I like to think of myself as a dedicated teacher.
I go in to school early, I stay late. I go in on Saturdays. I go in on storm days, I do extra-curriculars. I mark 5,000 essays a year and have yet to write “WTF” on any of them, tempting though it may be. I do plenty of professional development, and I am all over Literacy Supports and Accreditation and Outcomes Based Learning.
It’s summertime, man!
I am lounging and writing and enjoying gin and tonics and going shark fishing with my Love. (We let the sharks go, oh my anxious animal-rights friends. Sharks have feelings too.)
I am not doing school.
School don’t get done in the summertime, man!
I do browse, and surf the web for school-ish stuff in between the mixing of the G & T and the sharpening of the gaff. (No. Really. We let them go. There was no gaff. I just put that in there in hope some Fifty Shades-obsessed reader finds the word ‘gaff’ titillating. You never know. Apparently writing now has to be borderline pornographic to entice readers. The sharks were all screwing like mink. Have I grabbed your interest yet?) In this very limited surfing and browsing of school-ish stuff I have stumbled… twice… upon the topic of ‘flipping’.
If I, in my Zen-like meditation of all things summer, have TWICE encountered the concept of a flipped classroom, then it must be a big deal. I have also encountered a video of a man trying to eat tomatoes through a spinning fan and a walrus exercising to La Bamba. But only once each.
Flipped Classroom? Twice.
Bigger than dancing walrus. Bigger than idiot tomatophile.
The general concept is that homework and instruction change places. Instruction, traditionally, takes place in the classroom. In the ‘flipped’ model, the instruction takes place at home via video and internet on-line connection, then the homework practice takes place in the classroom. The benefit of these video lessons is that the student can pause, rewind, and replay the lesson whenever they want, so they can totally absorb the information, as opposed to hearing it once from a lecturing teacher and then being sent home to do the homework with no way to refresh the information. Homework is done in class with the teacher as a resource, helping and supporting the kids who have already had the lesson downloaded into their brains via video links.
So… the kids who watch the videos and are motivated enough to pay attention while they are also playing World of Warcraft and texting their best friend because that ho in Bio class totally flirted with her boyfriend and just like, totally pissed me off, and can you believe what that be-otch was wearing? O.. MG. It was like, skank city… and facebooking, tweeting, bbm-ing… but yeah, watching school videos about algorithms and polynomials and then, twitching with knowledge, they come to school for help putting it all into practice while the teacher mingles, beaming and dressed in designer clothes with perfect makeup and no indigestion or menstrual cramps or stress over a bad parent meeting the day before… the teacher drifts benignly amongst her thriving colony of learners, and everyone is engaged and motivated and mastering knowledge at the speed of sound.
Did I mention that they offer badges and levels and video-game-esque enticements to get the wee drones to engage? Gold stars are blasé. Merit badges for conquering ten levels of math are all the rage.
It all sounds great, it really does. I know this is the wave of the future. Perhaps not in my teaching lifetime, but certainly in the next twenty to thirty years I do believe we will see a decline of the physically present teacher and a rise of video, computer generated pedagogues.
For kids destined for MIT, this sounds super awesome.
But what about Tyler? Tyler eats erasers. And what about Brittany? Brittany cuts herself in the cafeteria at noon time because her boyfriend broke up with her and she hates her friends. What about Steven? Steven can’t remember the main character in the novel but he can build a working motor from scratch. What about Tanya? Tanya was sick to her stomach every time she walked into the school until she found a classroom that welcomed her and gave her a safe place to hang out.
And what about me? Do I now have to convert my lessons to video, and learn how to entice young people to read as a remote voice on a screen, when it is already hard enough getting them to crack a book when I am looming over their desks. Maybe the flipped classroom works for math or physics, where the formulas are the same, and the processes remain static… I’m betting that balancing equations hasn’t changed much since I was in high school, but literature sure has. Compare ‘Sons and Lovers’ with ‘Fifty Shades’… yeah, a wee bit o’ difference. So does every teacher design their own videos, script, film, edit, upload, for every novel, every year? Wow. I’d really much rather just talk to the kids.
Or show them dancing walrus videos.
I hate to be a downer, and I realize that my perspective is from small-town Nova Scotia, from a very small school, and there is a whole world of experience out there that I am not privy to. But I miss spelling bees. And cursive writing. And the strap.
Oh… sorry… wrong blog post… I’m still in Fifty Shades of something…
I am curious about the Flipping I’m learning about, and I hope that in September I will take it more seriously. But it’s August, man. In August, I have pleasant fantasies about my new classes sitting in delighted wonder as I educate them about the differences between ‘except’ and ‘accept’. ‘Affect’ and ‘effect’. ‘Porn’ and ‘descriptive narrative’.
I’m not allowed to talk about porn?
We’ll stick with the walrus.
And yeah, I suppose if kids will take the time to watch the guy eat a tomato through a moving fan, they will take the time to watch a polynomial video. I wonder which one they will remember best?
Check out this link, for a TED talk on the structure of the flipped classroom: