Estimated reading time: 5 minutes, 23 seconds

Social media friends are my new books: re-flipping the flip

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes, 23 seconds

Today, my thoughts have been inspired by a combination of things that happened on social media. This is a terribly non-linear post (interestingly, a discussion on linearity of English-language writing vs others happened today at work; lots of comments will be in italics in this post because they will interrupt the linear flow, but my thinking just ain’t linear right now and am reserving the linearity for my more formal stuff). I find this very interesting because I had a pretty stimulating two days at work, face-to-face, but what I want to blog about, what excites me enough to stimulate the writing of the blog piece, is stuff that happened online. As Lenandlar commented on a previous blog, our new online friends are the new books we now read passionately every day. (I remembered a day early on in rhizo14 when i said i was enjoying the escape to rhizo14 on the weekend (a bad one for Egypt it was) better than reading a novel, and that was saying a lot coz I love reading novels). And I don’t just mean reading their blogs, but even shorter interactions like on twitter and comments on my blog, etc.

So… To keep this post relatively short (or not, I haven’t finished it yet): I was never happy with the whole “flipped classroom” thing because
A. I almost never lecture myself anyway, so flipping that is meaningless


B. i think people who do lecture intensively would not necessarily be creative enough to know what to do when they flip. Am sure some people will have things they want to try out and will find time when flipping happens. It can be liberating, I am sure, but it is not in itself a pedagogically sound idea unless you think about it pedagogically (and that is the topic of this post, which I will get to in a minute)


C. Good lecturing was never one-way. There are great lecturers who insert minimal questions to students in the middle of their lecture, but use those to help them pace themselves, modify their plan. Besides that, even in a lecture without questions, if a class is small enough, involves making eye contact, seeing whether students understand or not. It is interruptible. A video-taped one is not. I have seen some great MOOC videos, however, by experienced teachers, who did a good job of asking themselves questions a student would typically ask, and proceeding to answer them (reminds me of some really good teachers who used to do the Egyptian barameg ta3leemeyya, i.e. educational programming on TV for school kids). It is doable but not everyone can do it.

(Btw, I a, writing this post in such a non-linear manner it is ridiculous, reminding me of my feeling about my PhD – apparently Barry Dyck from rhizo14 also had trouble making his thesis into a linear one; just discovered that in his autoethnography today; commented on the google doc to tell him so, and realized that those comments I am making on the doc are de-linearizing the text, de-autoing the ethnographies and… Messing it all up really nicely, thank you rhizo14)

ANYWAY: the ideas of today were inspired by Kris Shaffer, who posted a Stanford study (which I came across via Sean Michael Morris’ google plus) and when I tweeted it, Kris, who teaches music, pointed me to another post of his on his approach to pedagogical re-flipping in which he cites a guy called Ramzey Musallam who teaches chemistry and writes about the same topic.

In a matter of 5 or so minutes, I had accumulated a wealth of information on

1. A Stanford study that showed that it is better to start with inquiry-based learning, not lecture/video of theory/concepts – this is the chronological opposite of flipping. It is also very Deweyan, isn’t it? Discovery-based learning, problem-based learning, inquiry-based learning, and all that; as Musallam states, it is the way of scientific discovery

2. I had learned how a music teacher tries this in his (university level) class

3. I had learned how a chemistry teacher does it in his (high school level) class

(And those three articles can make up a module in a class about re-flipping the flip, or inquiry-based learning, giving the study that supports the theory, and the experience of two teachers from different disciplines and contexts; showing the value of educational case studies told by teachers. I could go on but I think you get the idea).

I skimmed the articles and will come back to them, but also interesting was the discussion I had with Kris about why I never flip coz I never lecture, and he said he often gives his students text not video. Which made me realize how I was already doing that. I was basically pointing my students to blog posts or articles I had written in lieu of a lecture video. It made me realize two things. Well three:
1. Much of my writing is pedagogical, not always consciously in that way, but I guess it is just who I am, somehow?

2. It is more sustainable and useful to the world that I write it publicly, rather than in a closed LMS/VLE or email – it benefits more people for a longer time

3. I only ever recognized the pedagogical value of some of my blog posts because Bonnie Stewart kept tweeting some of it to her students and I thought, hmm, maybe I can tweet those to her students as well..

And another thing I learned from Bonnie, though I “flipped” it, is about connecting our network of online friends to our students – and the beautiful people of rhizo14 have been interacting with my students’ blogs (well one lucky student in particular because she said something relevant to a discussion, but now I will try to find ways to engage all the others as well) – but what a way to show people the power of social media! Full list of my students’ blogs here

(orphan side note: I was telling my student-teacher the other day, who teaches kindergarten that it was ridiculous to even think about it with reference to KG. Who the heck lectures to 4-year-olds anyway? (But apparently there is stuff online about flipping KG classrooms, too!)

I will stop here before I give someone a headache!

