As the internet revolution continues to build and increasingly influence everything under the sun, so too it is going to have a massive impact on teaching and learning in K-12 schools.  Educators who don’t anticipate this change and work to ride the wave will be subsumed by it, I fear.

One of my new passions on this blog is my exploration and sharing of the concept of what is increasingly being called “reverse instruction.”  I hope to serve as an ardent advocate for it (but I want to make clear I am not in any way a developer of the concept.)  I think I first heard it described at length at the NAIS Annual Conference last winter, when, if I recall correctly, a co-author of Disrupting Class, the excellent innovative educator Michael B. Horn, spoke about it.   If kids can get the lectures, can get the content delivery and skill modeling as well (or often better) by computer lecture than in person, why do we have use precious class-time for this purpose?  Why do we replicate in person what is easily available elsewhere, the content delivery/skill modeling, and then have kids apply their learning to difficult problems at home, without us there to help?

Increasingly, dramatically increasingly, education’s value-add is and will be in the coaching and troubleshooting when students are applying their learning, and in challenging students to apply their thinking to hands-on learning by doing and teaming:  so let’s have them do these things in class, not sit and listen.   We know that collaboration is a critical skill set which can’t be developed easily either on-line or at home alone– let’s have students learn it with us in our classrooms.   Let every classroom be a collaborative problem solving laboratory or studio.

Dan Pink, one my great influences ever since his A Whole New Mind, has now weighed in on this, with an article in the Daily Telegraph: Flip Thinking.    Pink is writing about the exciting innovation in this teaching style by the excellent ed/tech blogger, Karl Fisch.

instead of lecturing about polynomials and exponents during class time – and then giving his young charges 30 problems to work on at home – Fisch has flipped the sequence. He’s recorded his lectures on video and uploaded them to YouTube for his 28 students to watch at home. Then, in class, he works with students as they solve problems and experiment with the concepts.  Lectures at night, “homework” during the day. Call it the Fisch Flip.

“When you do a standard lecture in class, and then the students go home to do the problems, some of them are lost. They spend a whole lot of time being frustrated and, even worse, doing it wrong,” Fisch told me.

“The idea behind the videos was to flip it. The students can watch it outside of class, pause it, replay it, view it several times, even mute me if they want,” says Fisch, who emphasises that he didn’t come up with the idea, nor is he the only teacher in the country giving it a try. “That allows us to work on what we used to do as homework when I’m they’re to help students and they’re there to help each other.”

When he puts it like that, you want to slap your forehead at the idea’s inexorable logic. You wonder why more schools aren’t doing it this way.

As Pink and Fisch point out, Fisch is not the originator of this concept, and others deserve important credit.    If you are interested, be sure to read the comments at the bottom of the article.

Jon Bergman and Aaron Sams, in Colorado, have worked hard to develop many of these techniques; the following is a set of their resources on-line.

Our Webpage:
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Self Made Video for our Students:

I want to acknowledge some of the thinking, experimentation, and advocacy for this approach being provided too by John Sowash, who wrote this very fine piece on Reverse instruction.   His “lessons learned” discussion is worth its weight in gold as teachers begin to experiment with this technique.  I will just quote a couple of them, but read the whole post:

  • Hold students accountable to the lectures. I did a credit/no credit lecture notes check at the beginning of each class period to ensure that students were actually viewing the lectures. Another idea (which I haven’t tried yet) is including a secret word or number somewhere in the lecture and asking students to write it down in class the following day. They only way to find out what the number/word is, is to watch/listen to the lecture.
  • Use Google Docs! If you’re like me, you are always updating, tweaking, and improving your lectures and presentations. Making sure that the most updated copy is available for students can become a nightmare. If you use Google Docs to share all of your presentations and handouts, when you make a change, all of the public copies are automatically updated throughout the web. What a time saver!
  • Now that you’ve freed up class time, you need to use it productively. This can be a challenge. You’ve spent all of your time and energy developing your lectures and now you don’t have the time/energy to develop new, innovative, interactive classroom activities. This is where I need to improve. It takes a while!

John offers a video about his class, and its reverse engineering, which I have embedded below.  (He doesn’t actually get to the full explanation to the end, but it is a very nice example of a course video introduction.)

I first learned of John’s work from an exchange with him I enjoyed over at Connected Principals; I am very pleased that my piece there, about how Khan Academy videos can be used for reverse instruction, contributed to prodding John to prepare and post his excellent piece at his Electric Educator.

The tag line for my blog is celebrating (and reflecting upon) 21st century learning, and this concept is one I will continue to celebrate and reflect upon: I think it is an absolutely critical advance as we reshape schooling in our new internet empowered era.   It all of a part, of course, with other ideas consistently expressed here: Project Based learning, technology integration and 1:1 laptops, 21st c. skills, learning to innovate, and assessing student engagement and higher order thinking skills.