Okay, so I had a crazy idea. I was set this week to introduce my freshmen to the Hero’s Journey, a lecture I’ve given dozens of times over the years, and I thought, What if I don’t actually deliver the lecture and, instead, just let them work through the slide content on their own?
I’ve never used flipped lecture content during the school day; the videos and online lectures I make have been solely used as homework assignments – until now.
In a rush to beat the 8:01 a.m. bell, I hastily booked the only two openings in the computer lab (a miracle that there were any available at all) and made a quick url shortened address to give to my kids. (If you want to see the slideshow, just go here: goo.gl/Ctisre)
I couldn’t get all of my classes into the lab, so I decided to run an experiment:
Round 1: Time Management/Pacing of Lesson
In my classroom, I was able to start immediately and worked through the lecture content in about 25 minutes, leaving the remaining 30 minutes for students to complete the second part of the lesson, a team of two activity where they connect a modern film, such as Kung Fu Panda or Legally Blonde, to the steps of the Hero’s Journey. Every team had plenty of time to complete the task.
In the computer lab, we lost five minutes for travel time and another few minutes as some students struggled to find a working computer. A few kids ended up sharing a screen with a friend, which was fine. Toward the end of the hour, a few were scrambling to finish the second part of the assignment, and two kids chose to stay in the lab with me during the brunch break to finish their work.
Winner: My Classroom
Round 2: Student Engagement
In my classroom, students laughed at all of the right places during the lecture and seemed to be paying attention for the full 25 minutes. They (almost too) loudly worked through the second part. A couple of teams were bordering on obnoxious as they brainstormed scenes from High School Musical, but I appreciated their enthusiasm for the assignment.
In the lab, students were all intently focused on their screens, working at their own pace as they viewed the slides and took notes. It was eerily silent and no one laughed because I wasn’t up there doin’ the show and telling jokes. Still, once the second part began, they grew more lively and happily worked through the second part of the assignment.
Winner: A Tie – Both groups worked hard for the full period.
Round 3: Quality of Notetaking
In my classroom, the students’ notes I checked were pretty thin, just a skeleton of the main points and sub-categories.
In the lab, students took much more thorough notes, which probably also explains why the timing of the lesson was a bit lengthened for these classes. Students were able to work through the slides at their own pace and it was interesting to see how much time each kid took on each slide. The students in the lab seemed to have a much richer academic experience, at least on paper.
Winner: Computer Lab
Round 4: Teacher Fatigue at the End of the Day
In my classroom, I was “on,” doing the full show and giving active edu-tainment (education + entertainment) the entire time, even during the second part of the lesson. It was a high-energy hour.
In the lab, I was able to take a breather as students didn’t need me for most of the slide-viewing time. I even got a few papers graded. Once the second part of the lesson began, I was more active, moving from team to team to check progress and answer questions but this work was still far calmer than it was for the periods that stayed in my classroom. By the end of each hour in the lab, I had a lot more energy left for the rest of my day. Also, I found it interesting that my rowdiest class was abnormally quiet and focused while working in the lab; frankly, it was nice to see that side of them.
Winner: Computer Lab
Final Reflection: Though the computer lab slightly edged out live lecturing in these categories, there’s no real victor here. Both methods have value and will be placed in my toolbox of teacher techniques. In fact, the day after this experiment I gave a live lecture to all of my classes, about 20 minutes recapping the events of The Iliad and the Trojar War to help set the stage for our study of The Odyssey. I don’t have a self-contained Prezi lecture ready to roll with that content and I also think it’s fun once in a while to perform live for an audience, telling a great story. I’d never move all of my lecture-based lessons to the computer lab format, but it’s nice to know I can exercise that option from time to time.
Note: The Prezi lecture I used is very dense and was intentionally built so that anyone, anywhere could work through it on their own. Most of my lecture slide presentations wouldn’t work as flipped content without major revision and additional text.
Teach on, everyone!