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What can we do? - an open letter to teachers - promoting the flipped learning

As Sir Ken Robinson ended his talk with Benjamin Franklin's quote , "There are three sorts of people in the world: Those who are immovable, people who don't get, they don't want to get it, they're going to do anything about it. There are people who are movable, people who see the need for change and are prepared to listen to it. And there are people who move, people who make things happen."

Lets be the type of people who move. Instead of questioning "why has the education system not changed yet?" or " why didn't the government take any initiative to change?" , I believe we should act within our circle of influence. It is the question of "What can we do about it?" What can we do about our education system? How can we improve it as students, teachers or parents.

As a student myself, I've been working on promoting the flipped learning , as I believe it is one of the first steps in progressing ourselves for change. Here is an open letter to teachers out there,

and do visit my blog as well:

"Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself." as mentioned by John Dewey , one of the figures in Progressive Education Movement in the late 19th century.

Perhaps we too , can be one of those "movable people" .Perhaps there shall be a Digital Age of Progressive Education Movement. It all begins with one simple question , "what can we do?"

I would love to see your opinions :)

update (5.6.13) :

Closing Statement from Faizul Zuraimi

Thank you all to those who participated in this conversation and those who took the time to read and visit my blog. I've learned a lot from dialogues with you guys , the TED community, and I'm really glad that some of you sent me emails , articles and ebooks to help me in this cause. This is the first time I ever hosted a conversation on TED. Your comments and support are my inspiration and I'm looking forward to host another conversation in the near future, perhaps when I'm done with my exams. :)


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    Jun 11 2013: When I explained that it is a creative outlet that ALSO reinforces his lessons, he said "They used to use that class time to ACTUALLY learn my lessons"

    But my students used to interrupt me during lunchtime to proudly show me the work they did and showed absolute pride when I posted it in the hallway. (not allowed to post in classroom as it gives too many answers during tests, and too much trouble to turn the poster around for the duration of the test). They did much of their own work in their spare time as i refused to give art homework. They did it unsolicited and made up their own ideas on what to draw.

    I quit teaching there. I got a better paying job. I visited the school the next year. not one single piece of art was displayed.

    My dream for the future of education: A video game. an addictive one like Age of heroes or WOW (obviously with more appropriate themes) it should give quests and in order to complete them, you have to interract with with the game characters who give the presentation of the lesson. to complete your quest, you have prove mastery over the concept taught. This game should also be able to test your weakpoints and fill in the "swiss cheese" holes. This can be done with math, science, grammar, history, geography and get the basics out of the way and show the progress to the teacher who can mark stopping points for important complementary real world work such as experiments. This leaves the bulk of your school time for real discussion, critical thinking, art, dance, music, drama, social skills, life skills, and sports.

    Just putting the suggestion out there since I can't program. wink wink.
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      Jun 11 2013: When you said your students interrupted you during lunchtime and showed you their work , it really shows that your methodology worked, it seems that your students were engaged in their learning and they really enjoyed what they were doing - which i think how learning is suppose to be . To me , learning really is like a video game. Before i went for college , i took 9 months break and i spent most of my time learning new thing by taking courses , online courses and reading books, and i realized that it feels different than "learning" in school. While i was at a toastmaster meeting to hone my public speaking skills , someone told me about sir ken robinson and ted , and that's when i felt like i've found an answer and was really convinced that the education system is flawed. To further my knowledge on this , i read ken robinson's book the element and out of our minds , the more i read , the more convinced i am , which compelled me to start make school assembly presentations,start a blog and write the open letter.

      I wish there are more people like you , and i believe we can find more people like you if we just search. Since i'm still in the education myself , i really want to see change in education , and i think it is achievable because we are lucky enough to have such a powerful tool on our fingertip - the internet.
  • May 25 2013: I've been experimenting with the flipped classroom concept in teaching my logic and critical thinking classes. It is more effective. No one should expect it to work miracles but it does work. There is pushback however from both administrators and students. It doesn't fit with their expectations of how teaching is supposed to work and there are complaints about it.
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      May 26 2013: I admire your initiative in flipping your classroom and I'm pretty sure your students as well as the school administrators start to appreciate your work when the desired outcome is met! I'm really looking forward to see my own teachers start flipping their classes as well! Thanks for sharing :)
  • May 13 2013: Not yet as video Faizul. But some time ago, I used to do a summer programme at the Birla Planetarium. We did
    + -- x / for kindergarten for about 20 to 30 children. Then for older children I dramatized Geography and combined them into lessons like The Solar System, Currents Tides and Waves and Oceans and Seas with the Continents and Flora and Fauna of Coastlines and Trade Routes.
    Unfortunately, I lost all the scripts. But that's another story.
    Thank you for so promptly visiting our site.
    Would you email your observations to or, so I could share them with my colleagues? I don't know how to transfer our dialogue from TED to them. I would much appreciate it.
    Bye for now.
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      May 13 2013: I've sent you an email . I'm looking forward for your reply :)
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        May 17 2013: what is your email address? my email is I'll send you some ebooks by email to get you started. you can also visit and see the youtube account to see how to work with other students over the internet
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          May 17 2013: Hi Steve , here's my email address , . Thanks a lot for sharing , i think it's really useful to support the flipped learning. And thanks also for your initiative , i really appreciate that
  • May 12 2013: Hi Faizul
    I am from Chennai India. Wonderful to find like minded people. Please visit our website
    It is an uphill task convincing people to actually DO things differently in education. Oh yes, it's a great idea to teach through theatre, but ........when it comes to funding. We don't go anywhere near our government as we would be tied up in knots. Huge work to do in India. It is a complex situation to put it simply! Our numbers are our challenge.
    Ken Robinson is my inspiration. What a sense of humour!
    Great to meet you.
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      May 13 2013: Hi Yamuna,
      I've just visited the website and found out you are the creative director of the company. The pleasure is mine to meet you. I really admire how you combine theatre and internet in an innovative way. Just out of curiosity , do you have any videos for one of the math or science lessons? I'm curious to know how it operate.
  • May 12 2013: The key to good education is good teachers. In the USA, we do not have enough good teachers because they do not get paid enough, and cannot achieve sufficient status, to attract enough good people.

    One of the most harmful memes in the USA is that the truly competent achieve and the less competent teach.

    There are many problems with education in the USA, and most of those problems are being addressed by education leaders. The elephant in the room is our culture. We undervalues teachers. We expect them to be babysitters, and after a few years of frustration many of them assume that role We give them far too much clerical work and expect them to "help out" with extracurricular activities, often without pay.. We expect them to deal with severe discipline cases that should be quickly identified and managed outside of the classroom. All of these problems will fade away when we start to value teaching and teachers as much as we value professional athletes and entertainers. Every parent and grandparent in the USA should be cutting back on their entertainment budget and voting to increase spending on teacher salaries.

    Another aspect of the problem is economics. We fund schools locally, so that the richer neighborhoods have lots of money for education while the poor neighborhoods have little. As long as we continue the current trend of the rich getting richer while the rest decline, the vast majority of schools will remain underfunded.
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      May 12 2013: Yeah , no doubt that teachers play a very big role in our society , they have a very important job. I think Bill Gates did address that problem through his talk here.

      I guess what teachers need is a good feedback system
    • May 13 2013: there are many great teachers in the USA who know how to teach very well. the problem is they're not allowed to do that. psychologists dictate classroom management, school boards dictate the curriculum, education departments dictate teaching methods, and principals judge teachers based on all of those. of course education is going to be bad when you've got the entire thing in the hands of people who don't teach and never have, with the exception of the principals who no longer teach. it doesn't matter how much you pay teachers if you're going to let people with 0 experience tell them how to do their jobs under threat of dismissal.
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        May 13 2013: I understand that teachers should and they do know best because they are the ones who are doing the job. I think what teachers need is more autonomy, because I believe we should trust them for they know what they are doing. What Bill Gates suggested was that they should record a video of themselves teaching and use the video as the feedback for themselves. But I think problem is that not all of us are comfortable being recorded on a video.
        • May 13 2013: how would a video help? teachers can see the students' faces and what they are doing, and they can see how the students are responding and improving in the work they submit. if we really want good education we have to get rid of the external testing and inspectors. employers only hire good people and colleges only accept good well-rounded students, so if a school is getting a lot of kids into jobs and courses, then whatever they're doing must be good teaching. all the regulation needed is to make sure nobody is cheating.
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          May 13 2013: I think Ben is right here that videos do not capture what is happening as well as eyes can, particularly if the video is aimed at the teacher. The teacher is watching and listening to the students' response and moving around the room.
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        May 13 2013: Good point , indeed videos do not capture the moment as well as our eyes can, but I think it enables the teacher to review what happened from a different perspective , from a 3rd person view of themselves. There might be something that they didn't notice in class. Like how it is shown here from 5:33 . I think this is only effective if the teacher prefers this method. Of course there are many other methods in getting some feedbacks, the video-based is just one of it. What matters is how effective the feedback is to the teacher.
        • May 13 2013: i suppose you're right there, there could be something you'd catch with video. you'd also have to content with the observer bias though, because students behave differently when they're on camera.
      • May 13 2013: Ben, I agree with most of your points. Teaching should be left to good teachers.

        However, the current situation, that you describe very well, came about because many of our schools were failing; in some cases giving diplomas to people who could not read.

        Many people who would make very good teachers do not even consider getting into teaching because they can make much more money in other fields. I think our society needs to change that.
        • May 14 2013: it was a political failure, not an educational one. what are teachers supposed to do when they are denied what they need to make good graduates, then blamed for the failures and told to pass them anyway so the regional education dept bureaucrat doesn't lose his job? they weren't handing out diplomas because they thought it was a good idea, they were doing it because they had to. a similar thing has been happening here in japan actually, most universities are run privately so if anyone fails to graduate they look bad and have a hard time attracting students, so everyone graduates and it makes degrees close to worthless. what they do is if anyone fails, they get an opportunity to take a make-up test which always counts for enough marks to get them through.
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    Jun 11 2013: Systems are to be put in place to help research and learning; but we should be careful of the entitlement mentality that is so 21st century.

    In the end, education is mainly a personal responsibility.
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      Jun 11 2013: Yeap , couldn't agree more. Education is indeed personal and the education system seems to suggest otherwise by having to much emphasis on conformity, rather than diversity. And as a student , being in the information age where there is too much information, i think it's more useful when the teachers guide us as mentors to apply the knowledge we acquire , enhance our thinking skills and make good decisions. Still , it is the fault of the system , not the teachers. But i do have high hopes that this cam be changed
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      Jun 11 2013: That reminds me of the quote:

      "The only time my education was interrupted, was to go to school".

      Life gives us an education, it is up to us to learn or to turn a blind eye.
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        Jun 11 2013: Yeah , good point. If i'm not mistaken mark twain quoted that. :) in the end , as mentioned by feyisayo, it is mainly a personal responsibility
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          Jun 11 2013: Actually, noone really knows who said it originally. That is why I did not put a name next to the quote Faizul....I personally thought it was George Bernard Shaw :)

          I applaud your fine efforts in getting young people educated.
          You have had some wonderful contributions to your conversation, and much exchange of ideas, and sites.

          Thank you for hosting it.

          Be Well,
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    Jun 11 2013: Hi, I'd like to share my experience of teaching in Tamil Nadu, India. I used to teach english at a regular school where the entire school year is spent in this order: Assign reading of the story, then in class, the teacher narrates the story. No interruptions allowed. then, the students are given the questions AND answers to be copied 2 or 3 times and memorized. interspersed with the Q&A are grammar exercises which also have a limited number of possibilities, so that means you only memorize, not learn. Everyday, you also get vocabulary words which you copy x number of Times, no need to show competency by making up sentences using the words. the sentences are given to you to memorize.

    YES! I am talking about this century! it was in 2009!

    Well I decided to ask the students to write their own answers....The parents boght the published guide and made them write it down....4 times. When all the answers came back the same as everybody else's, I wrote aross the page "WE DO NOT COPY". The parents complained and I was forced to comply.

    So, I did that in the english classes, but I also taught art and library. In art, the students are each issued a book where one page has a picture and the opposite side is blank so that you can copy the picture (or for younger students, the outline is there, so you can copy the colors). One period each week is given for library during which the students who missed can be commandeered to do their make up work.

    I told my art students to take the books home and color it if they get bored. Then we used class time to make story boards to post on the walls. We also made Charts and graphs that went along with the lessons on other subjects. The other teachers complained that I would not give up my students to do make up work. I fought hard and got to keep my students in their art class... which was reduced to two days per week per child......

    When I showed the Science teacher a poster made for biology, he said "why are you doing all this"
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      Jun 11 2013: Manishka, as an elementary teacher myself, I applaud your professionalism and your endeavor to educate children.

      What an incredible experience you have had. I am sure it has taught you quite a bit.

      May I share a quote with you:

      "Few things are harder to put up with than the constant reminder of a good example"

