kitchen table math, the sequel: 12/15/13 - 12/22/13

Friday, December 20, 2013

Who wants flipped classrooms?

Bergmann and Sams co-wrote the book Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day, which some credit with starting the flipped classroom trend. Today, they serve on the board of the Flipped Learning Network.

Criticism of the flipped classroom model usually stems from arguments between the didactic and progressive camps within higher education, Bergmann said. Members of the didactic camp oppose flipping the classroom to preserve the role of the lecturer, while the progressive camp instead advocates for a move toward project-based learning and inquiry. “That’s where I’m seeing the rub,” he said.

Still in Favor of the Flip
October 30, 2013
By Carl Straumsheim
Given what I see here in my own district, and given what I read, Bergmann's characterization of the two sides in this argument is correct.

It's the 'didactic' camp versus the 'progressive' camp, instructivists v. constructivists. As usual.

Flipped classrooms are championed by constructivists.

Speaking of, I'm not sure I ever got around to posting this, but Salman Khan is, at heart, a constructivist. He's a constructivist who believes in mastery learning, which makes him a rare bird, but he is a constructivist nonetheless:
…a teacher can finally have every kid going at their own pace [no grouping by achievement or ability] and have the teacher really focus on what we would consider kind of higher value-add activities, which is running simulations with students, doing actual interventions, getting the students to teach each other the concept. [emphasis added]

[snip]

I mean, I think everyone can testify that in college they learned most of what they're learning the night before the exam from their peers, and then all the way fast-forward to now, what we're seeing in Los Altos is what's happening is all the kids are working at their own pace. They are watching the videos on their own when they have a question. Some students might get 90 percent from a video. Some students might get 60 percent from a video, but when they start to connect with each other, they can start to point out other things, and then they can look for other resources on the Web and they get each other to 100 percent. [guide on the side] …. You know, we're going to try to make the videos as good as possible, but what we think it does is it takes lecture out of the room. We think we're really effective in getting the lecture out of the room and allowing these videos to be consumed in a way that different people [students] can take what they can from them and from other things on the Internet, frankly, and then when they go into the classroom, since the lecture's off the table now, they are now liberated to actually communicate with each other and they're liberated to have a conversation about mathematics. They're liberated to, like, sit next to their teacher. [guide on the side...] So the power, the real beauty isn't actually like, you know, some magic that Khan Academy has a neural plug-in to your brain and can deliver -- the real magic, I think, is that class has so much potential that we're letting happen now, because we're taking all that other stuff that was kind of disrupting traditional class out of the way. And so the real magic is actually what happens when you let people talk to each other.

[snip]

For me, like, the deepest learning happens with a project-based story, [emphasis added] but the projects can only be useful if people go into the projects with the core toolkit that -- so they can understand what's actually going into -- going in an analytical way. So every student working at their own pace, it doesn't matter what grade they are, what age they are. In fact, we're starting a few pilots with multi-age groups in the same classroom, and some can work on things that are below grade level. [in-class tracking via differentiation]

[snip]

And then what we're hoping is it informs the teacher enough, saying, "You know what? I think the students in my class are ready for this type of a project and that type of a project". And I think right now we are putting it on the teacher, like, "We've kind of liberated a lot of this core stuff off of you. You won't have to give the traditional lecture. You won't have to do the traditional homework, but you how [sic] have, I would say, maybe a larger responsibility to do more of this less-traditional stuff, which is invent an interesting project or find an interesting project". Two summers ago I was running a little summer camp myself and I wanted to experiment with this, just eat my own dog food, to some degree, on what's going on. So what I did is I had the students that used the videos and the primitive kind of the exercises back then to learn a little bit about probability and multiplying decimals and fractions and all that. And then what I wanted them to really internalize what probability is and what expected value is. I did a bunch of simulations. One of them had the -- I don't know if you've ever played "Settlers of Catan". It's like a trading game, right? So, like, we're all in one civilization and we can build roads, but we trade. Like, to build a road you need, like -- I don't know. I forgot -- like, two woods and three bricks, and you can build a road. And you might have four woods, and so we'll try to trade. We're competitive, but we're also trading with each other, but obviously if you see students who've already mastered the basics of probability, they've watched some of those videos on expected value, then this would be an ideal exercise for them, because they're really going to internalize what expected value is.

[snip]

We genuinely feel like the teachers are getting liberated here. Do what you want on whatever day and the students are going to do what they want on this day, and we're freeing tons of class time for you to do what I think you went into teaching to begin with. Like, when I ran my little summer camp -- and I won't claim to have 30 years of experience and all the rest, but what was fun for me was not having to give a lecture on these common multiples, not having to give a lecture on probability, to know that that was out of the way and getting to do this super fun simulation where the kids are trading pieces and all this. And I felt like I was able to express my creativity. I was able to go home and say, "What would be a really cool way to understand this concept intuitively"? And when I went to classroom, that's what we did, and I felt like it was a much richer experience. And so we genuinely feel and we genuinely hope that it's doing that for teachers, and the teachers of Los Altos have expressed that, that they love -- that they feel liberated.

Salman Khan on Liberating the Classroom for Creativity (Big Thinkers Series)
It's all there, the entire constructivist project, but with the recognition that students need knowledge in order to take part in group simulations.

Lecture is gone, "traditional" homework is gone, the responsibility to make sure students are actually acquiring the knowledge they need is gone (if the Khan videos don't do the trick, students help each other find what they need on the internet)…. et voilĂ  : the teacher is "liberated."

I remember, listening to Salman Khan's keynote address at the Celebration of Teaching and Learning, his saying that one of the reasons he began taping himself was that he found teaching the same core content over and over again to different cousins boring.

He was bored.

That is the problem, right there.

If you can't find teaching and reteaching the same core content interesting, exciting, and engaging, you shouldn't be teaching.

I am teaching basic content to my students, who are "basic writers," and I am never bored. Ever. Maybe one day I will be, but not now. The content I teach always seems new to me, and exciting, and thus via the magic of mood contagion I am able to persuade my students, at least to some degree, that the content I teach is new and exciting to them, too.

A bored teacher is a bad teacher.

If our schools have bored teachers, the answer isn't to "liberate" them from teaching.

The answer is to fire them and hire teachers who aren't bored.

For the record, throughout all my years of having children in public schools, I haven't seen a big problem with bored teachers.

How long have I been writing ktm now? (Don't answer that!) Have I ever written a post about bored teachers in lo these many years? No. (At least, I don't remember writing any posts complaining about bored teachers.)

All of my kids have had numerous teachers who gave the impression of being fully engaged with the kids and with the content they were teaching. The problem has always been curriculum, absence of effective practice regimens, absence of formative assessment, absence of accountability for kids actually learning what was covered in class, etc, etc. Oh, and the artifacts.

At least from where I sit, Salman Khan is trying to solve a problem that doesn't exist. He is projecting his own boredom with basic instruction onto actual classroom teachers and then fixing the problem he would have if he were a basic classroom instructor. Which he isn't.

And of course he has tiny little kids who have not attended public school, so he has absolutely no idea what public-school group "simulations" are actually like, or how fun it's going to be for his kids to sit through 6 hours of public-school group simulations every day, 5 days a week, for 13 years.

He's got a lot to learn, our Salman.

In the meantime, though, and thanks to his elevation to superstar status by Bill Gates, he gets to transform US public education.

Eureka
Eureka, part 2
Eureka, part 3
Eureka, part 4
Eureka, part 5

Flipping the Classroom: Hot, Hot, Hot
MOOCs grow the gap
The New York Times is surprised
In the world of MOOCs, 2+2 is never 4
World's funniest joke: humor depends on surprise
Dick Van Dyke on comedy
Philip Keller on the flipped classroom
If students could talk
Who wants flipped classrooms? (Salman Khan on liberating teachers)
True story
Are math & science lectures boring in a way humanities & social science lectures are not?

If students could talk

Oh, wait (warning: many f-words).

One thing that annoys me no end re:constructivism & contructivists is the universal constructivist assumption that constructivism in all its myriad forms and formations is more fun for students.

We instructivists have only drill-and-kill on offer; constructivists have real-world authentic 21st-century global hands-on group problem solving!

Wheeeee!!!

Kids love that stuff.

Problem is, no one ever asks the kids if they agree.
They don't understand. When they make math fun, it's MORE BORING.
- Christopher, age 10 (scroll down to "Kids say the darndest things")

Eureka
Eureka, part 2
Eureka, part 3
Eureka, part 4
Eureka, part 5

Flipping the Classroom: Hot, Hot, Hot
MOOCs grow the gap
The New York Times is surprised
In the world of MOOCs, 2+2 is never 4
World's funniest joke: humor depends on surprise
Dick Van Dyke on comedy
Philip Keller on the flipped classroom
If students could talk
Who wants flipped classrooms? (Salman Khan on liberating teachers)
True story
Are math & science lectures boring in a way humanities & social science lectures are not?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Eureka, part 5: Why MOOCs don't work and flipped classrooms never will work

Eureka
Eureka, part 2
Eureka, part 3
Eureka, part 4

I got a little ahead of myself bringing in the laugh track yesterday.

The point I meant to make before getting to laugh tracks and the like had to do with the relative absence of "Dorky Teacher Humor" in MOOCs and flips as opposed to live classroom teaching.

Presumably, MOOCs go easy on the Dorky Teacher Humor. At least I think I would go easy on the Dorky Teacher Humor if I were recording myself for a MOOC. You don't want to be recorded for posterity making lame jokes about the 5-paragraph essay.

To the extent that teachers and professors do suppress D.T.H. when they are taping themselves, a taped lesson is going to be much less compelling than a live one.

Flipping the Classroom: Hot, Hot, Hot
MOOCs grow the gap
The New York Times is surprised
In the world of MOOCs, 2+2 is never 4
World's funniest joke: humor depends on surprise
Dick Van Dyke on comedy
Philip Keller on the flipped classroom
If students could talk
Who wants flipped classrooms? (Salman Khan on liberating teachers)
True story
Are math & science lectures boring in a way humanities & social science lectures are not?

Philip Keller on teachers and interactive lessons

Eureka
Eureka, part 2
Eureka, part 3
Eureka, part 4

From Philip Keller (whose The New Math SAT Game Plan: The Strategic Way to Score Higher we used and strongly recommend:
...and regarding MOOCs:

Count me in with the skeptics. Here's why:

Earlier this year, I developed an interactive simulation to use in my classroom. Then, I wrote a guided activity for my students to follow to use the simulation to learn a specific set of physics skills. Then, I played the "guide on the side" (suppress gagging noise) to observe and help as they worked through the activity.

No one complained that it was hard to understand. No one had technical difficulties working with the simulation. But what I saw was that no one drove themselves to engage with any sense of urgency. What I thought of as a finely crafted interactive study guide, they thought of as a "work sheet." Without me steadily circulating to maintain the pressure to keep on task, to actually read the words on the page, to follow the directions and to think about what was happening in front of them and to do the math -- well, it wouldn't have happened. And if I had sent it home as a flipped assignment, I don't think my students would have given the 20 - 30 minutes of relentless concentration required.

I don't want to sound all nuts-and-berries, but I think that teaching and learning requires personal interaction and a sense of accountability to a course and to the teacher. Only a tiny fraction of students will do all of what it takes to learn the material without that personal element.
Here's the pull:
What I thought of as a finely crafted interactive study guide, they thought of as a "work sheet."
Exactly right.

