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May 18, 2014

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?