I just attended a webinar presented by Jon Bergmann, author of Flip Your Classroom, and one of the founders of the Flipped Learning Global Initiative. The webinar was expanding on his blog post, “We Didn’t Know What We Didn’t Know: Flipped Learning 3.0“, which is a good read on the current state of flipped or blended learning across the globe. I’ll repeat his key points, with my comments on each one, and you can follow the link above to read more of his own.
Five Things We Didn’t Know about Flipped Learning
Flipped Learning Is Not Static
I’ve never felt that flipped or blended learning had to be static, and have always resisted people’s urge to pigeon-holing it. As a Blackboard trainer and digital pedagogy/scholarship consultant, I’ve always pointed out that simply uploading course content into an LMS, making it online accessible to students, is the the first step toward blended learning. Using more of an LMS’ features is getting more into it.
Flipped Learning is Evolving Because of Three Factors
He cites several studies that have shifted from “Does blended learning work?” to “How can we improve it?”
This is closely related to the next factor…
It’s a constantly changing landscape, with lots of new and/or improved offers every year or less!
Flipped Learning Has Emerged As a Global Movement
He’s got several examples of his work around the world. This is truly exciting.
There Is a New Awareness Emerging About Flipped Learning
This was the big take-away from the webinar: Educators are no longer viewing flipped learning as a strategic teaching model; instead, they’re seeing it as a meta-platform for various other learning models. It’s becoming more of an operating system, while various learning options are seen like apps supported by it. This is a new paradigm.
There Is a Rapidly Expanding Set of New Possibilities
And, of course, this opens up lots of new possibilities for students, teachers, administrators, and edtech people like me. It’s an exciting field to be working in! I hope the faculty and educators I work with also feel the excitement.
I saw glimpses of this at the Ohio Educational Technology Conference last week, and, as usual, got some good ideas and learned of new apps as well.
His three points, (in his own words, my rearranging:)
Pre-class activity is for generating questions, rather than mastering content-oriented instructional objectives.
Accountability doesn’t have to look like a quiz.
In-class instruction should focus on two things: Answering questions, and engaging students in high-level tasks – and lecture can play an important role in both.
Number two, in which he introduced me to the idea of androgogy (as opposed to pedagogy) looks a lot like internal motivation. “treating students as responsible adults rather than as children who need constant supervision and rule-setting.” They’ve got to come out of their shells sometime. A colleague pointed out that accountability doesn’t look like a quiz in the world outside the ivory tower.
I like that faculty trying this, are adapting, reflecting on what they did, how it worked, and tweaking it for the next iteration. Then their teaching gets better, their students are more engaged, and everyone learns more.
The Methodist Theological School in Ohio has embraced educational technology. Using Sakai, all of their courses are now hybrid, offering some amount of content and interaction online. Plus, several of their teaching spaces are now rigged for collaboration. Here are pics from Gault Hall Room 150. When I was a student there (2007 grad) this classroom was simply rows of two-seater desks for students and a smart podium for the instructor, (and the podium then, with its Extron control system, was notoriously flaky.)
It’s obvious they’re going for guide on the side, facilitator pedagogy, rather than sage on the stage, lecturer style, and it’s nice to see. Many of my classes when I was a student there were discussion-based, and we did plenty of group projects.
There was a nice discussion in one of the course forums on spontaneity in blended learning. Participants shared their challenges with allowing for or creating spontaneous interactions online. Stephanie Payzant suggested discussion forums as a place where this can happen asynchronously, as long as our processes and procedures are flexible. Someone else suggested projects where students must share information. Instructor modeling is key. And then another participant asked if “introducing spontaneity” wasn’t an oxymoron.
Blended interactions were the topic, and a lot of the reading and online discussion centered on the role of the educator in a networked world. When learning is decentralized, no longer one size fits all, and students are working within their own personal learning environment (PLE–an environment where people, tools, communities, and resources interact loosely, enabling an individual to learn in a world of fragmented and distributed information, rather than well organized and coherent,) what is the role of the teacher? The reading described four new roles for the educator:
Master – one who observes the activities of students and draws their attention to innovative approaches.
Network administrator – assists learners in forming connections and creating learning networks.
Concierge – provides soft guidance and shows students things they didn’t know were available or possible.
Curator – the expert learner creates spaces in which knowledge can be created, explored, and connected.
The catchy designation, “Guide on the side” comes to mind (as opposed to “sage on the stage”.) This is helpful for faculty to re-envision their role in the classroom and a course. Once we can imagine it, we can start taking steps toward making it a reality. Having multiple models also makes coming out of a comfort zone more palatable. I’d say for truly effective, dynamic learner-centered pedagogy the teacher must be something of all four. I’m familiar with that role-juggling or hat-switching in my job as the Educational Technologist on campus: I do technical training in workshop settings where I’m somewhat of a sage but also a driver, ensuring that everyone is following along and no one is being left behind. I do one-on-one sessions where I’m more of a coach or personal trainer. I consult in various ways where I’m concierge, offering options faculty weren’t aware of. I publish a lot of content online, here on my blog, on the Self Help Site, or in the new EdTech LibGuide; in this manner I’m more of a curator. When I visit faculty in Teaching Circle or other, similar settings, again I’m more of a concierge, offering what they need when they need it. And I’m literally a system administrator for our LMS, WordPress server, and more.
And then there was a nice exploration of student involvement with several tips to promote it. I like the advice that is the section heading: Construct assignments that encourage expression. …kind of like this one for #Blendkit2014
I actually got into the Week 2 Webinar–last week’s had maxed out before I got there! Here is what I look like while I’m attending:
A comment in the webinar on Monday: “At its heart, Blended learning is about diversity: diversity in learning styles, diversity in time, etc.” I like that, and feel that more instructors need to honor diversity in their teaching.
Our topic for this second week is blended interactions. How do/will we interact with our students in face-to-face versus online encounters? Discussions can take place in both modalities, online may be asynchronous in discussion forums or synchronous in chat rooms. F2F should reinforce/compliment online interactions and vice-versa.
Another comment in the webinar, in response to faculty balking at blended learning, calling it a fad: “They have to experience it to be convinced.” I sure hope not. The fact is that blended learning has been around for over 10 years and has been well documented. And as the saying goes, experience is the best teacher but only a fool learns from no other.
Avoiding ‘a course and a half’ or adding additional work for the students when incorporating online interactions was discussed. The importance of keeping it simple was stressed.
One piece of feedback on the technology used for the course, and this is feedback specifically on Adobe Connect: the interface is cluttered and clunky, especially compared to the much simpler interface of tools such as Skype, Google Hangouts or BlueJeans.
Lastly–for now–the importance of balance has been a recurring theme, balance between f2f & online, as well as balance between structure and flexibility. I think it’s great that blended learning mirrors life. In life, in general, you have to find balance in lots of different ways. Blended learning is not overly analytical, not too emergent, not too this or too much that. And that brings us back to diversity. 🙂
So the first week’s reading in the BlendKit course is on Understanding Blended Learning. It starts with defining the term, which is simply a mix (blend) of online learning and face-to-face learning. How much of one versus the other may vary from course to course and depends on various factors, including the level of the students/course, the subject matter, and the geographical spread of the students. While exclusively online learning offers modest benefits over exclusively face-to-face learning, Blended learning has proven advantages over both. The two approaches complement each other well when done well.
How to do blended learning well is a good deal of the reading. The planning process must begin with learning goals. I’ve always said that education must lead technology, not the other way around. It may be useful to consider ways to present and engage with a topic on a continuum from online at one end to face-to-face on the other. One should also consider synchronous–whether online or in-person–and asynchronous activities.
There were two approaches outlined, one illustrating blended learning as a controlled process and the other as an emergent process. While the former included a helpful list of key ingredients, the latter was described as “making patterns from clouds.” I think, even if you use the first option, you’ll still need to be an agile teacher when the rubber meets the road. Both offered structure, very helpful when teaching in multiple venues/media.
Then there were two case studies, one featuring a nice grid of different considerations for each type of learning:
Facilitated Online Instruction
Blended Instruction, and
All of this was helpful in understanding blended learning in greater detail. The course is geared toward people planning or preparing to actually offer blended learning courses. I hope I get to share this knowledge I’m gaining with the faculty here. Perhaps a Teaching Circle or faculty lunch seminar presentation. It would also be nice to actually consult and advise on blended course design.
