Flippin’ Classes and Studying with Games

Image courtesy of Eric Dufresne from Trois-Rivières, Canada – Flickr

I’m not sure what to make of the flipped classroom model and teaching classes designed as video games.

Flipping

It seems as though the purists’ model of a flipped classroom puts the classwork at home and the “homework” in the classroom. The students get their lectures online and then come to practice under the guidance of their teacher while they are at school.  I like the idea that students are getting more time in class to practice skills with the help of their teachers.  I don’t like the idea of students sitting in front of their laptops watching Khan Academy lectures at home.  But the model on Mind/Shift only has students watching 3 teacher-created videos per week, and the prescribed length is 5 to 7 minutes long.  What is the great advantage to freeing up 15 minutes of class time a week?

I’ve also heard and read about the changing role of the teacher in the classroom.  We are no longer dispensing education, we are guides and coaches. I personally think that it is a good idea to lecture in class.  I don’t think that you should lecture all the time, but I also don’t think you should rely on internet videos to do all your lecturing for you.  I think that students can be motivated when they see their teacher speaking about topics they know a lot about.  Students are impressed by my co-teacher because he worked on a nuclear submarine. There’s no doubt in their minds that this guy knows a lot about science.  It is his passion and it comes through in his teaching.

In short, I think that we should have a mixture of mini in-class lectures and practice/workshop time. Call me old-fashioned, but I just don’t think that completely eliminating direct instruction from the classroom is the best idea.

The Gaming Classroom

Complete Honesty: I won’t be turning my classroom into a video game.  The whole concept really turns me off.  I like video games but I don’t play a lot of video games.  I have felt the pull and have been “addicted” to video games in the past.  This is one of the reasons I actively avoid them.  If I allowed myself to start playing video games they would end up eating a lot of my time. This year, I’ve seen some kids who are seriously addicted to gaming.  They can be seen playing games between classes and in the cafeteria during lunch. They talk about games with their friends incessantly and they watch Youtube videos of other people playing video games. Again, call me old-fashioned but I don’t think that inserting MORE gaming into their lives is the best idea.

Also, isn’t the gaming classroom relying a little too much on extrinsic motivation.  Will the students only be interested in creeping up the leaderboard?  Will the teachers be trivializing their content?  It seems like the gaming classroom is a LOT of work for the teacher, but also really LAZY.  Laying the gaming framework in the classroom seems like it requires a lot of setup and establishment of rules, adding to the already packed teacher workload.  However, I say that it is lazy because teachers are resorting to turning their classes into video games (A surefire HIT with the kids!) instead of inspiring a real love of learning in the purest sense (Ideal… but really hard to pull off.)

One last poo-poo in the face of the gaming classroom; are the hardcore gamers sold on the idea of the gaming classroom or are they just counting the minutes until they can play a REAL video game?

Closing

This premature curmudgeon must end on a positive note.  Although I am against the idea of modeling a class after  a video game, I think iPad apps and online educational games DO have a place for reinforcing/teaching skills.

Although I have some doubts about the flipped classroom, I am definitely FOR supervised practice/exploration/workshops in the classroom.  I just don’t think a little lecture here and there really hurts.

Everything in moderation, right?

5 comments

  1. Ryan Sager · May 20, 2014

    I think all these models we have been studying focus on one main idea and that is, learn while doing. The focus shifts off the content and on to the process and skills required to attain knowledge. Gamification, and flipped classroom seems like a way to make the DOK 1 material easier to swallow while, class time is used to move students into higher levels of thinking.

    I remember my previous school had all the teachers scheduled into the computer lab one day a week to do Math Blaster. All it did was reinforced what the student already knew and made them a little faster. I think this leads to a common misconception about which students are better at math. If they can do DOK 1 level math very quickly, then they must be good at math. If your not fast, but a very creative problem solver, you start to feel stupid. I remember my boys had a Gameboy game that talked about the merits of using this game to build a faster brain. Even 10 years ago, I was thinking that it was a little bizarre to focus just on working through very simple problems quickly.

    So, as you said, everything in moderation. Yet, I’m beginning to think that it is more then just what you do in the classroom, it is the intent and purpose by which you do lessons and activities. Consider two teachers assigning a Khan Academy video as homework. One teacher intends that this is the lesson and the students come back to class to do the practice problems. The teacher monitors and supports struggling students, the faster students practice being faster. The other teacher has the students working on a project/problem that requires the students to use the new skill from the video to analysis, evaluate or create. I’m changing from the first to the second as time goes by.

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    • Ross Connelly · May 25, 2014

      I really do think that you reflect a lot on your teaching and how tech factors into the equation. You also have really adopted the “growth mindset” and really seem to have taken it to heart. I hope that the kids also recognize the efforts that you are putting in.

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    • Calley Connelly · May 26, 2014

      We had that gameboy game, BrainAge – “Glasses, Glasses”! Remember, Ross?

      I agree with you that doing DOK 1 fast doesn’t make you smarter, but I think we need to have a place for quick drills so that students do develop facility. I am toying with coming up with a ratio, or maybe allocating a specific amount of daily class time to independent drilling – the Math Minute that students run through, independently, at the beginning of many great 5th grade math classes, then NEVER discuss in large groups, so that everybody is doing their own skills practice. How could this work with technology? I think it would be a heavy front-load then quick and nice. I’ll think about it.
      Wait… is this called IXL? Ha.

      And YES to projects! Though, right now, for Math SL, I’m the first kind of teacher with the assignment and the problems, but I know one Sager who thinks this method really worked for him … 🙂

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  2. T.Vasanthi · May 20, 2014

    Hi Ross!

    I understand what you are arriving at which is striking the right balance of using technology in our classroom. I like the idea of reverse learning when the students do classwork at home and homework in class under our guidance and supervision. For example, we are studying Fiction Unit where the students read the chapter of Fahrenheit 451 novel at home and come prepared for class discussion based on literary circle model. This way the students come to class with a basic understanding and use the information and the notes they have prepared for the interactive session. On the other hand, I have concerns like you about how few students may be left behind especially when they cannot comprehend the subject as it is in the case of my ESL students for whom English language is a huge challenge.

    At the same time, I am thrilled to watch and be part of the on-line learning revolution.

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    • Ross Connelly · May 25, 2014

      I do think that tech can be an invaluable tool for EAL’s but I also worry that EAL’s can ‘hide behind’ technology and interact LESS face-to-face, that is why I’m always talking with my EAL students. They probably get sick of me because I’m always chatting with them. In class, in the hall, at lunch, etc. I drop in on an ALL-Korean lunch table a few times a week just to inject a little English into their free time. Gotta keep some analog in with the digital. You know?

      Like

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