Another dot in the blogosphere?

Posts Tagged ‘flipping

I discovered an unexpected source of ideas for flipped learning. It is a video of a teacher trolling his students after he banned them from flipping bottles.

Video source

At first glance, the teacher might come across as the embodiment of “do as I say, but not as I do”. After all, he did not want his students flipping bottles and did so himself.

Viewed through the lens of YouTube entertainment, the teacher was not only a master troll, he was also aware of memes and what connected with his learners. Even the groan-worthy references were gems.

Viewed through the lens of education, the video was a good example of practice, creative endeavour, and content creation.

The practice of bottle flipping required not just elbow grease, but also experimentation to determine the right amount of water. I have no doubt that there was much failure footage left out of the final video.

The teacher kept flipping bottles just like teachers might try flipping their classrooms. However, routine with both gets old quickly. Since the flipped classroom is still largely reliant on the teacher as driver, the teacher must design and lead interesting journeys. The teacher provided creative variations and levelled up the difficulty of bottle flipping. The same could be said about flipping classrooms.

The most important idea is that of having the agency to create content. This is one principle that distinguishes the flipped classroom from flipping learning. Learners must be empowered to create content so that they make their thinking visible, are teaching their peers, and acting on the feedback they receive. Only then does the flipped classroom transform to one that embraces flipped learning.

Bonus: This viral video also illustrated one strategy for creating videos for flipped learning. Every learner should show only what is critical. They do not need to create epic movies. They should be creating trailers that leave their peers wanting more.

I listened to a podcast on “flipped homework” yesterday. What my ears heard almost made my eyes roll. Almost, because I tried to take the perspectives of those trying to promote that idea.

The podcaster and his interviewee did not go beyond a general definition of flipped homework: Tasks that are meaningful to the student. So I tried to fill in the blanks. Flipped homework could involve its design and implementation.

The design of flipped homework could first start with research on homework [examples] and what makes it effective and meaningful. The redesign of homework could include on-going professional development for teachers on better homework models and practices. This should include the discarding of old, unproven, and frustrating practices like hand-me-downs, always-done-this-way, and homework for homework’s sake. Teachers could also share their practices for flipped homework models to emerge or be refined in context.

The implementation of “flipped homework” in a flipped classroom is more straightforward. What used to be homework (e.g., practice done outside the classroom) is done in class in the presence of peers, coaches, tutors, or teachers. In the conventionally defined flipped classroom, the “new” homework might be the consumption of materials (e.g., YouTube videos, web quests) before entering the classroom.

However, I remain critical of homework, flipped or not. If it is not critically examined and designed, it is busy work that takes away personal, social, and family time. Flipping homework in terms of where content is initially consumed or where practice is conducted merely changes the nature of homework.

Flipped homework is a misnomer because it is not necessarily work done at home. This might seem like a trivial argument, but it is not. If you are trying to address the mindsets of teachers and change their behaviours, they need to learn and use other terms that are not homework. Using that term again allows old practice to creep and infect new ones.

Practice without theory is blind. Theory without practice is sterile.

I am in favour of “doing what works”, but perhaps we should be more critical and humble and say “doing what seems to work”. We cannot be sure unless we have data and one or more theoretical foundations that altogether stand up to scrutiny. If we do not have that evidence, we delude ourselves into believing “what works”.

As I survey local flipped classroom and flipped learning ventures, and work with educators involved with these efforts, I have observed at least three patterns. There are the:

  1. Lone wolves
  2. Pockets of innovators
  3. Coordinated efforts
wolf by Cloudtail, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  Cloudtail 

The lone wolves are the most common. They are mostly energetic and fairly informed individual who chose to work alone or do so under the circumstances. They do this because they are the peripheral innovators and/or they do not have  support.

Every organization has lone wolves and innovators, but they are not the same thing. I am referring to flippers who are both. They work faster and are willing to try and make mistakes alone.

But this asset is also their greatest liability. The run the highest risk of burnout or moving from one cool thing to do to another. They also risk being socially marginalized in their organizations if they are perceived to be aloof or too clever.

I have noticed lone wolf flipping die out within months. Most efforts are not sustainable because there is only one battery and bulb in a very dark room.

The pockets of innovators may or may not include lone wolves. They might be led by a former lone wolf. These are best represented by group of three to five teachers who share a common academic interest.

These pockets are likely to have the support of higher ups and their flipping efforts revolve around lesson planning and preparing videos for students. They might work semester to semester or have year-long plans. They deal only with their content area and for a selection of classes (rarely an entire level).

pockets of dolls by visagency, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  visagency 

Managed and supported well the pockets of innovators become coordinated efforts. The innovators might share their stories with others within their school or to a larger audience. Others buy in or are roped in by a school leader.

