Tag Archives: Pedagogy

Flopping the Classroom


flickr photo shared by volker-kannacher under a Creative Commons (CC BY-ND 2.0) license


I can still remember my first blended learning class experience.

It must have been 2002 or 2003, and I was taking early coursework toward a Ph.D. in Information Science at University at Albany. My professor, Dr. Tom Mackey, had the students do a short reading outside of class and write a public blog post as a response to a question about the reading (Note: he also provided a rubric for the post). This was due at 5pm the day before the class. Then, we would have to read at least three other student blog posts and comment on two of them.  The comment could extend the idea or could be a question, but it always began with a positive statement and ended with a positive statement (A comment sandwich?). This method was great for getting comfortable with online collaboration and supporting each other, while practicing digital literacy skill and etiquette. As a student-centered method of collaboration, we all learned from each other and improved as we became more and more comfortable with our online writing and interactions.

The next day we would all come to class. That is where the real magic happened.

Imagine having a class where everyone in the class had already thought deeply about the reading, prepared written, public opinions or statements, and had considered some of the thoughts of others in the classroom and commented on them. Everyone in the class came prepared for discussion, but more importantly, had already engaged in critical thinking and reflection. It was impressive how the work we had done online in the public blogs now was benefiting the in-class learning, and making the entire class experience better.

These in-class discussions were some of the most enjoyable of my college career. Dr. Mackey facilitated thoughtful discussions and created a respectful environment where the students were prepared and eager to contribute.

I never really knew what to call this method of teaching and engagement in the classroom. Years later I would hear it called “blended learning”, but that didn’t really capture it. It seemed like it was more than just blogging. It was purposeful and utilized the technology of the day to enhance pedagogy and dialogue, in a very real way.

Flopping the Class?
Yesterday, I came across Derek Bruff’s post on Flipping the Literature Class. His post reminded me of my experience. I then saw Kyle Bowen’s comments on Twitter mentioning that maybe what was happening could be called a flop, in reference to some of the in class activities mentioned in Derek Bruff’s post and a play on flipping the classroom. I was curious about what a classroom flop could mean, so I looked up some definitions of flopping. One of these had to do with jumping over a fence. I liked the metaphor, so I ran with it.  I could see flopping as bringing some aspect of the course and making it public, or hopping the fence of the traditional classroom to bring some discussions/writing/commenting out onto the open web. The experience that I highlighted above would be an example of flopping the classroom. Based on my experience, I believe that deliberate activities like this can help students develop key digital literacies around public scholarship, digital identity, and digital citizenship in addition to enhancing the in-class discussion.

Public Scholarship
Sharing your thoughts and comments in a public sphere is different from sharing comments within a learning management system discussion or private blog. In one, your audience is the teacher and the class, and in the other, the audience is the world. In this way, you are engaging in public scholarship. By bringing your thoughts to the open web, there is the opportunity for the public to engage in the conversation in addition to your classmates. While in practice, public comments may not happen very often, I have seen this public scholarship be very effective in courses that actively include the class but also have an additional group of folks following along online (one example is DS106). There is an opportunity for other faculty to participate in the courses as well, by commenting on the student posts, especially if a course is team taught. Overall, the collaborative opportunities are greatly enhanced by making things public.

Digital Identity
Another aspect of this type of public scholarship is that these interactions become part of your digital identity that you actively create. The more you write and share online, the more comfortable you become with your writing and your online interactions. These are important digital literacy skills. By curating your own professional interactions online, you build the body of work that people searching for you online will find. As students practice adding their reflections online, and positively commenting on others thoughts, they build a professional representation of themselves interacting online.

Digital Citizenship
Finally, a digital literacy that can be developed in writing online is what I like to think of as digital citizenship. It involves giving other people credit for their writing and ideas through hyperlinks, and also gets students thinking about the appropriate use of images and copyright. Teaching students where they can find Creative Commons images, knowing and understanding usage rights, and learning how to appropriately give the photographers or artists credit for those images (I like Alan Levine’s flickr cc attribution helper  used above) are useful digital literacy skills. Learning these skills can help students understand the greater digital ecosystem and how to act responsibly with digital content.

In applying the flopping analogy, you are hopping the fence of the classroom and entering your thoughts into a public sphere, where all of these digital literacies can be modeled, taught, developed, and practiced. This was what we did back in 2002/2003, and in my experience it led to a transformative educational experience.

How can we as educators help to improve learning inside and out of the classroom, inspire engaging classroom dialogue, while also guiding students to curating their own digital identity?

Based on my personal experience, “flopping the classroom” could be part of the answer.

Credits: Thanks to Aaron Kendall and Neale Donovan for their feedback on this post.

A Crowdsourced Essay on MOOCs and Higher Education Pedagogies

Note: This essay was created as a crowdsourced Google Doc as part of the Monday assignment for #MOOCMOOC. I found it worthwhile reading. I also wanted to get an initial post up for #MOOCMOOC to test the RSS feed. Enjoy.

Two colored faces with multiple faces embedded

MOOCs and Higher Education Pedagogies

In Higher Education (HE), students develop abilities to think independently, critically, and creatively in ways which support lifelong learning. HE learning goals include building upon pre-existing information (such as that learned in grades K-12), developing knowledge and skills, and acquiring credentials.

