Personalizing Education and the Flipped Classroom

My (short) personal philosophy about teaching and learning

I have immensely enjoyed teaching in the ECE department for the past 16 years (as of Fall 2015). During this time, I have had the opportunity to interact with hundreds of students and reflect on their educational experience. I have also had the privilege to interact with outstanding colleagues from whom I have learned a lot about teaching methodologies. Based on these experiences, I firmly believe that students will be better served by focused efforts to personalize their educational experience. I am truly excited by the prospect of using technological tools to bring forth such a personalization.

Our current education model can summarized based on these two quotes (from a recent newspaper article, I have forgotten the source)

The core assumption of the industrialized education model, after all — since the inception of the universal public school system in the mid-19th century until, pretty much, today — has been one of collectivity and community. Education has operated, overall, on a cohort model: Students learn and test and advance as a group, grade by grade, class by class. Classes move, together, through a prescribed — and proscribed — curriculum.

But, students in a typical class differ vastly in terms of their learning style, pace at which they learn, and their prior preparation. Is it not clear that such a cohort model is fairly ineffective in catering to this diverse set of students? The problem is, that is all we have been able to do. Again, quoting from the newspaper article

That's been a necessary system: In a world where students are abundant and teachers are relatively scarce, grouping students into units has been a matter of industrial efficiency. It would be not only impractical, but also pretty much impossible, to create a learning model that, rather than being standardized, revolved around the individualized needs of individual students. So we've done our best with what we've had.

So, what changes now? Ease with videos of lectures can be made and the ease with which it can be delivered to students through the internet. I believe these are the game changers. The adoption of internet-based resources and video technology provides a phenomenal opportunity to personalize the educational experience of students, thereby ensuring that every student progresses and remains engaged.

The concept of blended learning and the flipped classroom model, where on-line video lectures are used in combination with a traditional classroom setting in innovative ways, is particularly appealing to me as a means of personalizing education. In the envisioned flipped classroom model, the instructor will carefully partition the course activities into two sets. The first set includes making a repository of on-line resources including videos of lectures, solutions to problem sets etc., and incentivizing students to watch them before coming to class. The second group of activities will be student-centric and will be carried out in class with the instructor acting as a facilitator for these activities.

The flipped classroom is currently gathering a lot of attention nationwide from educators. Here are some resources to learn more about them. As always, a google search pulls up several more interesting links. Nobody has made the flipped classroom more popular than Salman Khan of the khanacademy. Here is a talk by him at TED.

Here are a few more resources

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