The flipping efforts cross academic subjects and involve entire levels of students. If ambitious enough, a coordinator of such flipping efforts might implement plans for other levels of students.

Such coordinated efforts are few. Even fewer are successful stories. Larger teams might mean more complex innovation because the small team efforts do not always scale up. A wise coordinator will realize this and manage pockets with a larger fabric.

There is a variant of coordinated efforts that could involve more than one school. This is practically non-existent as many schools here operate like Apple and Google. They do not share secrets.

This is a shame because schools do not have to be like that. Fortunately, there is an emerging level that is higher than that takes advantage of the first two categories. Educators on social media already connect on Twitter with hashtags like #flipclass or visit any of the repositories on flipping to learn from each other.

I might seem to imply that there is a better way to manage flipping efforts, but the different circumstances shape what different educators do.

The only thing I can say with certainty is that most focus on flipping their classrooms instead of flipping the learning. The latter is better [1] [2] because it nurtures the truly independent learner, changes pedagogy, and leverages on technology powerfully and meaningfully.

This is the final part of the FAQ on flipping that originated from two seminars I conducted this month. I shared part 1 and part 2 previously.

There are more questions and answers, but it is not meaningful to share all of them here because they are specific to content and context.

These questions were submitted to me via a Google Form before a seminar. Once again, I am simply pasting the answers I provided in our SG Flippers Google+ space. My replies are short partly because I might have addressed the questions during the seminar. Short answers also tend to be incomplete, so that might spark thought and discussion.

time by spapax, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License   by  spapax 

Question: On the average (from your experience), how much time does a student spend on going through the materials before coming to class?

My answer: As little as possible. Even less if they are already hard-pressed for time and if the out-of-class materials are busy work, not what they are passionate about, or otherwise not meaningful to them.

Design so that they have a clear stake in the the process and product.

38/365: Homework by cplong11, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  cplong11 

1. how to ensure that students do their “homework”- ie. readings?
2. when should be good moments for flipping?”

I addressed Q1 during the seminar with two ideas. I reiterate the second: Question the assumptions you have that homework helps. Focus on the different ways they learn.

Q2 is very subjective, i.e., it depends on your experience with the content. But here is what I have found to work across many academic subjects. To flip learning (not the classroom), the greyer the content, the better for flipping. Answers are not so black and white; opinions and suggestions matter.

Addendum: Two instructors caught up with me while I was decompressing at a coffee place after my second seminar. One thing we chatted about was backchannelling as a small way to flip lectures. Here are some things I have written about this topic:

I continue what I started yesterday by sharing some of my answers to questions raised before, during, and after my August seminars on flipping.

Today I focus on quick Q&A in a TodaysMeet backchannel. The questions and answers are SMS-length because that an affordance of the platform.


Is there a need to prepare students for this kind of pedagogy for this approach to work? If so how?
1:35pm, Fri, Aug 14, 2015 by ***
To ***: To summarize the answer I gave ‐ Yes, prepare them technologically and pedagogically for the approach. Anticipate their issues.
2:37pm, Fri, Aug 14, 2015 by Ashley

Can the process of learning be objectively assessed?
1:34pm, Fri, Aug 14, 2015 by **
To **: Clear-cut content might be objectively assessed, but visible thinking is subjective. Well-designed rubrics might help keep focus.
2:39pm, Fri, Aug 14, 2015 by Ashley

How to manage workload of students when they create content?
1:27pm, Fri, Aug 14, 2015 by *******
To ******* on workload. 1) Give them ownership (help them make it theirs). If they’re passionate about it, they’ll invest the energy.
2:58pm, Fri, Aug 14, 2015 by Ashley
To ******* on workload. 2) Help them manage the load with metacognition: How to plan, change plans, manage tasks, etc.
2:59pm, Fri, Aug 14, 2015 by Ashley

Students may not “believe” what the fellow students teach them. How to settle this?
1:28pm, Fri, Aug 14, 2015 by *******
To *******: Consolidate learning with strategies like whole class discussions or forum‐based critiques. Make good ideas rise to the top.
2:40pm, Fri, Aug 14, 2015 by Ashley

How to get paid if learners may learn better without teachers
1:11pm, Fri, Aug 14, 2015 by *******
To *******: By reinventing yourselves. Be mentors, models, facilitators, meddlers in the middle.
11:05am, Sat, Aug 15, 2015 by Ashley

different students have different pace of learning, can this be done efficiently on effectively for the relatively “slower” learner?
1:36pm, Fri, Aug 14, 2015 by *******
To *******: By providing variety & choice in & outside class.
11:05am, Sat, Aug 15, 2015 by Ashley

Stay tuned to Part 3 tomorrow.

