All things excellent are as difficult as they are rare.


11 October 2011

Flip, Flip, Flip

For the third time in just a few weeks, Joanne's got a post up about "Flipping". (The previous entries are here and here, with my initial reaction to this in the comments here.)

The upshot seems to be something like this:
The model—in which teachers introduce lectures online for students to access at home and then use class time for group practice and projects normally relegated to homework—is not unique to Khan Academy, however. Advocates of the approach say it allows students to work through meat-and-potatoes background on their own, giving teachers more time to go in depth through discussions, projects and other activities in class.

Critics, though, argue the model is too reliant on online materials and will prove difficult to use in schools without major technology infrastructure.

I was thinking about this some more this morning, and there was something nagging at the back of my head. I couldn't quite figure out what it was -- but this "flipping" thing seemed awfully familiar for some reason. I was getting an intense sensation of deja vu.

Then it hit me: books. The "video lecture" is absolutely NOTHING more than an animated, talking textbook. That alone might make it superior to the textbook, mind you -- and it might save some trees in the process. But my purpose in this post is not to debate the relative merits of books and video. Rather, I want to make a point about this "flipping" stuff.

Flipping is a return to the traditional method of instruction: student goes home, student reads book, student comes in and grapples with the material with teacher support.

What changed in the interim, what makes flipping seem like it's something new, is that students who aren't in honors classes often aren't actually expected to read anything: instruction, practice, and assessment all takes place in class. Based purely on anecdote and conversation, the practice is, I take it, supposed to help "level" the academic playing field by not giving any curricular advantages to those who don't have the resources/time/support to do extensive homework in their somewhat dysfunctional home environments.

But if that's the case -- if that's why we don't just give the student a book and say "READ" -- then how do we imagine that the student is going to sit through the video lecture?

It seems like we're returning to the old ways because the old ways worked, but we're going to find, I think, that the old ways don't work for everyone.

My only slightly-tongue-in-cheek prediction: six to seven years out, educators will abandon "flipping" and will have students watch videos on their own in class, with the teacher providing (1) custodial supervision; and (2) academic support in the limited time available.

No comments: