Sunday, September 1, 2013

Why Attend Class At All?: A Mini-paper on the article " Actually Going to Class, for a Specific Course? How 20th-Century"

“Nontraditional Education””, Blended Teaching/Learning”, “Flipped Classrooms”, are some of the names for a new way of teaching and learning that many schools, from elementary to higher education, are using these days.  This method is anything but the normal lecture/test model that’s been used for decades.  While there are many variations of this new model, the overarching theme is that lectures are done outside the classroom, either by watching a video of a previously recorded lecture or reading an article, handout or book before arriving in class.  Then, while in class, students work together on projects or discussions regarding what they saw or read.  The idea of flipping the classroom is to enhance the quality of teaching and learning by allowing active, cooperative, collaborative and problem-based learning to take place in and out of the classroom. 

“Why go to class at all?” is the question asked in the article “Actually Going to Class, for a Specific Course? How 20th-Century”.  While nontraditional classrooms allow students to get the information they need outside of class, it’s the second part of the process that makes this method of teaching successful.  The interactive, project based work prepares students for leadership in a fast-changing world, by teaching them to work alongside fellow students and experts to tackle complex challenges.   Just flipping a classroom so they lecture is done outside the classroom, only to take a test or turn in a paper within the classroom, is not the point.  This is the main reason I disagree with Dale Stephens statement, "there's not really much need for teachers anymore, since so much is online”.  Stephens’ idea of the Un-college, where students pay $100 per month for access to information and mentors takes this new teaching method in the wrong direction and misses the point entirely. 
The most valuable part of a student’s learning experience at college takes place outside the traditional classroom (The National Survey of Student Engagement, an annual study at Indiana University at Bloomington).  By “Flipping”, teachers bring the most valuable part of a student’s learning into the classroom.  Allowing teacher to help the students learn how to approach issues from all sides, work together as a team, and critically argue a point. All of those skills will help students develop strategies that will better serve them in today’s workplace much more than just taking a test or writing a paper.

Technology, globalization, politics, and other realities are reshaping our world and changing the role of education. Schools and universities must adapt, but not to the point that students never attend a class or interact with their peers. Teachers and students, together in classrooms, are vital to a good education and that is “why they should go to class”.  That being said, the quality of education a student gets will depend on what happens in that classroom.  Traditional teaching versus nontraditional can be the difference between a student truly learning the information and applying it to their career or life versus forgetting almost everything as soon as they get their passing grade.   
-Amy Crum

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