Last week, USA Today ran the story ‘Flipped’ Classrooms Take Advantage of Technology, describing a new approach to learning in some US high schools. Instead of teachers lecturing in class and assigning homework, teachers digitally record class lessons for students to listen to on their own time. Classroom time is then spent working through their homework problems. Greg Toppo writes,
“Pressed for time and struggling to reach a generation raised on YouTube, [the teacher]… digitally records her lessons with a tablet computer as a virtual blackboard, then uploads them to iTunes and assigns them as homework. In class the following day, she helps students work out exercises and work out knotty questions.” (see link at the bottom for the full article).
Although there are critics to this approach, proponents argue that flipped classrooms provide more face time with students, encourages more collaboration, lessens stress, and is more productive. Interestingly, I have seen a trend in company meetings that are similar to this classroom approach.
Think about this: how many meetings have you sat through where you have felt lectured to? Or, if you were lucky, it was a virtual meeting and you could multi-task while someone droned on and on. Even if the entire meeting wasn’t spent listening to someone dispensing information, a portion of it probably was. A best practice I have observed is to follow a format similar to the ‘flipped’ classroom. Information can be distributed beforehand so that the actual meeting time is spent collaborating, developing ideas, or working through issues.
One word of caution: stay away from email and PowerPoint. Blasting paragraphs of text in an email or simply sending a slide deck with enough slides to ensure deforestation of the Amazon if printed is not the answer. If you go down this path you will usually find that people don’t read their email if it is more than a few lines. Instead, get creative. I’ve seen some managers starting to use video. You can record your thoughts via a webcam or at least narrate your presentation and send it to participants. Keep it to about 5 – 10 minutes in total duration so you don’t exceed anyone’s attention span. Other suggestions are to leverage internal blogs or wikis. Make sure participants know this is a requirement before attending the meeting. Don’t be afraid to be firm cancel or reschedule the meeting if you still find people are not doing their ‘homework.’
Got an idea or best practice on how to run a virtual meeting more efficiently? Let me know!
Toppo, Greg. ‘Flipped’ Classrooms Take Advantage of Technology , USA Today, October 7, 2011: