We've heard a lot about the “flipped classroom” lately. The premise makes perfect sense. The traditional classroom devotes class time to pushing content to the student, while the student engages that content outside class as “homework.”
The problem is that if the student encounters problems with the homework, he or she has no one around to solve the impasse. The student needs to wait until class to get questions answered, often forgetting about them by that time, or doing all the subsequent problems wrong.
The flipped classroom inverts this process by capturing the simple act of pushing content in some sort of digital form, such as a video. Class time is then devoted to helping the student engage the content by answering questions or having a discussion.
The results of the flipped classroom have been promising, but the flipped classroom is still premised on a separation of content from engagement. It just flips where those two happen.
But real learning requires application of content while it is being learned
. I don't teach my son to swing a hammer by showing him a video of a hammer swing and then have him practice it the next day. I show him how to swing a hammer at the same time as he is practicing it.
Similarly, Socrates never separated content from engagement. The Socratic teaching method is premised on the principle that learning comes in the act of engagement itself. The lecture had no place in his teaching at all.
So let's not just flip the classroom, let's break down the distinction between content and engagement entirely. Here are some technologies to allow the online teacher to integrate content with engagement.
While VoiceThread (http://voicethread.com
) has been around for an eternity in Internet time (about five years), it is still surprisingly underutilized in higher education. For the uninitiated, VoiceThread is a website that allows users to upload content in the form of PowerPoint slides, images, videos, etc., to make a presentation on which they add their own voice or annotations. But VoiceThread's real power lies in the ability of viewers to add their own comments, annotation, etc., to the presentation itself, thus creating a work that grows as users engage it.
Whereas the traditional online class asks the student to watch a “lecture” in some format, and then engage the material afterward on a separate discussion board, students connect their questions and comments directly to the lecture itself where they arise. Other students view these comments within the context of the content. Plus, online discussions are normally pre-stocked with questions from the instructor, and so are instructor-driven. But VoiceThreads are student-driven in that students raise the questions or post comments that occur to them.
Try posting one of your lectures to VoiceThread and asking your students to post one or more comments to it. You will be surprised at what you find. Up to three VoiceThreads are free, and if you like, you can leave the comments up for the next class, so that students start engaging in a discussion across classes, rather than having all records of past classes deleted, never to be seen again.
Take a look at this good example of VoiceThread in a college art class:
) is similar to VoiceThread in that it allows users to post a video and then have others attach comments to it. But VoiceThread attaches users' comments after each piece of content, such as a slide. While this is fine for PowerPoint slides or images, as you do not want the comments to break up the flow of the material, it becomes problematic for long videos, where comments to any part of it are grouped at the end. VideoANT solves this problem by running a timeline of comments next to the video while it plays. This makes VideoANT ideal for classes that examine feature length files, documentaries, or other longer video content.
Soo Meta (www.metta.io/
) allows you to post content similar to VoiceThread and VideoANT. But whereas you build the content outside of VoiceThread or VideoANT and upload it whole into those systems, Soo Meta provides you with a kind of online canvas on which you draw in elements from YouTube, the Web, or your desktop into a seamless presentation. Best of all, you can add surveys and quizzes to the presentations that students need to complete before moving forward. Students can't just passively watch a presentation; they must actively engage it, which has been proven to vastly improve retention.
) is a really neat new app from the good people at TechSmith. It drops onto your iPad to allow you to create narrated presentations using drag-and-drop functions and your voice. But the really nifty part is that it allows you to connect a forum to the presentation that allows students to insert questions for other students to answer. Nothing motivates a student more than answering another student's questions.
Take a look at this overview on Tim Childers' CoffeeTimeEdu YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vO4VneJgeE&feature=youtu.be.
So don't just flip your classroom, use the power of the Web to your full advantage by integrating content and engagement.
John Orlando has 15 years' experience in online education, mostly learning by trial and error. He helped develop and lead online learning programs at the University of Vermont and Norwich University and has taught faculty how to teach online as well as to use technology in their face-to-face teaching. He serves on the
Online Classroom editorial advisory board.