This is a must-read for anyone talking about education in higher education.

User Generated Education

The Flipped Classroom, as most know, has become quite the buzz in education.  Its use in higher education has been given a lot of press recently.  The purpose of this post is to:

  1. Provide background for this model of learning with a focus on its use in higher education.
  2. Identify some problems with its use and implementation that if not addressed, could become just a fading fad.
  3. Propose a model for implementation based on an experiential cycle of learning model.

Background About the Flipped Classroom

This first section provides information from various articles that describe the flipped classroom, and how it is being discussed and used in educational settings.

In its simplest terms, the flipped classroom is about viewing and/or listening to lectures during one’s own time which frees up face-to-face class time for experiential exercises, group discussion, and question and answer sessions.

It’s called “the flipped classroom.” While there…

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Comparing the Senate and House versions of the Payroll Tax Bill

[Added in edit] On Friday, December 23, one day later, this all came to an end.

{Begin Original] In the last few weeks, the House wrote a bill that will extend the Payroll Tax break through 2012. It was approved last Tuesday, December 13.  The major points are provided below (via The Associated Press.)  The bill and the details are short.

As dictated by our laws, this bill was sent to the Senate for approval.  The Senate made very minor changes – you can read what they are in the list below. In summary, the Senate bill extends unemployment only for two months rather than through 2012.  It is changed to be a temporary fix, rather than making the change for the full year.  The other compromise was how the bill is paid for – the Senate version saves us money by passing the cost of the payroll tax reduction by charging a fraction of a percent more for mortgages – the House bill cost much more ($180 billion vs $33 billion) and generated what money it did through Federal pay freezes.  There are NO OTHER DIFFERENCES between the House and Senate bills.  They both accomplish the purpose of the bill – to extend the payroll tax break.

The Senate approved the amended, cheaper, temporary bill by a wide, bipartisan margin, 89-10.  Most Republican Senators voted in favor of the bill.  Because the bill was reworked to facilitate compromise, the House has to vote again for it to be sent to the President to become law.  This is typical procedure – bills are frequently modified in minor ways and it used to be routine that the House would vote again with a count identical to the original.

Not with our current lawmakers.  Instead, the House sent the bill to conference – which it can do to try and create compromise wording that allows both chambers to pass the bill – but this is usually saved for when significant changes are made when a bill moves from one group to the other.  In this case, there is no significant difference so it’s unclear what should happen in conference. Continue reading

Lecture Capture on the Cheap – Part 2.

Another successful lecture experience

This is the second part of my post on lecture capture.  You can find part 1 in the previous blog entry.

After a week in class, my lecture capture bugs have been worked out.  I wanted to give it some time because things rarely go smoothly and they didn’t here, either.  I discovered some elements were not in place and I’ll share what I’ve learned.

For me, the biggest factor was finding a good microphone.  Screen capture is not an issue, there is a killer app for that.  Camtasia Studio is a software package that has been around a few years – it does the screen capture well, and will sync a voice over that.  The software is sold by Techsmith and they are a company committed to selling products in the education space.  They have a collection of how-to helps and videos.  Even more impressive, if you shoot them an email, you get a personal response right back, often complete with personal praise for the way you are using their product.  Techsmith is a great resource and there is no software I know that competes with Camtasia. Continue reading

Lecture Capture on the Cheap – Part 1.

Are we asleep yet?

I keep seeing those stats on the low viewer numbers for the lectures put online by UC – Berkeley and MIT, the stats that show us that people will prefer to spend buckets of money for tuition even when they can get the same for free by watching the lectures on Youtube or downloading to their iPhone.  Nobody is watching those videos.

That may be right about the general public but I’ll wager heavily the students in the classes are watching.

I started making problem solving videos for my chemistry classes 8 years ago.  I purchased the first version of the Sony Vaio because they (supposedly) offered breakthrough technology that made video creation a snap.

Ha!  Creation was cumbersome and slow but I found that when I got something up online, numbers greater than 85% accessed the videos for help.  My school (University of Idaho) has always offered great internet access – I know, Idaho? It’s in the sticks.  But check out the facts, Yahoo put us in the top five for educational access when they started measuring these things in the dark ages. Even though access was slow relative to today, students put in the time to download these videos and use them.  I learned their value as instructional tools back then and I am even more confident they are useful tools today.  Not so much as the primary means for providing content but as a super  source of notes, or to fill in blanks or to provide feedback after practicing alone.  That is the real proof – do students use a resource.  But I’ve also tracked performance in class and students achieve better scores when I can provide more resources.  For example, I’ve done experiments where I offer a homework assignment that serves as a pretest.  In one case I provide video that walks viewers through each problem step by step and in the other case, the students are left on their own.  I then give the two groups an exam over the same learning objectives and the video group has performed 22% better.  That’s significant.  I haven’t been able to tease out whether the important factor is the video or simply providing more resources but the simple answer is clear, the more resources, the better.  It might be that the students do the work with video and without, they rely on a friend to feed them answers.  I’m not sure of the reasons yet.

