Flip and feedback

“Flipping” lectures and homework is being tested at some schools, reports Ed Week.

In a Khan Academy pilot in suburban Los Altos, California (where I live), students in grades 5-8 watch Khan’s online math lessons at home and do exercises. Teachers can track students’ video watching and see how long each student takes to correctly solve 10 problems in a row for each math concept.

That’s not really a homework flip, since students do exercises at home, but it helps teachers quickly see where students are getting confused.

At Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology in Georgia, John Willis requires physics students to view recorded lectures and other materials online, then uses short quizzes to make sure they follow through. He uses class time for demonstrations and experiments. Other teachers have followed his lead to save instructional time.

 Mr. Willis said that what used to be a two-class-period process to set the groundwork for a laboratory assignment has been moved online—mostly with student-made videos explaining the setup procedures and hypothesis planning.

“It allows me to improve the connections I’m making with students, because now I can get into the material in a deeper way,” Mr. Willis said.

For a recent experiment using microscopes, Dr.(Susan) Kramer and another biology teacher posted YouTube videos of scientists discussing the equipment, photos of the school’s microscopes for the students to label, and their own videos explaining common problems in setting up the experiment.

“When [the students] came in, that shaved a half hour off what we would have normally had to eat up in lab,” she said. “So at a time when we’re trying to cram more into less, they’re already coming in prepared and ready to go and that saved us a lot.”

Flipping requires students to do more work on their own. It also requires all students to have access to computers. Los Altos and Gwinnett loan out laptops when necessary. (I’d bet the average Los Altos family owns 2.5 computers.)

 

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Comments

  1. “Flipping the classroom” as I understand it started with college courses, specifically in mathematics, and has become all the rage on Twitter edusphere anyway.

    Not only does it require some kind of laptop, it also requires reliable high-speed internet access.

  2. Michael E. Lopez says:

    Flipping requires students to do more work on their own.

    How is this not just “Flipping requires students to do more work?”

    Of course, requiring more work is always a good way to increase outputs.

  3. What I don’t understand is why people are so excited about having students spend class time solving problems.

    I generally need quiet when I solve problems–it’s distracting to have people around me talking about them. Sometimes I need a LOT of time–until something clicks.

    And I enjoy listening to a teacher present the material in person. Not sure what’s so exciting about having students watch videos instead of that.

    I know I’m not alone in this. The question is: why are some people so excited about this “flipping” and others not?

  4. Roger Sweeny says:

    The question is: why are some people so excited about this “flipping” and others not?

    There is a generic ed business answer: what we’re doing now isn’t working real well and this is different. Therefore, it might be better. Depending on how dissatisfied you are with the way things are now, and depending on how this particular idea strikes you, you will be excited about the idea or not.

    It would be nice if some real science was done on it. Comparing similar classes which do one or the other and seeing if one understands better or not.

    • Yes, some real science would be nice but let’s just look at some of the advantages that don’t require that real science.

      At a glance a teacher can see how each student’s progressing.

      That’s without writing, distributing, overseeing, collecting, grading, collating and result-analyzing one test per kid per test cycle. A lot less work and practically no tedious, repetitive, mind-numbing work for the teacher.

      Can I get an “amen” for practically no tedious, repetitive, mind-numbing work for the teacher?

      Matter of fact, a *lot* of tedious, repetitive, mind-numbing work simply evaporates.

      Attendance? Did the kids log in from a school terminal? Then they attended.

      Result-reporting to parents? They log into their account which gives them access to the kid’s results.

      Administrative reporting? A little data-mining code to aggregate results sliced and diced any way you want them. Teacher-time required? Zero.

      Heck, even if Khan Academy didn’t produce any educational benefit it’d still be worth it.

      • Deirdre Mundy says:

        Also, if the lessons are happening at home, it becomes easier to have the kids work at their own pace. More individualized curriculum = better outcomes for the people not right at the middle of the pack!

      • MagisterGreen says:

        “At a glance a teacher can see how each student’s progressing.”
        – How, exactly, does this work compared to an observant teacher in a classroom as students are introduced to new material? What’s the advantage?

        “That’s without writing, distributing, overseeing, collecting, grading, collating and result-analyzing one test per kid per test cycle. A lot less work and practically no tedious, repetitive, mind-numbing work for the teacher.”
        – Right, because making life easier for the teacher is what schools are for. I thought that was the teachers’ unions’ job.

