Teachers turn learning upside down

The power behind the vodcasts, he said, is that students only watch when they need the information or are inspired to learn more. Class time is then dedicated to practicing and using their preferred learning style. This may be small groups, hands-on, problem sessions, or conversations with Yoos.

“This allows them the space to ask questions for clarification and use each other as a resource to develop their understanding. I become the facilitator of their learning, rather than the dictator,” he said.

And students seem to appreciate Yoos’ understanding.

Rather than getting questions like “How do I do this?”  Yoos hears more questions like, “I don’t understand how to do this specific step.” And “I saw this in the vodcast, but need clarification on this…”

“Richer questions from my students have allowed me to engage them in more advanced topics at a deeper level. Kids love it, parents love it,” he said.

Yoos emphasized, however, that this inverted style of learning does require that students “own their learning.”

“What I mean by this is that they [must] take responsibility for developing what they know. They can’t be passive recipients of knowledge–they must engage in order to succeed in this system … but that’s what we want for members of our society, isn’t it?” he said.

However, Spencer explained that this new learning style might take a while to get used to—for everyone.

“Many students are good at ‘playing school’ and going through the motions. Now that they have to demonstrate what they learn before moving on, some of them get quite upset when they scribble down a page of notes from a screencast without thinking about it and then are asked to redo it when it becomes obvious that they are just trying to work the system. Another complaint I have heard [from parents] is that ‘I’m not teaching them anything.’ Many students and parents expect the teacher to be the ‘sage on the stage’ and not a voice on an iPod.”

Yet, now that students have gotten used to the idea, Spencer sees changes, not just in student engagement and achievement, but in the way students perceive learning as well.

Meris Stansbury

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