      And Manishka, what a good example you were to the students, parents, and fellow educators!!
  • Jun 10 2013: some teachers are doing something about it. We make changes and developments every year to enhance our provision of an insopirational creative environment.. We encourage children to think and express themselves in their individual style. we believe in creativity, fun, relevance, sharing thinking and learning. we encourage children to find and use their voice. we believe education is a partnership, we learn from eachother.
    in reference to the videoes of TED talks you have listed:-
    we do not dwell in death valley.
    we are not a failing school
    we use video, the children make their own. we use drama, music, play, investigation, problem-solving and link different intelligences within an activity, ie music and dance to practise questioning skills or concentration in PE skills, scenarios for communication and listening skills, questioning and communication to discover electric circuits.
    Our children that teach themselves and eachother and us. we evaluate teaching together too.
    our children take charge, plan the term each term. they also plan a sequence of lessons and theire activities within lessons.
    When we were last inspected, we were rated outstanding.
    It took a while for the team to understand the methodology behind the teaching and learning, but i pinned them down and didnt let them go til they got it.
    take risks
    believe in yourself.
    If they are all on task, all having fun, all talking about their thinking and learning, and go out at playtime talking about it, thats agood sign. if they remember it a year on, and want to do more of it, then i think your winning!
    ask the children. theyll tell you honestly how your teaching rates. They know.
    I am looking hard for anyone who has ideas for thinking and learning throught roleplay and scenarios. So far, ive made up my own and others ive seen in the business world such as hospital or disaster contingency planning role play so staff experience what a real situation may be like. Ideas please?
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      Jun 11 2013: It's great to know some teachers are doing something about it(those who move) , but still , not many people do . For example , in my case here in Malaysia , the Malaysian education system is centered on memorization rather than mindfulness , besides too much emphasis on exams. On top of that , they don't teach us any thinking skills , i learned critical thinking by myself through coursera. however, I think the good news is that i think many people share the same sentiment on the education system(the movable) , and that's why i'm doing my part as a student , hoping to get more people to take action. I'm sure your students are lucky to have teachers like you , and I'm sure we can have more teachers to do the same thing as you are doing , creating an ideal environment for learning,not cramming information in for exams.
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      Jun 11 2013: Rachel, many teachers who participate in TED Conversations note that popular assumptions about what goes on in classrooms are often not correct. Your experience that many classrooms do not fit the commonly assumed mold is the same observation I have made.
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      Jun 11 2013: Rachel....where do you teach? I'm moving there and asking for a job!! ;)

      I think that visiting the different teacher blogs is a great resource to begin looking for ideas.
      You can search through them by grade levels.
      Have you tried that?
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    Jun 5 2013: i've updated my blog here ! pls do take a look :)
  • May 19 2013: For me, the book with the answer was written about Seven years ago, "A Thomas Jefferson Education", by Oliver DeMille. In my opinion, Sir Ken, who ably defines the problem, for the third time at TED now, has finally arrive at a place Mr. DeMille arrived at approximately in the year 2000. You ought to read the book and learn what has happened since then! I hope the movement continues to grow. The idea has accomplished SO much since it began!
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      May 20 2013: Thanks for sharing! I'll be sure to look it up when my exams are over! :)
  • May 18 2013: What an coincidence,I am trying to use technology to motivate flipped learning:teachers,students can all join in together to make their ideas with technology in one or more minutes to spread around.more or less like ted,but not talk as much as ted does,more than pics,music and design idea,words know it is better as many as people can join in together.the more people the more vivid and colorful...

