Monday, May 20, 2013

What Can We Learn from the Jeff Bliss Video?

By now, you might be one of the millions to have seen Jeff Bliss's ninety second manifesto on the state of learning in his World History class. Reaction in social media has been mixed, with many folks expressing disgust at the indignation he expressed towards his teacher, and many more praising Jeff for speaking out against meaningless, uninspiring, classroom experiences.

Let's be cautious with our judgement of this video since most of us do not have the contextual knowledge of the situation, the classroom, or the people involved. However, I do feel that there are at least a few things that we can learn from analyzing this video thoroughly and critically.
  1. Classroom Engagement - There is very little evidence of student engagement in this video. Notice early in the video, even as one of their classmates goes off on a rant, a girl wearing blue is cleaning her fingernails. The girl seated ahead of her is covering her face. A young man wearing light blue is adjusting his wrist watch. Notice the row of boys nearest the far wall; the boy in the front seat is asleep while two others are slumped over on their desks. Keep in mind, there are two students who are definitely engaged in the class, and one is recording the event on his cell phone. The Classroom Experiment - Strategies to Promote Engagement and Learning.
  2. Control & Detachment - The physical layout of the classroom (rows) suggests that the teacher wants control over the students and the classroom. The teacher's desk is contained in a front corner of the room. This configuration gives the impression that this teacher is not actively engaged, and in reality is detached from her students. How to Put Every Student in the Front Row.
  3. Packet-based Learning - Jeff Bliss expresses his dissatisfaction with the teacher's reliance upon printed study guides. Take another look at this video, there aren't any papers, and there aren't any books. In fact, there is only one student notebook, and that is under Jeff Bliss's left arm. If Jeff's assertion is true, then I agree that packet-based work-flow does not meet the needs of these (21st century?!?) learners. Where are the learning resources for this class? The Packet-driven Classroom+Lisa Nielsen  (1 to 1 is Not Enough - Pedagogy Change)
  4. Teacher Feedback & Student Reflection - How could this confrontation have been avoided? I suggest that teachers regularly ask their students for feedback. In addition, caring teachers provide opportunities for students to reflect on their learning. What are your thoughts about this class?  What am I doing well?  What can I do better?  What changes would you suggest to make this a more effective learning community? It is obvious that Jeff and his classmates were not given this opportunity to provide feedback. How well does this teacher actually know her students? Should Students Evaluate Teachers? - Ben Johnson via +Edutopia 
  5. Cameras Everywhere - Would Jeff have reacted differently knowing the cameras were rolling? Would the behavior of everyone in this classroom be different knowing that it was being recorded? The reality is that a majority of high school students are carrying cell phones with cameras. Does this teacher, or this school, have a cell phone policy? Should cameras be installed in all classrooms? Like it or not, cameras are everywhere.
During the months that I was preparing for National Board Certification I kept a video camera rolling in the classroom on a daily basis. Not only did the presence of the camcorder influence student behavior, we would view portions of the tapes together to collectively assess the learning environment and suggest ways to improve the classroom atmosphere. Classroom discussions became more civil and constructive after reviewing our classroom videos. Was Jeff Bliss Disrespectful?+Lisa Nielsen
Every classroom situation presents a learning opportunity. Instead of asking Jeff to leave the class, circle the students and ask him to facilitate a discussion on how to improve education in the United States. Turn Jeff's passion into a classroom asset. What if this discussion sparked a project-based learning activity? Students could research and share information about successful educational systems from around the world, or from past civilizations. Jeff is passionate about improving education, what are the other students passionate about? How Can Your Students Build a Learning Legacy?

Jeff Bliss Video, Another Perspective - Amy Sterling Casil, PolicyMic

Effective Teaching Checklist - teachers net gazette

What else can we learn from this video?  What recommendations do you have for this teacher, these students, or this school, moving forward? If you were an administrator at this school, how would you respond to this situation, and the fact that it has gone viral?

1 comment:

Wilson Computer Teacher said...

That's "grabbing the bull by the horn..." Very NYCE!!! And thanks for the new names to follow, and new technology links to share... :-)