This week I decided to take a shot at reverse instruction. I know for some, this is a controversial idea; after all, if I’m not lecturing my students, what am I doing? Personally, I think it’s beautiful.
Reverse instruction is the concept that lectures and other information can be delivered on-line, at home, leaving class time freed up for collaboration, problem solving and other hands-on activities. Lectures at home, problems at school. Flip. Why didn’t somebody think of this sooner?
I decided to use it to teach my students the basic concepts of neurons. For homework, I posted to our wiki a Khan Academy video, as well as, a couple of TED talks from leading neurologists to explain some of the purposes neurons have and cutting edge research that’s being done in the field. In total, maybe about 25 minutes of work.
I love the idea that my students are now being taught by leading neurologists. Shouldn’t all of our biology students be able to say that?
One of the things that I love about this idea, is the versatility and flexibility of it. Students can watch, pause and re-watch portions of the lecture. This way they can tailor the speed of instruction to their needs. They can also cross-check terms they are not familiar with using a source like Wikipedia or dictionary.com. Not something you can always do in a classroom.
The next day, I checked my student’s learning. They seemed to get it, and they loved the Khan Academy video. I’d like to get my students to the point, where they actively pursue learning more on their own and seek to find resources to contribute, so that our wiki becomes a collaborative effort.
However, I’m also waiting for the day when a student says they didn’t get it. My question will be, “What did you do about it?”
I want my students to get away from the idea that I’m the all-knowing guru or fount of all-wisdom, a model our current education system seems to perpetuate.
Instead, I want my students to realize they have the resources they need for their own learning. As Stephen Downes stated, “We need to move beyond the idea that an education is something that is provided for us, and toward the idea that an education is something that we create for ourselves. It is time, in other words, that we change our attitude toward learning and the educational system in general.” I think reverse instruction reinforces the volitionality of my students. Now instead of having one teacher, they have many.
There are a few things I plan to do differently next time. I plan to have the basic section that all students must complete for homework. But in the future, I also plan to have additional resources for students who wish to extend their learning in the area.
I like the idea of keeping kids accountable for the notes they create for the lectures. One of the things that I continually need to reiterate is the importance of creating good notes, and building in accountability for this part. Their notes will be considered their “assignment” for each lecture. And since the next days activities will be based on the information gleaned from the previous nights lecture, this also provides accountability.
However, I don’t see reverse instruction as an educational panacea. There are problems inherent to the model. The most obvious, kids may not watch the lectures. Although, I don’t know about you, but I have kids in class, at times, who don’t do the work either. Shocker, I know.
So what am I going to do with my classroom time instead? Teach the 21st Century skills they need me for. As Jonathon Martin states, “We know that collaboration is a critical skill set which can’t be developed easily either on-line or at home alone– let’s have students learn it with us in our classrooms. Let every classroom be a collaborative problem solving laboratory or studio.”
I like that idea. I no longer have a classroom; I have a collaborative problem solving studio. How great is that?
Photo courtesy of Creative Commons by mag3737