Flipping the Class

Flipping the Class’ sounds a lot like something that gets you sent to the principal’s office. But, it’s a clever idea that is spreading like wildfire. It’s been around for a few years, but it now has enough momentum to hit the Tipping Point. And for good reason.

Here’s the basic idea. Take the lectures you would have given in class. Condense them. Make videos of them, in advance. And assign those video’s as homework. Now you can spend the entire class time doing hands-on learning!

New Perspectives, Old Truths

It’s a pretty clever idea! And it caught my attention because it flips conventional wisdom on its head. It is a new perspective on the old truths that everyone seems to be overlooking these days. What do I mean? Let’s go back a hundred years. In the early 1900s, Edward Thorndike identified some basic laws of learning. His ideas were really simple. For instance, one of his laws says that we learn more when we are motivated to learn the material and one says that if the learning is really intense, we learn a LOT more. Seems pretty obvious right? I mean, if you’re in a life-or-death situation, that’s a pretty darn intense experience and you’re pretty motivated to learn! That’s why those experiences stay with us forever.

But, unfortunately, these old, simple truths are often forgotten. That’s why I wrote the paper – ‘Why Games Work – The Science of Learning.’ You see, games remind us of how learning used to be. Imagine living in the old days. You’ve just become a blacksmith’s apprentice. Your master didn’t hand you a 900 page book, give you weeks of lectures, some written tests, and then hand you a diploma. No way! You learned by stoking the fires, by watching your mentor work over the glowing coals, and by listening to his words as he hammered away in the sweltering heat. You learned by doing! You were extremely motivated because the lessons were hands-on (aka intense) and immediately relevant (aka motivating).

But here’s the kicker. That old-school hands-on learning is a huge part of why we play games. I’m serious! We’ve known what makes learning work for a long, long time, but for some reason, we keep forgetting it! And so our kids are sleeping in class, our national ranking keeps going down, and the students would rather be talking about the games they were playing on their iPod.

The End

In any event, I thought this idea of flipping the classroom was wonderfully clever. Instead of reinventing the wheel, it breathes new life into what we’ve always known. Learning should be intense and relevant and put us in a state of flow. This type of learning is why we play games, it’s why we learn well when our life depends on it, and it’s why flipping the classroom is so very exciting. And that’s the flipping truth.

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