I attended a webinar today about the pros and cons of flipped classrooms (i.e. information gathering such as video lectures or textbook-reading happen at home; experimenting, exploring, and inquiring happen in class).  There was lots of great discussion and food for thought.  Several presenters brought up this important point: A video lecture is still a lecture.  Sure, it has some advantages.  But why are we (video) lecturing at all?  Lectures were born in the days when only one person owned a copy of the book.  If you wanted to know what was in it, they would read it to you.  In medieval Latin (the language of European scholars pre-Gutenburg), lecture means “to read.”

This alone is not sufficient evidence to either keep or get rid of lectures.  Nowadays, the word “lecture” doesn’t always mean “reading the book at you.” Sometimes it means “storytelling,”  sometimes it means “asking short questions of one student at a time,” sometimes it means “direct instruction,” sometimes it means “modelling my work or my thinking,” sometimes it means “teacher talking, broken occasionally by outbursts of student discussion.”  I’m not interested in “are these useful tools.”  Of course they are.  My question is, “are these the best tools for my purpose.”  The answer to that is more difficult, also more dependent on my purposes and my students.

There are a few topics where I don’t think lecturing is the best tool for my purpose, but I do it anyway (the inner workings of a P-N junction, for example).  If I’m going to lecture, a 5-min video buys me at least an hour, considering that it would take me 15-20 min in class, plus repetition for students who were absent or needed to go over it again.  The reason I do it, just as Jerrid Kruse mentions, isn’t that I think it’s ideal; it’s that I haven’t found a suitable collection of examples or a good way to guide a discovery process.  So ultimately, the PD I need isn’t a lecture about why I should move away from lectures; it’s a guided exploration where I can explore my intractable problems with some guidance (inquiry-discover-model-constructivist-project-engaging-self-directedness: not just for students anymore).  Somehow, we need to create that course.