    I just try to spread the idea around my place,didn't have further action about it.Could you guys share with me yours?I do appreciate a lot:).
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      May 18 2013: Wow , you know , it really feels great to meet someone who wants to do the same thing! I've learned a lot on how to bring the idea of flipped learning forward after receiving emails from helpful people in this TED community. If you have read the open letter i posted , I'd made presentations on MOOCS and Khan Academy to give a hint on the flipped learning. All I wish for now is an opportunity to make a presentation on the flipped learning, without appear as if I'm trying to act like a person who knows everything. As for now, I'm spreading the idea on a Malaysian forum , hoping that more Malaysians will agree with the idea of flipped learning :)
      • May 19 2013: Lol,yes,How happy to meet you guys doing the same thing in teaching:)I watched Bill Gates's talks in TED.I being a teacher,doing the same idea he mentioned.
        That's pity I can't open your blog website.lots of abroad websites I can't access.Khan Academy website is extremely slow for me to access.
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          May 19 2013: Wow , so do you find his idea effective? :D oh , that's unfortunate . But perhaps you can visit it when you travel overseas :) . Btw , feel free to share your experience and some interesting ideas on teaching if you like. I'm interested to know!
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    May 17 2013: nice idea Faizul. I have 4 GB of videos and ebooks that I can send you . Send me your postal address and I'll send you the DVD. you can also download many items from and lots there to support the flipped classroom
    • May 18 2013: Hi Dear Steve Tla MacRae,Could you share some with me?:)Thanks,I will write email to u.
    • May 19 2013: Thanks Dear Steve Tla MacRae,I got your email information.I do appreciate what you shared with me.Thanks again.:)
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    May 12 2013: To be honest :
    Make it easier for people to go into a state of "flow" (and rely more on intrinsic motivation), whether that it is in a group, or just by themselves.
    Don't put too much emphasis on failure, rather than on succeeding and the "willpower" to not give up.
    As Thomas A. Edison said : "I Have Not Failed. I Have Just Found 10,000 Things That Do Not Work."
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      May 13 2013: Yeap , the intrinsic motivators ; mastery,autonomy and purpose as pointed by dan pink on his talk on puzzles of motivation , which is very important when it comes to creativity . And we certainly need a culture that don't emphasis too much on mistakes. I believe we should measure intelligence by its top achievement , not by the number of mistakes made
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        May 13 2013: I mean there are many other things you could do. Like acknowledge people's hard work, and their effort.
        Here are my seven main (which I like to call the seven deadly sins of our current education system) criticisms of the current education system. Not sure how useful this will be.
        1. It encourages a culture of extroversion, while the benefits of introversion are ignored.
        As Susan Cain said : “There's zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.”
        2. It doesn't encourage a good work ethic of admitting mistakes, and puts merits of the individuals "natural" ability; rather than putting the merits on the individuals hard-work.
        3. There is no "moral guidance", people are expected to find their own moral code. To paraphrase Alain De Botton : "If you went to a university seeking guidance, you would be rejected very quickly"
        4. There is a "stereotype threat" (of categorizing in "sets") which reduce performance, and motivation. Along with this there is a set view of "intelligence", which in my opinion is slight out-dated, and doesn't take into account the concept of "late bloomers".
        5. It is built upon a false view of happiness, which views that once you get a job and get lots of money, only then will you be "happy". And to quote Sir Ken Robinson : "It trains you to be a university lecturer". Considering this point, having a degree isn't (i'v heard) as highly rated as it once was!
        6. It doesn't take into account the fact of "intrinsic motivation" and makes it very hard for people to go into a sense of "flow". So that many don't study, for the sake of knowledge, yet do it for that "external reward".
        7. Finally, our current education system doesn't encourage original thought (lateral thinking), or creativity. It encourages "road-block" learning, and relies quite a lot on the basis of "memory
        A perfect education system would have none of these faults.
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          May 14 2013: I agree with your points , especially with point no.2 with the work ethic of admitting mistakes. This could lead to some serious problems , like publication bias.In the medical field, the development of lorcainide was abandoned for commercial reasons, and this study was never published; it's now a good example of publication bias. That's the technical term for the phenomenon where unflattering data gets lost, gets unpublished, is left missing in action, and they say the results described here "might have provided an early warning of trouble ahead." Perhaps we need an education system that allows students to make and learn from mistakes.

          Indeed , most people study for external reward, rather than appreciating the intrinsic values of learning itself. Incentives or giving good grades might encourage students to work hard for good grades , but unfortunately it narrows down their focus as pointed out by Daniel Pink on his talk on "The puzzles of motivation". And one thing about standardised test is that people have high tendency to study just for the grades, and forget everything after the exam, which is , in the end , a total waste of time. Exams are necessary , but should not be the dominant culture. I think we should emulate Finland's education system

          I think it is true that there's zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best. ideas. But unfortunately , not just in education , sometimes people with the best idea don't dare to speak out , or their opinions don't get enough attention. So what changes do you think can be done so as to encourage the introverts to say out their ideas?
    • May 13 2013: but thanks to well-meaning but misguided psychologists, teachers now have to call those 10,000 failures "great job", so that students' self-esteem is not damaged. what they fail to realise is that self-esteem is the natural result of reaching the goal of doing something well, and not a goal in itself.
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        May 13 2013: perhaps they should give the students some constructive criticisms,a real feedback and give them some perpectives rather than simply tell them "great job" for every mistakes they make.
        • May 13 2013: that would make sense yes but they're not allowed to. no winners because that means there are losers so everyone must get a medal. also having nothing but constructive criticism available to be used doesn't cut it, it doesn't work for everyone in every case.
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        May 13 2013: I guess there can be many approach to it, and choose the one which has the pros that outweights the cons. In your opinion , what should be done?
        • May 13 2013: get all non-teachers out of the system. parents to work with teachers rather than ordering them how to treat their kids, psychologists to make suggestions but not policies, school boards to work on extra-curricular and administrative areas only and stay out of curriculum and classroom management, and education department to ask teachers what they need to do a good job and work to fulfill those requests.

          universities accept the best and most well-balanced students, and employers too, so university entrances and job placement is the best feedback we're going to get. if the teachers at a school have been able to prepare their students so well that many are getting into jobs and courses, then they must be doing a good job no matter how they are doing it. the worst thing that can happen is you get some bureaucrat judging a teacher bad because that's not how they think teaching should be done, ending a program that was actually working well. the only oversight that's needed is to make sure nobody is cheating, like forming deals to get kids accepted etc.

          it would help for education departments to have symposia rather than dictate policies, where teachers gather from around the country and present experiments they've tried with teaching methods. the teachers can them take some of those ideas back home with them where they may or may not work since every idea doesn't work equally well in every place.
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        May 13 2013: That's true. I agree especially with the part "psychologists to make suggestions but not policies"

        Leadership in education should not be command and control , but creating a climate of possibilities. Teachers will and should be more accountable. And I think flipped learning does support this as well. It empowers the role of a teacher from rote-lecturing to giving perspectives, and mentor the students. It also make the students acquire the ownership of their education , for i believe that we need students who are curious , creative and lifelong self-learners. As the saying goes , "give a man a fish , you'll feed him for a day. Teach the man how to fish,you will feed him for a lifetime".

