is supposed to be all about; direction at home, concept engagement and mastery at school.  I’m going to give it a try.
This weekend I’m assigning a seven minute portion of this video from Economics USA regarding the overall increase of a Production Possibilities Curve related to the Great Depression and World War One (10:17 to 17:00 if you are dying to know).  It’s old but effective, explaining the basic principals while guiding you through history, and doing it in a short period of time.  On Tuesday I’ll get them into groups and have them break down the video, then attempt to get them to try and increase a PPC for the current Great Recession.  Then we’ll come back together and discuss.
It doesn’t take much for me to buy into good educational technology.  If I find a tool that works in the classroom, I use it.  I don’t screw around.  The concept of “flipping” is niggling me in an odd way though.  Something is just seeming too faddy and almost techno-elitist in how people are espousing its virtue.  Here’s four questions I have for the currently active “flippers”.
1.  It is insisted that constant student engagement is better than the “sage on stage” method of direct instruction.  Then how to you justify the generations of students that have successfully been instructed by good teachers through some direct instruction?  We’ve all had teachers that have the gift of the spoken word and have been effective at teaching students necessary content.  And the teacher “knows” that content is being taught to a student instead of guessing through self-directed learning.
2.  Speaking of bad power points and lecturing; isn’t a video the student watches at home basically the same thing?  What’s the difference between my 15 minute power point at school and the 15 minute power point at home?  I mean besides the fact that I’m right there to help answer questions.  Isn’t that direct instruction?
3.  What not reading?  Flipping classrooms seems to be all about the video experience while seemingly totally ignoring reading.  Is this a wise course of action?  I saw a comment on Twitter that insisted that no reading should ever be assigned without something interactive attached to it.  Aren’t we downplaying the importance of the read word?
4.  And finally, what happens when students don’t have Internet?  I’ve asked this a dozen times and I either get ignored or I get “well all children need to have Internet to be successful in the 21st Century environment.  The government needs to make Internet penetration in this country a priority for all students or we are doing them a massive disservice.”  Yeah, thanks for the public policy message but that still fails to answer my question.  How do you flip a class when half the kids don’t have online access?
Now the one class I’m flipping is full of AP students, a vast majority of which are middle, upper class students that I’m very sure have some access to the Net.  The concepts are not difficult, the video won’t be long, the class side of the lesson is engaging.  We shall see.    

(Update 9/3)
So there was no initial blow back from my demanding of an outside video online.  We'll see out Monday works out.  In the meantime, check out Robert's discussion around the perils of "Flipping" a classroom.  He states my worries in a much more eloquent way with excellent questions about everything from technology to testing to support.  It's more than worth a read.
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