Rewind It Back

Using videos in flipped learning.

GUEST COLUMN| by Brian Bennett

CREDIT flipped learning networkThere are times when I wish I could go back, rewind what happened and listen again. Daydreamers, you know what I’m talking about. Even though it’s not in the official pillars of Flipped Learning, a reason I hear people flipping their instruction is so that kids can pause, rewind and rewatch a portion of the instruction. It sounds powerful, and it gives a great visual of students working hard on their notes, but it may not be as helpful as it initially sounds.

What does the research say?

A 2005 study focused on how students studied using video lectures. I know the technology in 2005 was far inferior to the on-demand video content we have today, but that particular point doesn’t really matter. What I want to focus on is the fact that there are some indications that pausing and rewinding content can be disruptive to the learning process.

During the study, students tried to view an entire lecture in a single session, and some discovered that pausing was necessary. However, all participants who interrupted viewing reported that pausing caused a serious problem when returning to the break point. Students reported that even though they returned to the precise point at which they stopped, they lost the context and didn’t immediately understand what followed. The following example illustrates this point:

“A pause in watching video is worse than a break in reading a book, because I felt that I have no place to return to. I lost context.”

This is just one example of a more poignant point I’m trying to make – don’t distill the benefits of your methods down to one idea or another. Look at your strategies holistically and be able to explain how they work together to your students’ advantage.

There were interesting counterpoints to the above example in the same article:

Navigating the video backward and forward was difficult and disadvantageous for some students, whereas others found it easy and advantageous. Some examples:

“…it wasn’t easy. You sit in front of the computer for two hours and you can’t mark [content]. Rewinding is annoying.”

“…an advantage is that you can repeat something over and over, like I sometimes do when I read a book; however, I never did it. A few times I stopped and ran the CD-ROM backward and then played it again. It was easy.”

What does this mean for me?

One research study does not a law make. However, the feedback from the students in this study is compelling. In addition to the findings about rewinding content, the authors sum the study up in an interesting way:

“Our first finding is that most students tried to study from video as if it was a book; in other words, these students attempted to transfer learning strategies from one medium to another.”

The point is that we have to be careful about two things:

Be careful about how you use video with your students. There is consistent frustration with students not watching them, or watching them ineffectively. Make sure your students understand how their attention patterns for instructional videos have to change. Most of our students use video as background noise – it’s in the back of their minds. If you don’t teach them how to listen for instruction, they will struggle.

Be careful about how you talk about video with other people. Again, think about your students – if they’re pausing and rewinding, is it because they want to hear that piece again for clarity? Or because they missed it the first time through? We need to be cognizant of what the bigger picture is with instructional videos and not continue to promote surface-level ideas with deeper implications.

If this article interested you, The 8th Annual Flipped Learning Conference is being held in East Lansing, Mich. on the campus of Michigan State University. Registration is now open and the conference schedule has been published.

Brian Bennett is a teacher in Elkhart, Ind., a Flipped Learning Network Board Member, and conference coordinator for The 8th Annual Flipped Learning Conference on July 13-15 in East Lansing, Mich. He enjoys astronomy and birding in his backyard with his wife and daughter.

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Cool Tool | BridgeU

CREDIT BridgeU imageA one-stop-shop for international students hoping to enroll in foreign traditional and online university programs, BridgeU is a Software-as-Service platform that matches students with the best university programs for them (weighing academic, cultural and psychometric indicators), positions students competitively as applicants, and manages the preparation and application process on their behalf. They also license their software platform to globally-minded secondary schools (due to double in number within the decade), enabling these schools to provide an improved university-advisory service with baked-in expertise and streamlining tools. Next year, according to what execs there have told EdTech Digest, they’ll build a data service for universities to use, to inform and refine their international marketing and recruiting efforts. After being accepted to Seedcamp, one of Europe’s top tech startup accelerators, in May, they had a soft-launch to students in June from their website. With users from more than 75 countries on their site, they’ve  signed several brand-name secondary schools to license their platform in the upcoming admissions cycles and have schools from 13 countries in their pipeline. In 2015, they’ll offer universities a tailored data reporting service. Check this out.

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Elements of a Vision

Democratic education facilitated by edtech.