"Flipped" classrooms and MOOCs and interactive lessons students can work through at their own pace sound like a good thing (at least, MOOCs and interactive lessons sound like a good thing) …. but then, when you try them with your child or your students or yourself (at least in my case), nothing happens. Your child doesn't learn his math facts from the fun software program(s) you bought him, your students tune out, and you yourself watch exactly 1 lecture of each Great Courses series you purchase, if that.

I'm going to be sending Philip's account to all of the administrators & board members in my district. Several times.

From a second email:
And I am definitely a believer and practitioner of dorky professor humor.  
……………...

News flash: Phil's son just got into Princeton!!!!

Congratulations!

Flipping the Classroom: Hot, Hot, Hot
MOOCs grow the gap
The New York Times is surprised
In the world of MOOCs, 2+2 is never 4
World's funniest joke: humor depends on surprise
Dick Van Dyke on comedy
Philip Keller on the flipped classroom
If students could talk
Who wants flipped classrooms? (Salman Khan on liberating teachers)
True story
Are math & science lectures boring in a way humanities & social science lectures are not?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The New York Times is going to be surprised again

The New York Times is surprised 12/11/2013

In the Times today:
In past years, the College Board, which administers the program and the exams, has been justifiably criticized for requiring too much rote learning of a broad range of facts, and too little time for in-depth study, lab work or creative ventures. But now the board is beginning a drastic revision of its courses and exams, which will focus on the most important core concepts of a subject and leave more room for students and teachers to become more creative.

Even Gifted Students Can’t Keep Up
In Math and Science, the Best Fend for Themselves
Ostensibly, the New York Times editorial board believes AP courses are flawed and approves of the current effort to gut revise them.

Close reading of this passage, however, compels me to point out that the choice of the word "drastic" as the modifier for "revision" signals a certain ….. foreboding …. on the part of the Times.

Conclusion: the collective basal ganglia of the Times editorial board is crying out to be heard.

Dick Van Dyke on comedy

Auntie Ann left this link to Dick Van Dyke explaining comedy:

15:54 Dick Van Dyke:
A comedy writer writes those funny stories that people like Captain Harper steal, uh, sell.

9:45 Boy in class:
Can you write one now?

Dick Van Dyke:
Can I what?

Boy in class:
Can you write one now?

Dick Van Dyke:
Well, uh, see there’s so many different things a comedy writer – BACK TO CLASS, FACING BOARD, WALKING BACKWARD, FALLS OFF STEP IN FRONT OF CLASSROOM – does—

Children:
LAUGH

16:09 Dick Van Dyke:
You laughed there. You know why you laughed? Because that was unexpected. You didn’t expect me to do that. Did you see that? Unexpected means that something happens that you didn’t think would happen. It’s kind of like a surprise, really, and that makes you laugh. For instance, if Mrs. Gibbon had said, ‘Children we’re going to have some addition now, if she said, first of all [WRITING ON BLACKBOARD] 1 and 1 are 12.

Children:
LAUGH

Dick Van Dyke:
See, that surprised you. That was the unexpected so you laughed. Of course everybody knows that 1 and 1 are 11.

Children:
LAUGH

Dick Van Dyke:
DOUBLE TAKE – See? That’s what the unexpected does. It makes you laugh, because you don’t expect that. And it’s a surprise. Now, when I came in the door and sat down you didn’t laugh, did you, because there was nothing really funny. You expected me to do that. But what if I had come in this way. [WALKS TO DOOR] Just a minute, I’ll be right back.

Mrs. Gibbon:
Now watch carefully children. This will be very funny now.

LOUD BANGING ON DOOR, DICK VAN DYKE ENTERS, SLAMS DOOR ON HAND, AGONIZES, TRIPS OVER PLATFORM, FALLS ON FACE

Children:
LOUD LAUGHTER.

Dick Van Dyke:
Now you see. That was unexpected and you laughed. So that’s one way of making people laugh.

TRIPS ON PLATFORM AGAIN & FALLS DOWN AGAIN

LOUD LAUGHTER FROM CHILDREN

17:25 Dick Van Dyke:
See. Got you again. You can surprise people and make them laugh. Now. Another way to make people laugh is something familiar to them. If they see themselves, or they see something in other people that they recognize, they’ll laugh at that, too. Now. I’m going to do some movements for you. No words. Just gestures, and you’ll have to try and guess what it is I’m doing, alright? I’ll move this light table back – [STRUGGLES TO PUSH TEACHER’S DESK BACK TOWARD BOARD]

Children:
LOUD LAUGHTER

Dick Van Dyke:
[GIVES UP TRYING TO MOVE DESK, TURNS TO CLASS, FOLDS ARMS ON CLASS, LEANS AGAINST DESK] Well we’ll have to—oh! [DESK HAS MOVED BACK OF ITS OWN ACCORD]

Children:
LOUD LAUGHTER

Dick van Dyke:
Now I’m going to just do some movements and you’re going to tell me what I’m doing. Alright [PULLS UP PANTS AT KNEES, LEANS AGAINST DESK AGAIN, MIMES PUTTING ON ONE SHOE, THEN PUTTING ON THE OTHER & TYING IT]

Children:
Putting on your shoe!

Children:
Tying!

Dick Van Dyke:
That’s right.

[WALKS CHARLIE-CHAPLAN STYLE]

Dick Van Dyke:
My shoes are on the wrong feet! That’s right.

[MIMES CHANGING SHOES TO DIFFERENT FOOT, THEN MIMES WALKING PIGEON-TOED]

Children shouting out what’s happened [unintelligible]

Dick Van Dyke:
That’s right. Now. I’m going to do another movement for you. This is called pantomime. It was invented by the Romans about 2000 years ago. Alright.

[MIMES THROWING A BASEBALL]

Children shouting what he’s doing

[MIMES CATHINKG A BASEBALL]

Dick Van Dyke: Oh! [MIMES HURT HAND]

PANTOMIMES TENNIS SERVE, CIRCUS LADDER, TIGHTROPE, BICYCLE ON TIGHTROPE, HEADLESS PERSON, YO YO (HITS HIMSELF IN NOSE)

Eureka
Eureka, part 2
Eureka, part 3
Eureka, part 4
Eureka, part 5

Flipping the Classroom: Hot, Hot, Hot
MOOCs grow the gap
The New York Times is surprised
In the world of MOOCs, 2+2 is never 4
World's funniest joke: humor depends on surprise
Dick Van Dyke on comedy
Philip Keller on the flipped classroom
If students could talk
Who wants flipped classrooms? (Salman Khan on liberating teachers)
True story
Are math & science lectures boring in a way humanities & social science lectures are not?

MOOCs and mikes

gasstationwithoutpumps wrote my next post---!

MOOCs should mike the audience.

Eureka
Eureka, part 2
Eureka, part 3
Eureka, part 4
Eureka, part 5

Flipping the Classroom: Hot, Hot, Hot
MOOCs grow the gap
The New York Times is surprised
In the world of MOOCs, 2+2 is never 4
World's funniest joke: humor depends on surprise
Dick Van Dyke on comedy
Philip Keller on the flipped classroom
If students could talk
Who wants flipped classrooms? (Salman Khan on liberating teachers)
True story
Are math & science lectures boring in a way humanities & social science lectures are not?

Eureka, part 4: Why MOOCs don't work and professors are jaunty

Eureka
Eureka, part 2
Eureka, part 3
Eureka, part 4
Eureka, part 5

Back to my eureka moment:

Sitcoms explain why MOOCs fail, and why flipped classrooms will fail.

To reprise: sitcoms work because they are funny, and funny works because it is surprising.

Surprise affects us via reward prediction error. When something better-than-expected happens, dopamine spikes, and your brain marks that event as a good thing: a thing to return to, a thing to pay attention to when you see it again.

