Technology Used Outside the Classroom

1.     Objective

“Technology, largely used outside the classroom to deliver content, can be an important tool to prepare students for classroom discussions and to increase the class time available for those discussions and other active learning.” (Bowen, J. A.,2012, p.21). Without using the term, it seems that Bowen refers here to the flipped classroom model. Here is how Brame (2013) defines flipped classroom: “In essence, ‘flipping the classroom’ means that students gain first exposure to new material outside of class, usually via reading or lecture videos, and then use class time to do the harder work of assimilating that knowledge, perhaps through problem-solving, discussion, or debates.”

The difference between these two definitions results mainly in the fact that, in the case of flipped classroom, most of the time, the content of the course is delivered through a video prepared by the teacher. At least, it started that way. It is certain at any rate that the Flipped Learning model is gaining attention and has positive effects in term of students’ engagement.

2.     Reflective

The idea of using technology to have students by themselves study a content that is often hard to deliver in an attractive way in the classroom is very appealing.

Among other things, I teach French and I know very well that few people are interested in grammar when all they want is to speak another language. However, there is no way (except maybe by total immersion for several years) that somebody can learn a language without learning grammar. I almost feel sorry for them when, in the Beginner 1 and Beginner 2 levels, they have to spend a lot of time learning how to conjugate verbs, to learn about how to use adjectives, etc. For that reason, I dedicate the Beginner 3 level to conversation only so they can see the results of their efforts and enjoy practicing the language.

Another thing that I teach is how to teach, since I train tutors in a literacy center. The problem is always for them to find the time to attend the courses and I can only dedicate a limited amount of time to their training.

In both cases, the idea of having them use technology to study the content by themselves in order to dedicate the class time to active learning would be extremely efficient and so much more interesting for them (and for me!). It seems to be the solution to problems I have been trying to solve in my teaching.

3.     Interpretive

The great advantage of having students use technology outside the classroom to study the content of a course is probably obvious for most teachers who want their students to be able to apply this content and for the “development of higher-level cognitive processing”(Bowen, 2012, p.21). Too much time is used in the classroom just explaining things that students could very well have discovered on the Internet using much more diversified media. The Internet allows them to find different points of view and different approaches while studying at their own pace in the environment of their choice.

Considering the application of this approach however, raises one concern regarding students who are not self-directed. I know with certainty that I couldn’t use this approach with the students of the Literacy Center, and I am not sure that I can use this approach with all my French students either. This population is very diversified (in age, level of education, level of comfort with technology, culture, etc.). It is important for me to keep in mind that Bowen’s reflections are all related to students in colleges where it is realistic to expect students to be self-directed (if they don’t become so, they will fail). The document entitled 7 Unique Flipped Classroom Model s_ Which is Right For You? (PANOPTO, 2013) describes different variations of the traditional Flipped Classroom approach. One of them is called The Faux-Flipped Classroom. It gives the students a chance to to learn how to study by themselves: they study the content by themselves using technology, and in the classroom with the teacher present for support if necessary. This could be offered as an extra course or at the beginning of a course to teach the students how to learn and become independent learners.

Another concern shared by many instructors is: will the students come to the course prepared? A solution is to give some assignments and even to use a Classroom Assessment Technique to assess the students’ knowledge before starting activities that will allow them to apply this new knowledge.

4.     Decisional

My intention is to develop an online French course (I have already started it) in order to allow my students to study at home with or without the support of the teacher, and to come to the course ready to practice what they have learned. I consider this solution ideal for learning a foreign language. Interactions with the instructor and the other students are essential for the practice, but studying the grammar and learning the vocabulary can be done individually. The interactions don’t have to be in the classroom; they can take place on Skype, for example. This course will be a blended- flipped-classroom-model. It represents what I consider the ideal to study a foreign language. However, the cost to develop it can be high (since it involves both the time to develop it and the time to facilitate and prepare the practice) and I am not sure that, in an informal context, students are ready to pay very much. The benefits will have to be demonstrated.

I am considering using the same approach to train the tutors in the literacy center where I teach. The difference will be that, in this case, I won’t be developing a course, but I will be collecting online material that tutors can study before getting together to share their learning, reflect on it, etc.

References:

Bowen, J. A. (2012). Teaching Naked. How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Students Learning . San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Brame, C., (2013). Flipping the classroom. Retrieved Sunday, January 18, 2015 from http://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/flipping-the-classroom/.

PANOPTO (2013). 7 Unique Flipped Classroom Model s_ Which is Right For You? Retrieved Sunday, January 18, 2015 from http://panopto.com/blog/7-unique-flipped-classroom-models-right/

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