Thursday, February 10, 2011

Reverse Teaching

I have given the idea of reverse teaching since returning from Educon and speaking with other teachers. If you have never gone to Educon, I highly recommend it. They have a great pedagogical model that uses technology and is based on core values of inquiry, research, collaboration, presentation and reflection. These skills are woven throughout all subjects in grades 9-12 and are the areas assessed. The conference is mostly an informal un-conference with relevant conversations and great networking opportunities. I love the fact that they open their school to visits on the Friday before the conference. Talk about transparency and trust in your teachers and students. End of Educon commercial....

Reverse Teaching
Reverse teaching stands "traditional" teaching on its head. Students learn new content at home (as homework) and class time is used for working on problems. The teaching is done primarily by video. Fortunately, there is lots of high quality video already available (at least in math). It would also not be very hard to convert a PowerPoint/Keynote presentation into a video or record your computer session using Jing.

I believe that teaching live and watching a video a very similar in a "traditional" classroom (although less true in a project-based classroom). Well done videos are more convenient for students because they can pause and rewind them. In addition, teachers could review their videos and improve them as needed. Over time, the videos should become more organized and succinct. If you are worried that students might not be watching it, you can have them answer questions (in class or online) or spot keywords placed in the video.

My vision of a reverse classroom includes discussion, problem-based activities with a convenient backchannel. A Backchannel is a communications platform for students to post comments and ask questions. The backchannel can be for the whole class or groups of students. The students could be discussing the same essential question or different sides of it. The backchannel provides a powerful outlet for students who are shy and do not regularly contrinute in class. It also helps students who are not prepared or lack understanding as they can pick up on the gist from the discussion. The key element is to ask students questions that make them use their critical thnking skills that leverage the classroom discussion. Students should learn to value contributions by their peers.

Reverse instruction also paves the way for more project-based learning. My experience is that students will only listen to a few minutes of instruction. At the same time, printed instructions usually cause a flood of thoughtless questions. Watching the project instructions at home will help prepare them for the project. The video could also include teaser-type hints about the nature of the project without providing too much information. The teaser could also help prime students for the project by discovering or creating background knowledge.

A reverse classroom also provides a convenient way to correct homework. Teachers are often pressed to spend class time correcting homework because it squeezes out instruction time. Teachers need a certain amount of class time for instruction in order to move the class. Since a bulk of the instrcution is moved outside of normal class time, there is less pressure to skip or minimize homework corrections.

Reverse teaching has interesting potential for more flexible classes. I have thought about it for my technology classes. I could offer several curriculum in the same physical class. For example, students could work on different projects, such as spreadsheets, animation, programming, video editing, etc. It would only work with video instruction at night, so I could help students in class.