In this episode of Flipped Teacher Professional Learning, I walk through the layout of Word Online and give you two examples of how it can be used as a collaboration tool in your classroom.
Click here for the full list of FTPL videos.
In this Flipped Teacher Professional Learning video I walkthrough the Office365’s OneDrive menus and some of the basic functions.
For the full list of FTPL videos, click here.
“Years end is neither an end nor a beginning, but a going on with all the wisdom that experience can instill in in us.”
–Attributed to Hal Borland
I am mentally drained and physically exhausted. It has been a monumental year, both personally and professionally, with wins and losses on both counts. Last year was my first full year as a teacher and I wrote at the end of the year that I did not feel that I had had a first year such as I was expecting due to being employed in an RFF or non-contact position teaching fundamental digital technology and research skills. I perhaps spoke (wrote?) too soon and received my comeuppance this year in what was perhaps the most challenging year, both personally and professionally, that I have ever faced. To celebrate surviving my first year teaching a class of my own here is a list of lists reflecting on the year that was.
The Professional Wins
The Professional Challenges
I have a lot to learn and I am realising just how much I have to learn and wondering how much I do not know that I need to learn. It is a rather scary and terrifying thing, to feel like you are fumbling in the dark all year, realise you survived and actually did a decent job and then recognise just how much there still is to discover and develop in your teaching.
Thank you to my readers for supporting me this year. I look at the hit numbers and it is nice to know that people are reading, and being told by a few people that they have found my writing useful and valuable is a humbling (and mind-boggling) thing. I began writing for my own reflection and published only as a way of being held accountable in my own mind for continuing to reflect and to share my experiences. I will (aim to) continue to publish FTPL videos over the break, but I do not expect that I will publish anything else.
I hope that the summer break is relaxing, enjoyable and safe for you and yours and I will see you again in the new year.
“….relationships take time, getting to know folks requires patience, and people are generally cautious – if not fearful – of Johnny come lately that is asking, rather than giving.”
– Attributed to Jeremiah Owyang, Senior Analyst at Forrester
Conferences can be a huge source of professional development, however, they can also be a great source of unofficial professional learning via the networking conversations outside the lecture theatre or the breakout room.I was fortunate to have a number of conversations with some high-caliber educators that opened my mind to some new ideas, re-excited me about some passions that had faded due to time constraints, and have caused me to rethink some ideals about education.
One of the biggest changes in my thinking is the result of a conversation I had with a few people that come from different contexts, but whose opinions I respect. I attended (six!) public schools from Kindergarten through to Year Twelve and have always maintained that I would teach in public schools as I firmly believe that every child deserves a free, high-quality education. The conversation with these two people has caused me to rethink that. I have never said that I would not teach in non-Goverment schools, just that I could not see it happening.
I was asked if it is hard to gain a permanent teaching position in NSW. I explained that of the several positions I have applied for, that there have been over one hundred applicants; that as someone in my second year of teaching I cannot compete on the experience front with teachers of ten years or more experience; that an article by Bruce McDougall of The Daily Telegraph on 12 July, 2016 stated that there are now just under fifty-thousand qualified teachers who are unable to secure permanent teaching positions; that earning Honours Class I as well as the School of Education and the Arts Faculty Medal seems to count for nothing and that the current staffing policy for NSW Department of Education (DoE) schools dictates a system whereby schools must accept a central appointment despite having qualified and able teachers on temporary contracts.
I was asked directly if I had been applying for non-Government schools, to which I replied no, and explained my desire to support public education. I was reminded of the conditions I had just listed that were making it challenging to find a permanent teaching position and that it was all well and good to want to support public education but that it would not help me get a permanent job in and of itself. He is right, of course, and although applying for teaching positions with non-Government schools does not do anything to guarantee a permanent position or some of the aforementioned challenges, it does at least open the pool of potential options.
Fair enough. I have started applying for positions at non-Government schools. Mrs. C21 remarked that she had been biting her tongue on the issue, hoping that I would recognise that a permanent position was more important at the moment, especially with a three-month-old.
Sitting in on Peter Whiting’s session and getting really excited and interested in the methodologies and the results (statistics!) of Peter’s research demonstrated for me that there is still a passion and interest for research in me. With everything that has happened this year, I have not thought about research too much other than what I read about and links to discussions of research as I peruse my Twitter timeline.
There were some other things that I wanted to include in this article, however, my brain has switched off and I think that too much time has passed since the conference; I have been far slower than normal getting these articles out.
I will likely only do one more new article for the year, a reflection piece, before signing off for the summer break. Thank you for reading this rather disjointed article and for persevering with this conference review series. If you have missed any of the articles from FlipCon Adelaide, you can find them here.
“Our kids have digital thumbs, we shouldn’t cut them off when they enter the door.”
FlipCon Adelaide had thus far been a success for me on a personal and professional level. I was feeling reinvigorated for the remainder of the year with new ideas, new contacts and friends, and a revitalised drive for flipped learning and research, which I hope has come through in my previous articles from the conference. My final session at FlipCon Adelaide was with Stephanie Kriewaldt (@stephkrie) who was presenting under the title Flipping the Primary Classroom. I spoke briefly with Stephanie during the Primary discussion panel and was happy to have met another Kindergarten-Year Two (Infants) teacher who was also a flipper as I only know one other Infants flipped educators; Alfina Jackson (@GeekyAusTeacher).
I feel bad for anyone presenting in the last timeslot at any conference or event, many people will have left the event already or will leave partway through in order to catch their plane/train. Stephanie’s session in the last timeslot of the day was similarly impacted with only three delegates in total in attendance, despite their having been eight registered to attend. Stephanie introduced herself and spoke about her background, including that she has only ever worked in 1:1 contexts, which seems rather amazing to me and is currently working as an innovation and learning leader.
Stephanie showed us a short video of a Year Two classroom where flipped pedagogies were utilised as part of the rotational groupings during literacy sessions. Given that I am going to be teaching in a Stage One context next year, this gives me some hope that what I was thinking might work, does work in practice. Utilising either computers or tablets with pre-loaded videos to play a short (sixty to ninety seconds long maximum) video modeling how to form letters and numbers, how to spell words and a range of other simple yet foundational skills that need to be repeated multiple times was what I was thinking of doing next year.
Stephanie spoke next about the SAMR model and its application in flipped learning. It would be very easy to stay with substitution and augmentation, however, we need to strive to also reach the modification and redefinition levels. Stephanie spoke about how she utilised QR code posters on the wall that linked to short videos that explained basics such as what a noun is or how to construct a paragraph as that was something that could be done once and made available via video when students needed the refresher. This process frees the teacher up to continue to be available for students who have more complex questions or needs that need her immediate focus and also gives the student some ownership of their learning. Whilst they are still using the teacher as the source of the information, they are able to access the information whenever they need without disrupting anyone else’s learning.
Stephanie also spoke about how to utilise flipped learning to engage with Parents. Sometimes a student will go home and ask the caregiver (you cannot assume it is a parent anymore) for help with some task for school and the caregiver will do their best to help. Sometimes this help is actually hindering the student because the caregiver does not have the knowledge needed or uses incorrect terminology. This happens for various reasons and Stephanie said that a simple way to combat this is to create videos that are ostensibly for the student but also show the caregiver how the concept or skill is being taught. It is not about diminishing the knowledge or skill of the caregiver, but about ensuring that they are aware of how the particular concept is taught now as it is likely to have changed since the caregiver was at school.