        I've put in some of the links on flipped learning on my blog here . It earliest work was done by eric mazur of harvard who is an educator himself . What is your opinion abt it?
        • May 13 2013: i agree very strongly about "climate of possibilities", for teachers to enable students to find their possibilities.

          who should teachers be accountable to? is there anyone in existence who knows how to judge a teacher besides another teacher? and who's to say that that teacher's methods are better? different methods work on different groups, and we don't really know the outcome until students get into a job or college course.

          remember that teachers only do rote learning because they have to, so that students can do well on standardised tests and their funding isn't cut.

          teach the man to fish and he'll become dependent on your teaching. take the man to somewhere he'll likely work out how to fish! ...then get fired for doing so because that's not in the curriculum as dictated by the education department and the parents objected, sigh...
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        May 14 2013: in the flipped learning , rote learning is shifted outside of the classroom. The idea is that teachers broadcast their lectures through videos like the one in here .

        It is evident that it turns out to be very effective for many reasons. Amongst them are;
        1. It improves the student-teacher time ratio , as the teachers get to spend more time with the struggling students. The ratio is also augmented by peer tutoring.There will also be more differentiation in class.
        2. Many times, when students don't get what the teacher is teaching , they are too shy to ask for clarifications , or sometimes, " the class have to move on. ". The one-pace fits all model is obsolete , given how competitive the world is getting now.
        3. Two words: critical thinking.It encourages high-order thinking, students get to see things from many different nuanced perspective and this will enhance their critical thinking.

        Here is a good video on the flipped learning.

        "to somewhere he'll likely work out how to fish!... then get fired for doing so". That's a good point , this is the reason why teachers play such an important role, which is to lead the students in the right direction at the same time trying to stimulate their creativity , which I think is necessary knowing the global challenges we face and will face in the future. So the question is how? Perhaps , the teachers can spend more time on doing past year questions in class, with rote lecturing being shifted out. Or maybe, students can do the exam-style questions , which is accompanied by some explanations in a form of video, like the ones in here , so as they don't deviate themselves from the curriculum dictated by the education department. It's the reason why I think the flipped learning is the best solution under the constraints of public education system.
        • May 15 2013: your points 1 and 3 i agree, but not 2. when you give students all the time they need, they never learn to get faster. if you understand something completely you don't need to think about it any more or spend effort working it out. the math faculty in my school is currently suffering from this problem actually. the students don't seem to completely grasp the concepts, so they add more study time and naturally the students get slower and slower. a better plan would be to introduce timed mental tests, where the questions are easy but the key is getting to the answers in time. also you have to help them get over being shy, rather than accepting it or they'll carry that problem all the way through their lives.

          also focusing on exam question means students get good at taking exams, but worse at the actual skills the exams are supposed to be testing as time is re-prioritized. you want students who are good at math (for example), not who are good at math tests. logically students who are good at math will also be able to pass tests.
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        May 15 2013: I think that is more to the question of motivation. People feel happy when they progress , and they are motivated by autonomy,mastery and purpose. I think the first thing we should acknowledge is that people have different learning pace, just because you are slow, doesn't mean you are smart and just because you fast, doesn't mean you are smart either. Mastery learning should be incorporated in school, by making full use of the technology. This is proven to be true when some students , who are labelled "slow" , or have "learning disabilities" , when they tried to understand some of the math concepts from Khan Academy , they turned out to be some of the top achievers. Why is it so? Because when we understand the concept thoroughly , everything that precedes it can be intuitive. It'll make sense rather than just memorising some formulas. And when students understand the concept, they have this sense of progress , they will certainly be able to score. Sal Khan did this in one of his summer programme as mentioned in his book if I remember.

