Sunday, July 8, 2012

My Two Cents on “The Difference Between Live and Taped Lectures”

I reference a George Couros blog post below, which is found here. The original Washington Post article I am writing about can be found here.


As I was doing my semi-usual perusal of interesting Twitter-fed links, I came across George Couros’s summer blogging challenge: try to blog 2-3 times per week about an article that you read and found interesting. Share those thoughts with the world. So here I am, giving it a try. Like so many of you, I came across a Washington Post article about the superiority of live lectures over taped lectures via Twitter a couple days ago. I was initially interested in the article because like so many members of the very loosely defined flipped classroom community, screencasted lectures are a small part of what is going to allow me to run a mastery-based, self-paced world history class next year. As I read the article, I was further intrigued by the author’s referencing of the University of Wisconsin-Madison during the Vietnam War: I wrote my undergraduate thesis on the Vietnam protests in Madison. Clearly, I had to read this article.

Madison from the air, via Flckr by robbyb

Like so many flipped classroom teachers, I disagree with Camins’s characterization that, “Flipped classrooms have students learn their lessons at home via videos and other materials and do ‘homework’ in class.” However, I tried to write up a blog post about that and it turned into a three-page (single-spaced) mess, so I’m not here to talk about that. Camins highlights the time he spent listening to two UW-Madison history professors, George Mosse and Harvey Goldberg, lecture in college. From my research, I agree with his contention that these men put on a show for their students (and the non-students that flocked to their lectures). However, I would argue that these lectures were captivating because of their content, but also because of their context: Madison was an epicenter of the Vietnam War protests. From my understanding of this era, it seems like everyone knew someone in Vietnam, or someone who might imminently be drafted because of a low draft number. Given the extremely politicized context these lectures occurred in, coupled with the fact that Mosse and Goldberg challenged their students, “to highlight ambiguity and to challenge us to not accept facile interpretations that suited our political preferences,” I would have found them riveting as well. Would these lectures be as riveting now, having been removed from their oh-so-meaningful context (both the crowded lecture hall, but also Madison in the late 60s and early 70s)? No.

Should teachers lecture at all? I actually got to Twitter-lurk on a fascinating conversation between Carolyn Durley, Frank Noschese, and Jerrid Kruse on that subject today. I’m not here to pass judgment on whether or not teachers should lecture. But I am left with a couple questions. My classroom will be self-paced and mastery based next year and the work that we will be doing in class is heavily based on historical inquiry and interpretation. Given my current conception of my classroom, I will still need to have students build the necessary context to do the engaging work of historians in my classrooms. I will be screencasting lectures, in addition to providing web and textbook resources for students to build this context. I am looking forward to experimenting with the Explore-Flip-Apply framework to build a need-to-know feeling in my students. However, how much of the California state history standards can I just throw away and say, “Forget this old stuff that has themes that still resonate now; let’s talk about what is going on today”? For that is what I believe made those in-person lectures Camins discusses so engaging – they were so tangible for all the students involved. So a better question to be left with, then, is not how much do I focus on current events, but how do I increase the number of tangible aspects of my students’ lives that I engage in my classroom? Somewhere, Gloria Ladson-Billings loves the culturally relevant pedagogy-ness of that question.

Ultimately, despite my questions and the challenges I am left with, I agree with Camins’s takeaway from the time he spent in Goldberg and Mosse’s lectures: “I was part of a community trying to make sense of history so we could engage, organize politically and have an impact for the better.” Forget the standards – this is what I want for my students. Now how to get there in a way as personally engaging as Camins found those Vietnam War era lectures…