In short, reward prediction error (via humor, in this case) commands attention.

Which brings me to the difference between a live lecture & a MOOC.

Live lectures are, not infrequently, almost bizarrely jokey. I say "bizarrely" because the jokes don't really fit the content. They're add ons, humor for the sake of humor.

Take a look at Jo Ann Freeman's lectures on the American Revolution. These are fabulous lectures, so fabulous I've managed to watch almost 3 of them, a record for me to date.* I've never made it through more than 1 lecture from The Great Courses.

At times, Freeman is so jokey I feel impatient: Stop joking around about the Founders, will you?

But if I were sitting in the lecture hall listening to Freeman in person, everything would be different. Inside the lecture hall I would feel happy, interested, and best of all awake.

17:03 - 18:11: Here she is on her first semester teaching at Yale. I've seen this section several times now, and I still find it funny (even on tape, which I realize undermines my thesis….)



Here's Lecture 2 Being a British Colonist:



13:42 "I've already given you one arrogant British quote…"
16:53 "As promised, here is yet another arrogant British quote in my series of arrogant British quotes..."
17:36 Freeman laughs out loud at the observation that British observers never view the colonies as "polite."
17:47 Freeman on the British sending inferior goods to the colonies because the colonists wouldn't know
18:51 "I just can't resist adding [this] in, it makes me happy and it's John Adams!!!!

Another example of weird humor in college teaching: Thomas C. Foster's books.

How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines
How to Read Novels Like a Professor: A Jaunty Exploration of the World's Favorite Literary Form

Notice the subtitles.

"Lively and entertaining"

"Jaunty"

Then take a look at the reactions to Foster on Goodreads. More than a few readers see Foster as condescending. The reason readers see Foster as condescending, I think, is precisely that he is jaunty. He is jaunty about Shakespeare, he is jaunty about the Bible, he is jaunty about Ulysses, he is jaunty about Northrup Frye, he is jaunty about intertextuality for God's sake. Name a work of literature covered by Foster, and you will find a jocular and jaunty tone; open the book to a random page, there jocular and jaunty will be. The entire work is unrelievedly jaunty; Foster never lets up. Reading Foster, you become desperate for whatever is the opposite of comic relief.

Why would anyone, let alone a professor of English literature, write a book that leaves the reader desperate for whatever is the opposite of comic relief?

What Foster has done, I am certain of it, is transpose his classroom voice directly to the page.

It doesn't work.

But inside the classroom, his jocular and jaunty tone does work.

As a first pass at understanding how sitcoms and reward prediction error explain the failure of MOOCs and the impending failure of flips, I would say that MOOCs and flips are catastrophically handicapped by the simple fact that goofy humor works inside the classroom and doesn't work on tape.

Probably for the same reason The Big Bang Theory isn't funny without the laugh track.

Eureka, Part 5 t/k



Flipping the Classroom: Hot, Hot, Hot
MOOCs grow the gap
The New York Times is surprised
In the world of MOOCs, 2+2 is never 4
World's funniest joke: humor depends on surprise
Dick Van Dyke on comedy
Philip Keller on the flipped classroom
If students could talk

How to Read Literature Like an English Professor by Thomas C. Foster
How to Read Literature Like an English Professor by Thomas C. Foster - NOTES

* It's a toss up which I'll finish first: The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha: New Revised Standard Version or Jo Ann Freeman's 25 lectures on the American Revolution.

Flipping the Classroom: Hot, Hot, Hot
MOOCs grow the gap
The New York Times is surprised
In the world of MOOCs, 2+2 is never 4
World's funniest joke: humor depends on surprise
Dick Van Dyke on comedy
Philip Keller on the flipped classroom
If students could talk
Who wants flipped classrooms? (Salman Khan on liberating teachers)
True story
Are math & science lectures boring in a way humanities & social science lectures are not?