Oops, back about an hour later to add this great post critiquing the generic flip much better than I ever could!

7 thoughts on “Social media friends are my new books: re-flipping the flip

  1. Dear Maha, what a great post! Absolutely entangled in its un-linearity. Just this afternoon, during break time in one of classes, I was chatting with a couple of my teenage students, two girls, both of which are planning to go abroad to study Englis for a while. We engaged in very interesting conversations about the awesomeness of living such experiences. Anyway, I ended up showing them you guys on my cell phone (as I was checking the FB group updates during the break) and telling them how enriching it is to be in contact with people from all over the world, and learn, and travel, and enjoy life! I agree with you fully: my social media friends have become my new books, as well. And I love it.
    Thank you again for this lovely post!

    1. Thanks, Clarissa. I, too, am excited about sharing the treasures and wonders of rhizo14 (i.e. you guys) with my students and f2f colleagues -several of whom are lurking in our fb group out of curiosity from all my blogs. Were you able to access the autoethnography doc?

  2. Maha, beautifully written I just want to echo the thought that “flipping” is a very natural thing and if it isn’t natural (meaning it is sort of made up and robotic) then it may not work as well.

  3. Almost went cross reading your post eyed recovered I did though.

    One of the first online courses I took “Emerging Technologies for Learning” drove me crazy with its content scattered all over. On top of that, each week’s assignment involved presenting in a different program which scattered my brain even more. I’ve gotten more used to the distributed conversation (mostly by having a bad memory so I don’t even TRY to find my way back) and find it feels like I’m learning more by losing ideas as I build new ones.

    This doesn’t seem right but I think it points to some deep learning mechanism that operates like the flowing river that’s there but different as it moves away from you and new things appear and appear and appear. Reading your post made me thing about why lectures don’t work and I think part of the problem is we are very adept at learning in a state of disorder and the lecture both freezes the message and orders it too neatly. Somehow this breaks our ability to track the continuous novelty the world throws at us and and we fall into a complacent half slumber.

    If our brains are built to capture what matters and remember those things, even out of order, (or especially out of order) then a lecture would be so orderly we couldn’t see it.

    1. Hey Scott. Loooved your post. I think what you’re saying about lectures points to the whole “legibility” issue Tellio had alluded to earlier: we try to make patterns and neat models out of what in reality is really chaotic and too complex to make into a model.
      But you also point to something else that is very important hat is always in back of my mind: while connectivism seems less elitist, more egalitarian, than mot education, it is not truly within everyone’s reach. Not really. Not everyone is equipped to handle this strange flow of information with no beginning or end. Someone yday was just saying something about “who will facilitate the discussion forum in the MOOC” and she was talking xMOOCs, and i was like, “how many MOOCs have you taken? You cannot control discussion forums in a MOOC, tho you can hire TAs to help out a bit.
      But I had also not reflected on how people with poor memories would feel navigating this. Many ppl here on rhizo14 seem to be older than me, and even tho my generation also have memory problems (truly, we do, more so when we become working moms who do MOOCs!), i had not thought how it might be harder for others (esp as most of u r more experienced at this kinda thing). Blogging is how I try to capture it before i lose it. But not everyone wants to blog and it does not all really end up linear and legible, as this post so clearly showed 😉 a linear reply to ur comment, though, right?

  4. Hi Maha, have to agree that cMOOCs are especially difficult for some people. Education and confidence matter here and also most people see education of a series of rooms where you stop and await instructions for the next move. At some point most people surrender themselves to predictability–it’s simple human need and not anyone’s “fault.” To imagine yourself outside the apparent is very difficult and almost a mental disorder in a social animal. But here we are.

    As to memory, there are plenty of tricks to keep from getting lost yet my first response is to just run ahead and plan to come back…If something interests me though, all good intentions are off. I often think this is a lack of discipline and will deliberately backtrack. But if something calls to me I don’t want it to escape while I’m building an infrastructure of proper understanding machine, I just want to go.

    A while back I took a Personal Learning Assessment facilitator course and I think it is possible to find deliberate intent, or at least patterns of repeated behaviours in people’s actions. We are more aware of what we do and why than it might seem in the wilds of a cMOOC and reflecting on this may allow more people to break through the smallness they feel is good enough.

    Like your comment “Much of my writing is pedagogical, not always consciously in that way, but I guess it is just who I am, somehow?” My wife Leslie is constantly frustrated by instructors who have no sense that things need to be explained. That instant understanding of their raw blabbering away doesn’t blossom in the minds of their students. It’s her department’s job to see things from the students’ end and to speak to their understanding the material. Many teacher seem to think hearing their words is “learning” and prove it by pointing to test scores or silly exit surveys of student satisfaction. My sense of pedagogy is a dedication to understanding and presentation has to afford that.

    That might be the wrong interpretation of what you meant? Do you worry about being too structured? You shouldn’t.

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