Thursday, March 31, 2011

Episode 118 – Flipping a Classroom, Khan Academy, and New Learning Analytics

It's Thursday, March 31st 2011 and welcome to Episode 118 of TechTalk4Teachers, I'm Tom Grissom. We are a little past mid-way point through the spring semester here at EIU and faculty and students are busily working their way through their courses. Many educators are constantly on the lookout for new methods to be a more effective teacher and thanks to the advances in technology you do not have to look far these days.

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(9 minutes 51 seconds)

There has recently been a crescendo of interest growing in education circles regarding a former TechTalk4Teachers Pick of the Week. This former pick has received new funding and is helping students from all around the world learn new things by simply watching YouTube videos and all for free.

I'm going to “flip” the format of todays show and you will see why in just a moment. Since I began TechTalk4Teachers I have made the Horizon Report a yearly technology pick and I have not yet had the opportunity to talk about the report this year.

Technology Pick of the Week

So before this semester gets away from me my technology pick of the week, this week, is the 2011 version of the Horizon Report published by the New Media Consortium. I use this report in both my undergraduate and graduate level technology classes as a reading assignment to help my students get up to speed with the latest educational technologies. Students are often amazed at the pace of adoption of new technologies and this report provides plenty of real world examples for students to explore.

When I tell them this report is about 40 pages long I usually hear some moans and groans but they are short-lived as I setup a discussion group where we discuss this report online over a two week period. This gives students the flexibility to chunk the material into more manageable pieces and provides a social component for them to share their impressions as they digest what they read and provides a way to share their reactions with the entire class. If you have not read this years Horizon Report I strongly encourage you to do so and a link is provided in the show notes.

2011 Horizon Report

As the name implies this report takes a look out over the horizon to observe new technology trends and how they are impacting teaching and learning. The report is broken down into three time-frames for technologies that are 1 year or less away from adoption, 2 to 3 years from adoption, and those that are 4 to 5 years away from being adopted on a larger scale. Of course predicting the future is always a risky business and unforseen technologies often enter the picture and take the education world by storm without much notice. Most recently the iPad and Android tablets serve as examples that have entered the mainstream consciousness of educators in the past year and many are experimenting with this new form factor.

Most of you can probably guess what the near term technology influence is, mobile phones and ebooks. As smart phones become more affordable and as wireless broadband access becomes more available the mobile phone is poised to enter the learning mainstream. I mentioned on last months show that smart phones are now outselling PC's for the first time and I believe that this trend will continue in the future. Mobile phones will not replace PC's in the immediate future but new combinations and form factors are competing with the traditional Personal Computer for use in schools.

The same is also true of ebooks, with the success of the Kindle and now new tablet and slate form factors, ebooks are beginning to be taken seriously as legitimate replacements for physical books. Several schools are piloting ebooks as possible replacements for their physical counterparts.

Learning Analytics

The one thing in the Horizon Report that was placed four to five years out is something called Learning Analytics. Learning Analytics are technologies that can be used to measure learning by collecting and interpreting information using data-mining techniques to assess student academic progress. Many in the teaching field become a bit uneasy when there is talk of data-mining models for use in teaching and learning because it seems like such a sterile environment to teach and learn in. When some teachers hear this many envision students becoming just numbers to be analyzed and this is antithetical to the viewpoint of most teachers. However, teaching is both an art and a science and I believe we need both sides of the equation to be effective teachers. Learning analytics are in the infant stage but new developments with the Khan Academy have thrust learning analytics into the spotlight over the past two months.

I have talked about the Khan Academy before and it has been receiving a lot of press lately. Now, with new additions to the Khan Academy learning analytics has suddenly jumped ahead five years and is now front and center and on the minds of many educators. The Khan Academy has recently received some funding that has suddenly catapulted this online academy into the national spotlight.

Khan Academy

Sal Khan has developed over 2000 short videos on a variety of subjects and placed them on YouTube for students to access across the world for free. I have provided a few links in the show notes for you to explore further and I highly recommend you watch his presentation.

Here is a short video clip from his recent TED talk, I will play about a minute of it to give you an idea what the Khan Academy is about if you have not heard of it before.

Khan Academy TED Talk - 2011

Alright, that was Sal Khan giving an introduction to his Khan Academy at a recent TED talk. The full presentation is about 20 minutes long and I encourage you to give it a watch if you want to see what the next level is and where the Khan Academy is heading in the future.

If you are familiar with Google Analytics imagine taking that technology and using it to display and track student progress from the videos students watch on YouTube and also being able to analyze the exercises students complete. The data generated is very detailed and provides a look at student academic progress across time.

Now, imagine being a teacher where you can have your students sign-up your class where you could use Khan Academy videos to supplement your students learning. If you so choose and have administrative approval you can setup a class and where you can monitor your students progress using learning analytics that the Khan Academy has designed. The service keeps track of each students individual progress. Data that is collected for every student include what Khan Academy videos they watch, how long they watch, and there are also exercises embedded within the videos that can be tracked to monitor progress. Students can see their progress and even earn badges along the way as rewards for completing lessons.

A color coding system is used so that teachers and students can easily see where there needs to be more work, green is good, and red needs more work. Teachers can see individual as well as the entire class statistics on how students are doing if they setup their classes to use the Khan Academy. Because learning analytics are so new educators should check with their schools polices before using such services and obtain administrative approval. It really is remarkable the data that can be collected and at the same time a bit concerning because teachers have not had access to so much detail before.

Flipping your Classroom

The Khan videos have been around for a while and many teachers are using the videos to “flip” the traditional classroom model of instruction. Some teachers are assigning the videos as homework to be watched at home and then use students scheduled class time to work on problems where the teacher can float around the room and assist any student with any questions they may have.

This flipped model gets the teacher out of the transmission mode of instruction and allows the teacher to give more individual attention to students. It is lecture by night and homework by day, flipping the traditional model. I have provided a link in the show notes to how some teachers are using the flipped classroom so be sure to check them out.

Reverse Instruction: Dan Pink and Karl’s “Fisch Flip”

To Flip or Not to Flip

What do you think, have you used the flipped classroom approach?

That wraps it up for episode 118 of TechTalk4Teachers. Show notes for this episode and archived episodes are available on the web at the EIU Instructional Technology Center website at To leave a comment or suggestion, please send an email to or leave a comment on the Tech Talk for Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning…