Erik Palmer

Aurora, CO

Interests: Technology,Whole child...

  • Posted 6 Years ago
  • 44k

Don't flip for the flipped classroom

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         Evidence that you are getting old:

  • You watch the Grammy’s and don’t know many of the performers.
  • You say, “These students used to be so much better.”
  • You think the flipped classroom is a big deal.

         Let me focus on just the last one.  Older folks are making the decisions in your district.  They are easily amazed by all the new-fangled gadgets.  "Interactive whiteboards and response systems!  Wow!  If you touch the board, stuff happens!!  If you tap 'A' on the little thingy, the answer shows up on the board!!  We gotta have that!!"  Will the teachers use it?  Does it improve scores?  Will the glitz wear off leaving you with a "the emperor has no clothes" sort of thought?  "I don’t know, I just know it is really cool like the stuff I saw on Star Trek as a kid!"  And so your building has lots of seriously expensive and seriously underused tech stuff.

         Now comes the flipped class idea.  "Wow!  You can use this stuff to make a video?  Then you can post it on that Internet place?  And kids have things they can watch it with?  That is so amazing!!  Why I bet these kids today will just love that sort of thing.  They loves their computers and I just know they will love watching us on those little screens!"

         The debate about the value of flipped classrooms is raging.  Does it just reinforce ‘the sage on the stage’?  Do students do their video-watching homework?  Is it right for all kids?  Does it put students in charge of their own learning?  And so on.  I won’t get into the debate here.  I will just say this: you aren’t that good.

         That is a rough statement, perhaps even rude.  But think about this: actors get paid well for a reason.  They can do something that few people can do—they can be very impressive on a screen.  Very, very few of us can command attention in a digital format. All media (radio, TV, podcast, webinar) require much more than in-person communication requires.  When you digitize a live presentation, the nature of the small screen/small speaker makes a great presentation seem good; a good presentation seem blah; a blah presentation seem dreadfully boring.  Who in your building has the chops to pull this off?  Way less than you think.  One out of twenty?  One out of fifty? 

         And think about this: editors and special effects and foley artists and soundtrack people get paid well for a reason.  They can do things that few people can do—they can enhance a presentation.  No one wants to watch a teacher talk for an hour.  No one wants to listen to ten minutes of looped jingles you added from GarageBand as a soundtrack.  No one wants to watch you write on a dry erase board or watch a Camtasia screen capture.  It is cruel to ask students to watch some of the things being created, and if many teachers switch to flipped classrooms, forcing our kids to go home and spend an entire evening watching the junk we create will be beyond the bounds of reasonable.  YOU go watch an hour of some the stuff out there and see how YOU like it.

         I started out teaching students how to be better oral communicators.  Lately, I have been getting calls to work with adults, also.  Schools and universities are contacting me not to show the faculty how to teach oral communication to students, but to show the faculty how to be better communicators themselves.   These institutions realize that to be effective educators, we all need to be more effective speakers.  They realize that in an era where digital media showcase oral communication skills, we need to seriously improve those skills before we attempt to use the new communication tools available. 

         I suspect the buzz about the flipped classroom will wear off and the fad will fade.  Maybe I am wrong.  I know I am not wrong about this, though: Don’t even think of heading down that road unless you first absolutely master oral communication.  Yes, this stuff is all new and wow-inspiring, but to pull it off, your speaking needs to be wow-inspiring also.  Start there.



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31 Aug 12, 02:27 PM

Here's the individual long term learning of critical must know kicker:

How much of all of this is learning research based, what does the learning research say advances individual, long term, learning outcomes and where are the measurable results of best practices, flipped learning, in advancing individual long term learning outcomes, resulting in advanced individual performance improvement outcomes?

(1) The research is solid that long term learning comes from individual coached reinforcement over time. Traditional videos are part of a blended learning environment, but are poor as a vehicle for long term learning (Even when well done, they are traditonally a one to many, passive form of information share, which does little if anything for long term, learning, transfer and application). Let's not give videos credit for long term learning, where no credit is deserved.

