Reverse Instruction and 1 to 1 Laptop Schemes

Thoughts and ideas about “Reverse Instruction” and 1 to 1 Laptop Schemes

As I have mentioned previously on this site, the key to implementing and developing a successful 1 to 1 Laptop Scheme in a school is about adapting teaching styles and pedagogies. With the increase of more 1 to 1 Laptop schools, the ability to introduce “Reverse Instruction” to our 21st Century learners is becoming even more popular. However, I see “Reverse Instruction” as just another learning tool that can be added to an innovative teacher’s repertoire and should not be seen as a method for teaching and learning on its own or instead of the valuable student centered classroom environment.

The idea or concept of reverse instruction is good, but isn’t it just a technological advancement of what our excellent teacher’s have already been doing for years, but now using different media? For example, as educators we often ask our students to go home and read a book, review a chapter, critique a picture and then we will discuss it and go through it in tomorrows lesson.

Now we are saying – go home watch my video and at school tomorrow we will discuss it and go through any questions or problems you have about it.”

I think it is a positive development in education that we can use video sharing websites to upload our classroom lectures or specially designed lessons. That our learners can review these videos at home, in their own time and then in the classroom we can spend the time collaborating, reviewing, questioning and solving problems related to the learning contents of the video. One of the positive uses of this method is that the learner can stop, rewind, and repeat the viewing of the video, which means that they are tailoring instruction to their own learning speed. One of the negative areas of this method is that students have to watch the video home as part of their homework or in their own time.  What happens when they don’t do their homework or they don’t review the video at home?  Does this mean they cannot take part in the corresponding lesson?  Where is the collaboration while they are watching the video, surely the video would be more beneficial to the students if they could watch it as a group and discuss it instantly in the classroom, stopping and starting the video at key points. If they watch the video at home alone, isn’t this just passive learning absorption?

What age group in our schools can we use “Reverse Instruction” as a teaching pedagogy? It’s probably more suited to our older students in High School and beyond, rather than our elementary schools. Although, our younger learners are now quite capable of watching an inspiring, exciting video at home, which could be discussed the next day in the classroom. In answering this question, I suppose it depends on the content of the video that the learners need to watch? Most of our learners who are aged between 4 and 11 have the technological skills to watch videos at home from a video sharing website.

Reverse Instruction also depends on the ability to have Internet access at home or at least the ability to download the video on to a laptop that can be taken home. This is not usually a problem with 1 to 1 Laptop schools, where students can take a computer home and nearly all students have Internet access.

There still seems to be a lot of talk about educational establishments using old fashioned methods for instruction and that they should adopt more innovative learning styles. For example;

During class time, the teacher will stand at the front of the room and hold forth on the day’s topic. Then, as the period ends, he or she will give students a clutch of work to do at home. Lectures in the day, homework at night” Daniel Pink –Think Tank: Flip-thinking – the new buzz word sweeping the US

I believe that the assumption that schools still follow this ‘traditional’ method of instruction are outdated and few and far between. The schools that I know use a variety of innovative instructional pedagogies that engage student learning and collaboration, using a variety of different mobile technologies and digital resources (one of which would be “reverse instruction”)

There are many success stories of using “Reverse Instruction” in the classroom, especially in Higher Education and I still believe that it has value as another digital teaching/learning tool. I also believe that different forms and methods of distance learning will also increase in their up-take and development in the next few years. Learning from home will increase as students have more access to a faster Internet and mobile learning technologies. This will enable students to progress, access and engage with their own content, at their own pace of learning and take more of a role in charting the path best suited to their own talents, interests and abilities. However, if we do use “Reverse Instruction” or “Flip Teaching” we must not forget the importance of collaboration, teamwork, and the importance of the face-to-face interaction with the teacher.

For further reading please see work by Daniel Pink and Karl Fisch.

Written by Steven David Pearce 20/01/2011


Learning, Learners and International Schools

Learning, Learners and International Schools

I was surprised recently by the number of international schools that are still focusing on teaching rather than learning. Having returned from a conference in Kota Kinabalu with over 900 Administrators, Heads, and Educational Leaders it was evident that content driven learning and classroom power is still in the control of the teacher and not the learner. Of course there were a few schools that have actually realized that what we learn, how we learn and when we learn is in the hands of the learner (our students).  Learning is the responsibility of the learner – we can guide them, facilitate them and teach them how to learn using the right tools, knowledge and experience. The article published by “Chris Watkins” Research Matters – Learning, Performance and Improvement 2010, reinforces some of my own personal beliefs about education and I believe is well worth reading.

In one of the Keynote speeches during the conference, an elderly School Principal came and sat next to me – the Keynote speaker was talking about motivating our learners. The School Principal then turned to me and whispered in my ear “ all we want is for the little buggers to sit still and keep quiet!” I said nothing to him, just smiled in return. However, I was horrified by his remark, was this really a Principal of an International School today?

In another seminar at the same conference there was another High School Principal talking about examination success, he was describing how his teachers achieve excellent exam grades using content driven lessons, drill and practice and that this was the whole point of his educational organization, to churn out students who could repeat the answer to questions, who knew content, but had very little knowledge or skills of how to use that content as long as they could get into University. In the “Chris Watkins” article he states two key areas that are worth considering:

1.     to recognize that passing tests is not the goal of education, but a by-product of effective learning

2.     to recognize that even when we want pupils to do their best in tests, pressure and performance orientation will not achieve it.

The example I have given above, I am sure is fairly extreme and schools are often influenced by many factors, like society, parents and University requirements. However, I believe that if we use AFL strategies, formative assessment, co-construction, inquiry and investigative-based pedagogies in the classroom and allow our learners to learn and give them the right tools to do that, that effective learning will bring about educational results. Our learners will pass the necessary test to gain entry to higher education and have the skills to continue their own learning to a higher level at University and beyond.

written by Steven David Pearce 10/11/2010