Stephanie spoke about using a short hook-video to capture student interest in a new topic or unit of learning. The idea of a hook to capture student interest is not a new one, however, being reminded of old ideas that work is often useful as it is easy to forget about them with the ongoing plethora of new ideas and practices that are thrown en masse at teachers. Knowing how to create and use QR codes and link shorteners is a very useful skill to have as it opens up a range of possibilities, such as the use of QR codes for refresher videos as mentioned earlier in this article. If you are not sure about either, you can find a video showing how to create QR codes here and a video for URL shorteners here.
Stephanie spoke about how she uses Explain Everything to make short videos on the fly and how it is also simple enough to use that Infants students are able to create videos using it. A flipped worksheet is still a worksheet we were told and accordingly, the homework that Stephanie sets is designed to be something that is likely going to occur anyway to reduce the stress around homework; do a chore, read a story, do something to help a friend or a family member etc. This kind of homework I could feel comfortable issuing to students, rather than the traditional style of homework, which I have written about recently. Homework needs to be achievable for the student and for us, the teacher.
Given that we were such a small group, we spent some time sharing about our specific teaching and learning contexts and sharing some ideas about moving forward with flipped learning. It was a useful time, though short, however, I think everyone in the room was happy to move on to the end of conference drinks as it had been a cognitively-draining (and refreshing at the same time) two days. Stephanie’s session was interesting and I did gain some ideas and a fresh perspective for moving into 2017 in a new context.
As always, thank you for reading. I think there will be one more article to come from FlipCon Adelaide, which will be a more general reflection on some issues as a result of various conversations I had with people outside of workshops which have significantly impacted my thinking and will impact my practice.
“What does professional development look like? Is sitting here professional development?”
After hearing the dates for FlipConNZ in June 2017 and FlipConAus in Sydney during October 2017, Professor Ken Bauer (@Ken_Bauer) took the stage to deliver his keynote.
Ken began by asking what professional development (PD) normally looks like and why it looks the way it does, questioning whether sitting in the theatre listening to him talk was really PD. Ken spoke about Personalised PD as written about by Jason Bretzmann (@jbretzmann) and Dave Burgess (@burgessdave), the basic premise of which is that teachers, like their students, are learners and therefore are all at different places with different needs. Jason and Dave began Patio PD, which was described to us as being teachers who get together on a patio to share practice. This sounded very similar to something that I heard about from Craig Kemp (@MrKempNZ), which is Pub PD.
The above question was posted by Ken, which is a challenging question. PD is a requirement in education. We need to ensure that we remain up to date with emerging pedagogies and technologies, however, we need to revisit the way in which PD is run. There are some good examples of useful, relevant and practical PD, however, anecdotally, I know that there are also still a large number of schools delivering PD via lecture or PD that is fun and engaging, but that will not actually change practice. As Greg Ashman (@Greg_Ashman) often comments, engagement is a poor proxy for learning.
I have of course attended a large number of PD sessions at schools and there have been very few occasions where I have actively thought to myself that it was a waste of time. or completely irrelevant There have been a significant number of occasions where I have thought to myself that the PD was fun/interesting/engaging. There have, however, been few instances of PD that I can point to and say that that PD changed my practice. Ken Bauer asks whose fault is it if we (teachers) do not like PD the way that it currently is. I believe that it has to be, at least, partially our own fault.
We are required to engage with PD, especially with the implementation of the NSW Department of Education (DoE) Performance and Development Framework which requires that all teachers (amongst other staff) are required to have in place a Professional Development Plan (PDP); and with the accreditation processes required under the Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL).
Ken contends that school leaders, which is not just the designated Principal and other Executive staff, need to create a bold culture that encourages personalised PD as standardised PD often results on the disengagement of everyone they were trying to engage. This process should include a continual questioning of where you are now, where you want to be next year and how we are going to get [you] there. Anecdotally, this does not happen. It seems to be that teachers are expected to drive their own PD from within a specified set of options, whether it be set programs a school is running in literacy or numeracy or from a range of set options available through the NSW DoE (or the local equivalent).
As a temporary teacher, I feel that I have an advantage in this area. I can pick and choose what PD opportunities I wish to engage with. Last year and again this year, when we were told that the Executive were beginning the process of looking at staffing numbers for the following year, I have advised my supervisor of some specific PD opportunities and dates that I am committed to in various ways. I do so as I feel that it is only fair to let them know in advance what days I will be taking off to attend these opportunities and that if they choose to offer me another temporary contract, they do so with eyes wide open vis-a-vis my plans.
Ken continued by commenting that we need to give credit to and support those who share and that we should create more than we consume. Not only that, it is also important that we model saying thank you to others for resources and ideas so that we create a culture of positive shared and creative commons in our classroom. This is one of the things I love about the EduTweetOz twitter account (@EduTweetOz) and the associated blog, that each week an Australian educator takes the reins to share ideas, experiences & questions about education across Australia. Hosts come from all areas of education and it is a thoroughly worthwhile week. The underlying concept behind EduTweetOz, however, is to share ideas and experiences. Through interacting with various hosts of the account and hosting it myself for a week, I have been able to connect with a number of educators via EduTweetOz and have been exposed to ideas and viewpoints that I otherwise may not have been without that account.
This also goes to another point that Ken made, which is that what we do has value, even we do not see it ourselves, that we need to share and put ourselves out there with what we have to offer. There are a number of ways of doing that, through sharing resources (check here for mine), through writing blog articles containing reflections, ideas, outlining puzzles of practice you are struggling with and through engaging with online professional learning networks such as Twitter and other social media platforms. Ken reiterated the point that PD is about relationships and active learning, which by extrapolation, is also what education is about.
In 2001, Marc Prensky (@MarcPrensky) published an article titled Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants in which he wrote the following:
Today’s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach…Today’s students – K through college – represent the first generations to grow up with this new technology. They have spent their entire lives surrounded by and using computers, videogames, digital music players, video cams, cell phones, and all the other toys and tools of the digital age. Today’s average college grads have spent less than 5,000 hours of their lives reading, but over 10,000 hours playing video games (not to mention 20,000 hours watching TV). Computer games, email, the Internet, cell phones and instant messaging are integral parts of their lives. Some refer to them as the N-[for Net]-gen or D-[for digital]-gen. But the most useful designation I have found for them is Digital Natives. Our students today are all “native speakers” of the digital language of computers, video games, and the Internet.
I remember the first time I came across the notion of digital natives and digital immigrants that I was nodding my head and agreeing that yes, my generation and onwards have grown up with technology around us, but now, a bit older and perhaps a bit less naive, I think that while that may be true from a certain perspective, that in many ways, the concept of digital natives does not hold true. While my generation and those after may have grown up with technology all around, that does not equate to an ability to use the technology. I know a great number of people my age and younger who are not comfortable with technology in some contexts, who profess to not being able to use a computer beyond the basics, who do not understand how to use a search engine properly, who do not understand what Twitter/Facebook/Instagram etc is or why people use them.
Ken spoke about the work that David White (@daveowhite) has done around reframing the discussions of digital natives and immigrants that have occurred since Marc Prensky’s seminal article. David contends that individuals engage with the internet and other technologies across a continuum of modes of engagement, visitor or resident, rather than two distinct categories. For a more complete explanation, please watch the short video below.
I think that this conception of digital use is a more appropriate fit for the way in which people engage with digital technologies than the native/immigrants language or even the more recent language around the technology adoption life-cycle and the associated Rogers’ Bell Curve and removes the potential stigma of being a digital immigrant or laggard. I think that this is particularly important in the education space given that anecdotally there appears to be a negative attitude and some sense of disdain for educators not utilising technology in the same way that some teachers do. As previously noted, we should be sharing and helping, not using and showing contempt for non-users.
Ken reminded us of the quote by Will Daggett; “school is a place where students often come to watch their teachers work,” and reminded us that learning should be an active process. We need to make sure that our students are not watching us work, and that they are in fact active participants in their learning. In our current society, this does involve teaching technology skills as part of the Technologies curriculum. Ken contends that it is ok to fail but that we need to persevere and learn from our mistakes. There are a vast array of options and Ken contends that we should choose an option to manage our tools and resources appropriate for our context within the requirements of our school.
Ken’s next point was one I had heard before, but he added an interesting twist to it. He posited that student-riven blogging creates a community of learning and sharing, especially when combined with openly published assignments. I was intrigued by this and fortunately, Ken expanded the thought. He encourages students to publish their answers to questions as part of creating an open sharing culture where students then learn from each other’s answers and can expand on them. The concept is interesting and sounds akin to what I observed whilst at Glenunga International High School that morning in the French lesson, where students were required to add to or correct a translation in a GDoc.
Part of Ken’s process is having students, at the end of the year, create a video for his students in the next year with their tips for being in Ken’s class. This includes understanding Ken himself, but also working in the classroom with the pedagogies that Ken utilises, which is a great idea. It gives students a chance to give feedback about Ken and the way he teaches and gives them the mantle of an expert for a while. Ken also spoke about how he has removed grading and deadlines from his class, which some students struggled with due to the difference to what they are used to in the game of school. Ken said that he encouraged students to learn the content rather than memorise for the test. This would necessitate a change in pedagogy and increased support as students adjust how they are able to demonstrate their understanding (one potential way may be using this form of non-questioning).
Ken was a passionate speaker and strong on the belief that knowledge should be shared, but also credited where borrowed, reminding the audience that learning is often messy, particularly in flipped learning. I was fortunate enough to have a chance to speak with Ken in more depth over dinner that evening, however, given the length of this article already, I will hold off on that. There is one more article to come, covering the final session which was led by Stephanie Kriewaldt (@stephkrie).
As always, thank you for reading. If you have missed any articles in this series from FlipCon Adelaide, please click here to view the full list.
“I have words, not sure how wise they are”
After our visit to Glenunga International High School (GIHS) (which you can read about here and here) was completed, we returned to Brighton Secondary School (BSS) for lunch, after which we engaged in a debrief session. We were given the dates for upcoming events, including FlipCon New Zealand in June and FlipCon Sydney in October. Following that, Jon Bergmann and Ken Bauer took to the stage with microphones each to start the school tour debrief by sharing some of their own observations and reflections about their tour of BSS. There were some microphones spread around the room for delegates to share their observations and reflections on their of either GIHS or BSS.
Jon spoke about how he saw students who owned their learning, but not learning to pass a test, although that is part of the process, but to own their learning for learning’s sake.Ken spoke about how he could see that teachers are sharing resources, ideas, and skills, which I personally think is a great thing. I absolutely believe in the dissemination of ideas, resources, and knowledge in order to contribute and help the teaching profession grow.
The value and potential power of flipped feedback was a recurring theme across a number of the delegates who shared their thoughts and ideas.Danny Avalos (@danny_avalos66) spoke about the fact that the concrete skills and knowledge we teach are all available on YouTube which means we need to redefine what our purpose as teachers is. Danny indicated that he felt that it was what we do in our classrooms to engage and take our students deeper that makes the difference to them.
Delegates were also reminded of the Flipped Learning Certification course which is now being offered over at FLGlobal.org and for which delegates were offered a discount code. I have taken advantage of that and signed up to complete the course and will be doing so during the summer break. We were also challenged to create some action items to take away and actually put what we had learned into practise, which for me, was about engaging with my colleagues for next year around implementing flipped learning strategies. I would also, after getting excited about research from hearing Peter Whiting’s presentation, like to engage with some action research on flipped learning and its impacts on literacy development in infants students, but I need to sit down and have a conversation about that with my supervisor and job-share partner for next year about their interest and thoughts on engaging with that.
Ken Bauer (@ken_bauer) delivered his keynote next, and to give him due credit and to be able to write about it properly, I will review his presentation in the next article. I do not think I will be able to get it out tomorrow (Friday), as this evening is our school musical, a celebration of the school’s sixtieth anniversary. Each Stage was asssigned two decades and asked to prepare a maximum ten-minute performance for the decade and everyone has been working incredibly hard. I am very proud of my students and am excited to see them on stage this evening.
As always, thank you for reading and please leave any comments or feedback you may have. If you have missed any of the other articles in this series you can find them here.
“Students shouldn’t come to school to watch the teachers work”
-John Hattie. Interview with BBC4’s The Educators
Day Two of FlipCon Adelaide was all about the school tour and lesson observations. Visiting Glenunga International High School (GIHS) was something I was looking forward to and the opening addresses, which I wrote about here, were very interesting and gave a clear message of pedagogy and relationships as the key to flipped learning and improved student learning outcomes. After those addresses, however, was the all-important morning tea (the strawberries were spectacularly good) where we would have an opportunity to speak to the various staff members present as well as the Prefects before being taken to observe some lessons.
It was interesting watching the way in which the Prefects engaged the groups of delegates with such confidence and poise. The two Prefects whom I and some others were speaking to were very comfortable speaking about the way the school had changed and were comfortable sharing their lessons. One of the Prefects myself and a few others were speaking with was completing the International Baccalaureate Diploma program whilst the other was completing the South Australian Certificate of Education. Additionally, one of the students had only been at GIHS for about eighteen months and so was able to speak to the differences between his prior, more traditional school and GIHS.
As I previously wrote, when questioned, both students acknowledged that in terms of homework as opposed to how much studying and revision they do, that there is less homework than there used to be, prior to flipped learning. When asked about the late start no Wednesdays, their faces lit up and you could see that they liked the idea. Both of them said they tend to use it sometimes for extra study and revision in preparation for exams or for some extra sleep depending on what they have going on.
It became apparent very early in our tour of GIHS that there is a strong and vibrant student interest group community. The sign in Kendall Wong’s photo above is only one example of the many that we saw during our tour. The number and diversity of student clubs that we saw signs or posters for was phenomenal, especially for me where we had Interact, school band and a chess club in high school, as well as sporting teams, and that was all. It is a testament to the diversity of the student body and the school’s own culture that a number of them were based on social justice issues or charitable causes.
The first that our group visited was a Year Eight French class. The teacher was just getting things started when we arrived and to his credit, he did not miss a beat, merely welcomed us and continued on. It was a small class of approximately twenty students and their task was well constructed and demonstrated some quality pedagogy. The students had been tasked with watching their flipped content and were applying that new learning. In groups of four, students were tasked with reading a short comic strip which was written in French and translating it into English. Rather than being a worksheet, however, the teacher had shared a link via GClass to the students and they were all working within a GDoc to translate.
