Interviews I never finished reading, Dept.

This one is from a blog called “Cool Cat Teacher” that ostensibly presents hip, new, ideas about education as a refutation of the stuffy old traditional methods that people have claimed “never worked”, or if they did, “only for a few people.”

This particular blurb is an interview with a history teacher called Keith “Hip” Hughes, who has some ideas about “flipping the classroom”.

The basic idea is to try to reduce the amount of time you’re talking to kids from the front of the room. I think sometimes we have this illusion that the kids are learning in the space between our mouths and their ears, and I’m not sure how much that might be happening. So “flipping” is saying, “Let’s have the kids get the content somewhere other than the classroom.” Many times, that could be a reader, but many times it could be a really great video that explains a concept that you would normally be explaining in front of the room. You’re probably still going to have to review it. But the idea is to free up time in your class so kids that are working through skill-based activities that might in the past have been done as homework. Now (those) can be doing that in class with your facilitation.  The next step is designing projects and really having kids doing authentic inquiry-based awesome stuff in your classroom, using the content.

First of all, I’m a traditional based teacher and if I facilitate, I do so using direct instruction methods followed with questions as has been done in the past.  For centuries actually.  Effectively, I might also add.

Second of all, I make sure to leave enough time in my class for students to get started on the “skill-based” activities known as homework so they can ask questions about it in class, rather than going home and not knowing how to do it.

Third, videos only go so far. Yes, you can rewind and replay as much as you want, but if you didn’t get something the first time, hearing the same explanation again without clarification isn’t going to help too much.  And if they’re that sold on doing learning at home rather than at school, have them read the textbook as preparation for the next lesson as is done in many university classes. It teaches them how to read a textbook rather than rely on videos and come to class with questions for the teacher.  Oops, I forgot. Textbooks are bad. Never mind!


2 thoughts on “Interviews I never finished reading, Dept.

  1. Why would we have students do the stuff that doesn’t need our attention in class and leave the stuff that is most important — the actual learning — out of class? That’s so wrong-headed it defies belief. To me that sounds awfully like a teacher looking for an excuse to not have to teach in class time, but just wander around “facilitating”.

    And if you have the teaching out of class, and then substitute in class time inquiry activities for the skills based practice, when do they actually get to hone the skills?

    I’ve never tried to flip a classroom, but I’ve seen teachers who have tried face rebellion from students. Good students too (the lazy ones don’t mind the flipping, because they don’t do homework properly anyway, and it is easier to fake watching a video than completing exercises). The good students don’t like the way they have to schedule their home lives to keep up with the teacher’s timetable of when they should watch stuff. To fit their sport and other activities they like old-fashioned skills homework, because they can catch up later if they miss some of it without it mattering.


  2. “I think sometimes we have this illusion that the kids are learning in the space between our mouths and their ears”

    “…but many times it could be a really great video that explains a concept that you would normally be explaining in front of the room. ”

    You can have a “really great video” but not a lecture by a real live teacher who can look into their eyes and change course immediately and can answer questions? I used to do that. I would see some blank stares and try a different tack. At other times, I would move right along. My goal was to try to leave some time at the end of class to let them get started on their homework and I would facilitate that, not hands-on discovery. My philosophy was to force them to get started in class so that it would be easier to continue the homework at home. Hands-on group discovery in class is neither necessary or sufficient. Understanding, mastery, and feedback on homework are the most important jobs.

    I just opened my son’s old (proper) Glencoe Algebra I book and randomly found the unit on “Steepness of a Line.” The first section is called “Explore” and offers hands-on practice with a ruler and a stack of books. My son’s teacher (me) mostly ignored those things and dove right in. There is too much material to cover. I can still see the circled homework problems that had to be done, and they cover all sorts of problem variations – like problem #12: (6,-2), (r,-6), m=4. What is ‘r’? There is nothing rote about that and there was no drill and kill because there were too many problem variations to cover.

    Do Ed schools no longer instruct teachers how to teach, prepare the proper delivery of new material, and be engaging? Fixed videos (words and pictures) coming from the computer work better than human teachers who stand in front of students? Look at this explanation of slope at Khan Academy:

    Incredibly, like many videos I’ve seen, it simulates what a traditional teacher might do, including writing on the blackboard (computer). See the part where the video “teacher” actually simulates writing “delta y” over “delta x” on the screen by hand. You could have it pop up on the screen. Watch the video to see how students can be confused by how it’s not simply the change in y divided by the change in x when you talk about negative slope. You have to be consistent about how you calculate those deltas when it comes to negative slopes. That subtle understanding only comes from doing variations in individual homework sets. Calculating slope is not done just using a picture of a line on graph paper as in the video.

    Introduction and instruction of new unit material and mastery of individual homework sets from a proper textbook are the two most important tasks. Student-centered hands-on group discovery in class is neither necessary or sufficient, but I never hear them talk about the importance of individual homework p-sets. They pass off instruction to videos on the computer as homework – one that mostly simulates direct instruction, but with no chance to ask questions. They add in discovery, trash individual homework, and send home note to parents to practice “math facts.”


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