kitchen table math, the sequel: flip

Sunday, June 10, 2012


A taped lecture isn't a lecture.


Catherine Johnson said...

I've got to track down Vicky S's emails on this subject -- they were fantastic.

She asked how many Teaching Company lectures people HAVE ACTUALLY SAT DOWN AND WATCHED?!

I cracked up when she said that, because naturally I own quite a few Teaching Company DVDs of professors giving lectures, and I think I have watched precisely two altogether.

She also had a terrific observation about .... professional workshops for attorneys. I'm forgetting the details now, but apparently in many of these things you can choose to sit in a room with the lecturer and listen or you can ... sit in another room and hear it broadcast?? (MUST find that email.)

As I recall, she said that across the board people pay better attention when they sit inside a room with the actual, live lecturer present and lecturing.

Catherine Johnson said...

I think of this issue as being similar to the invention of TV.

People don't watch plays on TV; TV had to be something else.

Taped lectures, or even taped 'mini-lessons' like Khan's, aren't "it."

It's not that you can't learn from a taped lecture or mini-lesson. You can. Same way you can watch a videotaped play.

BUT people don't want to do it.

I keep thinking there's some way technology is going to end up working as a teaching tool (not just an assessment tool - and I personally think 'technology' is hugely useful for assessment).

But I don't think anyone's figured it out yet.

I do wonder whether iPad textbooks may end up working. I've been subscribing to The Daily for several months now, and it is a home run as far as I'm concerned.

("The Daily" is a daily magainze-newspaper-like entity designed specifically for the iPad. It's sui generis, and it is fabulous.)

SteveH said...

A Khan video on continuity in calculus I once watched was very slow and tedious, with the instructor erasing and redrawing curves to get them just right. You would think he would have had them drawn beforehand and just popped them on the screen.

I think technology could have an enormous impact on education, but what we have now is not that. How about a program that includes both direct instruction and hands-on practice. You can provide a better feedback loop than a traditional 45 minute lecture followed by a large homework set. Some of the math textbooks my son has had included links back to the appropriate pages in the text for each problem at the end of the unit. Programs could do this efficiently and reduce the size of the content - practice - feedback loop. Also, they could identify when students are having trouble with older material and offer paths for review.

Some of the computer programs my son had when he was very little were creative, but they tended to dance all around the learning process as if kids needed to think of learning as a game. I prefer learning tools that don't waste time and get straight to the point. I'll wager that it would be extraordinarily exciting for kids to find out they can learn things very quickly, and if they have problems, they can find solutions efficiently.

Anonymous said...

"She asked how many Teaching Company lectures people HAVE ACTUALLY SAT DOWN AND WATCHED?!"

Do you mean episodes, or complete "courses"?

If "episodes", then I'm at about 20. The count would be higher, but ... I'm using these as an adjunct to my homeschooling. Son and I were 18 episodes into a 36 lecture series on Vikings when I purchased some History Channel shows. The Vikings have been put on hold while we watch History Channel.

In fact, my basic take is that History Channel-ish shows make much better use of the TV/video format than talking head lectures. Consider, as three examples:

*) Battlefield Britain,
*) Engineering and Empire, and
*) Universe

The lectures, however, tend to go into more detail than the History Channel shows.

I don't think that this is an inherent difference (talking head -> depth, nice visuals -> broad overview) and would really like to see some "lectures" delivered with History Channel type visuals and animations.

But your question/point is a good one. Talking head lectures on a TV screen are fairly boring compared to what they could be.

And I expect that I'm an outlier with respect to Learning Company videos ... I've got a very clear idea of what I want to get out of them, and part of that is the lecture format.

-Mark Roulo

Catherine Johnson said...

And I expect that I'm an outlier with respect to Learning Company videos

I'll lay money on that!

AGAIN: I'm not 'against' these things -- I buy them all the time! (Then don't watch them, while I DO read very difficult books, articles, and studies.)

There's something about taped lectures & even taped mini-lessons like Khan's that 'doesn't work' for most of us, I think -----

I'd love to know what it is.

I **do** know that there is a whole speaker-adjusts-to-audience exchange going on in a live situation.

I don't know whether the absence of that interaction is the problem, however.

With taped plays, what you're missing very obviously is OTHER PEOPLE IN THE AUDIENCE.

I think constructivist educators are profoundly missing out on the social 'fun' and 'power' of whole-class instruction----

Catherine Johnson said...

Chris's physics teacher made terrific use of Moodle this year, I think.

His approach was quite simple, and as far as I can tell, it worked.

First of all, his class wasn't remotely 'flipped.' All the lecturing and instruction happened inside the classroom. Labs, too, of course.

He put homework sets on Moodle. Students did their HW with paper & pencil, then put the answers in and immediately found out if the answers were right.

If the answer wasn't right, they could do the problem again... and I've forgotten the other options.

As I recall, the teacher had tried to make the site as flexible as possible, so that if a student wanted simpler problems - or more problems of the same kind - he could get them.

Grades were part of this.

If a student was satisfied with a lower grade, he could just put his answers in, and take whatever grade came back.

If a student wanted an "A," he had to keep going until he had produced a complete set of correct answers.

That approach reminds me of the old Keller plan (which I loved in college).

