Thursday, August 29, 2013

Condensed Milk And The Flipped Classroom

Condensed Milk In olden days a glimpse of Socky was looked on as something shocking now heaven knows - anything goes.

In a few weeks time I start teaching the first year key skills module that I have been delivering for well over a decade. This is the last time this course is scheduled to be delivered. Since the outset over 10 years ago, this course has used a flipped classroom model: students study online content including recorded mini lectures before we use all the face-to-face contact time in discussion with students and for assisting them in resolving the technical and mathematical problems they face in this course. The model has been a great success - it's one of the most efficient courses in terms of staff time that we deliver, and the students do exceedingly well in the assessments. In the past I've had complaints that the marks are "too high" and that they bias the overall marks for the year.

Yesterday I sat in yet another meeting where, after further lengthy discussion, we eventually decided that the flipped classroom could not work and that our students would not be able to cope with it. So we plan to back away from ideas of flipping our classroom in favour of giving better traditional lectures. So be it.

The Atlantic has just published the best article on the flipped classroom I have ever read: The Condensed Classroom. I would suggest that this is the only article on the flipped classroom that you need to read. We delude ourselves into thinking the flipped classroom is a new idea. As Bogosts's article points out, flipping is far from new - in fact it represents a return to ancient ideas of education which preceded the current industrialized model designed to cram ever more students into small spaces.
"As ed-tech learning practices become commonplace, we would do well to remember that technology does not improve some underlying, pure nature of their subject. Rather, it changes those things, transforming them into something new, something different. The telephone doesn't improve communication; it alters it. Facebook doesn't improve socialization; it alters it. When it comes to the process of condensation, blanket statements slip through our fingers. Condensed milk isn't necessarily worse or better than fresh milk. Winnie the Pooh likes it. It can be spread on toast or dolloped atop New Orleans snowballs. But it is not an improvement over fresh milk. It's something else entirely. Likewise, the condensed classroom ought not to be thought of as an evolution. Instead, we should see it just for what it is: one approach to learning whose merits are hardly sufficiently justified by its correspondence with current trends in Internet culture." The Atlantic

Am I sad to see my "innovative" flipped courses disappear? At first I was, but I now feel they have had their time. I don't intend to stop "innovating" or producing "novel" online learning chunklets. And I'm all in favour of giving better traditional lectures.


  1. Flipping 'eck! I'd be interested to know (although not necessarily on here) how it was decided that 'our students would not be able to cope with it'...

  2. Seems like a shame. I dabbled with flipping a bit last year and thought it went particularly well, allowing me to really talk with the students much more and give them feedback on what they're doing/thinking, etc..