I Blame Johannes Gutenberg!Henry Schaffer | Professor Emeritus, North Carolina State University
I was having a good time lecturing to my classes, and they were paying careful attention and trying to write down every word I said. This was necessary if they hoped to learn the course content, as they couldn’t possibly afford to “buy” the book – i.e. to have a handwritten copy made for them.
Some time after that, this infernal printing press with moveable type made it possible for publishers to provide affordable books, and my students flocked to that solution. I had to adapt! Sometimes I read the book to them, and they would underline my sentences in their copies.
That way they emphasized what I knew was important.
But those cheeky students didn’t think I was adding much value, and so I would often read from a different book. Ha! I wouldn’t tell them which one, and so they would have to write down what I was saying.
Unfortunately, some of the brighter students would pore through the library collection and find the book I was using. With this book in hand, many of my students were stopping paying attention to me or even attending my lectures. Low attendance made it look as if I wasn’t earning my pay. I had to adapt again!
This is all because of Johannes Gutenberg!
Luckily, someone invented the Internet. I don’t think it was Johannes Gutenberg – but he probably shares the blame. Now I was able to write my own script and record my lectures and put them on the Internet using some “web” stuff – and the students could watch them on their own – taking notes or not, and I didn’t care. They could play the lectures over and over – and I could just relax in my office. This was easy for me, but there was a catch! While many of the students were able to master the course content this way – too many were not. To live up the educational outcome standards, I had to adapt!
Relaxing in my office was actually getting boring, and so I came up with a way to use that time in a more interesting way – I invited the students in my classes to come visit me, and to come in groups. After all, they really do enjoy their own peer company more than they enjoy my company – and we could then have group discussions and work sessions. If they had a question about a point in one of my excellent recorded lectures, they could ask what I really meant. Of course, remembering Socrates (that was a while before Johannes Gutenberg, so I can’t really blame him for this) I seldom answer, preferring to throw the question out for the rest of the visiting students to try to answer and explain the significance of what I had said. There has been some wonderful repartee among the students as they exchanged opinions, worked out problems on the blackboard, and I could be the referee and guide.
For some reason, the students seemed to learn more than they had before, and so I decided to keep this arrangement. But then other faculty heard about my strategy to get out of lecturing and took it as an indication of a mental breakdown. They said I had “flipped”!
I took this as a compliment, and have labeled this a “flipped class” – but really I do blame all of this on Johannes Gutenberg.
Author Perspective: Educator