So this year I am committed to putting all of my lectures online, which takes us back to the beginning of this post.  I’ve wanted to do this for a long time and I am crazy jealous of the Berkeleys and MITs that can do it.  Faculty at each of those schools call the IT department on Tuesday and a camera crew shows up on Wednesday to record the whole thing.  That is the way it should happen – tuition is high at those places, they can do it. Continue reading

What can a student expect from my introductory chemistry course for non-majors?

Chuck doesn’t need to know chemistry. But you are not Chuck Norris.

Among other duties, I teach large lecture classes of introductory chemistry at a land grant research university. The course I have “earned” (by generating the fewest number of student complaints, I am sure) is the course for non-science majors. It serves as a general science core course in our curriculum. Every graduate of my university must take at least two science courses, one of which requires a lab. This list includes courses such as the ubiquitous Astronomy and Geology courses and the less common Environmental Science. The first two are well-known in the US system and strive to create an exposure to scientific method and are relatively low-stakes courses. The Environmental Science course awards enrolled students significant points towards their total grades for attendance. That also makes the course pretty low-stakes. These courses can be difficult to compete with for student enrollment who are not highly motivated to work hard and actually learn college level material – which is the case for many students fulfilling university general requirements. I am happy to say enrollment in my course is growing fast – so fast, a second large lecture had to be added this year. Continue reading

8 Big Ideas of the Constructionist Learning Lab

I found this on Sylvia Martinez’ Generation Yes blog – you can find it by following the link below.  The list of 8 ideas was created inside a learning center of a teen prison – The Maine Youth Center.  I’ve read about this project and it’s great to get the lessons in a short list like this.  There isn’t anything new here but it is a great collection of goals to implement in any situation but specifically in STEM courses.  The challenge for me is to do as many of these things as possible within the confines of a large lecture course with accompanying lab.  In fact, those are not the real limitations – those come from the constraints placed on the course by our current financial model for public higher education.  Most of these ideas are doable – given well-trained and prepared teachers working in labs, working in recitation sections, working in tutoring spaces and creating trusting, authentic relationships with learners.  Unfortunately, the trend is to make the lecture sections even larger and to use technology to try and make up for what is lost in terms of contact.

It’s worth looking at these 8 big ideas to determine if technology can make any of them achievable in ways better than reducing class size and increasing contact.  I don’t think so.  Next time a politician or administrator tells you that class size doesn’t matter  – suggest he or she reads the 8 big ideas.

8 Big Ideas of the Constructionist Learning Lab.

Eight Big Ideas Behind the Constructionist Learning Lab
By Dr. Seymour Papert

The first big idea is learning by doing. We all learn better when learning is part of doing something we find really interesting. We learn best of all when we use what we learn to make something we really want.

The second big idea is technology as building material. If you can use technology to make things you can make a lot more interesting things. And you can learn a lot more by making them. This is especially true of digital technology: computers of all sorts including the computer-controlled Lego in our Lab.

The third big idea is hard fun. We learn best and we work best if we enjoy what we are doing. But fun and enjoying doesn’t mean “easy.” The best fun is hard fun. Our sports heroes work very hard at getting better at their sports. The most successful carpenter enjoys doing carpentry. The successful businessman enjoys working hard at making deals.

The fourth big idea is learning to learn. Many students get the idea that “the only way to learn is by being taught.” This is what makes them fail in school and in life. Nobody can teach you everything you need to know. You have to take charge of your own learning.

The fifth big idea is taking time – the proper time for the job. Many students at school get used to being told every five minutes or every hour: do this, then do that, now do the next thing. If someone isn’t telling them what to do they get bored. Life is not like that. To do anything important you have to learn to manage time for yourself. This is the hardest lesson for many of our students.

The sixth big idea is the biggest of all: you can’t get it right without getting it wrong. Nothing important works the first time. The only way to get it right is to look carefully at what happened when it went wrong. To succeed you need the freedom to goof on the way.

The seventh big idea is do unto ourselves what we do unto our students. We are learning all the time. We have a lot of experience of other similar projects but each one is different. We do not have a pre-conceived idea of exactly how this will work out. We enjoy what we are doing but we expect it to be hard. We expect to take the time we need to get this right. Every difficulty we run into is an opportunity to learn. The best lesson we can give our students is to let them see us struggle to learn.

The eighth big idea is we are entering a digital world where knowing about digital technology is as important as reading and writing. So learning about computers is essential for our students’ futures BUT the most important purpose is using them NOW to learn about everything else.

Download the PDF of these 8 big ideas and share widely!