They were given a few minutes to translate their initially assigned panel from the comic and then they had to move on to the next panel in the rotation and either add to or correct the translation that had been provided by the previous student. Watching the task occur in real time on the main screen at the front of the room was both funny, with the various coloured cursors flashing madly everywhere as students worked to translate their comic strip panel, and exciting, seeing this sort of pedagogy applied in a subject I would not normally teach.I appreciated, at this point, not observing a primary class or a subject or content which I would teach as it freed me to really focus on what was happening within the classroom rather than on the content and skills which were being covered. This was, of course, the point of being arbitrarily assigned to groups.
There was a group of three boys sitting just in front of me that I could see switching back and forth between the GDoc and Google Translate. I wanted to find out more about how they used GClass as an LMS and about how the were completing the task. They were quite happy to answer some questions and show me their GClass stream. Typically, it seems like it was used to push out content or links to content, set questions and facilitate the delivery and collection of assignments. As they were explaining things in response to my questions, the message came through once again, unprompted, pedagogy and relationships are key and that was something which I feel spoke strongly about the buy-in from the school community to the philosophy and approach that GIHS was taking.
I did observe during that lesson one student who was sitting in the front row on the other side of the room to myself and was slouching in his seat, with his feet up on the chair next to him using his phone below the desk. The teacher could clearly see that the student was using it, there was no deliberate act of trying to hide that the phone was being used. I queried our Prefect on the school’s mobile phone policy and there was a wry grin in response. The school has a strong policy of student ownership of their learning and student responsibility for their choices and owning their own distractions. Students are mostly free to use their phones as long as they are completing the required tasks in a timely fashion.
Our Prefect related that when she was in the process of applying for jobs earlier that year, that her phone had rung (silently) in class with the phone number of one of where she had applied recently on the caller ID. With a very brief explanation of the situation, she was allowed to take the call outside and then return to class. This works without negatively impacting hers or her peers learning due to flipped learning. In a traditional classroom context, there is a likelihood that to step outside would have meant that she would miss some explicit instruction about the concept being covered and would thus be behind the proverbial eight ball when she returned. In a flipped class, however, she was not listening to explicit teaching instruction as that had been completed via the flipped content prior to entering the classroom and therefore was able to stop what she was doing and resume it when she re-entered the classroom.
Placing responsibility for the learning back onto the student is a great move which, when properly supported by teaching students how to manage their time, take high-quality notes, how to study and revise efficiently. As we moved through the school for the next lesson observation, we were taken through one of the school’s media arts workshops where we saw an Apple Macintosh computer! My grandfather taught me how to use a computer on one of those and I remember being blown away by how cool it was and some of the games that it could support.
When we arrived at GIHS and entered their Performing Arts Centre (PAC), the room contained a stage and chair that reminded me of the fold down chairs you see at many cinemas which were stepped to create a minor theatre effect. When we returned to the space to observe a drama lesson in action, the room had completely changed. You can see in the photo above that the whole chairs had retracted back into a single block which was a very efficient use of the space. Outside the PAC, there were a number of posters from shows that had, presumably, been run by drama students at GIHS. When I asked one of our Prefects about it, she confirmed that tickets to the shows are sold to the community and that all proceeds are donated to charity. Having the students perform their shows in front of paying audiences and then donating the proceeds to charities is a great way of building community relationships, contributing to worthy causes and also providing the students some genuine theatre experience.
Observing the drama lesson was intriguing. The dozen or so students arrived and went straight into practice. The teacher spoke to use very briefly to explain the context of what was happening and indicated that the students had been asked to read a short script and learn some associated movements and that they were running an exercise on group space and interactions in a group space where they needed to use the space in such a way as to complete particular movements at certain times in specified ways. I enjoy theatre, but have only been in school productions as a student and one production of Oliver with the Tamworth Musical Society when I was in Year Seven, and so I was not entirely sure what I was seeing, even with the brief explanation from the teacher.
Each of the groups convened back together at this point and we were back onto the mini-buses to go back to Brighton Secondary School. The trip to GIHS was very interesting and demonstrated how flipped learning can occur in a range of contexts. I am excited about continuing my flipped learning journey into 2017 in a new context. I was very impressed with the fact that the driving message from everyone at GIHS that I spoke to, both staff and students, was focused on pedagogy and relationships. Even the students that I spoke to in the French class, were talking about pedagogy and relationships, even if they were not using the specific language thereof. It was a fascinating insight into the way in which a change in culture can permeate a school community in a short period of time. I want to thank the GIHS staff and students for opening up their school to us and providing us with the opportunity to hear and observe the way they have embraced flipped culture.
Day one of FlipCon Adelaide was fantastic and you can find the articles for day one by clicking here. You can also find the Storify of the tweets from day one here. Additionally, Peter Whiting (@Mr_van_w) and his colleague Bill Tink (@BillTink) recorded their own reflections as a podcast which is available here and is a great reflection on the day overall from some different perspectives.
Day two promised to be a great day. Part of FlipCon Adelaide was a school tour. Delegates were offered a choice, a few weeks out, of touring the host school, Brighton Secondary School (BSS) or of touring Glenunga International High School (GIHS). Having heard Jeremy LeCornu (@MrLeCornu) speak on multiple occasions (for example, here and here) as well as Olivia O’Neill speak (here) I felt that I would be better served by and would learn more from touring a school of which I knew nothing and therefore had no preconceptions about what I would see or hear.
The initial statistics we were provided were impressive in my mind. Years Eight to Twelve and just fewer than two thousand students representing seventy-four nationalities on the one campus blew my mind, in addition to running the International Baccalaureate Diploma program as well as the South Australian Certificate of Education as parallel courses. Upon arrival at GIHS, we were greeted by the incoming Prefects as well as some of the school Executive staff. In their Performing Arts Centre, we heard a welcome address from Harry Postema, who also introduced the other speakers who would be following him, including Principal Wendy Johnson, Deputy Principal Jeremy Cogan, Innovative Pedagogies Leader Cindy Bunder and incoming Prefects Indigo and Layla.
Part of the tour would be about viewing flipped classes in action, both a technical or academic class, and a hands-on or practical class. We were advised that delegates were arbitrarily divided up into the four groups for the school tours, with each group viewing different classes. There was no consideration of our own teaching contexts or faculty background as it was about seeing the flipped pedagogy in action rather than the content.
Wendy Johnson, GIHS Principal and Flipped Learning International Ambassador, was introduced next, and she spoke about the importance of pedagogy for flipped learning. The role of Innovative Pedagogies Leader at GIHS was focused on helping teachers change their pedagogy to make the best use of the reclaimed class time as a result of flipping their classes. This was facilitated by making a decision to start classes later on Wednesday mornings and make the morning a time for staff professional development and collaboration on developing pedagogies that would assist in taking the school from good to great.
As a primary teacher, we are continually reminded that the first two hours of our school day are the critical learning times when students are at their freshest cognitively and therefore this is where literacy and numeracy teaching is to take place (which makes me question the value assigned to the other key learning areas by policy makers). It is for this same reason that the decision was made to move staff professional development to the morning. Teachers typically feel the same as students in the afternoon; tired and worn out and so the retention of learning and the cognitive engagement is lowered and therefore the value of that time is reduced.
I was curious about the late start and what impact it had on the students and the opportunity to ask came during the morning tea break. The Prefects remained with us and quite confidently and willingly engaged the delegates in conversation and so I asked them about what they used that time for and whether those two hours were added back into the timetable somewhere else with late classes. We were told that they were not added back in and that what they were used for varied, as would be expected student to student. The two Prefects we were speaking with said that typically they would use it to either catch up on sleep or would get up at their normal time and use it to complete individual space tasks or study for exams.