        Indeed , we want students who are good at maths , not good at math tests. Unfortunately the problem is that the system don't seem to allow that, and we can't blame the students or teachers for being too exam-orientated. However, what can be done is encourage students to acquire the ownership of their education , in which one of the ways should be applying the flipped learning , which in my opinion is the best given the restrictions of the education system. In the end, it's up to the students. The best way is find the best method possible in encouraging the students to appreciate the intrinsic values of learning.
        • May 16 2013: i'm not saying understanding isn't important, i'm saying the way a person comes to understand is. do you come to understand something because you've worked it out, or because you've accepted what you've been told?

          also fast does mean you're smart. it doesn't mean you're good at everything though. i myself was always pretty quick to get science concepts, but useless at music. there's nothing wrong with being slow or bad at something.

          what do you mean when you say students should "acquire the ownership of their education"?
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        May 16 2013: What I meant by "acquire the ownership of their education" is that the students will become self-learners, in which students become responsible for their own education.. Very often that people stop learning after they have graduated , as a result of having an education system that is exam-based, where people learn to master how to answer the exam papers rather than the subject itself. The notion that education is a preparation for life is wrong, education is life itself , as John Dewey emphasised in his Progressive Education Movement.

        As Mark Twain quoted " I never let schooling interfere my education" , it really raise a question as to whether our education system is going to the right direction or not. Quite often we've seen successful people without formal education, or rather , formal schooling are self-educated. They learn by themselves. They are curious , self-learners and creative. 3 main traits which I believe the education system should be focusing on rather than getting good grades in exam. It's because life is more than just getting the grades, and since change is happening with no historical precedent, how different is the world going to be 10 or 20 years from now? The world is very ambiguous , that is why I believe that people "should acquire the ownership of their education".
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          May 16 2013: You are right that students need to stop focusing on performance on exams. It is a particular issue when a student perceives his whole future riding on one end-of-high-school exam, which is all too common a situation in many countries.
        • May 17 2013: why would students want to become self-learners, and what makes you think they will be able to educate themselves better than a professional educator? and is it enough to learn only what you are curious about?

          you picked a good example with mark twain. he made a lot of money from his writing, but blew it all and a lot of his wife's inheritance on bad investment decisions. he should've paid more attention in school! maybe then he'd have learned about things other than literature and writing and could've avoided bankruptcy.
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        May 17 2013: yeap , as Sir Ken Robinson mentioned , the dominant culture of education has come not to teaching and learning , but testing. Testing has its place ,but they should not be the dominant culture of education.
        • May 18 2013: it's not about tests or not, it's about what kind of test and how they are used. they can be done well or badly, and if sir ken had ever taught a year in his life, he'd probably realise that.
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        May 17 2013: I'm not saying that they will be able to educate themselves better than a professional educator, I believe professional educator plays a big role in the society , in fact , a much more important role than last time given the challenges we face. When learning stems from your own initative and action, learning becomes much more meaningful and relevant in your life. What a teacher or professional educator does is facilitate your learning. Unfortunately , the system doesn't allow that since our education system is dominated by standardised test. However, the best way , to my knowledge to work within the system is by applying the flipped learning , as I mentioned before.

        Is it enough to learn only what you are curious about? That's a good question . The answer is obviously no. It's not enough to learn only what you are interested about. That's why I believe that we all should have someone as a mentor to guide us,giving us advice to make good decisions, it can be our parents or anyone who is capable to be a mentor. If I have not made it clear yet, the key to self-directed learning is to truly flip traditional classroom learning on its head and create initiative and action on your own part to chase down learning , with the help of professional educators who facilitate the learning.
        • May 18 2013: you seem to be understanding quite well!

          i wonder if you could tell me why a parent would not make a good mentor?
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        May 18 2013: Thanks for your comment.

        It would be best to have a parent as a mentor because parents are more likely to give their 100% for their children. However , it really depends on the area of their expertise. On top of that, it is most likely that parents are busy spending their time on work and have no time to spend with their children.

        However , one of the best parts about flipped learning is that parents have direct access to the teacher's instruction when they watch the video lectures at home. Since it is most likely that parents can comprehend the material better than their kids, they can spend more time in teaching their children.
        • May 20 2013: true, but is that 100% as good as an actual teacher's 50%? remember parents only have no experience educating you, though they are your parent they'd never had someone like you before, so it's all new to them, whereas a teacher has had 100's a students from which they gain experience and can apply to new students. no matter what kind of student they get, there's a good chance that they've had similar experiences before.

          also a parent has precious little vocational experience variation. they might be a professional at 1 or 2 things, and have had even 4 or 5 jobs, but know nothing of what it means to do anything besides that. teachers on the other hand hear regularly from people in industry and university, as well as from graduates who've taken a huge variety of jobs, so while a parent would be a good mentor if you want to do the same job as them, for anything else you have much more chance of reaching your potential with a teacher.

          actually i'd say it's less likely a parent will be able to comprehend the material, unless it's introductory level or happens to be the subject the parent is a professional at. also remember it's a long time since they went to school and are very out of date. you probably understand things like science and history better than your parents already.

