Flip with a half twist

I read the title for a recent Campus Technology survey claiming that 55% of faculty are flipping their classrooms. This is so far removed from my own experience so I had to read the article.

Fifty-five percent of the survey respondents said they are somewhere along the spectrum of flipping all or some of their courses, in which they ask their students to view videos or some other digital matter online before coming to school and then use class time for other activities, such as hands-on and team projects or discussions.

The details brought me back to my own reality (in other words, the title was click bait). It turns out that 14% have actually moved to a flipped model and another 41% flip some of their classrooms.

I have difficulty with the definition used to promote the flipped classroom as a new model. I understand that a couple of high school chemistry teachers generated videos to replace their presentations so they could use class time for experiments, discussion, and helping learners who were having difficulties. I apologize for not remembering their names, but their approach was what I have accepted as a flipped classroom.

What is not a flipped classroom by this interpretation.

  1. I have for years recorded a lecture when I would not be available for class. I do not regard this as putting me in the 41% category for the past decade because the video did not free up class time for other activities.
  2. Does class preparation have to involve digital content (video or other online “matter”)?Is there a difference between assigning a textbook, an ebook, or journal article pdfs as  required preclass reading? Every grad class I know of would qualify under the digital matter category?
  3. Does it have to be preclass content prepared by the classroom teacher? Would asking students to review specific video content from the Kahn archive be equivalent to video content created by the teacher?
  4. Does the amount of class preparation have to increase for a course to be flipped? If an instructor replaces an assigned textbook reading with digital content of various types has that instructor’s course now flipped?

Perhaps claiming you have flipped only meets the definition when you have reduced your in-class presentations by moving expectations for reviewing content to some time before class and in a location external to your classroom. I have always thought that this sounds like one type of homework.

Then there is that issue of what we mean by homework and whether it is really necessary. Is homework work that follows a presentation to require practice and identify learning difficulties? Is homework work that precedes class in order to allow class time to be devoted to content-related discussion and individual assistance.

Perhaps the homework debate could be resolved if we could decide on what we mean by flipping and then all would be well when it comes to our use of educational jargon.

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One take on the STEM “crisis”

So many are weighing in on the lack of student interest in STEM careers. Here is a recent article from the Scientific American. I sometimes wonder if we are ignoring something we don’t want to consider. Here is an explanation based on my experience working in higher education.

The university where I worked was a partner in several programs that tried to encourage minority students to pursue advanced degree programs in the “sciences”. I observed these programs as the chairperson of the psychology department. Our department did quite well in hosting students who were able to secure support through these programs. I know this was frustrating to some because not all recognize Psychology as a “science”. What I know about the long-term outcome of the program was that a high proportion of these capable students went on into careers in health care rather than into the grad programs in the sciences considered the purpose of the undergrad support.

Here is what I wonder. Is what tends to happen regarding careers in science especially careers as researchers a function of preparation or values? A focus on certain values would explain the commitment to health care. Those who might pursue a career in business would often be doing so for a different type of value.

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Journalism and government secrecy

The most recent Triagulation offers an interview with Edward Snowden’s lawyer. Leo Laporte does a great job with an interview that considers government secrecy and the role of journalism. Worth a listen given many current political developments.

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I have sold a textbook through a publisher (for 15 years) and through Amazon as a Kindle book. I decided to move to Kindle so that I could create resources in a different format (a Primer at low cost in combination with free online web resources). We negotiated the return of our copyright when we could not agree on price and format. In making this transitions I gave up two significant things. First, I now longer have a dedicated editor. An editor is very helpful to even an experienced author. However, because I am selling a book at less than 1/10 of the cost from the publisher, it was not practical to pay someone what my editor was paid. Second, I no longer have an army of regional book reps going door to door to offer faculty members a free desk copy of the book and attempt to encourage the faculty members to take a look. Of the two forms of support, it is this second service that is most challenging to overcome. Of course, it greatly increases the cost of the product, but unless faculty members take a look they will not consider a book for adoption.

I have come to the conclusion that this is the challenge I must address based on the pattern of sales our book generates. The book sells at a steady pace with no spikes that would seem to indicate the adoption for college classes. I also search for references to the book online. When I was selling through a company, I could locate syllabi that would indicate the book was required of students. I am pleased individuals purchase the book, but the book was really written to be used in a class setting.

Anyway, I am attempting to use some of the promotional approaches Amazon recommends. I am doing this at this point in time as this is when educators look to select books to be used in the Spring semester. For a limited time, the book is available for $1. The price then gradually increases back to the normal selling price. This approach cannot compare to free in your office, but it makes sense to me.

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Connect on the iPad

This is a post for those who may use Adobe Connect in an online course. Connect happens to be the software my institution uses for online courses. I have taught a grad course using Adobe Connect for years and I had never thought to check to see if an app for the iPad was available. It turns out Adobe does offer an app and I like it a lot. This is not my typical reaction to adaptations of services for the iPad (e.g., Blackboard).


