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How Going Hunting for the First Time is Like the Flipped Classroom

Having lived in the South now for parts of two decades  and after having been married to a Southern girl for eleven, I’m starting to get the hang of the Southern way of life.  One of the overwhelming facets of the Southern way of life is the way the hunter.  You can’t live long in the South and be be male without someone inviting you to hunt.

For boys in the South, hunting is a right of passage.  I have seven nephews on my wife’s side of the family and all will most likely hunt.  Two have already killed game.  Every Christmas, they get some kind of hunting device starting with the Red Ryder bebe gun to start shooting at squirrels and birds.

None of this is earth shattering, or directly tied to education but it does lead into a conversation I had with my tech savy brother-in-law, Steve.  Steve, became an avid hunter about five years ago as his son Will was coming of age.  I mentioned to him causually that I would probably start hunting and probably needed to get my hunter safety license and gun permits.  I shared with him that I have had a couple of gracious invitations to hunt on new friends’ lands since I moved to hunt crazy Montgomery, Alabama and that needed some lessons lest I make a fool of myself.

What he said stunned me, but also helped with a problem I had been having as a principal conveying the power and importance of flipped learning for our students in a traditional college prep school setting. He said, “just go onto Youtube and you can learn all you need to know to get started.”  As I said, Steve has been hunting for about five years and specializes in Tennessee turkey hunting.  He has also traveled to the Dakotas to hunt pheasant.  While he has not been a lifetime hunter, I certainly would characterize him as qualified.

Will and Steve on the Hunt

Will and Steve on the Hunt

So his Youtube recommendation was startling.  It was startling on two fronts.  First,  it seems so unsafe.  Go watch several videos, apply for your license and go shoot in the woods with some hunters with a little more experience.  Second, it was scary because there is this constant thought in the back of my mind saying “I’m not qualified to hunt and I certainly would not be qualified by watching some videos.  I need to go to a certified person who will sit down over the course of several days and teach me.  I need to pay money…”or so I said to myself.

A lot of students and parents of independent school students are very wary of the flipped classroom.  The notion of students getting any instruction from videos watched at home seems like counterfeit education.  “What are we paying the teacher for?” they ask.  Or they say “this is not teaching.”  They are like me when I think that to go out and hunt I need an apprenticeship in hunting with class hours engaged in lectures by qualified game wardens, written tests, and arms training at a facility dedicated to accurate target practice.

Certainly these are reasonable assumptions, but they don’t necessarily help me to learn hunting more efficiently and safely.  These assumptions also incorrectly rule out the value of video and word of mouth in acquiring a skill set.  They also do not accurately value the convenience of going onto the web and researching safe strategies to hunt effectively.

In the same way, the naysayers of flipped learning (where pieces of the educational process are conducted away from the classroom usually by video) are not accurately valuing flipped learning as a critical piece to the 21st Century learning process.  If I want to go hunt turkeys this spring, my plan would be to first go and look up as many turkey hunting videos and websites offering vetted information.  Then I would seek a mentor who I trusted (like a teacher) to help me further vett the information and to set up some practice.  After getting the required license (Alabama right now requires no hunting courses, just a license purchase for adults), I would do field training (preferably with a mentor, though it may not be).  Finally, I would set up an opportunity to test out my training (go on a hunt) just like we do in Math or Science or Social Studies for a big test or exam.

Over the length of my hunting career I would expect to get better with the insights of each additional partner/mentor, more field practice, and more opportunities to test what I learned with shots at game.  The same is true about my educational journey.  But just like hunting, when one starts a new course or a new lesson in the things our high school students face for the first time: Geometry, Calculus, Chemistry, Philosophy, etc. it would probably be a great idea to get acquainted with the available literature AND video practicums (flipped videos) as I begin to get my feet wet.

My expectations of a kill would be a lot like my expectations for mastery of the content in an academic area.  Practice, Practice, and more Practice, would help.  Sometimes that practice would take place with the master mentor/teacher in the field/classroom.  A lot of the time, it would be on my own.  My success would largely depend on measures of my appetite for learning to be a good hunter and the expertise of the information I acquired.  A good mentor/teacher would be incredibly valuable, but when I lined up to take that first shot, he/she wouldn’t be firing for me.  The ultimate responsibility for the kill would be my own.

Until next time on Dewey’s Dimes, Happy Hunting and Love Learning!

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