Flipped Class – a student perspective

October 18, 2012

Below are some thoughts from one of my former middle school students who is now in high school & in a flipped classroom. I’ll let her words speak for themselves, but think her words speak to the state of science education well beyond the flipped class model.

My opinion on the flipped classroom varies for certain situations. I enjoy the freedom the flipped classroom gives me and I’m able to easily keep up with our everyday schedule. But, for students that have trouble learning from just a couple videos don’t do as well. It seems like every other day the teacher is spending the class period catching up the students who fell behind. This method really only benefits that small percentage of students who are able to memorize the notes they take on the videos we’re given.

I really have not learned anything in Chemistry. I’ve been giving the periodic table to memorize and a test on it after. We are told where they are, but not what they do or why they are there. Our assignments are usually made up of videos of OTHER people on the internet talking about some topic. We then have to take several notes on the videos and then are given a quiz the next day. The whole process is completed. My class has had a few labs that I litterally can’t remember what it was about. All our teacher did was showed us how to do the lab and then we just grouped up and copied her. She expects us to learn something from the labs. But, I don’t know how to learn from something that we were never given the reason WHY we need to do it.

The problem is that the teacher doesn’t guide us to learn something. We’re just given information to memorize knowing that less than a week away the information will just be forgotten. Our teacher has not even told us one thing about chemistry that will actually help us learn. She completely relys on other people’s work to “teach” us. I would have to say I learn more against the flipped classroom than with it. The method does have small benefits, but the flipped classroom mostly hurts the learning enviroment for every student.

Technology Changes School, but how? (part 3)

January 19, 2012

The notion that technology uses us can be unsettling.  Yet, preservice teachers must be aware that technologies do make some decisions for them.  For example, if we expand our view of technology beyond modern electronics, the daily school schedule is an organizational technology to help us budget our time.  While the school schedule seems harmless, educators will likely recognize that it is the school schedule that decides how long they plan lessons or when instruction must cease for the day.  School bell schedule technologies, in making fundamental decisions for us, may cause educators to make decisions not in the best interest of student learning.  Importantly, this issue applies to more modern technologies as well.

Consider the experience of Guzman-Rodriguez (2007) who noted that students worked in isolation when a computer-based instructional model was first implemented.  Rather than working socially or collaboratively, the students worked individually.  In subsequent activities Guzman-Rodriguez (2007) purposefully included discussion questions to encourage students to share their thinking with other students.  If preservice teachers can consider the cues of a computer (one mouse, one screen, one keyboard), they might be able to more proactively plan to ensure collaborative learning environments in which technologies are being used.

More generally, technology values speed and efficiency – two ideas with disastrous implications for deep, applicable, and meaningful learning.  While we do not want learning experiences to be unnecessarily tedious, allowing technology to determine the goals of education, as it so often has, should be carefully guarded against.  By first accepting that technology has bias, and then working to identify these biases, educators make more informed decisions regarding educational technology and will not as easily fall prey to the whims of technological pressures.


This post is from a paper I recently presented at the Association for Science Teacher Educators. For the full paper and citations, click here.

Technology changes schools, but how? (part 2)

January 18, 2012

Technology has, and will continue to modify our beliefs and value systems.  Such changes will impact our actions.  While techno-enthusiasts talk about the possibilities of technology they miss the subtle hints technology gives about how the technology wants to be used.  That is, technological affordances are discussed at length, but technological cues are almost completely ignored.  Because technology can have such great effect on both beliefs and actions, educators ought to be wary of the subtle, but powerful hints, or cues, technology sends about how the technology wants to be implemented.  While imaginations run wild with the possibilities, or affordances of technology, few (not even designers in some cases) consider the cues technology contains.  For example, although textbooks can be used as a valuable tool in classrooms, the bolded words cue students (and teachers) to place emphasis on vocabulary acquisition over deep conceptual understanding.


This post is from a paper I recently presented at the Association for Science Teacher Educators. For the full paper and citations, click here.

How we should use Khan Academy

June 9, 2011

Khan Academy is not going away.  So, how could we make use of Khan Academy?

1) As a textbook.  After students have had experiences and discussed ideas in class, I often gave students reading assignments out of textbooks (notice the reading comes AFTER the exploration of ideas).  Khan Academy could be useful in the same way.  After students have explored topics and put forth their own ideas and been guided by an expert teacher toward accurate conceptual understanding, then Khan Academy can fill in the gaps.

2) As a model for learning (hear me out on this one).  What Khan has done is taken upon himself to learn and then demonstrate that learning by attempting to teach others.  What Khan has done is exactly what we want students doing!  We don’t want students watching Khan’s videos, we want student creating such videos to demonstrate their understanding.  Or, consider having students create the textbook – that is, students decide what are the important ideas and what examples to use regarding your content area.

