I have absolutely no desire to watch a Khan Academy video. It’s math. I am scared of math*. I know there is other stuff on there, but I have always associated Khan Academy with math. And as I hear more and more about flipped classrooms (lecture on video, projects at school with the teacher to support student learning ), I started to wonder how much students like me wanted to watch a Khan Academy video.
Watching a video on how to graph a parabola does not sound fun. And while I am more than happy to watch a video with talking heads discussing the American Civil War (Ken Burns, I’m talking to you) I think many of my students would find that painful. And so I struggled with idea of assigning Khan Academy videos (or any teacher-lecture videos) as homework and saying it is innovative teaching.
And then I watched Sal Khan talk about the purpose of Khan Academy. And he makes the point that the videos should be used to enable to students to learn about what they are interested in. So a student isn’t assigned a video on functions, but is doing a project where a student wants to learn about functions in order to solve a real-world problem. These videos shouldn’t be about teaching content in a vacuum, but giving students a chance to discover what is important. And perhaps I would actually know what a function is, if in 11th grade I saw the real world application and I wanted to learn about what it is and what it can do for me. I wish I could have been in Dan Meyer’s math class and Khan Academy’s video could have helped me succeed in this type of class**.
Real-World Math Teacher from Manny Crisostomo on Vimeo.
As a social studies teacher, I have seen a huge shift in my teaching in recent years. I really pride myself on my lecture skills. I can keep a roomful of 17 year old students entertained and engaged in an hour lecture about Nixon’s ping pong diplomacy. And I get a buzz out of having a whole class laughing at my jokes and scribbling down my every word. But I don’t lecture anymore. Some of it is a shift to middle school. While I can lecture 13 year olds, it’s not the fun for either of us. And that influenced how I teach my high school classes. You won’t see me in front of the class talking often.
Now I talk one-on-one with students and roam the room waiting for questions. Yesterday I was on the floor talking to a group about their world religions project. I think it has worried past administrators….how am I teaching if I’m not talking? But project based learning in the MYP has lead to what (I think) is flipped classrooms. I don’t assign homework anymore in my humanities classes. We do projects. You may have to work at home on your project at times, but you won’t be assigned questions at the end of a chapter. But you may want to watch a YouTube video on the topic we are discussing or find a BrainPop video that helps you with your project. I don’t need to overload my students with content anymore….they will find it themselves when they need it or want it. What I can do is teach them the skills and expose them to new ideas that they might want to take and run with. And my second challenge is to keep it real-world learning. Dan Meyer’s is great, but he must be exhausted. I am finding that real-world applications possible with my geography units, but I do struggle with it on my history units of study. I love history, but I will need to continue to work to help my students make the links between the past and what is going on in their lives. So I will keep flipping and changing and evolving and trying and failing and see what happens next.
Credits: “wheeling on a beach” by wenchcatcher and http://www.knewton.com/flipped-classroom/
* For other math-phobics, I am bad at math, but KC Cole Book Universe and a Teacup actually taught me to appreciate math.
**Small caveat. Maybe I still wouldn’t have liked math and would have resented not having the answers in the back of the book.