HE has traditionally used a range of teaching and learning methods: classroom lectures, small-group tutorials, guided seminars, supervised lab or practice-based sessions, guided field trips, guided reading and private study for a formative assignment with comments and marking.  Assessment methods include  tests, essays, problem-solving, individual and group projects, and other discipline-specific approaches.

Since digital technologies have been available in HE, we have explored digital versions of some of these methods, mainly lectures / reading delivered as digital resources, videos, using digital media tools from web 2.0 and online discussion groups, mainly asynchronously.

These include related concepts of connection and engagement, including learner-to-learner interaction and the cooperative construction of new knowledge.

However, there is still the expectation that a person attending an institution of HE is mainly acquiring knowledge through attendance within a closed learning environment during a specified period of time. Even when students in HE (including taught graduate students) . These pedagogies use similar instructional strategies and have similar learning goals.

While it is as yet unclear to what extent MOOCs will affect traditional higher education structures, we can speculate about the ways they may influence approaches to teaching and learning. If layers of double loop learning can be developed, MOOCs could be beneficial for professional development in HE. As most HE professionals are self-directed learners, MOOCs can be used for field specific or general development.

Because knowledge is not scarce, MOOCs can help traditional student/teacher conversations focus on higher-level outcomes instead of facts. This is in line with newer learning ideas, such as “flipped classrooms” and provides the ability for more HE instructors to use a flipped style, letting the MOOC be the lecture, and spending class time on discussion and problem-solving, giving students skills that will be useful for them.

Connectivist MOOCs (cMOOCs) may alter pedagogy from instructor-as-director and even beyond peer-to-peer learning to a focus on learning within a personal learning network with input from within and beyond the MOOC participants. For example, Coursera MOOCs allow students to review their peers’ assignments . The issue then becomes avoiding “the blind leading the blind” while allowing students to determine their own learning methods and goals. As with Wikipedia and other social knowledge websites, someone should navigate the ship and ensure that information is accurate.

One change MOOCs provide is the openness and democratization of education. Students in traditional courses can use MOOCs to learn outside of the classroom, use that knowledge to improve their interactions with faculty, and strengthen a lifelong interest in learning.

MOOCs have emerged from components of online learning and social media revolutionizing connections and networks. They form a badly-needed response to CFCs – Small, Closed, Face-to-Face (F2F) Courses and for profit online learning as well. They represent the most radical undertaking to date of ‘flipping the classroom’. Since they are relatively new and untested, MOOCs will likely not replace any traditional classroom learning (in the near-future), but rather enhance and enrich it. F2F sessions still have much to offer, such as supervised practice, immediate feedback from both peers and teachers, and synchronous work.

A Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) allows people to explore some of the same knowledge and content available in formal HE institutions, while also generating and contributing knowledge within a network. MOOCs use the Internet to offer organized learning experiences that are asynchronous and free, thus bypassing limitations that can keep some people out of HE institutions. Everyone with an internet connection can have access to a MOOC. According to Savitz (2012), even if edX MOOCS cannot replace a Harvard Diploma, online courses can still provide significant value in filling gaps in skills to meet job market demands. Further, MOOCs can help such people expand their career options by providing quality content, openness, and flexibility producing new opportunities to acquire additional skills. A campus-based education prior to joining the workforce with paper-based “proof” of competence may be replaced by real time, permanent, secured, cloud-based digital records of accomplishment, freeing individuals to pursue knowledge that is relevant to their needs in the moment.

There are a number of approaches to learning associated with MOOCs, most of which are similar to existing HE pedagogies: (i) Knowledge is often acquired by lecture but is self-paced, meaning it can occur anytime and anywhere, and may be done without anyone else in the room. (ii) There is peer-to-peer learning, but it occurs through the internet, either in real-time or not. The main difference is that some MOOCs create a connectivist and networked, but decentralized flow of information and ideas between peer learners, where there is more potential for generating and sharing own understandings and knowledge instead of simply absorbing. Because they are not as teacher-directed, MOOCs aren’t currently thought of as being connected with a distinct curriculum. The learner decides what courses to take, depending on their own objectives, at their own time and pace. All of this requires an especially self-regulated, motivated, and autonomous learner because there is little personalised guidance and feedback. MOOCS often maintain rigid time schedules, but are less likely to maintain the planned curricula as more traditional courses do.

The instructional principles of the early MOOCs were based in pedagogies of openness and connection. They were designed to maximize four key digital learning affordances (Downes & Siemens, 2010):Aggregation, remixing, re-purposing, and feeding forward. MOOCs also have additional learning outcomes including enhancing digital skills and developing a Personal Learning Environment (PLE).

These instructional principles relate to a great degree to several pedagogic approaches that have found their way into (higher) education, e.g. challenge-based or problem-based learning  socializing are worthwhile. However, MOOCs, despite their short existence, have made a significant impact upon HE practices and pedagogy.

The MOOCMOOC is described as “A mini-MOOC, a meta-MOOC, a MOOC about MOOCs” and can be found online at MOOCMOOC.com. You can follow along on Twitter following the hashtag #MOOCMOOC and can follow the project on Twitter at @MOOCMOOC, @HybridPed, and leading this MOOC is Jess Stommel, @jessifer along with a team of inspiring educators.