3) As example in Schools of Education.  I showed my preservice teachers videos from KA and from Veritiasium and asked them to compare them given what we know about how people learn and effective teaching.  All I’ll say is that I have very bright students who recognized important differences immediately!

4) As assessment for students.  After students have learned about X topic.  Have them watch Khan’s video on X.  Their assignment will be to identify the inaccuracies or important pieces missing from the ten minute summary of a topic they spent weeks coming to understand.

What other ways would you effectively use Khan Academy in the classroom?

PS: There is little reason to use Khan Academy as a “review tool”.   If you want students to have videos from which they can review, take 15 minutes at the end of your day and do it yourself – you know your students better than Khan, and you likely know your content better too.

What should we flip?

June 4, 2011

My last post had some criticism of the flipped classroom.  David Cox, Frank Noschese and I were discussing the nuances on twitter and each had an important insight.  David noted that the better flip described in my example lesson is to put the problem first then the teaching.  Frank chimed in by noting that the example flips to put exploration before explanation.  Both of these ideas are not “new” (see problem based learning or the learning cycle), but our discussion highlights that the “what is done at home vs what is done at school” is not the most important “flip”.  In some ways, I believe the home/school flip is simply a reorganization of pretty traditional instruction. So, what then might be better “flips”:

  • Rather then explain then explore, have kids explore first so that the explanation better addresses their thinking.
  • Rather than explain a concept then having students try a problem, have students try a problem first to see what they come up with.
  • Rather than abstract ideas preceding concrete examples, instruction should start with concrete representations
  • Rather demonstrating procedures to students, encourage them to create their own procedures.
  • Rather than asking questions to confirm student understanding, ask students questions to guide their learning.
  • Rather than letting curricula decide how we teach, use student interest to meet curricula.
  • Rather than letting politicians decide the direction of education, education professionals should be setting the course.
  • Rather than using assessment to judge students, use assessment to better meet students’ needs.

Of course actually doing these things is much more difficult than simply switching where/when kids listen to a lecture and when they do practice problems (yes, I know this overly simplifies the flipped classroom).  Real educational change requires us to flip so much more than the the classroom work vs homework.  So, while the current notion of the flipped classroom is a step in the right direction, we still have a long way to go.

I am sure I've missed some flips. Please, add more in the comments.

Imagine a class…

June 3, 2011

Imagine a class engaged in an authentic problem*.  Let’s say they are trying to understand how to wire a ceiling fan (or some other thing, doesn’t matter).  One student says, “Hey, I have a room in my house where I can turn the fan on in two different places.”  The teacher then asks the class, “Why might this be valuable?”  Students give some answers and the teacher says, “ok, how would you do it?”  At this point the teacher might have students talk with partners, draw some pictures or mess around with some simple electrical circuits that mimic the room wiring.  Students might “discover” ways to do this, and if they don’t, the teacher can show them a way to do it (after students have mentally wrestled with the task a bit).  The key instructional piece comes next when the teacher can discuss parallel circuits and the flow of electrons through a circuit.

Notice how the teacher was able to leverage student experiences and interest to introduce a new concept in a way that encourages active mental engagement.  Notice how the problem led to introduction of content.  Yes, the content would be explained by the teacher, but only when students need the new information or to label something they have already mentally constructed.

A video (such as Khan Academy’s) cannot lead a group of learners like this.  The flipped classroom does not encourage the organic flow of learning like this.  I believe only a teacher who deeply understands their content and how people learn can create a learning experience like this.



*Please forgive the simplicity of of the example.


The Stillness of Chaos…

September 22, 2010
Organized chaos.
This phrase is how I often envision my classroom.  Today, we accomplished a lot.  We developed a list of questions to research, introduced the collaborative blog project, discussed classroom management, questioning strategies, motivation, wait time I and wait time II as well as learning styles and learning theory.
I embrace this chaos because I know that learning is not easy and learning is not predictable or straightforward.  If you expect and embrace this chaos, you will be much better prepared to deal with chaos.  Some teachers try to stick to such a strict schedule that when chaos happens (and it will) they don’t know how to deal with it.  Also, while the teacher might get through the schedule, I am left wondering if the students got through the same schedule.  I see the “chaos” as a way to authentically respond to student needs in real time.
As I noted in class, the attitude with which you approach teaching will determine a lot about your effectiveness.  Will you expect and embrace chaos? Do you really want to hear what your students think? Or do you want to “get through” the content and simply tell the students what to think?
The chaos also more accurately reflects what teaching really is.  We jump around topics so much because the topics are so interconnected.  What we do for classroom management is directly related to our goals for students.  How we manage the class is affected by what we believe about how people learn.  While separating the sections of teaching out makes the ideas easier, the discrete sections do not authentically represent the complexities of teaching.
I am enjoying our learning so far.  I hope you are starting to see where we are going and are getting excited about getting there!
*This post is taken from an email I wrote to my elementary science methods students.
**The title of this post was the title of on of my band’s albums in college.  So glad I got to reuse it!


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