Returning to Wendy’s address, she advised that they made a conscious decision to invest time and money in professional development on technology use and on pedagogical practice. The then-current model of professional development and learning was not working as teachers would draw on their own experience to form their pedagogical framework or paradigm and then listen to what was being said and take they already know or what they wanted to know. Changing that mentality was a significant challenge.
As you would perhaps expect there was some strong resistance to this change in focus on professional development but that traction won over the period of a few years and that they now have a pedagogical framework that all staff members are committed to. They utilised the mandated Teaching for Effective Learning framework as a starting point and the final GIHS Pedagogical Framework evolved from there. The clear focus from each speaker was on pedagogical improvement for students’ benefit and it was coming through not just in the words that were being said, but in how they were being said and the way that the Prefects held themselves and spoke.
We were told that the capture of learning cycle documentation (lesson plans, programs, assessment schedules etc.) was revamped to make it more a more valuable process rather than merely the satisfying of policy. I do not have notes on what that revamp looked like which leads me to believe we were not told the specifics of that. Given my current career status as an early career teacher, any guidance on making the development of learning cycle documentation more beneficial and useful is welcome.
The above statement is an interesting one and requires some unpacking. The first inference is that if you only have pockets of excellence than by deductive reasoning you must have large amounts of stagnant and / or stale teachers and pedagogies; a sad indictment on a beleaguered teaching profession. It would seem intuitive that teaching, as with any other profession or sector contains a continuum of practitioners of varying qualities and abilities. I do not know if I agree with the surface implications of the statement, however, I can understand the position that the statement is made from.
We also heard about how it was critical for the success of the change in focus that parents understood the goals and to that end, the school hosted an information night showing a unit taught using traditional pedagogies and then using contemporary pedagogies, including flipped learning. They were expecting around fifty parents, however, ended up with two hundred and fifty. Part of the education process for the parents and the students alike was that the change to flipped learning, improved pedagogies, and improved learning outcomes would not be instantaneous.
For a change of pace, we heard from two of the incoming school Prefects, Indigo and Layla. One of the key messages that came through in their address was that the change to contemporary pedagogies was not about teachers providing all of the answers to students, but that it was about the teachers guiding students to understand what questions to ask.
The message in here is one of trust and strong relationships. Students are used to playing the game of school and of being given the answers when they are unable to work it out themselves. This focus on relationships between teachers and peers is also building trust that the teachers want to work with the students for the students’ benefit.
The vision for the pedagogical framework moving forward into 2017 is that any teacher can walk into any lesson and see the required characteristics and that if that is not the case, then a conversation about why not needs to occur. It is a tough stance; however, given the process that the school has gone through to reach this point, it seems fair. The impact of this framework is especially critical given that teachers need to plan for effective use of the group space with flipped learning to ensure that students are engaging more deeply and using higher level cognitive skills and processes than in traditional classrooms.
We next heard about the flipped content or learning objects (LOs) and the delegates heard, once again, that getting hung up on the quality of the LO is not useful. The LO prepared by the students’ own teacher is the best option, and having high-level production values does not make or break the quality of the instruction imparted in the video. This assertion, which I have heard from numerous flipped educators as do you want it perfect or on Tuesday? is supported by research, such as that conducted by Peter Whiting which I wrote about here.
A key factor in this is knowing the content and the learning goal for the LO that is being developed to enable it to be created quickly, with minimum fuss and with no post-production, a practice that Joel Speranza (@JoelBSperanza) promotes and which can be seen in the below video.
Flipping does not happen every lesson, however, deep thinking and deep learning can [happen every lesson] was the message we heard next, as Cindy Bunder took the podium. Flipped classes should be more active, both mentally and physically with a focus on the Four Cs. She posited that the individual learning space should take no longer than ten minutes maximum, and should not be meaningless homework.
I asked two prefects during the morning tea break about this and was told that on average they were both completing roughly three hours of homework most nights. This was across all of their courses and they included their general revision and studying load in this time. On further probing, they both indicated that they felt that the actual homework component of their nightly workload was less than prior to flipped learning, however, that the time spent on a specific course varied depending on the context of what was being covered and how much time was spent engaging by pausing, re-watching, and taking notes from the LO.
It was interesting to hear that with flipped learning in place teachers now feel that they have time to teach key skills that are not part of the explicit curriculum such as note taking, time management, critical thinking and how to use individual time and group time to gain the maximum benefit for their learning. Direct instruction is still important within flipped learning; however, it needs to be appropriate and minimal.
At that, the opening addresses concluded and it was time for morning tea, pockets of delegates peppering GIHS Prefects with questions formed. I will leave off here and discuss the conversations I had with the Prefects and some other students as we completed the tour and our lesson observations. Thank you for reading, as always, and I would appreciate any feedback on this article. The clear message that came through from all of the speakers was that flipped learning is about and has resulted in improved pedagogies and relationships.
In this Flipped Teacher Professional Learning video I demonstrate how to open, create and upload documents using Office365, focusing primarily on Word, PowerPoint and Excel. A OneDrive video is on the way.
For the full list of FTPL videos, please click here.
“We put finished works up, but how often do we put up work / learning in progress to model that learning is an ongoing process?”
After listening to Peter Whiting (@Mr_van_W) speak about his action research (which I wrote about here), I settled in to hear Ryan Gill (@ryanagill) speak about Delving Deeper – developing critical and creative thinking in flipped classrooms. I was curious about what I would here in this for two reasons. Firstly, I had not been in the room for part one, but the twitter conversations I had seen looked very interesting
The other reason I was interested was that critical and creative thinking are two characteristics which are firmly embedded in the Australian Curriculum and are spoken about by some as being twenty-first century skills, which gives me the impression these people are being either facetious and acknowledging that there is in fact nothing new about them whatsoever, or they are utilising them as buzzwords (click here for buzzword bingo…great for your next staff meeting) and are ignoring, again, the fact that these characteristics or skills have in fact been around for millennia.
Ryan began by discussing his journey through Visible Thinking and Cultures of Thinking and providing an overview as to what they are and how they are related to his flipped class journey, which has been ongoing with Year Eleven and Year Twelve courses for the last four years at Masada College. What Ryan was telling us about Cultures of Thinking and the handouts he provided us with looked and sounded very similar to what I heard from some presenters during the Teaching for Thinking forum I attended last year (read those articles here).
Cultures of Thinking originates from Project Zero at Harvard Graduate School of Education and makes explicit a range of thinking routines that fit into different contexts and have a different thinking move appropriate for that routine. The routine chosen is contextual, with pedagogy being the driving tool behind the routine chosen. Ryan made it clear that many of the thinking routines are already being used by teachers, however, they do not necessarily think of them as routines but as a strategy for student engagement.
Cultures of thinking makes explicit the thinking that teachers are asking students to do, enabling teachers to explicitly teach students’ strategies to think more deeply about their learning. An example that Ryan provided was to use a thinking strategy such Zoom In rather than asking the class a few questions. As he reminded the group, no thinking means no learning is going on…are your students actually thinking or are they getting through the stuff?
Ryan next spoke about cultural forces which impact and define our classroom and which are important for our students’ growth as thinkers and learners. Ryan said that rich and deep thinking often requires slowing right down and allowing time for the thinking to occur at deeper than surface levels, which is something we do not often do as educators. I have tried to encourage my students this year to not make a guess straight away or to call out when they think they know an answer to a question but to take at least five seconds to stop and think about it and I have to admit that I have not been particularly successful in breaking some of the thinking habits of my students; they still throw their hands straight in the air, even when explicitly told that it is thinking time or brainstorming time. Ryan showed us a video of Debbie O’Hara speaking about using the explanation game as a way of teaching students to think more deeply and more critically.