The full Connect display looks something like this. The display consists of modules that can be arranged in different ways. This happens to be an arrangement I use while students are making presentations. This is the display as it appeared on my iPad.


A nice feature of the app is that individual modules can be selected for viewing. This is helpful just to be able to see things at a reasonable size. This is a good example of what I mean by a nice adaptation for the iPad. Moving easily from module to module is helpful when working on a smaller screen.

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Fact checking

Wesley Fryer just authored a nice post on “online fact checking”. When I read the title I assumed he was motivated by the Presidential election and all of the discussion concerning the truthfulness of the candidates and their surrogates statements. This was not the stated intention of his post, but his background information and recommendations would certainly apply.

I have been exploring “argumentation” lately and the skill set associated with argumentation would serve a similar focus. What positions are being taken and has credible evidence been offered in support of the positions.

Wesley Fryer does a nice job writing about critical thinking as applied to media consumption.

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Instagram photos by location

If you share photos using Instagram, you may be unaware of this feature. I found it by accident.

If you tag your posts by location, the location appears when the post is displayed. Clicking on the location will bring up other photos from that location and selecting one of these photos provides the full post generated by the author. I think this is great, but it may disturb some.

Photos at the top are those most “hearted” – typically spectacular photos. I don’t think I have enough followers to make this collection.


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A case for coding?

If you are interested in the promotion of computer science courses and experiences in K12, you will likely find this lengthy pdf from the “Information technology and innovation foundation of value (The case for improving U.S. Computer Science Education). The paper even attempts to explain the origins of K12’s focus on other content areas. For example, why was biology considered the ideal science for the k12 setting.

I do find the historical perspective on teaching computer science in schools to be an interesting topic. Someone of my age has pretty much lived through the entire history of this topic and has had the opportunity to view related events – e.g., the emergence and decline and re-emergence of coding for kids.

In thinking about coding in schools, I believe I can identify multiple challenges. There is the question of what role CS should play. It is called a science, but this position questions the definition of a science as I understand the discipline. Certainly, this is the case at the level CS is taught in K12. There is the question of how learning the skills of coding are beneficial. Can it be pushed as a vocational skill or does it have more general relevance as a way to develop a wide range of skills – e.g., computational thinking. If the broader benefits are the basis for promotion, is this content area really the best way to develop such skills and is there evidence that CS instruction actually accomplishes these goals. Finally, the time available within the school day, year, etc. is pretty much fixed. Hence, new commitments must replace existing commitments. Existing commitments are already under siege (e.g., physical education, arts). Which trade-offs make sense? It seems inappropriate to let others work out the details. Every discipline has supporters.

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Value in different perspectives

The financial struggles of North Dakota and the University of North Dakota have provided me an opportunity. The financial struggles have limited hiring at the university and open positions have allowed me the opportunity to continue to teach a course or two after retirement. Moving from professor to adjunct status comes with significant financial limitations, but you shouldn’t retire if money is a significant issue.

I work with graduate students interested in educational uses of technology. The students are fairly sophisticated and so I am always pleasantly surprised when applications I show them are regarded as useful. I do not anticipate they will have my theory and research perspectives, but it is nice when related applications are novel.

I have students blog during the course and use an RSS reader to peruse the posts of their colleagues. A positive reaction to RSS should not surprise me. I have previously written about RSS as a lost opportunity. One thing that happens when individuals who share an interest get together is that certain unique perspectives are shared. This uniqueness is probably the source for the “wisdom of crowds”. I think that making the effort to try out RSS has been lost as active users have begun to rely on Twitter. There are likely unique advantages to the discovery opportunities provided by Twitter and the predictable opportunities provided by a collection of writers you appreciate.

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There are many tools for organizing and sharing bookmarks. Which social bookmarking tool you choose will likely depend on the quantity of links you want to organize, what information you want to store associated with each link, cost, and the ways in which you foresee using your link collection.

Sqworl is a simple social bookmarking service developed for educators. I suppose the name has something to do with putting away resources for future use (winter is coming). The service seems suited to organizing small collections for student or colleague use (e.g., three sources for information about why leaves change colors, math activities for 4th-grade teachers).

Sqworl uses a visual method for representing sites that seems similar to Pinterest. You add a title and description to the visual thumbnail of the site.


Sqworl is easy to use. Once you have created a group, you simply enter the link for a site you want to add and then add descriptive information when the service generates a thumbnail for that site.



Sqworl collections are organized into groups (this seems to imply a social purpose, but you could use groups to organize private collections). Each group is associated with a unique URL that you share with intended users.



There is a free and pro version of this service. Educators can pay $4 a month for $40 for the year to use the service. The Pro version removes the ads (an issue for many when using a service with students) and adds private groups for improved security.

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