Saturday, February 15, 2014

Flipping home and school vs. homeschooling

Flipped classrooms are all the rage these days. Kids doing homework type problems at school and watching recorded lectures at home: at first, it sounds like a great idea. Why have teachers deliver live lectures when recorded lectures can be podcast? Why not have teachers instead play more active roles in helping students through assignments?

But devils lurk in the details. The best classroom “lectures” are highly spontaneous and interactive, resembling Socratic dialogs more than Shakespearian soliloquys. Lecturers instinctively adjust when listeners tune out, and would-be mind-wanderers know they might not get away with it. With canned, prerecorded lectures, inherently less engaging (no matter how many canned jokes they contain) and accessible (canned lecturers tending not to respond to requests for clarification), tuning out is both more likely to happen and easier to get away with. And there are more ways to do it. You can’t fast-forward through live lectures or skip ahead to the conclusion. But you can raise your hand and ask questions.

Homework at home, on the other hand, is an opportunity for students to be fully independent, and to enjoy freedom from the supervising eyes that, though making independent tasks more oppressive, make live lectures more engaging.

In home school, of course, flipped classrooms are impossible: except for field trips and extra-curriculars, most everything happens at home. What’s distinct here, instead, is the ratio of “lecture” to homework. Except when I briefly go over her work with her, or briefly introduce a new math concept, or when we watch a science or French video, my daughter is doing what could easily be called homework. Sometimes my supervising eyes are there; sometimes they’re elsewhere, and I’m nearly always available to clear up confusion or dialogue Socratically. But most of the time she’s working independently, and most of what she listens to isn’t a teacher up in front, but music in the background.

1 comment:

Deirdre Mundy said...

I've noticed that, with a good curriculum, my kids take very little teaching. But mightn't this be a variation of the "Witch of Blackbird Pond" problem? Homeschooling parents seem to be smarter than average, so maybe our kids are smarter too? Maybe we can't generalize from our experiences to classroom practices.

I mean, sure, I need to actively teach my 4th grader for maybe 15 minutes a month maximum, but... this is why she's a poor fit for a classroom.