(2) The interactive classroom experience is great, but where are the best paractices and where are the documented individual advanced long term learning outcomes? If there are no measurable advanced individual long term learning learning results and corresponding best practices we should be implementing a differing approach.

If advanced individual long term learning of critical must know information results in advanced individual performance improvement (I believe it does), than advancing individual long term learning in the most effective and efficient way possible should be our highest priority.

We must follow the proven learning research, establish best practices with documented advanced individual long term learning outcomes, then implement those classroom proven best practices.

It's too late to follow unproven individual learning methodologies with the hope of a positive advanced individual long term learning outcome. We know too much of what works to not learn/followimplement proven learning methodologies.


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26 Apr 12, 04:03 AM

Powerful points on both sides!  Like Tim, I find the theory behind flipping very intriguing. However, even with my experience onstage and onscreen, I'm hesitant. I'm good, but I'm not great. I recommend teachers only consider that one really, really good lesson that they have down pat.

Before they use it in the classroom, they need to videotape themselves and obtain some honest criticism.  They may not have the kind of voice that plays well on video.  If after showing the video, you receive a go-ahead from people you know, you should then seek out people you don't know for criticism, whether in a group or forum.

Only once you've got enough positive feedback should you consider taking the step forward to creating a video for that one lesson.  Not taking a leap forward for flipping your classroom completely---just that one lesson. For each and every lesson, going through the same process is the best way to ensure a quality presentation. Only after a series of "good" lessons could a teacher authentically use this method for teaching, imho. @MindyKellerKyri


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25 Apr 12, 09:51 AM

Interesting thoughts on this topic, Erik. I agree with Tim in that I do see the value of the flipped experience, but I would agree with you that there are issues with the way it has been implemented and understood. First, it's not for everyone (just like any other form of learning). Forcing students to learn solely by a flipped method is no more pedogogically sound that lecturing each day for an hour in class. Also, since this method is being used in part by educators to help ensure work completion in class for struggling learners, it is especially ineffective in those situations because those students are even less likely to watch the assigned video or read the assigned material before class because they do not even see a measurement of accountability. However, I do think that we are misconstruing the concept of the flipped class in stating that the process must involve a) a video and b) a teacher-made video. You are correct in claiming that few people are captivating on film in the way which would hold student interest, but I would argue the same is true for the "sage on the stage" who lectures for an hour. The majority of videos I have seen created for or used in the flipped manner are not hour long videos, however. The Khan videos are very short as are the new TedEd videos (which, by the way, are pretty cool and offer teachers a platform to build flipped experiences). When I make videos for my blended online/face-to-face class, I limit it to about 5 minutes of exposure to a concept. Beyond the video concept, the whole idea of flipping is to have the work component done in class more often or the engagement in discussion. To accomplish this, we can use video, reading, discussion, discovery, and many other types of exposure assignments completed at home. If we take a look at the flipped concept, there is potential, but not the way some teachers are understanding it. Thanks for the thoughts on this. Oh and by the way, I'm 36...I think that still lands somewhere on the youngish end of the spectrum but now you have me questioning that perception!


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24 Apr 12, 09:42 PM

Erik - Well written blog.  Lots of great insight.  The other day I told some high school students that my refrigerator “was on the fritz” and there was a moment of silence followed by a burst of laughter.  When I asked, “What’s so funny?” they told me that grandpa used that phrase. Of course, another student did a quick Google search and informed me that the phrase was coined in 1902. So, being old fashioned and out of it, a student used one of those “new-fangled devices” to tell me where this “ancient” phrase came from.  Richard


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24 Apr 12, 11:52 AM

Erik, I have to say, I like the "idea" of a flipped classroom -- at least in theory. That student can reasonably learn (through lecture or otherwise) a lot of the basic concepts at home and then come in to class to refine that or further engage with the concepts with the teacher. I do think you have a real big point though about the ability of teachers to come across on video if they do some sort of lecture -- a different skill completely. If it's bad, it will be hard to watch and may not be effective for students. But on the "flip" side, it's also an opportunity for a teacher to model the type of communications skills required to be effective in various media too.


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