Succeeding With Reverse Instruction – One Instructor’s Inspired Approach

by Kelly Walsh on December 11, 2011

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The “CoreDogs” approach to Flipping the Classroom.

Last month we published this post, with the goal of attracting educators who would share their stories about how they’ve flipped the classroom. Kieran Mathieson, an Associate Professor at Oakland University who has developed an online site at CoreDogs.com where he publishes lessons, tools, a textbook and more, commented and shared his work. I was captivated by his observations and his passion about the subject. Following is an edited version of Kieran’s commentary – next week we will publish a follow up that provides a more formal perspective on Coredogs, based on an insightful piece Kieran has published titled “A Tale Of Two Students”.

The learning model I use is to have a good online textbook, with lots of exercises. Students work through the textbook individually. They submit exercise solutions, through the textbook. I give formative feedback. Students can resubmit until they get it right. Class still meets, but for maybe an hour per week rather than three. I give students an exercise, and walk around the computer lab, watching and helping out.

I wrote two textbooks (both at http://coredogs.com/). I used Drupal, a popular open source content management system. (Drupal did most of what I wanted, but it was missing the feedback system. I wrote software for that myself, that runs inside Drupal. I wrote some other bits and pieces as well.) As for the textbook – it follows particular learning practices, that work for skills. Such as:

  • Outcome-based learning. Choose skill outcomes before designing the textbook. Limit the skills to just a few. Focus the entire course on those outcomes. Don’t include anything that is irrelevant.
  • Deep learning. Show students how to solve problems. Less tech. Fewer concepts. More processes. More practice.
  • Formative feedback. Lots of it.
  • Metacognition. I use the term broadly, encompassing any thought or emotion about the learning process. My books address common metacognitive issues, such as:
    - “Why do I need to know this?”
    - “It’s too hard! I’ll never get it, no matter how much I try!”
    - “There’s a lot of details to know. How can I get it all?”

I haven’t done any formal testing of CoreDogs, but I can report some things:

  • Students say CoreDogs is a lot of work. They do over 100 exercises in one book alone. The exercise/feedback focus means lots of time on task. It’s work for me, too. 20 students, 100 exercises per student. I made the feedback workflow as smooth as I could, but it’s still a lot of work.
  • Students say they learn a lot.
  • Students like the price of the book – free!
  • I’m happier. No lecturing, no blank stares. I get to know the students better, because of the one-on-one time. I get to do more problem solving – that’s more fun than lecturing.

I’m constantly improving CoreDogs. When a student doesn’t understand something, I ask myself whether it could be explained better. For example, this semester I added a new lesson on JavaScript variables because Melissa, a bright student, had trouble with some of the concepts.

The future: I’d like to make the CoreDogs tools freely available to everyone. In the short term, I’m going to spend the holidays working on a public version, so teachers, professors, anyone, can write their own flippy textbooks (or maybe just modules) and use them in class. It should be available around March. It won’t be complete, given lack of time, but it will be a start.

In the longer term, I’d like to get some grant money to completely rewrite the tools. More scalable, and multilingual. Drupal supports more than 40 languages. Imagine a teacher in Pune, India, writing an algebra book in Hindi, just for students in Pune. Using local landmarks, local foods, local sports examples, with examples relevant to students.

Imagine – millions of teachers, able to write their own textbooks, in their own language, for their own culture, on their own topics, for their own circumstances. No need to jump through publishing hoops. Just do it.

Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
7 Stories From Educators About Teaching In The Flipped Classroom
Education Technology Leadership Spotlight: Celebrating the Work of Salman Khan
10 Internet Technologies Educators Should Be Informed About – 2011 Update

About 

Kelly Walsh is Chief Information Officer, and an adjunct faculty member, at The College of Westchester in White Plains, NY and is the founder and author of EmergingEdTech.com. As an education technology advocate, he frequently delivers presentations on a variety of related topics at schools and conferences across the U.S. Walsh is also an author, and online educator, periodically running Flipped Class Workshops online. His latest eBook, the Flipped Class Workshop in a Book was published in September, 2013 and is available here. In his spare time Walsh also writes, records, and performs original (and cover) songs (look for "K. Walsh" on iTunes or Amazon.com or check out his original song videos on here on YouTube ).

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