Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Flipping Rant

Khan and Gates
No, its not what you think and it is still a clean blog. I spent some time thinking last week on flipped learning a term that is in very real danger of becoming a cliche. It started with Khan and his academy that I have discussed before and even recommended on my netcast. I have actually used a version of a flipped classroom in a methodology course I teach in the summer using the Khan academy mini lessons to help students go through the fundamental calculations in descriptive statistics. More recently Hake a prolific observer of science education has posted a series of responses to the quality of the Khan academy instructional approaches (very old fashioned really) that can be seen here. I agree with much of what's been said there but here I have another point to make.
Everyone is hailing this approach as the new silver bullet- new thinking about education that will help transform education. I have the sinking suspicion that the support for this model is actually rooted in two very irrelevant sources. The first is the observation that the instruction on the Khan academy video's is in fact very old fashioned. It is exactly the same thing that I had in Math when I went to school, the only difference is that you can watch it your time repeatedly without driving your teacher crazy.
The second reason this approach is deemed great is that it is supported by someone that has never been an educator and knows very little about learning theory. We love innovators in education that come from other realms and can show educators the light.
Students discussing the media they read at home
during Literature Circles
My rant, however, goes in a very different direction. English language arts and social studies teachers (primarily) have from the dawn of time been flipping their classrooms. They sent students home with the direction of consuming media (books, movies, photos, source documents). The  in class everyone discussed the novels, source documents and produced projects about them. Yet, this does not occur to CNN, BBC or Bill Gates. It turns out that every high-school teacher has been doing it for years. So why do we like when Khan does it? again because it is in math, because it is coming from outside education, because first he made his millions in the stock market and then he discovered education- such a sacrifice. Much more than a teacher that has skipped the getting rich part and dedicated his life to children without the benefit of earnings and Bill Gates loving embrace.
My flipping sisters and brothers who teach in flippin' ways you were there first and will still be there even after Khan fades into distant memory.
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