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Author Biography: Kieran Mathieson learned to program in the 70s, when computers were steamdriven.

He has been an information systems professor for more than 20 years. He works on ways to make skill learning more effective and efficient. Kieran is the creator of CoreDogs.Com, and FlippedTextbook.Com Activity Summary
Many flipped courses use videos created by teachers. An alternative tool is the humble textbook. Could we design an online flipped textbook that replaces both videos, and traditional textbooks? This paper is about how online flipped textbooks should be designed. Important learning science principles include: Outcome-driven learning Deep learning Frequent formative feedback Metacognition Class or subject area: Flipped courses Grade level(s): Oriented to higher education, but should apply to K12 as well Specific learning objectives: Explore new text-based approaches to the flipped classroom model

Anniversary Book Project

5th

Textbooks for Flipped Classes


By: Kieran Mathieson Creative Commons License: CC BY-SA Author contact: kieran@coredogs.com

One innovation thats sweeping across education is the flipped course. In a normal course, students listen to a lecture in class, and work on exercises at home. In a flipped course, students listen to, watch, or read lectures at home, and work on exercises in class. Many flipped courses use videos created by teachers, but that isnt the only option. An alternative tool is the humble textbook. Could we design a flipped textbook that replaces both videos, and traditional textbooks? And that improves on todays flipped practices? Before creating technology, we need to know the design goals. Fortunately, theres a wealth of research on learning. We can use learning science principles to decide what a textbook for a flipped course will be like. This paper is about how online flipped textbooks should be designed. The principles are partially implemented at CoreDogs.Com, and FlippedTextbook.Com. The focus is on skills courses, like algebra, writing, and computer programming. Skills are more difficult to learn than facts. When a student drops out of college, its more likely to be due to skills courses, like math, than fact courses, like history. The paper is oriented to higher education, but the principles should apply to K12 as well. Lets look at learning science principles that can inform the design of flipped textbooks. Outcome-driven learning Designers should start by choosing skills that students will possess by the end of the course. Then designers work backwards, choosing content, creating exercises, and so on. Only content that helps meet outcomes is included in the book. Figure 1 shows the table of contents from a book on building simple Web sites, at CoreDogs. Com. There are no technical Figure 1. Book table of contents terms in the table of contents, because the book is not organized by technology. Instead, it is organized around tasks, like Make a Web page with text, and Make a page with tables. Figure 2 shows the topics in the chapter about making a text Web page. The chapter includes a lesson on Writing for the Web. This is not about technology. Its a lesson about language: using Figure 2. Chapter table of contents short sentences, simple words, active voice, lists, etc. You need to think about these things to accomplish the task create a Web page with text.

Remember: Choose goals Work backwards from the goals Deep learning To complete a task, you need to know facts, and do processes. Many textbooks have lots of facts, but dont tell students how to use them. Deep learning tries to change that. Less time spent on remembering facts. More time spent on learning processes. How can online textbooks encourage deep learning? Outcome-driven learning Make the learning of processes one of your outcomes. Explicitly build it into your plans. Formative feedback This is a Big Deal. A Huge Deal. The best thing you can do to help people learn skills, is give them lots of formative feedback. More on formative feedback later. It deserves its own section. Process modeling with pedagogical agents

Figure 3a Pedagogical agents using a tool Figure 3. Pedagogical agents starting a task

One way to help people learn a process is to show them someone doing it. It helps if the person messes up from time to time, and recovers. Students learn how to recover from mistakes in real life.

A pedagogical agent is like a character in a novel. It has a name, a personality, and other attributes. Readers get to know characters, and their quirks. Pedagogical agents can demonstrate processes. CoreDogs uses two agents, Renata and CC. Figure 3 shows them starting on a task. Figure 3a shows them using a tool. Agent scripts can include notations from the author, as in the red box in Figure 4. Notations let authors explain things the agents did. Sometimes things go wrong. Figure 5 shows the team fixing a problem. Pedagogical agents are great for showing processes. They have other uses as well, as well see later.
Figure 4. Authors notation

Figure 5. Fixing a problem

Patterns A pattern is a recipe for doing a task or solving a problem. Some patterns are simple. For example, if its hot, sleep on a cool floor inside the house. (This is a pattern for dogs.) Some patterns are more complex. They are composed of other patterns. Figure 6 is an example. It is a common pattern for Web page layout, that includes

patterns for a header, a navigation bar, and a footer. Patterns help students learn design. How? By structuring their work. Decomposition is key to design. Break a big design goal into smaller subgoals. Take the first subgoal, and break it into subsubgoals. Repeat, until the subsubsubsubsubgoals are small enough so that each one can be completed easily. Patterns help with decomposition. From the pattern above, Adding a copyright notice becomes a subgoal. When its complete, it can be fitted within the complete solution. The CoreDogs book introduces patterns in the text. For example, the

Figure 6. A pattern

Figure 8. Part of a pattern library

Figure 7. Introducing a pattern

book tells students how to make lists, and then turns that into a pattern (see Figure 7). Theres a pattern library, with categories. Each library entry gives examples, exercises, code, and other things. The pattern library helps students when they do exercises. Rather than hunting through the book, they can look at the library, and find patterns that will help them with their current exercise.

