Collected lessons from Letsdig18, Essential Craftsman, AVE, TIFO, Vintage Space,Vlogbrothers, CompanyMan, LinusTechTips, et.al.
To be clear none of the YouTubers listed above know me, with the potential exception of those that receive Patreon support from me. (Flipped Learning Network also has a Patreon account if you are interested). However, I spend hours watching or listening to the group above and feel I have gotten to know them just a little bit.
I love watching Letsdig18, he is a heavy equipment operator in the Carolinas. Nothing he does applies to my life, with the exception that I love all things mechanical and appreciate a fella that gets his hands dirty working hard. I have watched him bust beaver dams and dig basements for years , but I have also seen him remodel a mobile home, build a farmstead for himself, and recently build his first home. He has a model excavator collection and planned a place in his new home for that collection. Letsdig18 has a passion for what he does and it shows.
AVE is Canadian and uses a definitively adult vocabulary talking electronics, tools, and milling. Essential Craftsman is an “experienced” (read white haired) concrete man, carpenter, and blacksmith who wouldn’t use a “foul word” if his mouth were full of it. Both men are dedicated to sharing wisdom in their respective areas and interacting in meaningful ways around their topics. Whether it is “the Empire of Dirt” or the spec house job site I feel welcome in the company of masters.
Vlogbrothers was a weird one for me as I stumbled across a low production value series of videos about brothers communicating about topics of all sorts. Their original, and continuing goal, was developing an adult relationship between brothers thru a weekly vlog. As it turns out one brother is the author John Green of Fault In Our Stars, Paper Towns, and other books. His brother Hank is among the most prolific YouTube creators with Sci Show, Crash Course, and a dozen others. Honestly, I would not have stuck around if I first knew of their outside success, but because they began with, and continue, a project that was based on building a relationship between brothers and let the YouTube world in on the journey I’m hooked.
Do not journey alone
I am also not alone. A massive community has developed around the work of these brothers called Nerdfiteria. This community utilizes the creative and community resources to raise money for charity, host on-site conferences, and a host of other projects. Vlogbrothers highlights the power of relationships to build communities.
The YouTube videos I do not watch also share a few thing in common. I immediately move on if I hear the computer narrator voice. I also exit video that have perky hosts reading canned scripts and heavy production graphics. I don’t mind the simple animated videos or slideshow style if there is a personable narrator, even if they have a weird vocal tone or speech idiosyncrasy. I hate sales pitch or product based video. I don’t mind creators repping a product as long as it is quick because everyone has to support themselves.
So what does this have to do with flipped learning?
I don’t think I am that different from most viewers, as evidenced that all of the above have healthy or even crazy big subscriber numbers. I think that the elements that make for long running and successful YouTube channels can speak to our flipped learning environment.
Elements like passion, hard work, desire to share, openess, power of community, willingness to be a bit vulnerable are all elements that speak to students as well as millions of YouTube viewers. Elements like video production quality are not critical provided they the quality (audio especially) doesn’t distract from the content. Being on camera might help but it is definitely not critical. I have only seen AVE’s hands and I have no idea what CompanyMan looks like. On the other hand John Green’s penchant for pizza and ugly mustache created a charity opportunity for Vlogbrothers.
Its about the relationship…duh
The most important lesson to highlight is that all learning is relational. As a veteran teacher I should know this, and as a veteran flipper I should know this. What I found was that the episodes, videos, vlogs, etc that I connected with most were times these content creators were sharing about their life, workshops, disastrous projects, etc. These were the times that everything went wrong or they pulled back the curtain on their YouTube persona just a little. I don’t mean this in a voyeuristic manner, but to see someone frustrated is to see them more clearly. To hear someone share about their motivations and connections to their passion is engaging.
I guess I assume that as teachers we have a passion for our content, but even exempting that, we must have passion of learning otherwise flipped or no, video or text, we are doomed to mediocrity at best and failing kids at worst.
Create or Curate?
So I started this blog with room for choice, and I have seen it done with every mix of creation and curation. I even wrote a book about how to curate all of the digital and non-digital elements of our classrooms into learning maps with DIBs. But I must say the most effective and relational flipped classrooms I have seen include creation as a key component. Creation might be original video content, or it might be activities associated with a curated video clip. Creation might take the form of teacher created tools or resources, or better yet student created tools or resources. I don’t have to program a Geogebra activity to use it in a way the related and engages my students, but I must create an environment or system of learning that makes that Geogebra activity applicable to my student. My classroom, both group space and individual space, must reveal my passion, my desire to share, a call to community, an openness, and reflect the thought and effort I put into it.
Create or curate? Don’t recreate the wheel but also don’t think that curation exempts you from investing creativity into your students.
Matthew is the author of the book DIBs: Using Digital Instruction Blocks, available on Amazon.com. He is also a board member for the Flipped Learning Network and a Co-founder of the Illinois Flipped & Blended Learning Network. Matthew is a mathematics teacher with seventeen years of experience at the high school level and has also served as an adjunct instructor at the local community college for the since 2004. He can be followed at @matthew_t_moore and maintains a web site at matthewtmoore.wordpress.com.