          thanks for you reply!
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        May 20 2013: yeah , true. That's why teachers play such an important role! But for example say the parent is good at making financial decisions , he/she can become a mentor for his/her children in that aspect. Yeap, I was referring to introductory level when it comes to comprehending the material. Children at a younger age usually need more guidance, and their parents are there to help them when they are at home.
        • May 20 2013: yeah very good point, a parent has experience in some things, and many things are worth learning even if they're not what you want to be in the future. just as long as they're supplementing a teacher, not attempting to replace them, which would be like replacing an encyclopedia with gray's anatomy; great book as long as you don't want to know anything other than medicine.
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        May 22 2013: yeap. And the notion that technology replace teachers is certainly wrong, it complements and empowers the role of the teachers. In many cases , learning isn't complete without the guidance of a mentor/teacher.
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    May 12 2013: Are your teachers the type you think are most likely to respond if you present a formal letter with signatures, or do you think your teachers, who I assume from your proposal are using class time for lecture, might respond better if a group of you were to come in with a proposal in a less formal way?

    There is a certain formality to a letter that I think might be unnecessarily off-putting.

    In my relationship with my students, I would much sooner expect more personal forms of contact that included exploring why the teacher has chosen the pedagogies she has for the classroom rather than simply presenting a demand.

    Are most of your teachers lecturing at you? I ask this because at the k12 schools where I have taught or coached, lecture is atypical, only a very occasional practice, with most time spent on group work and explorations. These were all ordinary public schools in the US.

    I think the picture of classrooms as lecture-lecture-lecture is something of an out-of-date caricature of the status quo in the US. In which country do you live?

    Please share how it looks at your school specifically in your various subjects.
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      May 12 2013: I presented the idea by formal means. I approached the principal and deputy principal in my school first, fortunately they are open-minded and the deputy principal agreed to present the idea to the teacher himself. I believe this is the most effective way, since he has the authority. However , I think it's more to the question of convincing the teachers to use the flipped learning , as many of them have doubts about it since it is very "alien". I live in Malaysia , and many schools here still use the traditional style of teaching , where teachers broadcast lectures in class. You can read for further details here .

      I study in a private college called Kolej Tuanku Jaafar , the class isn't that big , the student-teacher ratio is good , but I think what needs to be improved is student-teacher time ratio, through flipped learning. I also believe that there should be more collaborative work , more engagement and more interaction between the students and the teachers. Thanks a lot for inquiring :)
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        May 12 2013: Best of luck with your project. It sounds like your approaching the administrators has already met with very positive response!
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          May 13 2013: Thanks for your support :) i appreciate that
  • May 12 2013: Two words: Critical Thinking. The great documentarian Frederisk Wiseman produced 2 documentaries back in the late 1960s that are sadly overlooked. They are titled "High School" and "High School 2". I highly recommend that everyone see them. Not just people interested in education, but every single human being. At least the first one at a minimum. Wiseman profiled 2 different schools. In the first, he documented a school from a low income latino neighborhood which took a "radical" approach to education. Every class, every single one, every single grade, was taught centered around critical thinking. Teachers did not give dictation - they gave persuasive argument. They did not denounce challenges from the students out of a compulsive need to control, they addressed the challenges honestly.

    Critical thinking underlies all actual learning. Memorizing a fact is very difficult for humans, and very useless. Memorizing does not integrate concepts into a reinforcing framework, it simply hangs a piece of information unrelated in the mind - and it cannot last long with no mooring foundation. An idea taught through argument inherently becomes integrated. It sticks. It's fantastically invigorating, and unbelievably effective at accomplishing education. That low income school? They went on to have the highest college graduation rate (not just college attendance, but receipt of a degree) of any school in the country. The experimental school produced vibrant, engaged learners.

    The second documentary, High School 2, follows a "standard" school in an upper middle class neighborhood and shows how schools take enthusiastic, interested adolescents and grind them down to middle-aged lifeless accountants in the remarkably short span of a few years. It shows a school much like most schools where the students become disinterested in everything and learning dies. And since the 1990s we've layered prison-like control on top of that... and we wonder why some snap...
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      May 12 2013: I couldn't agree more that critical thinking is the skill that we all must acquire, especially in this Information Age. We should learn how to see things from nuanced different perspectives , evaluate as to whether the information presented is biased, and decide as to whether the it is credible.

      The flipped learning(the idea is not new) that I'm trying to promote supports critical thinking, as students get to see things from different perspective from their peers and their teachers . They will spend more time on high-order thinking , which as a result, will produce to students who are creative, lifelong learners, and curious. The best part is that it works within the constraints of the education system.

      Thanks for informing me about Frederisk Wiseman documentaries, I'll certainly look it up.