        “Can I get an “amen” for practically no tedious, repetitive, mind-numbing work for the teacher?”
        – See above.

        “Matter of fact, a *lot* of tedious, repetitive, mind-numbing work simply evaporates.”
        – Well, offhand it’s replaced with preparing, taping, editing, posting, and maintaining those videos that allow the ‘flip’ to occur in the first place. I’d also wager it’s replaced with a lot of backfilling as the teacher deals with the kids who A) didn’t watch the video despite being ‘logged in’ or B) didn’t understand the video and thus need the concepts explained to them by the teacher (i.e. like the old days).

        “Attendance? Did the kids log in from a school terminal? Then they attended.”
        – No, then they logged in. I can log in to anything from my computer and then tab over to resume playing my video game if I want. True, it’s ultimately no different from the student who came to class with a comic book hidden in his textbook, but let’s not pretend this way is somehow better.

        “Result-reporting to parents? They log into their account which gives them access to the kid’s results.”
        – No different from using Edline or any other reporting software, or from a parent picking up a phone and calling the teacher.

        “Administrative reporting? A little data-mining code to aggregate results sliced and diced any way you want them. Teacher-time required? Zero.”
        – Do we really want to find more ways to try and reduce students to various aggregates of numbers?

        • “How, exactly, does this work compared to an observant teacher in a classroom as students are introduced to new material? What’s the advantage?”

          -It compares very favorably because you can’t just order up an observant teacher like you can a cheeseburger at a restaurant. You can, however, click on a link to a web page with no effort at all.

          “Right, because making life easier for the teacher is what schools are for. I thought that was the teachers’ unions’ job.”

          -Right, because an inability to conjure a worthwhile response necessitates a change of subject. Making professionals more productive results in a more worthwhile use of their time. The current public education system has no use for teaching skill which is why it’s ignored. But when parents are in charge teaching skill increases in value which means teachers had better not be doing what clerks, or computers, could just as easily do better.

          “See above.”

          -Indeed.

          “Well, offhand it’s replaced with preparing, taping, editing, posting, and maintaining those videos that allow the ‘flip’ to occur in the first place..”

          -If you insist on re-inventing the wheel, yeah. But if other people’s videos are good enough, or better then the individual teacher could produce, then why bother. Nice try though.

          “No, then they logged in. I can log in to anything from my computer and then tab over to resume playing my video game if I want.”

          -That’s nice. And will your dashboard show the progress you’ve made on your lessons today? The dashboard your parents and teachers and the person who runs the school have access to? Yes it will. Nice try though.

          “No different from using Edline or any other reporting software, or from a parent picking up a phone and calling the teacher.”

          -Oh, very different. A single source means data doesn’t have to interchanged or re-entered worst case and, of course, it takes zero teacher-time. Nice try though.

          “Do we really want to find more ways to try and reduce students to various aggregates of numbers?”

          -Has the pretense that kids are treated like individuals created a more effective educational environment? No.

  5. Roger Sweeny says:

    Well, offhand it’s replaced with preparing, taping, editing, posting, and maintaining those videos that allow the ‘flip’ to occur in the first place.

    I suspect that as time goes on, more and more of this will be done by the people who put up the videos. Similar to the way a school buys textbooks now and as part of the deal gets worksheets, labs, a “test bank,” and a host of other “auxiliaries.”

    I’d also wager it’s replaced with a lot of backfilling as the teacher deals with the kids who A) didn’t watch the video despite being ‘logged in’ or B) didn’t understand the video and thus need the concepts explained to them by the teacher (i.e. like the old days). … “Attendance? Did the kids log in from a school terminal? Then they attended.” – No, then they logged in.

    These seem to me to be the real problems. Flip and feedback is probably better if all students watch the videos and make a good faith effort to understand. That sounds unrealistic to me. And even with a good faith effort, some students will need a lot of teacher time.

    • Khan Academy comes with a student dashboard that allows progress to be seen at a glance. There are account types that allow parents or teachers to also see the student’s progress at a glance. That means parents know, in real-time if they prefer, whether their child’s progressing or not.

      Essentially, Khan Academy replicates all the functions of a school with the single exception of temporarily storing kids out from under the feet of parents.

      While the current model of public education will be able to ignore Khan Academy for a while, and they certainly have no reason to embrace this productivity-enhancing technology any more then they’ve embraced any preceding, productivity-enhancing technology, the political support for an educational system that has no interest in educating kids, is breaking down. The option to ignore such technology is a function of political power and it’s pretty clear from recent events that public support for the extant public education system is swiftly ebbing.