As a follow on from the video, Ryan asked us to think about the cultural forces that we observed in the video and to consider how they impacted upon the students’ learning. It was a rich discussion with a range of ideas and thoughts. Ryan acknowledged that we all operate within our own context and that every context has constraints handed down and enforced from those hierarchically above us. Within those constraints, however, we should work to create the culture that we want in our class.
The level to which we should allow our students to muddle or struggle with concepts as part of their learning was raised. Ryan spoke about it being an important part of the learning process and that the discovery or Eureka moment is a powerful factor for further learning, engagement and retention of learning. Furthermore, allowing kids to remain in the muddle can foster curiosity, resilience, and creativity. Helping students to remain in a safe muddle, a place of cognitive dissonance can depend largely on the questions and the language that is used within class discussions, a concept which Jennie Magiera (@MsMagiera) raised during her Masterclass at the FutureSchools Conference this year (read part one here).
Ryan spoke to us about The Putin Principle, though I do not remember the context, and asked us to consider the above image, and explain who we thought was correct using a thinking routine called claim, support, question. It was an interesting process and the range of ideas about the veracity of any one position espoused in the Slugville Election was intriguing, and Ryan played the devil’s advocate will a significant amount of delight, challenging the ideas presented by various delegates. The process reminded me of The Obi-Wan Principle:
Ryan used this exercise to point out that our own biases and points of view can unconsciously influence our students’ ideas and points of view. Additionally, he added, our language can either encourage or discourage our students and that we need to be aware of our words and our meaning.
Ryan closed by using a zoom out exercise, showing us a small part of an image to start with and asking us to consider what we can observe and what impressions that gives us of what and where the image is. As he showed us each level of the image, we spent a few minutes discussing as a group our observations and ideas on what we could see and what factors influenced our assumptions about our observations. It was a very interesting process and a clever way of closing out, using one of the thinking routines we had been discussing.
I thoroughly enjoyed Ryan’s session and would have liked to have been able to be in two places at once so that I could listen to Part One whilst I was also in listening to Peter Whiting. If you are interested in learning more about cultures of thinking, I have included links to various resources throughout this article. Additionally, you can get involved with the cultures of thinking chat on twitter using #cotchat or looking up Project Zero. Thank you for reading and I would appreciate any feedback you may have on this article. If you have missed the previous articles in the series, you can find the full list here.
“This is going to be really stats heavy and so I won’t be offended if you want to leave.”
– Peter Whiting
Welcome back for part four in my review of FlipCon Adelaide. If you have missed the previous articles, you can find them by clicking here. For whatever reason, I had not registered for a session after Aimee Shattock’s and I decided to drop in on Peter Whiting’s (@mr_van_w) session where would be exploring the results from an action research project which was recently peer reviewed and published (you can find it here). Statistics and research is not a flavour that everyone enjoys and it was a small group in the room, however, it was, for me, an incredibly interesting session and I got a real kick out of hearing about the methodologies and the statistical results; it reignited a desire to engage in education research. It was a good session even before Peter spoke, however, as I saw this on the wall, encouraging a growth mindset and a persistent attitude to learning.
Peter spoke about his background, that he was a scientist before entering the teaching profession and so his research was driven by a science mindset, looking at the story told by the data. He also indicated that his working environment is hostile in many ways to flipped learning as a pedagogical strategy, but that the school has moved to action research as a basis for professional development, which sounds strategically sensible, depending on what guidelines are provided for topics of research and the structure. I had some conversations around this topic during the social event which I was intrigued by and will discuss further in a later article.
The action research was driven by two focus questions, what was the impact on student engagement and student learning outcomes when flipped content is made either by their own teacher, a team teacher or an external provider. It is an interesting question as the general feedback that highly experienced flipped educators give is that creation is better than curation for flipped content. Peter spoke about the relationship that he and his team teacher have which other as being very productive and safe vis-a-vis their ability to provide open and frank feedback to each other and that this was essential to the quality of their flipped content and also to the action research project.
This also provided the first departure point from standard flipped learning discourse as Peter noted that they do not necessarily have students engaging with video content in the individual learning space and therefore refer to the flipped content as learning objects or LOs.This allows for a discussion about the flipped content without limiting the discussion to video content.
The research was structured to allow for a number of data points. Peter explained that in a typical action research project, for each query, three data points are required. To this end, the research was structured to allow for a number of data collection points, with two sets of two parallel classes being utilised (an A and B class in each of Stage Four and Stage Five science) to allow for comparisons in different learning contexts. This enabled a comparison of the effect on engagement and outcome as a result of teacher-created, team-teach created or externally created LOs. The overall sample size was fifty-five students and Peter said that he would have liked to have had a larger sample size, however, that was what he had to work with. If you are not familiar with what team teaching is and why that is a topic of potential interest for research, you can find a good overview here.
Peter then did what he promised and went into statistics-mode. The first results that we were shown were the overall results around the engagement levels in the individual space (what would traditionally be referred to as homework). These showed markedly different results between teacher-created LOs and team teacher-created LOs; 91% completion in comparison to 85%. This trend continued when examined in the same way with the data clustered by the unit of study or topic.
The above photo is not the greatest, however, the darker column is Class A and the lighter column is Class B. The results demonstrated that students engaged with the LOs much more frequently and with greater interest when they were created by the class teacher, irrespective of the topic of study. The Class A teacher developed the LOs for the second unit, whilst the Class B teacher prepared the LOs for the first and third units and you can see the interaction patterns quite clearly in the results. It is interesting to note that the subject or topic of the unit (appears) not to have had any impact on the average results and I would be curious to hear about any inferences or conclusions that were made around that.
Following on from that, bookwork results were examined, and student effort was recorded using predetermined success criteria, with the results being clustered together by alternate and classroom teacher. It was reported that there was a significant different between the two sets of results; when students’ book-work marks were clustered together according to the book-work marks from their own and the alternate teacher. Peter reported that this indicated to them that students were taking detailed notes beyond the bare minimum when the learning object being used was created by their own teacher rather than the alternate teacher. Interestingly, it was also reported that as the end of the year drew closer the disparity between the two columns (book work marks for own vs alternate teacher) lessened. I am not sure what results you could infer from this other than potentially an impact of studying for impending exams or major in-class assessment tasks/tests. I do not recall what Peter said, if anything, about this, but he noted it as interesting.
Students were asked directly about whether they had a preference for the LOs that their teacher created in comparison to an alternate teacher and it is telling that although 70% of students thought the LOs were equivalent vis-a-vis quality, that 47% preferred the LOs developed by their own teacher. Peter did acknowledge that 49% of students were neutral on that question; that they did not mind either way. I found it very interesting that such a large proportion of students indicated they did not mind either way. A question along these lines was asked during the primary discussion panel (read the article here) and Matthew Burns (@burnsmatthew) responded that he asks his students about whether they prefer flipped pedagogies or traditional pedagogies. It is a slightly different question with a different focus, however, as far as I am aware, Matt creates the vast majority of his content and he indicated a roughly 70% / 10% / 20% split between preference of flipped/blended/traditional pedagogies. I do not know if Matt has done any similar research into the impacts of third-party created flipped content/LOs.
