Friday, May 10, 2013

An open letter to teachers//educators

An open letter to teachers

"Read not to contradict and confute ; nor to believe and take for granted ; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider" - Francis Bacon

        My name is Faizul , and I'm an A-level student who is currently studying in Kolej Tuanku Jaafar, in Negeri Sembilan , Malaysia. For the past few months, I've been working on promoting the flipped learning, something I learned from the Internet while I was preparing my presentation on Massive Open Online Courses(MOOCs) for the school assembly. To those of you who are unfamiliar with the flipped learning, you can visit my blog here . Included in this blog are some rebuttals on common misconceptions about the flipped learning.

      I'm lucky that the principal and the deputy principal in my school are in support of this idea, they are open to new possibilities. Unfortunately,not many people in Malaysia have heard of the "flipped learning"  as far as I'm concerned. When I wanted to make a presentation on the flipped learning in one of the weekly Monday school assembly in my school, I was told that I should not appear as if I'm trying to tell the teachers how to teach, for I am only a student. The deputy principal asked me to use the term break(which was 2 weeks long) to figure out an effective way in presenting the flipped learning.

      At that time I'd been reading Sal Khan's book , The One World Schoolhouse:Education Reimagined. In his book, he mentioned something about the flipped learning, and I think the Khan Academy ( really does complement with the flipped learning, so I made a presentation on the Khan Academy for the school assembly after the term break, hoping that the teachers will get a hint on the flipped learning. -- ever since then , some people have been calling me Mr.Khan!

       3 days after the presentation on the Khan Academy, the deputy principal emailed to the teachers on the flipped learning, hoping that we can have our own video lectures, which is more aligned to the A level syllabus than Khan Academy or other resources that we can find online. Unfortunately , I think most of my teachers seem to be skeptical as to whether the flipped learning is going to work, which is understandable because it is unfamiliar.

                                                      Deputy Principal's email to the teachers

Here are some common questions on the flipped learning:

1. Does it make the teachers less important?

With the flipped learning, the role of a teacher is empowered, by giving perspectives, inspire and mentor the students instead of rote-lecturing. The class will be student-centered instead of teacher-centered. Students will be more likely to claim ownership of their education. It's not just about the student-teacher ratio , it is about student-teacher time ratio. With this,struggling students will receive more help from their teacher, and students will also get to see things from many different nuanced perspective, which develops their critical thinking skills.In short, technology doesn't replace,it complements with the teachers.

2.Isn't it more like an opportunity to bring boring lectures to a different location?

I believe that there are many approach that can be made to make the video more interesting, such as having more dialogue, make it approximately 10 minutes short and etc.

3.What if the Internet is simply too slow?

We can always consider using flash drive , or burn the videos into a disc.

4. What if the teachers are interested, but do not have the time to produce the videos?

Not all the teachers are expected to make these videos for their classes. Besides , as for a start , we do not need to flip the whole subject , we can begin by using the method only for difficult topics, as pointed out here ( on myth no.2. 

On top of that , I believe that school leaders should find those with the highest ability to combine the subject with their ability to present this in the most creative and engaging ways. For mathematics , we can also use the materials from the examsolutions (  , this website has been very helpful with my maths!) 

        As many of us might be aware, change is happening at an unprecedented scale. New job markets emerge, technology is changing exponentially, an it is evident as we can see from Moore's law. It is most likely that we students are preparing ourselves for jobs that don't exist yet.

              The education system we have now is based on the Industrial Revolution, it is human construct and a response to certain conditions in certain places and time. The world is very different compared to back then. It is evident that our education system needs to be changed. There has also been a degree inflation , in which jobs that used to require degree , now requires masters , and jobs that used to require masters , now requires PhD. 10 or 20 years from now , does it mean all of us need to acquire PhD?  You can visit my blog here on my thoughts about the education system.

          Since the world is ambiguous and ill-defined , the context always change given the pace of change, I think what we students need to be is creative, curious and lifelong self-learners. Being creative is about making fresh connections so that we see things in new ways and from different perspectives. As Robert Greene quoted, "The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways".Besides, human communities depend on diversity of talents,not singular conception of ability. I believe flipped learning is the best solution, given the restrictions of the education system. 

          I'm sure many of us heard of the cliche that change is constant, change is inevitable-- So what about progress? I believe that progress is a choice. And it is our choice if we want to progress. I believe the first step for progress , is by applying the flipped learning. The choice is ours to act within our circle of influence. And it is certainly an important choice for it concerns our education.

If you wish to be in touch , here's my twitter account :  
or you could send me an email on 

        Thank you for your time to read this , I really appreciate it.




  1. Faiz, We think in same lines but I am probably older than your mother!
    Your thinking is futuristic and very appropriate with time. Wish more people listen to you and convert. It has become a challange to make people understand that 'wave of fipped learning is soaring so either learn to swim in it or drown"! All the best Swati

    1. Hi Swati , thanks for the comment. I'm glad to know that I have a support from someone like you and I really appreciate that you understand why I've been promoting the flipped learning. I hope to meet more people like you in the near future. :) Hopefully someday , there's gonna be a reform in the education system; as for now , I'll just do what I can do to contribute.

