November 10, 2010

Back in September, a Jeff Hurt blog shared a Dan Pink concept of “Flip Thinking” that caught my attention.

As background, Karl Fisch, a high-school math teacher has flipped the traditional classroom model for education.  He uses YouTube to record his lectures and assigns them as homework to his students.  The classroom is reserved for interaction and student engagement as they participate in activities, exercises, questions and discussions that stem from watching YouTube video.

What an innovative thought!  Students listen on their own as after all, listening is indeed an individual activity and this medium allows each to replay portions they did not catch or understand, spending as much time as they want or is necessary to grasp the concept and message.  This reserves the classroom for activities, exercises, questions and discussions, all facilitated by the teacher.  To me, this seems a lot smarter than expecting parents to assist with homework when, at best, they are at least a generation removed from the latest thinking or body of knowledge on any given topic!

I had a “Eureka” moment when Hurt then moved on to postulate we consider flipping the conference education model as well.    The standard lecture presentation is available online pre-conference to registered attendees.  They listen, try out concepts, and come to the conference with questions, best practices and examples of how they applied the concept.  The on-site session, like the flipped classroom, is facilitated by the presenter and becomes an interactive and engaging experience for all attendees.

For six weeks now, I have continued to ruminate on the possibilities and have jumped from the conference setting to a corporate meeting, as I envision a world in which CEO shares his vision, state of the company, needed outcomes, or whatever his message for the meeting might be via the intranet prior to the meeting, leaving time for the audience to react, ruminate, and raise questions.  All of this could then be gathered pre-meeting as basis for the at-meeting conversations and dialogues .  This also allows the standard general session expense to be put to better use in interactive experiences that involve and engage the audience to create a more meaningful experience. 

And along the way, I continue to come back to the education experience envisioning a world where bureaucracy no longer rules and it would be easy to implement without jumping the hurdles of “that is not the way it is done”.

So what a surprise when I read in the Strib on Tuesday that the U of M College of Liberal Arts – forced by budget cuts- has been brainstorming possible changes in curriculum, organization, schedules and….a variation on the theme above as they thought “What if graduate students gave the lectures and the faculty met in small groups with the students?”  Once I got past long-ago personal experiences of hard-to-understand student teachers with English as a second language, and a knee-jerk reaction to additional time commitments, I realized this is exactly the kind of innovative application Hurt held up in the Fisch Flip. 

Perhaps these thoughts are all seeds of the 21st century Learning Revolution we are striving for!  We may not have the solution nailed yet, but good people are having good thoughts as they search for a better way.  Stay tuned on this one.


  1. Interesting concept but obviously a major hurdle for the legal and communications departments to allow executives to give talks that would be taped and posted on YouTube for all time. I see the editing and out of context fear now….

    • Of course it is not meant for You Tube – that would be more worrisome than open use of twitter and blogs at a corporate meeting in terms of confidentiality. But your reaction is a red flag; we need to n clearly define what we mean so we are not misunderstood, so thanx, Lisa Marie for the comment!

      Use of secure intranet sites within a corporation might be feasible – the real point is that as planners it is our responsibility to understand how learning takes place and to explore ways to get this exhorbitant expense of one way communication in a general session under control since 30 days after the address, a maximum of only 10 % of what was said is retained (pretty poor return on investment by ANY measurement standard).

      A long way to go on this of course, to make it applicable for corporate world in general , but there is not a public / association conference that should not be sitting up and taking note for applications to make their educational sessions worthwhile.

      As a seed of an idea, I have hope that someone looking at it from a different angle will see a positive way to inmprove upon it and get to the crux of the matter – so that we can stop doing what is proven to be ineffective.

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