The above graph was shown to us next and it is a very intriguing set of results. It demonstrates that although there is a preference for teacher-created LOs, that the measured summative metrics revealed no statistically significant variance in the achievement of learning outcomes. This has significance for teachers interested in flipped learning as a pedagogical strategy. Engagement in the classroom or group learning time is an important factor in classroom management and the perception of whether you are a good teacher. John Hattie (@john_hattie) has written extensively around effect sizes, and engagement has an effect size of 0.45 which is not insignificant.
One potential reason for the preference for teacher-created LOs is that students are used to you; your vocal rhythms, patterns, tonal quality, and lilts, however, it is key that we remember that the LOs are not everything. Flipped learning is about videos, primarily, but that is not the goal of flipped learning. The goal of flipped learning to reclaim time for deeper learning and engagement with higher level thinking as envisioned on the reimagined Bloom’s Taxonomy.
Peter related that Derek Muller (@Veritasium) completed a study for a PhD, which he (Peter) summarised as can we learn stuff from videos – the short answer from Derek is no. The learning happens in the class.” He pointed out that a video provides background and foundational information, but that it does not necessarily provide a context, an application or a synthesis of the skill or concept; that is what the classroom time needs to be used and as Jon Bergmann pointed out in his keynote address earlier that morning, the biggest mistake in implementing flipped pedagogies is not using the reclaimed group space time well.
The video does not teach students how to think critically around a topic or provide them with strategies for synthesising new information or evaluating the impacts of something, that is our role as teachers, to provide the opportunity for students to take that information and apply, analyse, evaluate and create with it. It provides the opportunity for teachers to build and strengthen the relationships with students which has a sizable effect size (0.52) on student learning outcomes according to Hattie.
We moved onto discussions around the human research ethics approval (HRECs), requirements around which varies depending on the jurisdiction. Essentially though, if the research is in-house for reflection and improvement of practice, ethical approval is not strictly necessary (unless otherwise indicated in your State or Territory), though it is still a good idea. If you intend to publish or share the results externally, then it becomes necessary. Even if it was not necessary, the process of completing a HRECs application is very useful. I found that it helped me to crystallise exactly what my guiding question was and how was going to go about researching that and understanding the results. Peter also said that there is money available via grants for research assistants and that we simply need to go through the processes. This was not something I was aware of, however, it would be very useful to have someone who can collect, collate and assist in data analysis.
We were told that the most basic interpretation of action research methodology is to ask a question, enact a plan to gather data, reflect and reiterate. The complication or the challenge comes from the need to continually ask so what and where to from here when the data is collected and conclusions have been drawn at each iterative step.
The question was asked how far away from your own institution do you go before content becomes external? Is it external content if it by anyone outside of your own Stage or Faculty? Your own school? your Local Learning Community or Dioecese? That, Peter indicated, is the next step for the research.
I personally found the session with Peter to be exciting and reinvigorating. My current long-term career goal is to end up in the education research space. I feel like this will be ongoing or multiple over a period of time, action research projects where specific questions are researched and iterations made to pedagogical practice and strategy with the end goal being to share results at each step for feedback and peer review (whether this is formalised for publication or merely social peer review through trusted colleagues I do not know). I am a teacher first and a researcher second, however, I genuinely enjoyed the process of reviewing the literature, synthesising it, researching, analysing the data and then writing the thesis. I would like to take it to the next step and be able to make iterative changes to my practice and to be able to share those results with peers. That is largely why I maintain this blog and also try to maintain the formal-ish academic style of writing, so that I do not lose the ability to write in that style when ( am determined it will be when not if) I get the opportunity to dig into some research again.
Thank you as always for reading this rather long article. I know that research and statistics is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I personally really enjoyed Peter’s session. We enjoyed a long conversation around it later on over dinner and drinks, and I daresay that when I read his article that I will have further questions for him. I would like to hear your thoughts on the research described and what direction you think it could go in next and what questions you feel would be valuable for research.
“Assessment in a flipped classroom must inform what you then do in the class.”
The Primary Discussion Panel which I wrote about in the previous article was followed by a morning tea break, after which, the breakout sessions were scheduled to begin. In the first session, I attended a workshop with Aimee Shattock (@MSShattock) entitled How Do I Know If They Got It? Embedding Fun, Fast and Effective Formative Assessment Into Your Flipped Program. I originally made me breakout session choices when I booked my attendance in June and I perhaps should have reviewed my session choices closer to the event. Aimee opened her session by having delegates take part in a Kahoot quiz, something which is always fun. She spent some time explaining how to create and use Kahoots in the classroom. Although I am quite familiar with the Kahoot platform, it was still useful as I had not used them for some time and was not realised the Kahoot creation interface had changed.
Following the Kahoot discussion, Aimee introduced the delegates to Socrative, an app that I was aware of but had never used. It seems quite straightforward to use and serves slightly different purposes to Kahoot. It is a free app that is compatible with any PC or device, however, it requires an internet connection and Aimee indicated that the iPad app can be quite glitchy at times. The most useful function of Socrative, in my opinion, is its exit ticket component. It defaults to three questions.
This quick and easy way of getting immediate feedback on the session learning that you can digest at a later time as part of your assessment of learning and assessment for learning reflection process is useful as you are able to process the students’ understandings at a time and pace more conducive to critical reflection that will inform future practice and what comes next.
I realise that I have not written much for Aimee’s session and I do feel bad as she is an excellent presenter with some excellent ideas who engaged the delegates well. If I had not been as familiar with Kahoot and as comfortable using it as I am, Aimee’s session would have been an excellent place to learn about it.I did enjoy learning about Socrative and I do plan to explore using it in my class at some point as I think it can serve a very useful purpose.
I discovered after Aimee’s session concluded that I had not registered for anything in the next session and decided to sit in on Peter Whiting’s (@Mr_van_W) session, which I did write extensively for and will do so in the next article, which I hope to have ready to be published tomorrow afternoon.
In this Flipped Teacher Professional Learning video, I demonstrate how to access Microsoft Office365 through the Department of Education portal and through the login.microsoft website.
For the full list of FTPL videos please click here.
“If you are the expert on flipped learning, be generous and be polite”
– The Primary School Discussion Panel
Following the opening address by Rupert Denton (@rupertdenton) and the Keynote by Jon Bergmann (@jonbergmann), both of which I reviewed in the previous article, the conference delegates split off into their first session. I attended a Primary School Discussion panel consisting of Jon Bergmann, Matthew Burns (@burnsmatthew) and Kirsty Tonks. It was an intimate group, with around twenty delegates in the room to ask questions.
One of the questions was about strategies to check that students have watched the video. A useful strategy that was offered up was to have students submit an entry ticket as a summary of what they have learned, or that an interesting question related to the flipped content needs to be offered to the class for exploration during the subsequent lesson or unit.
The question was asked about what do students prefer vis-a-vis flipped learning compared to traditional pedagogical approaches. Matt Burns spoke to this and indicated that he actually asked his students for their thoughts on this and that it was typically a mix between some preferring straight flipped, some preferring straight lecture and some preferring a mixture of flipping and lecture and which was typically around 70% / 10% / 20%. Looking back at that conversation, I wonder if the results are influenced by how much which teacher-made videos are used in comparison to teacher-curated as the research by Peter Whiting which I referred to in the previous article and will write about in more depth in a later article indicated that that can have a significant impact on student academic outcomes.