GUEST COLUMN | by Jack West

CREDIT ManaiakalaniPersonalization and collaboration, choice and rigor, current yet timeless. This might be how you would describe the elements of everyone’s vision of a 21st-century education — at least, now that we realize it’s not going to be like the Jetsons. It also might be how you would describe a democratic education. Various attempts at democratic education have been made throughout history with varying degrees of success. There are a couple popular examples that education professors like to point to. The Summerhill School in England and the Sudbury School in Massachusetts are two examples.

Self determination is a central tenet of these democratic schools.

The Summerhill website says, “The freedom to attend formal lessons or not at the school is a central feature of the school’s philosophy. Children have the opportunity for unlimited play, which we believe is good for both their physical and mental health.” Generally, a regular school meeting in which students and teachers are on equal footing is also a characteristic of a democratic school as well.

I’ve also seen schools that use the edtech to go a step further — they’re increasing the self-determination of the students.

Few schools adhere as strictly to the democratic model that may even put much of the operations decisions equally in the hands of the students and teachers. The economics of education and the almost religious-like commitment to a process that may take years to fruit for any given individual in a democratic school, both make it difficult to adopt a strict democratic model in our publicly funded institutions. However, there are many schools that embrace democratic principles and go a long way toward supporting student agency.

In my work as a lead educator at my company, I have seen many schools adopting education technology for students toward the ends of better differentiating instruction, providing a more rich curriculum, and increasing collaboration. In a few cases, I have also seen schools that use the edtech to go a step further; they are increasing the self-determination of the students – and that is one of the key components of a democratic education.

One specific example of such a school system is found in the low-income suburbs of Auckland, New Zealand. The schools of the Manaiakalani cluster adopted one-to-one devices five years ago to support their personalized instruction model that allows teachers to work deeply with small groups of students in groups of two to four in a formative dialog. The time that the students in Manaiakalani schools spend outside of the formative dialog groups is largely self-determined.

Interestingly, the students that have exited the Manaiakalani program in the last few years are showing significant improvement on New Zealand’s version of the PISA; an exam that tests language arts, critical thinking, maths, and other skills. While it is difficult to point to any single factor in Manaiakalani’s success, the teachers cite the freedom they have for formative dialog and choice among their top candidates.

The technology makes both of these possible because, while the teacher is deeply engaging with a few students at a time, the other twenty-odd students in the room can be occupied with projects or practice of their own as facilitated by the tech.

The students at Manaiakalani may not be setting salaries and interviewing trustees, but there is strong evidence that their edtech, including tools they first conceptualized, promotes an environment where constructive dialog and self determination are accelerating learning.

Jack West is a Lead Educator for Hapara, maker of tools for schools that use Google Apps for Education. To learn more about the work of the Manaiakalani educators that inspired the company, click here.

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Cool Tool | Kurzweil 1000

CREDIT KurzweilThis latest version of Kurzweil Education’s award-winning text-to-speech software makes printed or electronic text readily available to people who are blind or visually impaired. It helps visually challenged learners save time and gain independence by combining traditional machine technologies such as scanning, image processing, and text-to-speech with communication and productivity tools that allow users to unlock learning anytime, anywhere. In addition to the educational benefits of the software, users can personalize experiences by choosing from a variety of natural-sounding voices and taking advantage of organizational features such as note taking, bookmarks, content summaries, and an appointment calendar with audible reminders. Version 14 enhancements include the option to extract images into PDF files, recognition of PNG files, and much, much more. From Kurzweil Education, a division of Cambium Learning Group, you really need to check it out for yourself.

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Cool Tool | Versant English Placement Test

CREDIT VersantUsing speech processing technology and the advanced science of linguistics, the Versant English Placement Test (VEPT) was specially designed for English language learners to automatically evaluate speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills, reporting results almost immediately. VEPT has been used in academic institutions, private language schools, and education programs throughout the world to evaluate the English communication skills of students and staff for course placement, benchmarking language levels, progress monitoring, and as an exit exam. The scoring technology is applied to systematically measure the test takers’ communication skills, resulting in the elimination of any human or cultural bias. Testing can be done on-demand and is easily administered on a Windows or IOS based computer with internet connection. Educators can administer VEPT using the test administrators’ portal— ScoreKeeper 2. With it, educators can do a number of interesting things, including:

1) Assign tests to individuals or a group of test takers

2) Test on-site in a testing center or offsite, in remote locations

3) Notify test takers of test assignments via email

4) Resume the test to the last item completed if internet connection is lost

5) Lock score results from test taker’s view, if desired.

Check it out for yourself.

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