Flipping classrooms – silly name for a good idea?

Traditional training is based on the model where an expert trainer stands at the front and tells people stuff.

This is known as “the sage on the stage” model, or, as Brazilian Philosopher and educator Paulo Freire calls it: the Banking Concept:

Education thus becomes an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor. Instead of communicating, the teacher issues communiques and makes deposits which the students patiently receive, memorize, and repeat.

(Source: The Banking Concept of Education by Paulo Freire)

To put it another way, an active all-knowing speaker educates groups of passive ignorant listeners.

Freire’s conclusion is that this approach doesn’t work because …

Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.

This conclusion is kind of what the stupidly-named “flipped classroom” idea is about: moving away from the “sage on the stage” approach of shoving facts into passive students’ memories, to a model where the trainer becomes “the guide on the side”, helping active learners to engage socially to enquire, discuss and discover in order to build genuine understanding and deep knowledge.

Learnt taught

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What makes a “guru” a guru?

The other day someone asked me this question:

What makes a “guru” a guru?

During a job interview, they had been asked to rate their change management skills on a one-to-ten scale with novice at one end and guru at the other. This caused him to think what made a guru, and did it really belong at the end of this scale?

It’s a great question.

The word “guru” is massively overused. It has come to mean anyone with some expertise and a Twitter account. The self-awarded “guru” status gets applied to any number of things that have no business with gurus.

Illustrative example #1: I once saw someone claiming to be a guru of Yahoo! Answers.

So, first rule of guru-ness: “guru” can only apply to fields that require a significant depth of expert knowledge and skills. (This necessarily excludes Yahoo! Answers and social media).

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A mongrel would beat a toy poodle in a grammar-fight

The thing about learning Spanish is that they have a whole different approach to grammar.

I don’t mean just different grammar, I mean a different attitude to grammar.

It’s not like you can just say anything, get it more or less ballpark right, mess up a few verb endings, and expect them to piece together the meaning from the scattergun of poorly pronounced clues I might throw out.

They need it pretty tight, pretty correct.

Not 100%, but knocking at 100%’s door.

You’ve got to get your verbs and other sentence shrapnel all in a line and singing from the same songsheet.

If you start chucking in the wrong tense and you’ll be met with puzzled looks.

Where English is a cheeky mongrel and therefore more quick-witted and agile, Spanish is toy-poodle pedigree, more beautiful perhaps, but take it out of its natural habitat and it looks as silly as a … er … toy poodle.

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When marketing overlooks the pedant demographic

Do they think we’re stupid?

The word “express” means quick, not small – why was my local Blockbusters video store called Blockbusters Express just because it was tiny and had limited selection? It was no quicker, except perhaps quicker to walk straight back out of again because there was nothing worth renting.

There was a Tesco Express too, again just a lot smaller than the regular, non-express Tesco, and slower because they had fewer tills which were shared with the petrol station. Express means quick not small.

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