Thursday, March 17, 2011

Using Technology to Flip the Classroom

The radio is out in my car, so I've been listening to TED Talks on day care runs. I'm in the middle of listening to Salman Khan: Let's use video to reinvent education - a title that I'll admit I didn't have high hopes for.

The point of the talk, so far, is how Salman Khan created a bunch of educational videos to help out family members and they were so effective that they started getting used in all sorts of contexts. No surprise there. The mind bending part came when he mentions this:

The other thing that happened -- and even at this point, I said, "Okay, maybe it's a good supplement. It's good for motivated students. It's good for maybe home schoolers." But I didn't think it would be something that would somehow penetrate the classroom.

But then I started getting letters from teachers. And the teachers would write, saying, "We use your videos to flip the classroom. You've given the lectures, so now what we do ... " and this could happen in every classroom in America tomorrow, " ... what I do is I assign the lectures for homework. And what used to be homework, I now have the students doing in the classroom."

And I want to pause here for -- (Laughter) I want to pause here for a second, because there's a couple of interesting things. One, when those teachers are doing that, there's the obvious benefit -- the benefit that now their students can enjoy the videos in the way that my cousins did. They can pause, repeat at their own pace, at their own time. But the more interesting thing is -- and this is the unintuitive thing when you talk about technology in the classroom -- by removing the one size fits all lecture from the classroom and letting students have a self-paced lecture at home, and then when you go to the classroom, letting them do work, having the teacher walk around, having the peers actually be able to interact with each other, these teachers have used technology to humanize the classroom

When I was growing up, be it middle school, high school or college, there was always this sense that what we needed was more computers in the classroom. I think there were good intentions behind this desire, but I'm not sure I ever really saw the point. If I'm in a college lecture and I'm trying to concentrate, how exactly, is a laptop going to help with this? On the other hand, technology and innovation is a good thing and something we should embrace.

And Khan's comments above tie this together: use technology to make the out of classroom time effective, and then use the in class time to leverage the value of teachers and students.

It's simple, it's brilliant and it's totally unintuitive. I love it.

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