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Flipping is not disruptive

Posted on: March 5, 2015

I revisited my videos on flipped learning as I am facilitating a series of workshops for a few schools this month.

In my introductory video on flipped learning, I mentioned that one of my bugbears is people showing photos of upside down classrooms or lecture halls to illustrate flipping.

Video source

The problem with such illustrations is that they imply that one is turning what is rightside up upside down. This in turn implies that current classrooms practices are the right way up (many are not) and that flipping is a source of disruption (it is not).

I have written before how flipped classrooms do not necessarily change teaching because it may not change what a teacher does, e.g., preparing content, delivering it, getting students to practice, testing for understanding. Flipped learning, particularly my three dimensions that focus on learners creating content and teaching it, are more likely sources of change [1] [2] [3] [4].

If you studied how modern schooling evolved, you would realize that the schools and classrooms that we know today are quite unusual. In some ways, flipping is a modified return to an older, more human way of educating.

The mainstream and modern schools that we know today are quite different from the academies and school-like practices of the ancient Greeks, Chinese, Indians, Byzantines, Romans, and Ottomans. Our schools, with age segregation, academic subject silos, and tests, are arguably linked more to the demands of the Industrial Revolution and modelled against its processes.

Prior to modern schooling, it was not unusual for learners to be grouped less dependently of their ages and to be taught in what we might call cross or interdisciplinary ways. The number of learners in such groups was relatively small, testing as we know today was rare, and coaching or individualized instruction more common.

We would like to think of life being simpler then with concerns that were less burdensome than today. But a keen student of history might point out that every generation had problems that were disproportionately large to the solutions at hand.

Despite our selfish view that we live a more complex life and are mere shrapnel in an information explosion, we are revisiting an almost agrarian, pre-industrial form of learning. Apprenticeships, mentoring, individualized coaching, and personal learning. The NYT has a recent and excellent article that elaborates on this.

Often we are leveraging on technologies to do this. Tuition agencies have started offering YouTube videos to match tutors with tutees; Sugata Mitra has his “granny cloud”; classrooms and boardrooms, studies and cubicles all over the world are connecting with Google Hangouts, Skype, or other connectivity platforms; learners are curating their own courses or taking what they want from MOOCs.

Flipping is not causing disruption. It is causing a return to what people need and want for learning. It is making things right.

1 Response to "Flipping is not disruptive"

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