This new tool makes the flipped classroom more social

[One of the problems with Flipped Learning is engaging students in conversation before they come to class. Teachers need to know where students have confusion or a “need to know.” In this eSchoolNews article, Eric Mazur, professor of physics at Harvard, explains how he developed Perusall to gain insights into student learning to increase the effectiveness for class instruction. I’ve had an opportunity to work with Ananda Gunawardena when he was at Carnegie Mellon University and developed Classroom Salon as a Flipped Learning tool. While Classroom Salon, like Perusall were designed for higher education, they have the potential to work in K-12 as well. For a tool specifically designed to spark provocative thinking and activate student voice in K-12, take a look at the Australian product, Verso. ]

July 21st, 2016

Watching videos at home is a rather solitary affair. Can a new tool change that?


Flipping your class by having students watch lecture videos for their homework can lead to richer discussions about the content, but only if students come to class prepared. And having them watch a video lecture at home “simply takes a technique that didn’t work in person and puts in online,” said Harvard University physics professor Eric Mazur.

During the 2016 Building Learning Communities (BLC)conference organized by education thought leader Alan November, Mazur unveiled a free tool that he and a team of colleagues developed to solve this problem.

Called Perusall, it’s a social learning platform that will “essentially make sure every student is prepared for class,” Mazur said. It also makes sure teachers are prepared to address students’ key questions and areas of confusion—without creating more work for the instructor.

Mazur spent the first part of his opening keynote recalling how he realized long ago that teaching must be more than simply transferring knowledge.

Early in his career, he would spent countless hours before every class preparing lecture notes from a different textbook than students were using. He even found a textbook that was out of print, so there would be no danger that his students would own a copy—and therefore his notes wouldn’t mirror what they were reading. He also prepared copies of his lecture notes for students to take with them at the end of class, so they’d stay throughout his lecture first. But in describing this strategy, he noted: “Isn’t that already admitting there’s a problem?”

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