Learned or Learner: Do you learn more than your students do?

A big part of the teacher’s role has always been to serve as an example to their students, of what it looks like to be educated.

When knowledge was the key to future success, a teacher was the living, breathing example of a learned person. Students could look up to their teachers and aspire to gain as much knowledge as they had. To be educated as they were.

But the world is changing profoundly and permanently and knowledge just isn’t the key to future success that it once was.

Now the keys to success are the ability to access information quickly on demand, the ability to learn concepts as needed, to see new connections between ideas, to recognise patterns. The ability to learn is now FAR more important than the knowledge itself.

So now teachers need to be living, breathing examples of dynamic learners. Students should be able to look up to their teachers and aspire to learn as effectively and prolifically as they do.

Of course if teachers are to be that kind of example to follow, they need to be visibly learning more than their students. It’s hard to do that if you are standing in front of a whiteboard, talking about the knowledge you accumulated when you were at university.

Are you learning faster than your students are? Or are you resting on the laurels of stuff you learned when you yourself were a student?

Learned or learner?

The “Retro-Classroom Model” or Why “Flipped Classroom” is a Silly Term

In the olden days you’d leave work at lunchtime, rush down to the bank and stand in a queue to withdraw some cash, then you’d rush back to work in time for period 5. Now you use your lunchtime productively or relax and enjoy staffroom conversation and instead, stop at the ATM on the way home. You don’t call it ‘flipped banking’! In fact it’s the new normal! Going inside the bank (in banking hours) to withdraw cash is inefficient; a waste of time. If you told your colleagues you were going to the bank at lunchtime to withdraw cash – they would think you were crazy!

There are similar parallels in watching a TV series on Netflix, booking flights on Webjet – and in many other areas of life, where once, you had to be in a particular place at a specific time but now it is normal to take advantage of technology that lets us operate more contextually.

None of these situations gets a special name – we don’t talk of “flipped banking”, “flipped entertainment”, “flipped booking” – they are just the natural, expected behaviours that result from freeing technologies. It would be rather silly not to take advantage of them.

I think that using the term “flipped learning” conveys a misleading impression, which is that using technology intelligently, to make the most of our time, somehow represents a special, fringe teaching strategy. I don’t think it is – or at least I don’t think it should be. In fact, let me go further. If anything is ‘flipped’ (up-side-down or back-to-front) in 2016, it’s continuing to enter the classroom, intending to waste precious class time, doing something that can be done much more efficiently.

Perhaps it would be better to call teaching from the front of the room “the Retro Classroom Model” and to stop implying that teachers working in a way consistent with the rest of modern life, have got it back-to-front.