“…this course, which is essentially a Blended Learning 101 with an important caveat: we’re interested in high quality blended learning. We’re not interested in just layering technology on top of existing systems or pushing computers into the classroom. We’re interested in folks who are redesigning the structures and core concepts of how school works to make education more engaging for students, a more effective process, and increasing students’ ownership of the learning process.”
~ Michael Horn, Exec. Dir. Clayton Christensen Institute and Brian Greenberg, CEO Silicon Schools Fund, facilitators of the course
While their focus appears to be on K-12, the fact that they’re focusing on high quality pedagogy is relevant for higher ed. As primary schools improve their teaching and learning through blended learning, students will come to expect it more and more from their higher education institutions, and those that offer blended learning and do it well will differentiate themselves from other institutions that still look like remnants from the 19th century.
Did I mention that I like the emphasis on high quality blended learning?
One other note: there’s more and more information, research, and resources being released on blended learning every day. I’m glad I’m taking the timely BlendKit 2014 course with a cohort of my ISIS colleagues.
It seems every other day I learn of some online tool or system that can be used to improve education, and many of them are free. Today I learned of NowComment and got to try BlueJeans.
NowComment I haven’t tried yet, but it was recommended by a colleague. With it you can upload files or use public docs and create discussion forums on them. You can also sort comments, skim summaries, create assignments, hide comments, reply privately, and much more. Accounts on NowComment are offered for free.
I actually got to try BlueJeans web conferencing. It was easy to set up and get started. While in the webinar it had the feel of a Google Hangout–smooth and distraction-free. I checked their website for pricing info, didn’t find any, so I assume it’s expensive.
I’ve completed the first assignment in my Coursera course, grumbling about the way the assignment is setup…
First, it’s not using the web to anywhere near it’s potential, not promoting eco-friendly practices, and actually says in the instructions, “Go through each item circling the number… When you have completed this draw lines… If possible use a heavy marker pen.” I thought this was an online course! Coursera needs to have a team of web guru’s who audit their courses to point out assignments that can be handled on the web a whole lot easier than printing out two pages of paper and taking a marker to them. I suspect SurveyMonkey or some other existing system is already offering something that will accomplish this task in an acceptably similar fashion online.
My next grumble was with Microsoft. I created circles in the Word document I downloaded and connected them with lines. Doing so was tedious because when I copied a shape the text wrapping setting didn’t come with copying while all other formatting did. This seems to be one of those complaints Microsoft often gets that their Office products think they know better than you, like with auto-formatting. Then, when I went to save it (not save as) using Office 2011 for Mac I got the following error and had to preserve formatting. This is another reason to have the assignment entirely online, so you don’t have to be concerned about which version of Office students have.
So my assessment at this point is that some MOOCs aren’t done well at all. I hope and suspect that there are some that are. The news of periodic & automatic online assessment (which I haven’t seen) and teaching for mastery, rather than to a test, make me confident that there must be better examples elsewhere. I feel like I should try Udacity instead.
While MOOCs are all the rage, closely watched to see if they succeed at disrupting the industry, and other advances in technology are spurring innovation in education, I recall the old Chinese curse: May you live in interesting times. I also recall them pointing out that every crisis contains both danger and opportunity.
I facilitated a conversation with several faculty yesterday on the topic of the flipped classroom. (See an infographic about it under the fold.) As a homework assignment, I’m seeking examples of flipped or hybrid or blended classes in higher education, preferably in the Humanities, specifically Religion would be wonderful.
And then an Education Dive article caught my attention: 5 Technologies that are Revolutionizing Education. The 5 new technologies, identified by the Brookings Institution, are massive open online courses (MOOCs), robot assisted language learning (RALL), Minecraft, computerized adaptive testing (CAT), and stealth assessment. The report goes into considerable detail about these advancements.
I was surprised to see Minecraft on the list, but, being familiar with game-based education, I saw that it was a no-brainer. Minecraft is an open-ended simulation “game” of exploration and role playing. It looks like I’m going to have to actually join my 9 year old son in the world randomly generated on the server I set up for him on our home computer. There’s even a group of educators who have developed a MinecraftEdu resource for how to use it in multi-disciplinary education (and a mod for controlling the experience in a classroom setting.)
Oh, and stealth assessment–a fascinating prospect–involves using games to assess learning. Education can indeed be fun!