Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pedagogy Must Drive Technology

It seems that the Ed Tech mantra of late is that "Pedagogy Must Drive Technology."  I wholeheartedly agree with this statement, and would like to highlight a few examples of where I have seen individuals apply this statement under the umbrella of The Flipped Classroom.  But more importantly, I wanted to show that the pedagogy behind the "traditional" Flipped Class model (homework becomes classwork, classwork becomes homework) is not novel or new, and also show that the Flipped Class is not a pedagogy or methodology in and of itself, it is a tool in the toolbox of educators.

As a side note, I have spent time getting to know each of these educators personally, and I am honored to call each of them a colleague.

This post was inspired by a recent Google+ conversation I saw between Ron Houtman and Greg Green.

As Ron and Greg point out above, giving students something to do prior to coming to class is not new or novel. For centuries, students read, researched, studied at home and came to class to discuss, question and explore.  Under the "traditional" Flipped Class model, students do just that, but have a media rich video as an resource for instruction in addition to a textbook, the internet, and other media.  Expecting students to come to class prepared to discuss and work is NOT NEW.  Utilizing a video as one of the tools to do so IS NEW.

Now, to highlight some specific ways that educators are utilizing screencasts as an instructional tool to meet an identified student need.

1. Ron Houtman @ronhoutman: Teacher of Teachers in Michigan.  Ron has been utilizing screencasting technology since around 2000.  As far as I know, he was one of the first educators to leverage screencasts as an instructional tool.  As you can see from the conversation above, he began screencasting to help his students who missed class stay caught up.  Ron didn't screencast to use a novel new technology, he did so to meet an educational need of his students.

2. April Gudenrath @agudteach: Teacher of Literature and English in Colorado Springs, CO.  April found that giving her students meaningful feedback on papers was difficult with only a pen and paper.  She began to screencast her grading sessions so students could hear her voice and follow her thought process as she annotated the student paper.  April didn't begin screencasting to "go paperless," she did so to meet an educational need of her students.

3. Greg Green @flippedschool: Principal in Michigan.  Greg is known for using the Flipped Classroom model of pre-recording lessons to free up time in class in his entire high school.  He found that too many students were disengaged and failing, and that most students did not have the support network at home necessary to complete assignments at home.  So, he decided to bridge this gap by making all work done in class where an expert was available to assist the students.  In order to avoid creating a digital divide by delivering instruction at home he has made sure that all students have adequate technological access to the institutional screencasts.  Greg didn't screencast to try to create a high-tech high school, he did so to meet the educational needs of his students.

4. Brian Bennett @bennettscience: Science Teacher in Indiana.  Brian taught in South Korea and recently moved back to the US and teaches in Indiana.  He was using a Flipped Classroom model in Korea with great success, but noticed that his students in the US were not as successful under the same model.  So, Brian changed the role of the screencasts in his class.  Instead of using them to front-load instruction, he used them as remediation and re-teaching tools with greater success.  I regularly read his blog and follow his thoughts on Twitter and have noticed that Brian continually tries new ideas, reflects on his practices, and strives to daily meet the needs of his students.  Brian did not create screencasts for his students and blindly continue to use them when they weren't effective instructional tools.  He recognized the limitations of the screencasts in his new educational setting and modified his practice accordingly to meet the educational needs of his students.

5. Kevin Byers @kevinbyers: From his Twitter profile: "I used to teach science, technology, AVID, and then math. Now I am working to bring anywhere, anytime learning to our district." Kevin works in a school district in the Denver, CO area in which the entire district has adopted a Standards Based Grading system in which students learn at a level that is appropriate for that individual.  All classes are heterogeneous with students at different levels, and each student is likely at a different level in each subject.  This district has decided that screencasts will be an effective tool to deliver asynchronous instruction to their students.  Kevin helps oversee and coordinate the screencasting project.  Kevin and his district did not decide to use screencasts as a novel way to deliver content, he/they saw a need and leveraged the appropriate technology to meet the needs of students.

I wanted to highlight these individuals to honor the amazing work they do each day to meet the needs of students and to demonstrate once again that there is no such thing as THE Flipped Classroom.  If there was, all these educators would be using screencasting technology the same way to accomplish the same goal.  Instead, each of them has identified a need and has leveraged a technological tool to meet that need.

I welcome other stories in the comments.


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