Monthly Archives: September 2016

What about playing while we flip reverse instruction?

After reading articles about flipped classrooms, reverse instruction, gamification and play, I feel that these are all band-aids at best. My gut is telling me that the real issue is still being avoided. I think the real issue deals with critically looking at the standards and content we are being asked to teach the students and ask, “Is it relevant?” Is the content we are teaching still relevant to the needs of the students or should we be engaging in conversation about the standards and debating their relevancy? Perhaps an overhaul of the education system in terms of its’ goals for student learning is needed.

I challenge the idea of a flipped classroom or reverse instruction because I am constantly reading and hearing about how we as educators need to be lecturing less and have our students apply their understandings to tasks, which are relevant, challenging and real-world applicable. All flipped classrooms and reverse instruction seem to do is instead of make the students listen to lectures inside the classroom, they now have to spend extra time and listen to the lecture at home. Isn’t this just simple geography? In one of the articles, the teacher describes reverse instruction as, “instead of lecturing about polynomials and exponents during class time – and then giving his young charges 30 problems to work on at home – Fisch has flipped the sequence. He’s recorded his lectures on video and uploaded them to YouTube for his 28 students to watch at home. Then, in class, he works with students as they solve problems and experiment with the concepts.  Lectures at night, “homework” during the day. Call it the Fisch Flip.” We can call it whatever we want, but the students are still being lectured; just at home. If we focus our attention on questioning the relevancy of our current standards, and reducing the amount of content required to teach, could we not be able to combine some direct instruction with authentic application in one class?

In the Economist article, one teacher says, You can follow the progress of each child—where she started, how she progressed, where she got stuck and “unstuck” (as Ms Thordarson likes to put it). You can also view the progress of the entire class. And you could aggregate the information of all the classes taught by one teacher, of an entire school or even district, with data covering a whole year.” Sept 17, 2011. I would challenge this teacher and ask, “What if the time spent tracking progress on student work on Khan Academy was re-directed towards personally immersing oneself in the content she is asked to teach in order to explore the purpose and relevancy for teaching it? What if this teacher spent that time determining real-world applications for the content and then creating authentic tasks for the students to engage with in class?

I think technology has the power to be an incredible resource in learning, but only if we begin to critically examine what we are being asked to teach the students in terms of current relevance and future application. I will even go as far to say that in a world where my daughters are growing up amidst blogging, posting, spell check, grammar check and publishing, is learning about a compound sentence or even spelling relevant to her? Is this what she should be learning? Just saying this makes me want to throw up because deep down I totally believe it is important and how can spelling not be important. As I swallow my barf, I am at least trying to be open to looking at what knowledge is relevant despite how I may feel about it. What skills and understandings does the next generation really need? Once we focus in on what is important, we can then more effectively use technology to deepen our understandings.

What about time?

After reading articles on problem based learning, project based learning and challenged based learning, there is a shift towards more authentic and relevant learning for the student. The point of K-12 education is no longer simply the accumulation of knowledge but also the instruction of the skills needed to interact and handle that knowledge. Learning is being seen more as application rather than simple delivery and recall. These three approaches to learning want students to do something with the knowledge they gain through direct instruction, whether it be solving a real-world problem, inquiring and answering a personally meaningful question or attempting to create an innovative solution to a current real-world challenge. This is great news.


I think this line of thinking is pushing learning in the right direction and to keep the momentum moving in that direction, I wonder if these approaches need to be supported by an additional conversation. I think educators and administrators need to be talking about the amount of content or standards teachers are being asked to teach and whether all of that content is necessary. Perhaps discussions about prioritizing standards and looking at the content as something needing academic triage should be addressed. I only share this question because I believe that to be able to effectively perform project, problem or challenged based learning will require time and more time than is currently available for students and teachers in the classroom. How do we do this effectively if we are still operating within a standardized testing environment and where the majority of college requirements are based on academic tests, which are based primarily on content. Within these parameters, these learning approaches will only go so far before they plateau.


How does technology help? I think it helps by giving students access to knowledge and provides a lot of choice in how to present their understandings. However, the time saved in teaching some content is replaced by the time required to teach students how to navigate and filter through this incredible sea of knowledge. The ability to scan, and pull evidence off the internet, to filter essential information from the irrelevant is an extremely difficult skill to develop. Also, ideas like flipped classrooms, where students learn the content at home and then apply it in class are not ideal because research shows that direct instruction is still required for successful learning. Students need a solid knowledge base if they are to be able to create, be curious and innovate. How can one innovate or even be curious if they do not have a solid knowledge base? Yes, technology can be a great resource for building that base as long as it coincides with direct instruction from the teachers in the classroom, in real-time.

Course 5 project idea

The final project idea for course 5 is the building and designing of a website called The Creative Learning Exchange. The purpose is to offer students a place to share their learning with a global audience and place them in the role of educator to their global peers. It is also designed to be a depository of student work based on creativity, innovation, curiosity and imagination. A place where students can build off each other’s ideas and continuously move knowledge forward.

I like this project idea because it is trying to combine effective technology integration with the shift in education towards more real-world application and to answering, “what can students do with knowledge?” The challenge will be how to use technology in a way which enhances understanding rather than a tool which distracts and takes away from learning. I need to remember that the goal is always to foster innovative and critical thinking and not to be consumed by the ‘coolness’ of technology.

This project is time consuming because it is also working with redesigning curriculum and looking at how to design more relevant and purposeful learning for students and then seeing how the technology best fits. I think the creative learning exchange holds possibility for an effective blend between the two. I hope.

Is the question really about integrating technology?

I really enjoyed reading the article by Steve Denning regarding the reforming of educational practice. He argues that we need to shift from a factory model of education; one which simply dispenses content and then tests it, to an educational model which inspires lifelong learners. I think this is the conversation we need to be having first, before we look at how effectively we will integrate technology into the classroom. How can we integrate technology effectively if the education system is flawed to begin with? When I say flawed, I am suggesting a current system, which worked well for a long period of time but which is now becoming outdated and increasingly ineffective. One of the reasons the factory model of educational delivery is becoming increasingly ineffective is because of the advances in technology. The internet has made content accessible and so has changed the role of teachers and the purpose of education. The global access of information has shifted the role of education from delivery of knowledge to application of knowledge. The question is shifting to, “What can student do with knowledge?”

“Our goal is to inspire our students to become life-long learners with a love of education, so that they will be able to learn whatever they have to.”

I see technology integration as supporting this new shift. The technology needs to be seen as a tool to enable students to think creatively and innovate with the content. Technology integration is using technology to apply knowledge in new ways. According to the samr model, it would be focusing on modification and redefinition.I still believe that technology will plateau in effectiveness until the educational model is reformed and shifts to, “ inspiring lifelong learning in students, so that they are able to have full and productive lives in a rapidly shifting economy.”(Denning,2011)

I am slow with integrating technology because at the same time I am thinking about technology, I am also looking at how to shift learning towards answering, “What can students do with knowledge?” When I come up with ideas about how to make content more applicable and relevant and provide opportunities for students to create and innovate with the knowledge, then I look at technology and ask, “How can technology support the student’s curiosity and be used to deepen understanding?”