The university where I teach bears little resemblance to the college and universities that I attended as an undergraduate and graduate student. I have seen my students change over the years, moving away from the notebook, to the laptop, and finally to a variety of mobile devices. My own tools have changed as well, as I have moved from a blackboard and slides, to the cloud with digital images.
The first challenge for me is engagement and connection of my students to the material that we are studying. I have used several different tools over the years, but the first step was simply to tell them to turn on their devices and use them. This video is from a few years ago, but it shows some of my early classroom usage of Twitter in the classroom and a discussion of the classroom without walls.
The Flipped Classroom
While there are many definitions of the flipped classroom, the only common denominator is that lectures and assignments for the course are reversed, with an emphasis on active, as opposed to passive, learning.
The inversion of the traditional teaching model is not without challenges. For many of us, this involves re-thinking course delivery which can be a daunting prospect. Despite this, the benefits of the flipped model are difficult to ignore as we see greater student engagement with the course, generally better grades across sections of the course, and a collaborative community of scholars created through the in-class group work that would not be as easily established were the flipped model not in place.
Classroom flipping defies physics. A class can be slightly flipped, mostly flipped, or completely flipped. One example of how two tools, MyArtsLab and Learning Catalytics, can be used to facilitate this flip for an art history course can be seen on the CDI blog “Flipping Art History.”
I have often said to groups of faculty that if we resist change, we will simply be left behind. At the same time, if we jump on the bandwagon too soon and adopt innovation for the sake of innovation, then we might not be making the best use of our resources and we might invest in a technology that is not particularly useful. I don’t surf, but I once heard a description that seemed apt when thinking about technology. The advice was not to take any wave that comes along. Great surfers have a sixth sense and know when the best waves are coming. They can feel it. I think that we need to be well aware of the different technologies that are available now, and those that are on the horizon, and then, with a feeling for the best wave–a feeling that comes from a deep understanding of the faculty and needs of the students who will be using the technology–ride the wave in.
Over the next few years we will continue to see a proliferation of mobile devices and movement away from the laptop. Tablets and smartphones are already more present on campus than the laptop and have been for some time. The challenge will be to think about how to introduce tablet and smartphone-based apps that will meet the needs of our students. We will also see the continued rise of social media and we will need to think about how to leverage Facebook and Twitter as formal and information discussion sites, and incorporate YouTube into content for blended courses. We will see the classroom continue to evolve–moving from the traditional lecture hall to one that is more suited to active learning. With that will come new technologies including wall-sized, interactive and multi-touch experiences. We will see the growth of online courses and a change in course from the original MOOCs of 2012. We will see increased synchronous discussions online and greater emphasis on connectivism between students. With this we will see a greater emphasis on collaborative online learning. We will an increase in educational games in response to student interest in gaming, a growth in learning analytics which has already transformed the ways that students are learning. We will see more wearable technology, with Google glass as just the beginning of an entire industry of tools that have the potential to transform the educational environment. This said, the tools themselves are less important to me than the learning outcomes–or how this particular technology can be useful as we work towards a broader vision of student learning and research. In short, we need to focus on outcomes rather than the mode of delivery.
True innovation not only requires fundamental changes to the institution, but also has many engines–among the most important of which are creativity and collaboration. These are exciting times, and anything is possible.