The danger of not being there.

There’s been a lot of talk around about “flipped” classrooms. I’ve written about them a bunch, and I’m not here to re-hash any of that. The new “thing” has been people talking about “blended” classrooms- it’s a little like flipped, except not all the time. Or something.

Anyway, I’m seeing a rather large problem with all this.


If you aren’t in the room with the students (either physically or virtually), you can’t see or predict the engagement you’ll get from students. I don’t care how many years you have been teaching- some lessons that look great on paper fail in the classroom. There isn’t any rhyme or reason for it, it seems. It happens. When we see it happen in the classroom in front of us, we can adjust- throw out the lesson, change the tone or delivery, or otherwise modify what we’re doing to adapt to the conditions we’re being presented with. It’s what we do. But if we’re not there, and if we can’t see, then we have no way of doing any of these things. The lesson goes on at whatever pace, in whatever tone, with whatever activities were in place when we began. There’s no adjustment. There’s no adaptability. You’re locked in from before the start.

The analogy here is to the new(ish) driverless cars from Google. They’re capable of getting from place to place- merging, obeying traffic rules, and so on. In theory, all that should be capable with nothing more than GPS- after all, the car only really needs to know where it is and where it’s going. But that’s clearly not the case- road conditions, traffic, accidents, construction… all these factors mean that the cars need to have “eyes.” In this case, that means Lidar, cameras, and other sensors.

We can’t excuse ourselves from the classroom after locking in our lessons ahead of time- via video or otherwise. We must make our lessons, however (whenever) they are delivered responsive to the reactions of our students.