As far as I could tell, students were learning a lot in the physics class with minimal pain and suffering--the online component was a fabulous success.

BUT: the online component was about practice & feedback, not instruction.

Catherine Johnson said...

I do keep thinking there's going to be some form of INSTRUCTION that will be 'technological' --- but no one has found it yet (not the one people WANT), and I don't have an inkling what it might be, apart from my fondness for 'The Daily.'

Anonymous said...

"...people pay better attention when they sit inside a room with the actual, live lecturer present and lecturing."

I think this may be true only when you think you can interrupt and ask questions. Do people pay better attention in an auditorium with 500 other students?

But for small groups, I totally agree. In fact, I even have an anecdote!

About 15 years ago, I wound up in charge of teaching a four hour training class to all of the new hire programmers for the project on which I was working. The idea was that this training would show them how we were doing things and how the pieces were supposed to fit together. We expected that we'd get the time back easily in the form of fewer screw ups.

The class is/was considered a great success.

And about 2-3 years in, the nice people who run our corporate training center dispatched people with cameras to tape it.

So now we have a 2-VHS-tape set of the training course in our corporate training center.

Which, I believe, no one has ever watched.

Because my boss and I both thought that it was worth 4 hours of my time 3 or 4 times per year to give the training live. This was for lots of reasons:

*) The trainees could ask questions.
*) I could see blank looks which meant that they didn't understand.
*) I could tailor things to their background (this is more theoretical than actual)
*) And they'd get to know me, which was a good thing.

So ... yes, live is better than canned.

But I don't think it is quite that simple.

This worked because we only needed to do this 3-4 times a year. It didn't scale up to hundreds of times, but it also didn't NEED to do so.

What I think might have been even better would be to break the lecture down into smaller pieces, provide visuals, and then provide small self-scoring exercises.

But the "maybe even better" thing would have been a *LOT* more work up front, and would have had minimal benefit given the number of new hires we had.

If I had been in charge of teaching this to 3M people a year for a decade, we'd have done something else.

So ... my take is that:
(a) Taped is better than nothing.
(b) Live is better than taped, but that live doesn't scale.
(c) If you really need to scale up, you need to so something much better than a talking head, but this costs a lot more up front.

Learning Company is in region (a): Better than nothing.

History Channel is in (c), but doesn't cover the same material as Learning Company because there aren't enough customers.

I want Learning Company content with History Channel production values (and support software/exercises). I do think that we're going to get this eventually, but it isn't going to happen this year or next.

-Mark Roulo

Auntie Ann said...

What I find particularly interesting about Khan being embraced in some schools, is the fact that for many of these schools, they drank deep the constructivist and child-centered-classroom kool-aid; and now without admitting they are doing it, are embracing a weakened form of direct instruction and teacher-centered learning. We called one teacher we know on it, and they were flustered when this cognitive dissonance was pointed out.

Jean said...

"He put homework sets on Moodle. Students did their HW with paper & pencil, then put the answers in and immediately found out if the answers were right.

If the answer wasn't right, they could do the problem again... and I've forgotten the other options."

Now this, I love. That strikes me as a very effective use of technology for learning.

TerriW said...

I am also a Teaching Company outlier. (Why am I not surprised that there might be a concentration of TC outliers on ktm?)

I love the lectures, I love to watch them, and I have at least one series that I've watched *more than once*. (Elizabeth Vandiver's course on the Iliad.) I love that I get to sit and listen and not be interrupted by a student's (almost invariably self-serving) question.

Perhaps I'd feel differently if I was watching one of the Teaching Company's courses live with their actual audience demographic -- older folks wanting to expand their knowledge base, by choice, with their own dollars, for no credential -- rather than a bunch of late teens/early twenties kids?

Though I have noticed: I *have* to be watching the video to stay engaged. I can't be looking away or in the other room with it loud enough for me to hear. I can't do the mp3 versions, I have to actually see the talking head to stay on track or it flows past me like a river of sounds.

(My church has their sermons online as videos and I can't tell you how much I love that. Again -- has to be the videos, can't hack the mp3s.)

Glen said...

I may be an outlier among outliers, but I've probably listened to 15-20 Teaching Company courses--not episodes, but entire courses. I can't watch the videos, though. They move too slowly, I'm stuck there having to pay full attention unable to do anything else, and I can't just flip the page.

But I listen to the audio versions all the time when I'm shopping, or on the treadmill, or stuck in traffic.... I can pay them partial attention as I do other things, and if I miss something, I just replay it. I also frequently pause them to summarize or restate things to make sure I've got them. If I can't do it well enough, I'll just replay the lesson. It's not as if I have anything better to do while I'm sitting in traffic or shopping for corn flakes.

I learn a LOT from these lectures, which keeps bringing me back for more. My biggest frustration with them is that I can only seem to learn subjects of secondary interest (to me) this way, such as history, philosophy, literature, etc. There are areas of math, science, and technology that are of more interest and value (again, to me) than the humanities, but these require that I 1) pay FULL ATTENTION, 2) SEE the material, and often 3) DO the real work, to make any real progress.

For these, I MUST have a dense textbook full of equations, diagrams, illustrated examples and exercises, etc., that I carefully work through, which not only rules out audio but rules out Kindle, too.