Section summary Deep learning is about learning facts and processes, not just facts. How to implement deep learning? Make process learning an outcome. Lots of formative feedback. Process modeling with pedagogical agents. Patterns. Feedback is a central. Lets talk about it. Frequent formative feedback Researchers separate summative and formative feedback. Summative feedback measures how much students have learned. Student learn a topic, take an exam, get a grade, and move on to the next topic. This isnt about learning. Its about assessing students.

Figure 9. An exercise

Formative assessment is part of learning. Students submit work, and get a list of specific things they could improve. Students might get a chance to fix their work, and resubmit. Only then do they move on to another topic. Summative and formative feedback should be used together. However, many professors only give summative feedback. The CoreDogs book has about 150 exercises, most embedded directly in the content. Exercises are not multiple choice questions. Most of them are content creation exercises, that is, students make things. Thats important for building skills.
Figure 10. Submitting a solution

Figure 11. Giving feedback

Figure 9 shows an exercise. A student enters a solution, and submits it (Figure 10). The instructor opens the solution in a display optimized for feedback speed (Figure 11).

The feedback interface is described at http://coredogs.com/ article/feedback-system. If the solution student gets a badge (Figure 12).
Figure 12. Exercise is complete

is correct, the instructor marks it as complete. The

Notice the comment at the bottom. If the solution needs improvement, the back-and-forth conversation about the students work on the exercise appears here. The conversation is kept with the exercise. Each student might do four or five exercises every week. Instructors get continuous data throughout the semester on student performance. No need to wait until the midterm to find out if a student doesnt know the material. Section summary: Many exercises, embedded in the text. Exercises ask students to make things. Instructors give formative feedback, using an interface that lets them work quickly. Exercises are spread out through the semester. Metacognition I use the term metacognition loosely, referring to Figure 13. Metacognitive conversation students thoughts or emotions about learning. Not about the content itself, but the process of learning the content. The following are metacognitive statements: 1. I learned a lot this week. 2. Im stuck. I dont know whats going on. 3. Argh! Too much information! Im overwhelmed! 4. Why am I learning this stuff? Will I ever use it? Metacognitive beliefs affect motivation and intention. For example: 1. I learned a lot this week. If I keep at it, Ill learn a lot next week, too.

2. Im stuck. I dont know whats going on. I may as well give up. 3. Argh! Too much information! Im overwhelmed! Does everyone else have this problem? Maybe Im just too stupid to understand this. 4. Why am I learning this stuff? Will I ever use it? Nah. Why bother. Pedagogical agents can address these issues. In Figure 13, the students (Renata and CC) complain about information overload. The books author (a dog called Kieran) gives a solution: find simple rules that work most of the time. He goes on to list some rules. The conversation does two things. First, it gives a solution to a metacognitive problem, information overload. Second, it shows that students can acknowledge problems, and get help. Other things The main features of a good online flipped textbook are: Outcome-driven learning Deep learning Frequent formative feedback Metacognition But wait, theres more! Writing style The more mental energy people spend decoding text, the less energy they have for understanding the text. As a general rule, write as if youre in a conversation. Use simple words. Write use simple words, not Avoid unnecessary linguistic complexity in the presentation of textual information. Use short sentences. Like this one. Dont obsess about grammar. I break the ending-sentence-in-a-preposition rule all the time. I use sentence fragments, too. Whatever is short, and easy to understand. Words and images I tend to explain each concept twice. Once in text, and once in an image. The more ways a brain encodes information, the more likely the brain is to remember the information. Dont make readers jump around You make a diagram. You write about it for a few paragraphs. You want to refer to it again. You type See Figure 6. You make readers break what they are doing, look at the diagram again, and go back to their place in the text. That takes time and mental energy, thats not available for learning. For a paper book, See Figure 6 makes sense. Saves paper. But an online book? Pixels are very cheap. Theyre not even made of atoms. Instead of See Figure 6, put in another copy of Figure 6. Dont make people scroll up the browser page to find it, or, even worse, jump to a different page.

Concrete before abstract... Say youre writing a Euclidean geometry book. You could start with the five postulates, and derive theorems from there. Youd have a good record of geometry as a formal system. Dont do that. FlippedTextbook.Com is about learning, and humans dont learn easily from formal systems. Heres that old devil, the fifth postulate: That, if a straight line falling on two straight lines make the interior angles on the same side less than two right angles, the two straight lines, if produced indefinitely, meet on that side on which are the angles less than the two right angles. Can you imagine reading that on the first page of a geometry book? ARGH!!! Start with things people have concrete experience with. Like the edges of a road, running in parallel into the distance. ...but dont forget abstraction Here are two computer programming tasks: 1. Calculate a basketball teams average score for last season. 2. Find the heaviest molecule in a data set of natural organic chemicals. On the surface, the tasks are different. But the programs for each task have something in common: they use loops. The loop is an abstraction, that is, a generic description of something that is applied to different tasks. Its a small pattern. Computer programming languages give you abstractions, like variables, if statements, and loops. Students learn to look at a task (like calculating an average score), and find abstractions that match those in a programming language. Abstractions help with task transfer, that is, using the skills learned from one task to complete another task. But students often dont recognize abstractions. Just because a student has used a loop for one task, doesnt mean that s/he will think of using a loop for another. Abstractions have to be taught explicitly. Conclusion Tech creators should decide on a products goals before they start development. This paper outlines learning science principles that can inform the design of online textbooks for flipped courses.