vineri, 16 septembrie 2011

The shape of the future

THE 12-year-olds filing into Courtney Cadwell’s classroom at Egan Junior High in Los Altos, a leafy suburb of Silicon Valley, each take a white MacBook from a trolley, log on to a website called and begin doing maths exercises. They will not get a lecture from Ms Cadwell, because they have already viewed, at home, various lectures as video clips on KhanAcademy (given by Salman Khan, its founder). And Ms Cadwell, logged in as a “coach”, can see exactly who has watched which. This means that class time is now free for something else: one-on-one instruction by Ms Cadwell, or what used to be known as tutoring.

So Ms Cadwell, in her own web browser, pulls up a dashboard where KhanAcademy’s software presents, through the internet, the data the children are producing at that instant. She can view information for the entire class or any individual pupil. Just then she sees two fields, representing modules, turning from green to red, one for Andrea, the other for Asia. Ms Cadwell sees that Andrea is struggling with exponents, Asia with fractions. “Instead of having to guess where my students have gaps, I can see it, at that moment, and I walk over to that one student,” says Ms Cadwell, as she arrives at Asia’s chair.

While the other pupils continue to work at their own pace and at different problems, Ms Cadwell now spends a few minutes just with Andrea and Asia. Soon Andrea has an epiphany and starts firing correct answers, getting, in KhanAcademy’s jargon, a “badge”, then going “transonic”. A few minutes later, Asia also gets a “streak”. She lets out a shriek. Ms Cadwell, with a big smile, is off to another pupil. “The growth in these kids is just staggering,” she says. “This is the future. I don’t see how it couldn’t be.”

This reversal of the traditional teaching methods—with lecturing done outside class time and tutoring (or “homework”) during it—is what Mr Khan calls “the flip”. A synonym for flip, of course, is revolution, and this experiment in Los Altos just might lead to one. For although only a handful of classes in this public-school district tried the method in the last school year, many other schools, private and public, are now expressing interest, and the methodology is spreading.

The Economist, Electronic Education: Flipping The Classroom (17th of September, 2011)