– Jon Bergmann –
If we learned anything about learning during the recent foray into remote learning, it was just how valuable our face-to-face time is with our students. When we lost it, it made us rethink what needs to happen face-to-face versus what can happen independently.
I have been in numerous conversations with teachers, school administrators, and school technology directors that think that installing cameras and microphones in classrooms will enable educators to teach both online and live at the same time. This version of hybrid learning is wrong on so many different fronts. I want first to outline why this is a really bad idea, then offer a more effective path forward.
Reason #1: It’s bad pedagogy
My biggest beef with this idea is that it will only reinforce bad pedagogy. Teachers will “teach” from the front of the room. This model where information transfer is done via telling (lecture) has proven to be poor teaching. One study from Harvard researchers found that students in active learning environments learned more than students in lecture classes. Studies such as this are not new, and educators have known this for a long time.
Reason #2: It’s a bad use of resources
I was talking with a university technologist who was tasked with installing lecture capture hardware and software into his university. The costs were astronomical. Panopto, a lecture capture tool, published a paper on how to set up lecture capture, and they estimate the cost of the hardware is between $3000-$20,000 per classroom. And did I say that this was bad pedagogy? Why would we spend money on an educational model that we know doesn’t work and isn’t best for students?
Reason #3: Logistics
Let’s think about how you are going to teach if you have two different groups of students in the “room.” One group will be in the room in theory socially distanced from each other. The other group will be in some sort of a video conferencing room (Like Zoom). The teacher will have to monitor both groups simultaneously. The teacher will have to monitor the students online and see if they are engaged, check the chat to see if the online students have questions. What is problematic about this is that if they have to constantly check the online students’ chat, this will break the flow of the lesson. There are also technical logistics of this. Will the students in the classroom be able to hear those online? Will those online be able to hear those in the class? And did I say this is bad pedagogy? We are forcing students to sit and get, something we know doesn’t work. Hello!
Reason #4: It will stifle active learning
If active learning is the best way to teach, and we are forcing students to sit and get, then we are going against all that we know about how learning works. Students learn by being active in their learning and methods such as project-based learning, inquiry learning, mastery learning, case-based learning, Socratic seminars, problem-based learning, and a host of deeper active strategies are thrown out the door. And did I say that this is bad pedagogy?
Reason #5: Privacy concerns
Am I the only one who thinks that some administrators might use the stream to be punitive for teachers who are put in an impossible situation? What about the students in the classroom who will be on camera? If a parent wants to send their child to class yet doesn’t want them filmed, how will we handle this? I see two options: students who can’t be filmed/streamed will not be able to attend live class or the camera will just focus on the teacher. Again–bad pedagogy — one style of learning.
If your school goes back this fall with a hybrid approach, I want to encourage you to flip it. Don’t install the cameras, rethink school. The big idea in Flipped Learning is that the easy stuff is done independently and the hard stuff is done together with the teacher. I have flipped my classes since 2007 and haven’t lectured live since. Instead, I created instructional videos for students to watch (actually interact with) alone so that my valuable classroom time was used to work with students, do experiments (I am a science teacher), inquiry, projects, etc. Essentially, all of the deeper strategies we know is good pedagogy. How will I flip if my students are in a hybrid classroom?
Students at home
Those students at home will have engaging independent work for them to engage with. They will not join via a video-conferencing tool. They will have meaningful assignments to do at home. The independent work they will do will focus on the lower levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy so that the work is doable for students. I will also provide support for the mid-levels of Bloom’s in the independent learning space. One example is that if students in my physics class are working problems, they will have short audio or video files that they can click on and get some additional help from me.
Students at school
For those students who will be in class, we will focus on the higher levels of Bloom’s taxonomy. We will do experiments. We will have deep discussions. We will solve problems together on whiteboards (probably with plexiglass shields between us). We will explore. I will push, cajole, and encourage students to be their best. The space will be all about active learning.
Completely online students
I am also certain that some families will opt to have their children not attend classes at all due to health concerns. With these students, I will have them pair up with other students in the class via video conferencing, and they will be their partner. So when I come over to help students, they will be a duo. They can do experiments together, they can discuss, etc. There will be some logistical challenges with technology here, but I am confident that this will work out and that my students will help me make this happen.
So let’s not reinforce bad pedagogy by trying to live stream our classes; instead, let’s flip it and reinforce good pedagogy. If you want to learn more about how to flip your classes well, I encourage you to get Flipped Learning Certified. It takes about 12 hours and is a completely online self-paced learning experience. Find out more at https://flglobal.org/getcertified/