Some responses to the Flipped Beit Midrash


Recently on the Lookjed Listserv for Judaic Educators there has been a fascinating discussion about the educational value of Flipped Classroom videos in Talmud and Judaic Studies. My response, which I posted on Lookjed and should be in the next Lookjed email, appears below. I am sharing it on this blog since serves as a follow-up to the discussion about the Flipped Beit Midrash which I posted about on this blog here and here and then cross-posted in a more expanded more on Rabbi Gil Student's Torah Musings. Please feel free to continue this valuable discussion on Lookjed or in the comments to this posting.

With regards to the discussion on Instructional videos for Talmud, firstly I must thank Kenny Schiowitz and Benjy Kramer for sharing their extensive list of Flipped Videos that they created. This inspired us to generate a similar document at The Frisch School and we were very excited with how many teachers have started creating these videos.

To elaborate on some of the comments of others, we have found the biggest advantage of the Flipped Classroom is how versatile a tool it is. While some teachers create the Flipped Videos to preview the material prior to the formal instruction, others create it as a review, still others create it to teach material not covered in the traditional curriculum like Bekiut. Some teachers use it for snow days, others give it as homework on regular days, and still others use it in class to create a Flipped Beit Midrash, something that I have blogged about on Gil Student's Torah Musings here: [www.torahmusings.com]. Others use Flipped Classroom videos to support Project Based Learning by creating materials for students to watch on their own as they learn at their own pace in researching and producing some type of product. For example, this playlist contains all the Flipped Videos for my Nach Jeremiah on Trial project: [www.youtube.com] You can see that flipping the lesson is a very versatile teaching tool that adapts well to the needs of the teacher and student.

When I blogged about The Flipped Beit Midrash on Torah Musings, I got some very similar responses to those of Dr. Tzvika Kanarek and believe me, I could not agree more that learning by doing is the best way for students to learn. But this really depends on the age and intellectual level of the student. Ideally we would want all of our students to be engrossed in the world of the Beit Midrash where they are given maarei mekomot, a list of texts to learn on their own. If they are not yet on this level yet, they can be given cognitive maps as Dr. Kanarek describes and has been championed by programs like Gemara Berura, which has a new web app that works on all types of devices. Other students are more visual and auditory learners. They would learn best with a Flipped Beit Midrash approach where they watch videos prior to the instruction and then have to illustrate their knowledge by reading the Gemara back to the teacher either in person or by creating their own videos. For others, even videos might not be sufficient and they might need phrase by phrase translations like the wonderful work of The Mercava which has been the subject of prior Lookjed discussions and which Shalom Berger wrote convincingly about here: [www.torahmusings.com].

Each of these methods are not crutches but basic building blocks as we scaffold the student to the greater goal of their achieving more independence in their learning.

One responder on Torah Musings, Moshe Isaacson, summed this up well with the following blog post: [mosheisaacson.tumblr.com] Ultimately, as is often the case in these discussions, Eilu Ve'Eilu Divrei Elokim Chaim. Both sides are right. I say this not as a cop out but as a reflection of reality based on my experience and the experience of others. We teach many kinds of learners and therefore the effective teacher needs to have many tools at his or her disposal to effectively differentiate the instruction and help every student use their unique abilities to realize their full potential in Limud Torah.