This phrase is not new; in fact it’s cliché, however that doesn’t make it any less true.  I’ve long utilized Diana Laufenberg’s TED Talk on How To Learn? From Mistakes as a conversation starter in most of my technology integration workshops because she so eloquently articulates this very point.  Recently however, this was reinforced in the most unlikely of places.  Like most red-blooded Canadian, sport-loving fathers, I too hope (believe) that my boys will one day become professional hockey players [dripping with sarcasm; sort of :)].  So to this end, we’ve enrolled our eldest in skating lessons.  Every week, we pack up his bag, drive him to the local rink, get him all geared-up and then coerce him into actually getting on the ice.  The first few weeks were rough as he didn’t really want to be there.  This was due to a combination of fear of something new and as he articulated himself, it hurt when he fell all the time.  I was also a bit skeptical myself regarding the process since it seemed all they did was sit on the ice for the first few weeks.  When they weren’t sitting, there were brief (very brief) moments of standing up and then of course the dreaded fall.  I didn’t blame him for not liking it as it really didn’t look like much fun.  Finally, around the fifth week as I was really beginning to question the time (and money) invested in these lessons the methodology became clear.  I realized that falling on the ice and feeling the cold, stinging pain was basically the worst thing that could happen in this setting.  As the children became comfortable with the idea of falling (or failing) they became more confident and began to take more risks.  Brilliant!  Once they had mastered the art of failure, they could now confidently take on the challenge of success.  My son still doesn’t love skating, and that’s fine but he’s no longer afraid of it and he’s actually improved drastically since he started.  As much as he’s learned however, I’ve likely learned more.


I’ve been doing a lot of research into the concept and practice of the Flipped Classroom model.  For anyone unfamiliar with this, I’ll spare you the details.  If you do a quick Google search you’ll be all caught up.  I actually tend to like the model in principle, however it is those principles that need to be defined.  If our view of the flipped classroom is simply switching the location of the teacher directed instruction vs. the student directed element, I feel that this has limited impact besides being logistically favourable for the teacher and potentially providing more support for students when they are working.

In order for the flipped model to be transformative, the pedagogy that it is flipping must first be transformed.  In essence, flipping an ineffective learning model is equally ineffective.  So if your plan is to post a video of yourself delivering a lesson so that students can watch it at home and then have them complete worksheets when they get back to class, you may want to save yourself the time required to make the video.

Flipping is less about the location and type of work being completed, and more about making really great use of the scarce time available with our students.  In a three part math lesson for example, or in an inquiry based lesson, I need to ask myself, which element of this learning opportunity is the one least requiring my direct support?  Can I use a digital tool to deliver or help complete this element?  Does the use of the digital tool allow me to maximize collaboration and communication?  Does it allow me to spend valuable time facilitating learning with my students (whether in person or not)?  Also, shouldn’t there be an element of student content as well; changing how they communicate and changing the tasks themselves to be more collaborative in nature?  I think yes.

Perhaps the difficulty is in the term “flipped” since it implies simply switching something pre-existing?  Perhaps Digitally Distilled is more fitting?  I have been accused of saying in two words what could have been said in one however. 🙂

A Room With Two Doors

Posted: January 3, 2011 in Uncategorized

In my new role as a Computer Resource Teacher, I’ve had many “aha!” moments as I travel from school-to-school.  Not unlike others who have ventured into a leadership position, I had (and continue to have) a vision of how I may influence those I work with.  As one of my passions is the creation of a seamless 1 to 1 environment with the use of Personal Electronic Devices, I have made it my personal goal to try and introduce as many educators and students to the wonders of this type of learning environment.

Perhaps it was my newbie enthusiasm that blinded me to how monumental a task this actually would become.  My excitement combined with the success I experienced implementing this environment in my own classroom seemed to skew my expectations and had me overlook the most obvious hurdle…that being, perspective!

You see, after entering the school and delivering the most passionate and articulate argument that I could muster in favour of this type of learning environment, instead of being met with the standing ovation that I always envision (fantasize about), I’m almost always met with the following question…”So how do you make sure that kids aren’t misusing them?”

At first I was puzzled by this.  I couldn’t understand how after hearing my incredible, heart-felt monologue, how anyone could ask such a question.  After a while however, I realized that I was clearly missing the mark.  I decided to reflect upon why this was happening and after a careful deconstruction of my own classroom practice and consulting with various members of my professional learning network, I’ve now come up with an equally convoluted yet (I believe) effective analogy of how we should begin to understand classroom management in a web-based, 1 to 1 environment.  Enter, the Room With Two Doors (pun fully intended).  Please forgive the many generalizations I’m about to make and for the tongue-in-cheek approach.

We have traditionally treated classroom management (behaviour management) through the implementation of choice limitation.  For example, if we eliminate all other choices within a classroom environment, students will have no choice but to pay attention to (and learn) only the things that we allow them to.  Hence, students essentially enter a classroom with one door and we become the gate keeper.  Only the information that we deem relevant (and of course safe) may pass through the door and into our students’ conscience.  Yet our students are fully aware that there are some incredibly exciting (and yes of course dangerous) opportunities that exist outside that door and they yearn to access them and participate.  However, our guard skills are excellent and there is no chance that this will happen under our watch!  Yet, the clever few find very creative ways of reaching those taboos and they utilize them in very creative (and yes sometimes harmful) ways.  These rogue offenders are dealt with swiftly and harshly so that they never consider attempting such insolence again (let alone infecting the others in the classroom with their subversive behaviours).

This approach was easy to maintain back when information management was as simple as limiting the books that were used in the classroom since this was usually the main source of information available to students.  Given the fact that the internet has made information available to everyone at any time, using a choice limiting approach in the classroom has become an exercise in futility.  It’s therefore time we started viewing our classrooms as Rooms With Two Doors (at least to start).  Of course, the first door will still be there for us to watch over.  However it represents less our responsibility to censor and more our responsibility to guide our students through the learning experiences and sound instructional practice that we allow into our learning environments.  Then there is the other door, this is the door that students will stand at and see all of the wonder (and danger) that is out there for them!  We could try to guard this door as well but we would become exhausted running back and forth between the two.  Inevitably, we would fail.  Instead we could try the following approach.  We could educate our students about what exists beyond those doors and how they could leverage them to enhance their learning and ultimately their lives.  We could then slowly start to allow some of those previously taboo resources and subjects into our classrooms so that students now have first-hand experience managing them.  And perhaps we could begin to trust that the skills we’ve instilled in our students will serve them well when we are not there with them.  And imagine for a moment that we are able to reach a point where we have created an environment with so much trust that we allow students to stand at that door and select for themselves the experiences that they bring into the classroom and share with us.  Will they make mistakes?  I hope so, since this is truly the best way to learn.  Sometimes there will be natural consequences for those errors but there will also be learning opportunities which we can either embrace or choose to ignore.

What we have essentially created is a classroom with no doors.  In fact it is a classroom with no walls either and it should be the only goal in mind when considering how to effectively integrate technology into the classroom.  Anything less than this is a disservice to our students.

So when the question of  “How do you know students aren’t misusing them” comes up, I’m now aware that there is a great deal of scaffolding that needs to occur in order for that person to share my vision because the answer is quite simply…”If you’re using them effectively for learning, the concept of misuse doesn’t really exist.”

There you go…clear as mud!