The first three chapters of Bowen’s Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out Of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning (2012) build a case for the use and continued adoption of current technologies into adult education; by building a business case (chapter one), appealing to the value of community and connection with students (chapter two), and by identifying specific ways to use these new technologies to actually increase opportunities for learning (chapter three).
The first two chapters of this text didn’t trigger much in the way of inspiration or excitement for me; I am glued to my screens, for better or for worse, and I tend to get really excited about new ways of doing things or new technology. Chapter three, however, really got me thinking about a couple of ways that I can transform my own teaching practice. Can I introduce content before actually meeting with students, and customize the delivery so that it is more effective? Can I use games?
How exciting is this? Playing games is learning. I feel like a bit of a dummy that I didn’t come to this conclusion on my own, it just seems so obvious now. When I wanted to pick up a bit of Spanish before my trip to Spain a couple of years ago, I didn’t buy a book or sign up for courses. I downloaded an app to my phone that provided incremental rewards as I progressed through levels of language ability. And I played that thing everywhere; on the bus, waiting for a friend, when I was supposed to be typing up case notes at work. It was on demand, fun, interactive, exactly the sliver of content that I wanted, and free. Why would I learn any other way?
The idea of introducing content prior to class is also really exciting, and again, I have experienced this myself, as a student. One of my most memorable learning experiences was in an intro to cognitive science course about 6 years ago. It was one of those massive lecture hall style classes with a few hundred students. So, lecture, rinse, repeat – right? Not so for the concept of distributed cognition; our professor simply sent us home one day with a problem to solve and the instructions to pay attention to how we solved it. Two days later we broke into groups in our lecture hall and had interactive discussions about what we had discovered in the process of solving the problem. Then, our professor lectured for a short time on the concept and how everything we had just done was an example of it. I had so few experiences like that in university, and it obviously stuck with me. Taking away an activity and doing really worked for me; would that work for everyone?
Following this train of thought, I was reminded of a concept that I have been briefly introduced to in the PIDP program but I haven’t really explored yet; the flipped classroom. In a flipped classroom, new content is delivered prior to class (usually via videos posted online) so that the majority of classroom time can be focused application of content, with individualized instruction from the teacher (McCammon, 2011, Bergmann, Overmyer & Wilie, 2011). The focus of this idea in action seems to be to allow the teacher to provide timely instruction that is tailored to the needs of the student while they are in the class together; understandably, detractors of this idea argue that not all students will engage with videos of a lecture (Hertz, 2012).
Earlier in this program I was introduced to constructivism in adult education and it’s really stuck with me. Learning doesn’t happen from just reading or listening to lecture, it’s in that sweet spot of cognitive discomfort intersecting with the confidence to explore and test new ideas. I feel that combining the structure of a flipped classroom with the customization of the introduction of new content, potentially with games, could create a truly student centred, constructivist classroom.
I don’t teach in a formal educational setting; I facilitate job search skills workshops for unemployed youth (16-30 years old) at an employment services centre. We have limited time frames, clients that are under a great deal of pressure, and way too much content to deliver. When I am facilitating a resume workshop I know what my student want; they want to leave with an amazing resume. Spoiler alert – they rarely do. Usually we get to a place where they are ready to start applying the concepts we’ve introduced, if they are still engaged. But it’s the end of the workshop at that point, so they are sent on their way and encouraged to return with new drafts that our resource centre staff can continue to help them edit and improve. After reading these chapters, I realized it’s time to make a change.
I think that by requiring clients to watch videos, explore resources, and complete some activities prior to attending my workshops, I can help them be more successful in understanding the most important concepts in effective job search and actually leave with new skills and materials that they can use. I can be there for them when they need me, which is once they have started applying new information and ideas, and I can personalize the instruction to each students individual needs.
Bergmann, J., Overmyer, J. & Wilie, B. (2013, July 9). The flipped class: Myths vs reality [Blog Post]. Retrieved from http://www.thedailyriff.com/articles/the-flipped-class-conversation-689.php.
Bowen, J. A. (2012). Teaching Naked: How moving technology out of your college classroom will improve student learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Hertz, M. (2012, July 10). The flipped classroom: Pro and con [Blog Post]. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/flipped-classroom-pro-and-con-mary-beth-hertz.
McCammon, L. (2011, May 2). Why I flipped my classroom [YouTube Video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9aGuLuipTwg.