|"I can't wait to watch my Khan|
Academy videos tonight..."
Anyway, this is not to be confused with an Oprah-style faux memoir, that's not the point. The point is that in my memory, my home had more important things to worry about than getting up at 4.30 am to do a kid's homework, the way President Obama remembers in his "tough" family life.
In later years, as a cop in Brooklyn and The Bronx, as the computer co-ordinator for a homeless mission with before and after school programs for homeless kids, and in work in high poverty schools, I know what kids in poverty face at home. And it isn't a few hours curled up with their own laptop watching video instruction anymore than it was ever my siblings and me curled up with textbooks. Real life, as they say, is different.
So in changing gears for this new year,
step two is "rejecting the flipped classroom."
Let me begin here: Any pedagogical design which relies, in essential terms, on homework is a problem for me, and many others.
"There is a growing number of parents and educators who don't believe we should rob children of the time after school with mandatory homework. We believe time at home should be for pursuing passions, connecting with friends and family, playing and engaging in physical activity. In some families it might be the time needed to take care of a sibling, work a job, or take care of their own child. Let us leave children to the activities they and their family choose or find necessary and instead as John Taylor Gatto suggests (in lesson 7), that we should "give children more independent time during the school day" at which time they may also choose to watch flipped classroom lessons." - Lisa Nielson
|in the family room, time for homework|
"Structurally, homework might have one of two fundamentally opposite effects on the home. On the one hand, homework might be viewed as an intrusion by the school into hours reserved for the family--a direct threat to parents' authority to manage their children's time outside of school. According to this model, homework is an exercise of what might be termed "school imperialism" at the expense of parents. It interferes, for example, with chores, with music and dancing lessons, and with the social intercourse that parents and children may expect from each other in the evening.
"Alternately, parents might perceive homework very differently: not as an intrusion or a threat to their authority but, rather, as the primary means by which schools communicate and collaborate with parents on academic matters and engage them in the educational process. According to this model, homework is a link from school to home that keeps parents informed about what the school is teaching, gives them a chance to participate in their children's schooling, and helps to keep the schools accountable to parents. Not to assign homework is to exclude parents from playing an active role in their children's academic development." - Gill and Schlossman, 2003, TCR 105-5 846-871
|"Children explained that the parents are `hardworking' people |
who try `to support their children' and `keep their children
safe' and who `worry a lot about how they can make (it so that)
their kids go to college'. [They] witness at an early age that
even if parents work hard, they may not be able to protect and
support their children. Poor children who witness people who
are working hard and not getting rewarded may well be likely
to have a more profound, complicated understanding
of the consequences of poverty." (Weinger 2000)
Kralovec and Buell(2001) make the argument contemporary with their assertions that homework works against the poor and working class children via home inequity, Kevin Thomas explores the demographic impact of immigrant status combined with homework in this century, ("English-language proficiency, for example, affects the ability of immigrant parents to navigate the vicissitudes of parent-teacher relationships and labor market conditions and is also likely to affect their ability to help their children with their homework.") (see also Lareau, Home Advantage), and Alfie Kohn has loudly brought the Deweyan arguments into the present.
So, first, the "Flipped Classroom" is homework dependent, and I would argue that "homework" is, and always has been, a socially reproductive construct, which rewards the wealthy and educated parents by giving their children a huge advantage in school.
Nobody says it better, South Park explains homework as Social Reproduction in "Token is Rich"
(much as I hate to say that Cartman is right)
But the "Flipped Classroom" is worse than 'typical homework' - it literally shifts the explanatory part of school away from the educators and to the home, however disconnected that home might be, however un-educated parents might be, however non-English speaking that home might be, however chaotic that home might be. So, kids with built in advantages get help with the understanding, and kids without come to school the next day clueless. Those "flip" advocates who acknowledge this talk about ways of "catching kids up," of providing school time for those without access or resources at home, but what this really means is putting the kids from homes in poverty into perpetual remediation as the wealthy continue to blaze ahead.
|Homework under the Streetlights (New York Times)|
In the worst cases, the Khan Academy model, the flip is just an especially brutal version of the old, "go home and read pages 741-749 and do the problems on 750-751," but with videos instead of text. Now videos might be better than text for some kids, but there is no more choice, no more explanation, no more interaction than in this worst model of schooling. I think these are the parts of education which require the most care, the most individualization, and the most interaction between educator and learner.
Especially in these times when the economic divide in the United States and in the United Kingdom is at or near historic - Dickensian - levels, the embrace of a pedagogical system designed to increase educational outcomes disparity on the basis of home life seems particularly horrible. We need to be better educators than that, better people than that.
So while I fully embrace, encourage, am even part of initiatives which bring the information resources of school to all children's homes - I think we must move beyond WiFi to 4G-WiMax efforts which connect our students and their families wherever they are - I believe the uses of those technologies and information access at home should be in support of the students themselves, their families, and their communities, and not in support of narrow pedagogical efforts which belong within the school day.
So please, reject the flip. Re-imagine your school day and everything you do instead. A "flipped classroom" is the same classroom, just re-arranged. Our students deserve more imaginative thinking than that. And all of our students deserve an educational environment which moves us toward equality of opportunity, not further away from that.
- Ira Socol
next (delayed by a day or two): re-thinking rigor