  2. I'm eager to join the Flipped Community and hope to create flipped lessons to help my students learn at their own pace. By creating some short video lessons, students who have an easy time can move ahead, students who need to hear it again can watch the lesson as many times and they need. I am looking forward to the summer when I have time to create these mini lessons!

    1. Hi Renee , I admire your enthusiasm with the flipped learning!! I wish you all the best with your students. If possible, I'm really looking forward to hear the response from your students! :)

  3. hi Faizul, I want to say that I think you are heading in the right direction. I am Malaysian too, hailing from Ipoh, and I share your sentiments on improving education (not only locally, but to every other corner of the planet which desprately needs it).
    There is a good program which I have recently discovered, called Teach for Malaysia. Students and adults are encouraged to spend 2 years teaching small schools located in rural areas, mostly around Peninsular Malaysia (I'm sure the program will be expanded to include Sabah and Sarawak). I recommend you to have a look at the program, as it would benefit with your thought leadership.
    I myself am considering joining the program. I've been in the corporate rat race for several years and am eagerly looking for a different challenge. One that will inspire and ignite change.
    All the best in your endeavors. Really proud to see a fellow M'sian thinking forward.

    1. Hi,

      It's great to receive a comment from a fellow Malaysian! I've heard of it 2 days ago while I was watching a talk by Suet Li on TEDxKL on youtube .I've emailed Teach for Malaysia yesterday and I'm waiting for their response. Apparently I'm staying in a boarding school , so it's hard for me to be actively involved. However , I'll try a different approach since I think I can learn a lot from the program. Thanks a lot for your recommendation. :)

  4. Hi Faizul. You have good insights here! I would like to get your opinion regarding a few things: first, as a fellow Malaysian, given our current resources and position, do you think that this style of learning is feasible in local schools? And how will flipped learning make a difference in our local education system? p/s: you are truly a future educationist in the making :) Sabrina

    1. Hi Sabrina ,

      Thanks a lot for your time to comment. I really appreciate it!

      Spending money on education is not an expense , it is an investment. Malaysia is rich in natural resources , our problem is human resources; we have a lot of potential, and we need more leadership based on making climate of possibilites , not command and control.

      How will flipped learning make a difference? First of all we need to understand that the definition of flipped learning is very slippery. The basic idea of it is to make students responsible of their learning , realising that learning is personal, and we should start working on being lifelong learners , with teachers as their mentors. It satisfies , to a certain extent , the real goals of education;
      1) to be lifelong learners
      2)be passionate
      3)be ready to take risks
      4)be able to solve problem and to think critically as well as constructively
      5)be able to look at things differently
      6)be able to work independently and with others
      7)be creative and curious
      8)care and want to give back to their community (in which service learning could be implemented as suggested by someone from TEDxKL)
      10have integrity and self-respect
      11)have moral courage
      12)be able to use the world around them well
      13) speak well, write well, read well, and work ell with numbers
      14) truly enjoy their life and their work
      15) appreciate the intrinsic values of learning

      AND certainly not be good at answering exam questions. Indeed , exams are important , but it shouldn't be the dominant culture. The world is changing with no historical precedent , and education is certainly a serious issue in which we should have a sense of urgency about it. :)

      Do join the TED conversation here :)


  5. I'm eager to join the Flipped Community and hope to create flipped lessons to help my students learn at their own pace. By creating some short video lessons, students who have an easy time can move ahead, students who need to hear it again can watch the lesson as many times and they need. I am looking forward to the summer when I have time to create these mini lessons!

  6. Hi Faizul,

    Thank-you for your letter and your passion as a student! I am also a passionate student, who also happens to be a teacher. I am always looking for more ways to aid in facilitating learning (after all, even though I'm a teacher, I can only aid in the learning process). You have intrigued me with your passion about flipped learning.

    I look forward to continuing my own journey as a student by enriching my education with flipped learning and hopefully passing along both your and my passion for being a student to my students.

    Keep blogging and challenging teachers!


    1. Hi Xecil ,

      Thanks for your comment, and i admire your enthusiasm for your and your student's education. I'm sure they are lucky to have you as their teacher. By the way, do follow my blog for updates :)


  7. Hi Faizul,

    So tonight I was supposed to work on making my first video for what I hope will be a flipped classroom by next semester, but I got sidetracked by Ted Talks - again! - and somehow surfed my way to your blog. You got me re-inspired, and I WILL get back to work on my videos tomorrow. I think flipped classrooms are the wave of the future, and I think my students will love it. Thanks for the info and the encouragement. Camtasia, here I come.

    My best to you, Cat

    1. Hi Catgeoffrey ,

      Many times I too find myself distracted from studying for exams by TED talks because there's so many interesting ideas to learn from there! I'm really glad to know that the letter I've written motivated you to make the video lectures for your students, it means a lot to me and made my day! :D I hope your students love it and wish you all the best with flipping your class . Thanks a lot for your comment.


  8. Dear Faizul,

    Thank you for your courage to take initiative and work on such a daunting but important task. Your are very inspiring. I wish you great success.

    Tracy Wang,
    Pittsburgh, PA, USA


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