I fielded questions on the flipped classroom and flipped learning during my last two seminars. I collected the questions with Google Forms, Padlet, and TodaysMeet.

I answered all the questions in the SG Flippers Community space in Google+. But I thought I should share some of the questions here on a more open platform.

One question was about the age or developmental appropriateness of flipping.

iPads arrive in 4th grade... by timlauer, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License   by  timlauer 

Question: Are Primary school students ready for flipped learning? Doesn’t it require a certain level of maturity and self-motivation?

My brief answer: The video I featured was done by Primary school students. They created and taught, which are more complex skills than passive consumption.

Maturity and self-motivation are not prerequisites to flipping; they are end results or desired outcomes. See an elaboration to a similar question I answered earlier.

More thoughts: I have encountered higher education instructors thinking that flipping is better suited for younger learners and teachers of young students assuming that flipping is better for older learners. If the question is not asked out of honest curiosity, I might be tempted to say that the question is a manifestation of an instructor’s or a teacher’s deflective mindset. My question is: What are you running away from?

Question: How do we get our “please-serve-me-on-a-platter” students ready for flipped learning?

My brief answer: With several concurrent and supporting strategies. Here are five broad ideas.

  1. Resist the urge and ease of serving. Ask more Qs than providing immediate As.
  2. Establish this as an expectation for both you and your learners. Stick to it.
  3. At strategic intervals, remind your learners (and other stakeholders if necessary) the rationales for getting them to think more actively and do more meaningfully.
  4. Design authentic work and assignments. These rarely have clear answers or are easily served.
  5. Work with other like-minded folk so that your efforts are not isolated.

This series continues tomorrow.

Today I share some tweets that begin a story on whether academic papers are read and I end the story with questions on teaching practice.

Last week I shared this STonline article.

It received quite a lot of attention judging from the Twitter conversations I had with people I had never met before.

One short conversation with one academic focused on an important aspect that the article brought up. If university faculty are appraised in ways that do not promote more open sharing or public discourse, then little will change.

For example, if more appraisal points are not awarded for getting grants that require data and publications to be more openly shared [example], faculty will maintain the status quo.

Several others focused on people not reading the articles they cite or not reading deeply enough.

It led me to tweet about the need to read pragmatically.

Given the disproportionately large volume of readings compared to the time for academic writing, it is pragmatic for academics to read selectively.

For the layperson and other academics reading outside their specializations, selective reading becomes the default method because they do not have the same depth of knowledge.

It is not as if you need to read everything; it is whether or not you read enough to make good sense or to raise a valid counterpoint.

I used my Twitter dashboard statistics to see if these academics walked the talk. Big assumption: People pause to read and click on what they are interested in. Since this was about academic papers not being read and since the people who responded (Twitter engagements) were academics, I am making an assumption that most were academics.

As of Mon, 13 Apr, 4pm Singapore time, my tweet had received 1,546 casual views and 99 engagements.

Almost a third of the engagements (32) were clicks on the screenshot, presumably to read the snippet more carefully. Only 11% (9 clicks) of the engagements were to open the actual article.

There is no guarantee that those who opened the article actually read it or read it all the way through. Whether they read it is partly a function of their persistence and whether the article was behind a paywall. If they read the article in its entirety, there is no guarantee that they understood it or got what was intended.

This is not an attack on academics. As a former academic, I understand what the stresses are and I also know how fragile egos can be.

This is a statement about how teachers handle readings. Teachers might assign readings as homework or use readings to flip their classrooms. Such efforts are likely to suffer from the same low returns and similar problems as the example I described above.

Instead of providing closed answers, I ask open questions.

  • Are the readings you want your learners to consume available to them unconditionally?
  • Why do you want your learners to read something before class? Do they understand why they need to read before class?
  • What scaffolds are you providing or what prior knowledge have you activated prior to the reading?
  • Must they read everything or is it enough that they read just enough?
  • What provisions have you made for those that cannot do the readings, do not wish to read, or do not benefit optimally from readings?
  • What assumptions are you making when requiring only readings?

Click to see all the nominees!

QR code

Get a mobile QR code app to figure out what this means!

My tweets


Usage policy

%d bloggers like this: