Good Blog Post on Pros & Cons of the Flipped Classroom

Mary Beth Hertz, an elementary computer teacher in Philadelphia, PA wrote an interesting blog post at Edutopia. In the post she presents some pros and cons of the flipped classroom model.

In this post, I will present some of her pros and let you got to her post to read the cons. The following are some important points about flipping the classroom that Mary Beth blogs about:

  • The most important thing about the flipped classroom is the face to face interaction and meaningful learning activities.
  • It should be a mixture of direct instruction and constructivism.
  • For students to be successful in a flipped model – videos must include a variety of approaches.

Here are some of the pros, according to Mary Beth Hertz, of the flipped classroom model:

  • Allows students to individualize their learning and move at their own pace.
  • Students can review what they need – when they need it.
  • Students can catch up on missed lessons.

Check out her post for the cons – if you are a classroom teacher, I think the challenges she lists will resonate with you.

Don’t Collaborate Without a Protocol!

This article from the Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement is one of many that warns school leaders of the dangers of putting teachers in a room to collaborate without a highly structured protocol guiding their conversation.

This video below of a highly motivated team, working hard and working together shows that without a plan – teamwork doesn’t always result in the positive outcomes that you might envision.

Project Glass – This Changes Everything!

Google Glasses
Project Glass may assist the shift of computers being “everywhere, yet nowhere.”

Throughout the history of mankind, there have been many shifts and many different types of shifts.  The most recent shifts have been documented in the many Youtube “Shift Happens” videos.  Some shifts sneak up on us and we didn’t see them coming and people kind of look around asking themselves what happened to the “good old days”.  As I watched the Project Glass Live Demo at Google I/O I got the sensation that I was witnessing a huge shift in the making.  In his keynote speech at the 2012 eTech Ohio conference for educators, Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist, gave his vision for the future of computing.  He explained that computers would be like electricity – it would be everywhere, yet nowhere.  He described electricity as being all around us but yet we never see it – it is just there.  The Google Glasses are the tip of the iceberg in this trend.

My next question becomes, how will or can this technology impact education?  Additionally, how will school policies adapt to allow educators and students to take advantage of this shift?





“Silver Bullet” Thinking in Education

One phenomenon that I have noticed in my experience of over 20 years in education is that we are sometimes guilty of taking an innovation and viewing it as the answer to whatever ails us.  I refer to this as “silver bullet” thinking and I would like to discuss the phenomenon as it relates to the use of technology in education.

This post was inspired by Paul Barnwell’s post that I first saw in Education Week on Monday, June 11, 2012.  Paul addresses three subtopics in his post which I will expand on below:

  1. Some of us are guilty of using technology just to…use technology.  We are not weaving the use of technology into any instructional framework or giving any thought to what the pedagogical purpose of this technology should be.
  2. Students are not as tech-savvy as we give them credit for.  At least not as tech savvy with some of the key web 2.0 tools that teachers can use to create a student-centered learning environment.
  3. Technology is still good, and in fact necessary, in teaching 21st century learners.  While integrating technology into our instruction, we must keep the role of technology in education at the forefront. (see below for what this role is)
I really think that if teachers are serious about integrating technology into their instruction it will make them a better teacher.  The reason I say this is that to effectively integrate technology into instruction, you have to have some type of instructional framework to determine what you are trying to accomplish with the technology.  I love Robert Marzano’s instructional framework that he presents in The Art & Science of Teaching.  In that book, he presents ten questions that one could use to plan and guide good instruction.  So if I take one of the questions, “What will I do to have students deepen their understanding of new knowledge?”, I can start to plan what technology might facilitate this for students most effectively.  I might choose to have students participate in a threaded discussion board about something that was recently introduced in class.  I can create parameters for their participation that they must meet – that will illustrate to me that they are deepening their understanding.  If someone were to ask, why are you using this technology? – I would have a solid answer for them.  This leads us to Barnwell’s second point.
Most students do not currently use the internet to participate in learning in settings that I describe above.  Certainly there are students who are engaged in threaded discussion boards but most students are simply using various social media apps to communicate with friends.  The research points out that very few students are blogging or using wikis on their own.  If we want students to engage in these activities for instructional purposes – then we will need to provide some guidelines and protocols for students to follow so that the pedagogical needs of the activity are met.
Finally, Paul writes about something I touched on in a previous post about the purpose of technology in education. It was an idea that I got from a Marc Prensky article.  Yes, the same Marc Prensky who wrote about Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants. Prensky spells out explicitly what role he believes technology should play in education – “The role of technology in our classrooms is to support the new teaching paradigm.”  What new teaching paradigm you might ask?  The new paradigm of a student-centered versus a teacher-centered classroom.

Barnwell writes about is experiences in developing student-centered instruction where students are using web 2.0 software and tools to create digital stories for instance.  Barnwell also points out that he is far from giving up on technology in the classroom.  Rather, he is working hard to explore ways for students to use technology to create, collaborate and think critically.  These are the skills that 21st century learners need and this is the true role of technology in education.

College Still Pays

With all the media attention around the prospect of unemployment for recent college grads I think it is still important to look at the big picture:

As you can see from the table above, in 2010, young adults ages 25–34 with a bachelor’s degree earned 114 percent more than young adults without a high school diploma or its equivalent, 50 percent more than young adult high school completers, and 22 percent more than young adults with an associate’s degree (p. 116)

The difference (in constant 2010 dollars) in median
earnings between those with a bachelor’s degree or higher
and those without a high school diploma or its equivalent
increased between 1995 and 2010. For example, in 1995,
the median of earnings for young adults with a bachelor’s
degree or higher was $24,500 greater than the median for
those without a high school diploma or its equivalent; in
2010, this earnings differential was $27,700. There was no
measurable difference, however, between the 1995 median
earnings differential and the 2010 median earnings
differential of those with a bachelor’s degree or higher
over those with a high school diploma or its equivalent.
Nor was there a measurable difference between the
1995 median earnings differential and the 2010 median
earnings differential of those with a master’s degree or
higher over those with a bachelor’s degree (p. 116)

The figures point to the difference between a bachelor’s degree and a high school degree in 2010 to be $15,100 per year. Take that over 40 years and it amounts to a difference of over $600,000 for the bachelor’s degree over the high school diploma. People love to point to the late Steve Jobs or Bill Gates and tout that they never finished college – and look what they’ve accomplished. There will always be exceptions to the rule – but the table above shows that the more education you attain – the more dollars in salary you can expect earn over your lifetime.

I think it is reckless and irresponsible of the media to paint a picture that devalues the worth of a four year degree. Yes, students should be careful consumers when it comes time to shop for colleges – but in the long run that degree will be worth the paper it is printed on and over 600,000 other pieces of paper also.


Aud, S., Hussar, W., Johnson, F., Kena, G., Roth, E., Manning, E., Wang, X.,
    and Zhang, J. (2012). The Condition of Education 2012 (NCES 2012-045).
    U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.
    Washington, DC. Retrieved [date] from


Will Backlash on Higher Ed Lead to a Shift in Post-Secondary Training?

It seems that lately there has been a maelstrom of criticism against our venerable institutions of higher education. Much of the criticism is leveled at the number of students graduating with student debt, the amount of that debt and the prospects of landing a job that will support paying that debt off after graduation.

According to The Project on Student Debt, for instance, 68% of Ohio’s college students graduated with some amount of student debt. The average amount of that debt was $27,713 per student carrying debt out of college.

Critics are asking if that type of an investment is going to pay off in the short term – yet alone in the long run. Mark Cuban, the outspoken and self-made owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks checks in on this topic in his blog.  In this post he compares the housing bubble and bust to an “educational bubble” and predicts the consequent bust.  If his predictions are correct, it could lead to a shift in how we see and value higher education and what we qualify as effective quality post-secondary training.

In this article on Singularity Hub there is an illustration of the shift that Cuban blogs about.  The article is about Harvard and MIT, undoubtedly two of the world’s premier institutions of higher education, teaming up to offer their college-level courses online….for free.  What?  Free?  This shift is monumental as our system of education has been the “keeper of the knowledge” and the gatekeeper to a better (supposed) life for centuries.  To paraphrase a popular ad campaign, “This changes everything”.

Already on iTunes, we can download and listen to lectures from the top scholars in the world on a variety of topics.  Already, some in the media are asking, “what are we paying for then”?  I don’t have the answers or any predictions but I think it will be interesting to see how this paradigm shift plays out.  After it is done being interesting, then I think it will get scary as the same paradigm shift may also move into the K-12 sector – Shift Happens!

Teaching for Understanding

In a previous post and a series of posts, I have talked about David Perkins’ book – Making Learning Whole: How Seven Principles of Teaching Can Transform Education.  One activity he describes in his book is to ask teachers he works with the following three questions:


  1. What is one thing that you understand well?
  2. How did you come to understand it well?
  3. How do you know that you understand it well?

Well, I decided to use these questions for an activity with my graduate students at Franciscan University and the results were very powerful.  The answers to the first question were quite varied; from cooking to breastfeeding to basketball.  However, the answers to the remaining two questions were very similar – similar enough to provide some powerful observations from the students about what it means to understand and how we can teach for understanding.

I will post a link to the table I used to aggregate their responses below and then post the most recent section’s observations that they recorded in a class wiki.

Class Responses for Understanding Activity

Below are the student observations on the table in the link above

Student 1 – I think it’s really amazing at the consistency across the comments.    We found something that we were interested in; we learned how to do it by observing and researching information about it; we became better at it by repetition and training.   If we translate that into the classroom..we need to spark an interest in our students.  Then we need to guide them with information about the subject as well as let them do their own research.  We also need to let them share what they have learned with each other and outside the classroom.   With these practices, students are engaged and learning.  The hard part is, what do we do to spark their interest in subjects that don’t engage them?


Student 2 – Everyone wrote about something that you can tell they are passionate about. Their passion for the activity drove them to learn everything they could to be better at it. It would be wonderful to find a way to make students passionate about what they are learning in the classroom. The key would be to find a way to spark their interest so that they have that drive to find all of the information possible about it.  As teachers we need to make our lessons as engaging as possible to hopefully spark student interest so that they want to learn more.


Student 3 – The pattern I noticed is very similar to what Laura and Shannon have already stated.  It seems that everyone chose to explain their understanding of something they were interested in and had a lot of experience doing.  Then we were able to tell how we understood it because we have spent plenty of time practicing, performing, or studying that task/activity.  Finally, we were able to provide examples of the success we have had developing our skills.  An activity like this could be a powerful teaching tool to use in the classroom because it could be used to help students make a connection between the material they are learning and something they are interested in.  It would be advantageous because it would keep their attention and actively engaged in the lesson.


Student 4 – I find interesting that out of 8 students, half of us find that we understand a sport or a form of fitness. We have long distance running, swimming, cheering and basketball. They’ve all been in their sport for many years, starting at a young age, and still enjoy the sport today! In regards to teaching, I feel like each person knows their sport enough to actually teach it. Some actually do. Especially with childhood obesity being so high…maybe we should consider adding physical fitness to Pa Cyber somehow. We just assume that students are doing their PE hours, but technically we are just going by what the family tells us.


Student 5 – The thing that popped out to me is that for the “how or why” each student understood their topic section, nearly everyone included something about repetition.  Most of the posts were something that each individual has done their whole lives, or at least since a very young age, and they can tell you about without even thinking twice about it.  Its just like your job, you become good and understand something that you do everyday, just like these hobbies that were posted.


Student 6 –  I observed that each one of us wrote about something that we enjoy something that sparked our attention so much that we all worked to master the skill. I think that says something about teaching our students, we need to spark their interests when teaching so that they will be inspired to learn the new knowledge. I also noticed that there were a few people that said they know they understand well because they were able to teach others the skill. Maybe we should have our students peer tutor or help to “teach” others to help them to master the skill.


Student 7 – Let me try to further aggregate our responses, while drawing some conclusions and making some extensions.  If applied to students, we would recommend: (1) Find a strong interest and commit to learning whatever you can in that area.  Do you know what your ultimate goal is? (2) Have a role model, mentor, or coach to rely on, or at least a reliable source of information.  (3) Practice regularly, focusing on one or two skills at a time, getting feedback.  (4) Have somebody that you can trust to tell you if you are on track towards your goals.  Tim observed that for most people, this process was over a lifetime.  However, Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, demonstrates that 10,000 hours of experience is what is required to be a true expert.  This would be 5 years on the job or 10 years of half-time commitment (20 hours per week).  Students who start at age 5 have a definite advantage over those who start at age 10 or 15, but nevertheless, students can acquire the experience over time.  Finally, I want to comment on LaTaya’s observation about sports being the dominant interest.  That observation is exactly why I’m such a big fan of Sir Ken Robinson, author of The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything.  What students explore during school may or may not become their lifelong career.  Nevertheless, pursuing one’s passion—which often involves a sport or the arts—opens individuals up to a lifelong commitment toward learning.

I really enjoyed reading their observations.  Thanks to all who participated.