Tag Archives: flipping

Good research – poor conclusions

Recently there have been a number of research papers and articles looking at the affects of using laptops in a lecture setting




And there has been a lot of online discussion about them (this G+ post encouraged me to complete my blog entry  )

Now the research itself is good and can be summarised as
If you are sitting taking notes while someone talks at you with slides

  • on average students using laptops to take notes will retain less than students who take notes on paper
  • Students who use their laptop for something else during the lecture will retain less and on average the students around them will also retain less (distracted by what they see on your screen)

The problem is not the research but what people decide to do because of it, they take a deep breath and (often reluctantly) decide they have to ban laptops in their classroom.  Often these people are not luddites (the most famous example was Clay Shirkey who I deeply respect but in this case I feel made the wrong decision)

Some suggestions are more helpful and start to look at considering how you might make the device more useful and less of a distraction


I made a suggestion on social media that a simple solution is to record the lectures so that they are not a one time event and so students that do become distracted can revisit and notes can be written at a time and place that suits them.  Its not a bad solution but it is treating the symptoms not the cause.

So lets look in more detail at the lecture, this is a tried and trusted method for getting information from the mind of someone who knows it (the lecturer) into the minds of someone(s) who dont (the students), they tend to be multiples of an hour (or 1/2 hour) long because that makes it easier to timetable, the students sit in rows with a teacher at the front because that is the physical layout of the room.

An alternative to the lecture was the book but it is unlikely to contain exactly what you wish to teach the students and it was not cost effective for each individual member of staff to write and publish a book for each of their classes.

But now we are in the internet age and things change.  There are now multiple easily accessible sources for information, lecturers can curate it (or get their students to curate it) or create it (text, video, infographics etc).  The valuable face to face time can be used for something that doesn’t require students to pay attention for an hour (interestingly I thought our attention span was 15 minutes – I was wrong and found some nice ideas about what you can do to help)

Lets flip the class, do the problems, discussions, thinking when all the smart people are in the same room.  The content transmission can be before the class when everyone gets as long (or as short) as they need to absorb it.  Sure you might still talk at the students in the lecture theatre but it will be in shorter bursts as part of a varied experience. That hour long long lecture performance? it wont vanish but should become a rare occurrence and when it does happen it should be so good that all of your students hang on every word.

Do I think the lecture is dead?  No, a lot of institutions have Lecturers that teach in lecture theatres, and on the timetable it says “lecture” – there is a lot of inertia to overcome.  Also there will always be a place for the occasional lecture (have a look at these http://www.rigb.org/christmas-lectures )  but I do think there will be a move away from them although it may take 5-10 years for them to become rare.

And to round up – its not just laptops see this post for an idea on the effects of smartphones and some sensible advice on what to do about it http://tomwhitby.wordpress.com/2012/03/30/cellphones-are-a-distraction/

And of course its only a matter of time before we start to get the first “Wearables are a distraction from lectures” articles – unless we do something about…… the Lectures.

creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by Tadeeej

Teaching using a VLE #6 Video for Muddiest Point (and flipping)

Adding video to your VLE is easy with modern kit, it frees up class time, allows you to repeat concepts your students struggled with and can be a starting point in transforming the way you teach.

So we covered audio in the last lesson and pretty much everything we said for that also holds true for videos.

Again you can free up class time by taking one “thing” from your lecture and making a quick video about it.  If making a video aim for about 5 minutes.

2010. Донецк. Карнавал на день города 003

Maybe getting the film students to help me with my 5 minute video was overkill

You can take videos easily using your smartphone OR you can get a video camera and setup a simple shot (this can work well when you are using a board to explain something – which for a lot of educators will be firmly in their comfort zone 🙂 )

One of my favourite video ideas is the concept of “Muddiest Point” where you take a “point” in your class that students either didn’t understand or misunderstood and then make a quick video covering that point.

The way this is often done is to have post-its on the desks and any time a student doest understand something they write on a post-it, you take in the post-its at the end and anything that appears a few times you make a “Muddiest Point” video. Because the first time you explained it is was “As clear as Mud!”

Here is an example I made earlier today

There are lots and lots of ways you can use video in your course, it really is worth having a play around and seeing what suits you.  If you want to really see how much you can use this to transform your teaching then watch this TED talk (worth a look even if you already know about flipped classrooms)

Finally just to give you something to aspire to here is a short video from the “History Teachers” – see how much info is crammed into the 4 minutes (I wish my videos were this good)