Monday, November 7, 2011

Flipping the flipped school?

There has been quite a bit of talk about 'flipped school' over the last few months, mostly centred around Sal Khan's video lectures. The concept of the flipped school is that students should watch video lectures at home and come to school for one-on-one tutoring from their teachers. It's worth noting that i) Sandi Mann's research shows that 60% of students find lectures boring and ii) watching videos about even extremely complex problems only light up the brain a fraction of how much working with a group of people does. If you want to give your brain a work out, question a friend about something you're both learning.
Does this picture look like good learning to you? Don't get me wrong: eLearning is at the heart of what I do every day, but apart from the fact that these students don't need to be at a school to stare at a screen, what you're seeing here doesn't align with what we know about good learning. Links between physical activity and brain function, the importance of social interaction, experiential learning, multi-literacies and differing perspectives are all missing from what these students are experiencing.
Recording videos for 'pure' concepts like calculus and physics might work well for some learners, but once you start presenting things like the French Revolution in the same manner, I get a little bit worried. The beauty of studying history is hearing different voices, and differing interpretations, and the thought that you can 'get' an event from a video lecture is a bit unsettling. I also think the Khan videos have gained such popularity because there is an inherent lack of trust in most teachers' ability to explain difficult concepts.
Personally I think we need to flip the flipped school.


  1. A snapshot photo is always a snapshot - the Union Jack would imply that great British learning is in progress ..

  2. You make good points, but for me this is why the flipped school (not necessarily the flipped flipped school) makes sense.

    In essence: do everything you could do alone at home, do everything that requires a group and/or discussion in the classroom.

    Right now in many schools the stuff that could be done at home (listening) is done in the classroom, and the stuff that would really benefit from a group (working on problems) is done at home. Flip it!

  3. I don´t see your point. The picture and your arguments make a strong cause for the flipped school.

  4. David & Jaime,
    Thanks for your comments- good debate. I guess the point I want to make is that one of the assumptions that the flipped school hasn't challenged is that the lecture is the best way for us to learn. What we know about the brain is that it's much more active when working with others, and that learning is a deeply social experience. Instead of doing solitary things, we need more social constructivism in our schools. Given the choice between watching a video at home about how a lawnmower works, then coming to school to ask my teacher questions and complete a quiz, I'd far rather pull a lawnmower apart with a group of similarly-minded students then teach someone from another class about how lawnmowers work. Research into pedagogy shows that this is a far more successful way for people to learn and it's learning like this that can't be done via lecture.
    The other point I'd make is that rather than memorise on person's summary of the key events in the French Revolution, my brain would prefer to work with a group of classmates to devise a common collection of key events. In promoting one (video) viewpoint above others, we have to constantly remind our students that it is not received wisdom, and that other opinions (including those not neatly recorded as webcasts) deserve equal weight.