  6. Michael E. Lopez says:

    Allen has said a lot of things on this thread, things that got me thinking.

    Allen Saith:

    It compares very favorably because you can’t just order up an observant teacher like you can a cheeseburger at a restaurant. You can, however, click on a link to a web page with no effort at all.

    OK, so the advantage seems to be that we can now have classrooms run by people with the IQ of a cheeseburger. Now, this isn’t what allen said; I’m being cute. But that’s the logical extension of it: We no longer need excellent teachers because we can let the software do the job. As excellent teachers are in short supply, this is probably a good deal for us, right?

    But why is it that “flipping” lets us use these cheeseburgers in the classroom?

    Well Allen also Saith:

    Essentially, Khan Academy replicates all the functions of a school with the single exception of temporarily storing kids out from under the feet of parents.

    Here’s the rub. School is replaced by software. But how does that work?

    Easy.

    The reason that it “replaces” the functions of the traditional classroom is because it puts the burden of learning where it belongs: on the student. The student is responsible for watching the content, and the student is responsible for taking the assessments.

    As MagisterGreen pointed out, logging in is not the same as learning. But if the student isn’t learning from their videos, it’s not the teacher’s fault. This is a revolutionary move, if you think about. Student engagement becomes a sort of prerequisite for the teacher’s assistance. If the student isn’t engaged, well… with “flipping” it seems like it’s on them, not on the teacher and not on the school.

    And if we’re depending on the students to be engaged, well, all we really need is daycare workers. (See cheeseburgers, above.) An engaged student can, for the most, part, teach themselves.

    But what about all the kids who aren’t engaged? Well, with “flipping”, their failure is on them! The schools get off the hook, because they’re not in the educating business anymore. They’re in the “support” business. As June Cleaver said, “Chump don’t want no help, chump don’t get no help. Jive-ass dude don’t got no brains, anyhow.”

    Of course, all this might make us wonder what “value-added” teacher evaluation is supposed to track… but perhaps VA scores can be statistically discounted to reflect student performance on the periodic online assessments. Now we can tell if those test scores really are the teacher’s fault or the students’.

    This “flipping” stuff seems like it is Edutopia on Earth!

  7. Michael E. Lopez says:

    I want to be clear that the above post is almost entirely sarcasm.

  8. Why is education crown all into flipping? I thought they hated lectures but now they want teachers to make completely one-side, non-interactive lectures for students to watch.

    I can definitely see how “flipping” could be useful in teaching procedural concepts but not other things.

    In regards to putting more on the students shoulders, I think that will simply not happen. We used to have students read before coming to class but we found out that some did not do the reading. The powers that be decided that teachers can’t really hold students accountable for not reading so we through it out. Now we can flip the classroom and have them watch a video. Of course some will simply not read it and teachers will try to hold them accountable. The powers that be will once again step in and say no. Flipping dies the same death that having students read to prepare for class died.

  9. Deirdre Mundy says:

    It may be sarcasm, but I think a big PLUS of Khan-style flipping would be letting the engaged students who WANT to learn move ahead at their own pace without having lectures interrupted by disruptive classmates. Sure, removing disruptive kids from the classroom would have the same effect, but schools don’t seem to have the will to act on it….

    Meanwhile, for all the hype, Khan seems fairly useless for the younger grades– I mean, the online drills are kind of nice to mix things up, but they’re basically automated fact sheets— and as a home-schooler, my daughter finds the videos tedious for second-grade math. Why watch a 5 minute video on “what addition and subtraction mean” when you’ve been pretty clear on the concept since you were a preschooler. I’ve heard his videos are much better for the higher level stuff, but very few elementary kids need to be walked through the idea that if you have 5 stars and get 3 more, now you have a giant group of eight—the theory is clear, it’s the SPEED that needs work at that age.

  10. Roger Sweeny says:

    I think Michael E. Lopez is on to something. Flipping puts more responsibility on the student, so it also puts more blame on the student when things aren’t learned. This may cause a fair amount of parental push-back.

    I think we also have to face the fact that a major purpose that school serves is to provide a safe, prosocial place for parents to put their kids for seven or more hours five days a week, 180 days a year–or, as some would say, daycare.

  11. I think that the Internet is a great tool for tracking student progress and providing extra assistance and opportunities to learn. Science teachers, for example, can use USB connections that are offered by some microscopes to post images of microscopy labs and experiments online.