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Flip away: You ARE good enough

"Worship Camtasia 2" by Betsy Weber on Flickr

I’ll admit it: I’ve fallen asleep in class. Yes, a current teacher–a guy who now comes around and nudges his students on their shoulders to awake from their slumber–was once a slacker just like them.

I can vividly recall the first time I nodded off in class. Surprisingly (or perhaps not, depending on your point of view), it was in an English class. Hopefully, if Mrs. Buck stumbles onto this blog post some day, she can forgive me. If it’s any consolation to her, I really did feel quite embarrassed when I awoke in a puddle of drool, even if she actually never saw me do it.

Maybe Mrs. Buck wasn’t the best speaker in the world. Maybe that particular lecture wasn’t the most enthralling. Maybe I just spent too much time the night before playing my Sega Genesis. Whatever the case, I wonder how different my education could have been if if the technology had existed for my teachers to flip their classes.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, “flipping” is a relatively new concept where teachers–through the use of screen capture software or something similar–record the lectures that they would have typically given in class. Students are then assigned their homework: they must watch the video before the next class period. The following day, the teacher gives an assignment–which previously would have been assigned homework–that the students complete in class. The teacher now has more time to interact with students, answer questions, and address student concerns or misunderstandings.

It sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it? Apparently not to everyone. Don’t get me wrong: I agree with Erik Palmer’s argument that teachers need to become better communicators. I have often wondered how unengaging and uninteresting people so often wind up as teachers. I strongly believe that teachers need to do a better job presenting their lessons clearly and succinctly, while also taking the time to explain the relevance of those lessons. What I disagree with is Palmer’s suggestion that teachers should reconsider flipping their classrooms simply because they “aren’t that good.”

I believe that these are the people that should be working on flipping their classes immediately. Have you ever left a class with a question that you thought the instructor didn’t answer well enough? Have you felt like a lecture went over your head either because the content was difficult to understand or because the teacher moved too quickly through the material? If so, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to quickly revisit that lecture and listen to it or see it again? I’m sorry, but a page of notes just isn’t the same as actually hearing your teacher (this is why math teachers should’t rely on just showing Kahn Academy videos) explain the lesson, regardless of how boring or confusing he or she may be. When a classroom is flipped, it’s as easy as pushing “play” so that you can watch the lecture again. Then, when you come to class the next day, you will have had time to think about those topics that confused you. You will be able to ask effective questions that will help you understand the lesson better. What’s wrong with that?

Looking at the comments left about that article, I almost get the feeling that what we’re truly dealing with is more of the same old, same old: instructors refusing to change how they teach because it goes outside their comfort zone. That is what is frustrating about teachers, schools, and education. Instead of embracing technology and praising those teachers who are trying to engage their students in new and exciting ways, we are quick to judge their efforts, criticize their instruction, and discourage them from flipping their classes, just because it’s different than what has traditionally been the norm.

Well, if that’s the case, don’t be offended the next time a student tunes out in your class. If anything, at least he or she will be well-rested and ready to learn and interact in someone else’s class.

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