This also fed into a question about how to manage the forest of hands in the air requesting assistance during the group learning time and understanding who wants to be rescued from thinking and who is unable to continue without assistance because they do not understand a concept. A very simple solution was offered up, and it was also pointed out that squeaky wheels sometimes are the ones which do not need the attention.
A criticism that is often leveled at flipped learning is dealing with students not completing the homework, now referred to as the individual learning. The response really is quite simple. Students often do not do assigned homework in the traditional context because it is either too difficult, takes too long, is too boring, so this problem is not new at all. However, flipped learning can encourage students to complete the homework. One of the keys to a successful flipped classroom is that the flipped content is succinct, therefore the individual learning space for a single class should not be longer than perhaps ten to twenty minutes allowing time to watch, rewatch, make notes, and answer and also ask some questions based on the flipped content.
Someone asked a question about whether there has been a noticeable age where the shift from in-flip to out-flip is a good choice. Jon responded that from what he has seen, the tipping point appears to be in Year Three. Prior to that, in-flipping definitely appears to be a better choice for implementing flipped learning, while from Year Four onwards, out-flipping appears to be the best way to utilise flipped learning. Within Year Three, it appears that it will depend on the particular cohort of students as to which option will work best, or perhaps even use the year to transition from in-flip to out-flip.
There were a range of other issues discussed to varying degrees. Recording the marking and feedback of student work was posited as being a worthwhile way of providing higher quality and quanitity of feedback, particularly in writing, and projects within the applied sciences and the creative arts. We were reminded that how we think we sound is not how we actually sound. The way our voice sounds on a recording is our actual voice and irrespective of whether we like the sound of our voice on a video, it is what our students hear everyday anyway. Essentially, tough luck and get over it!
The panel were asked about differentiation in a flipped classroom and whether multiple videos are recorded to suit each level of learning needed in the classroom. One suggestion was that you record your video as normal and then when you reach the point where the content is going to step up to a higher level simply say in the video that the next level of content is for Group X and then give the next level of the concept or skill in that section of the video.
The next interesting discussion point was around the benefits to utilising flipped learning. We are often told that it is a good thing when students ask questions, and in many cases that is most certianly true. However, there are times when it is not a good thing for students to ask questions. One of the benefits of flipped learning is that you can give the full explanation of the concept or skill being addressed without being asked a question that you were going to answer in your next sentence, or any other of a dozen types of interruptions that make a five minute explanation take fifteen minutes.
Discussion returned to homework, and I asked Jon, via e-mail after the conference if he could elucidate vis-a-vis his thoughts on homework as it related to flipped learning and the research around homework and what education thinkers such as Alfie Kohn (@alfiekohn) have said about homework and he advised that he has written a book outlining in detail his thoughts around homework and how to adress it as part of flipped learning, Solving the homework problem by flipping the learning, which will be released in April 2017. Jon also reminded the audience that the evidence around homework is not as conclusive as Alfie Kohn has made it out to be.
The panel was asked whether flipped learning works with disadvantaged or those students who might be considered academically challenging or disengaged. Some of the best results are being seen with students who are disengaged, such as Clintondale High School who saw a significant reduction in negative and anti-social behaviour and a rise in student engagement and academic outcomes for their students.Part of this success comes with using a single system for managing student access to the flipped content, a learning management system or LMS. The audience was told that it typically takes two to three to really become comfortable and au fait with a learning management system and then another year or two after that to really decide whether or not it is suitable and works within the specific context.
The panel was once again a very informative and interesting session. It was great to hear from other primary educators and get a feel for what challenges and concerns they are dealing with. As always, thank you for reading, and if you missed the previous article in this series, you can find it by clicking here. It will likely be early next week before I am able to get the next article out, however, I will aim to have it up on Tuesday afternoon.
After attending a masterclass with Jon Bergmann (@JonBergmann) at FutureSchools in 2015 (review articles here) and the subsequent FlipConAus on the Gold Coast later that year (review articles here), I was excited to get to be attending this year’s Flipped Learning conference in Adelaide. It came at a good time for me personally, with the preceding few weeks having been very stressful for a number of professional and personal reasons. The Storify of the lead up and day one of the event has been storified, which you can find here.
For me, the trip to FlipCon began with a train trip, a long wait (not to be confused with the long weight that many apprentices have been sent to get from the hardware store) at Sydney Airport with an overpriced lunch, a flight which involved a random conversation with the two passengers sitting in my row on the plane and then randomly running into Heather Davis (@misshdavis) and her entourage at the baggage collection. We all ended up going out for dinner together and it was a great way to get to meet some new people beforehand as well as being a nicer way of spending the evening than dinner alone and getting some work done in the hotel room.
The actual conference began with a welcome address from Val Macauly of organisers IWBNet and the Principal of hosts Brighton Secondary School, Olivia O’Neill.
Following Olivia was Rupert Denton (@rupertdenton) of Clickview who spoke about the need to make technology educational, rather than make education technological. It was an important distinction and one which he spoke passionately. It is, I have to admit, the only opening address that I have heard where the Cambrian Explosion and the Cambrian Extinction have been so seamlessly woven into the talk.
For those of you who have not heard of the Cambrian Explosion, it was a twenty to twenty-five million years period of time in which the vast majority of animal species originated. He likened the current period of educational technology to that period of time as it seems that there is a new toy, app, gadget, tool or technological pedagogy emerging and becoming a favoured flavour every other day. There was competition for food (teachers to use the product), competition for resources (schools to use the product school-wide rather than a single teacher) and competition for growth (developers to create more apps, gadgets etc). The clear underlying message of Rupert’s address was captured succinctly.
Rupert exhorted delegates to critique the value of technology which purports to be educational and question what is it that makes it educational? If you follow Rupert’s analogy vis-a-vis the Cambrian Explosion to its logical conclusion, there must be a Cambrian Extinction event looming on the near horizon.
The distinction is important, as it feels like education is being made technological sometimes, rather than making technology educational. I hear complaints from colleagues both in my own school and from other schools that it feels like there have been more fads in education in the last five years than in the preceding ten, particularly as technology in our daily lives becomes more ubiquitous and companies realise that by promising much, they can sell even more. This sounds like a similar line of thought to the digital natives vs digital immigrants discussion to me. It should always, however, come back to the pedagogy and the good of the students’ learning.
After Rupert spoke, Jon Bergmann was up to deliver his keynote address. Before he did that, however, he mentioned that Battledecks (or PowerPoint Karaoke as it is called in my classroom) would be on again at the social event. Along with that, to ensure that everyone was up and fresh for the day, Jon also mentioned that he would be holding a FlipCon 5k event starting from Glenelg Pier the next morning.
I have to admit that I was not sure how much value I would receive from hearing Jon speak. Not because I feel that I know everything about flipped learning, I most certainly do not, but because I had heard him speak about flipped learning on a number of occasions prior to this and I was not sure how much of what he said would be new. The initial stage of his keynote was mostly familiar content, however, the middle and latter stages held some new nuggets of ideas for me to consider.
Jon spoke to the concern about replacing teachers with YouTube videos that is often levelled at flipped learning as a pedagogical strategy by reminding us that our value as teachers and professionals is not in our information dissemination but in our ability to analyse and deep dive on a subject with our students so that when they resurface, they have gained a new understanding for not just the surface understandings but the more nuanced subtleties of the topic or skill. I saw the below tweet by Jeff Atwood this morning and it resonated very strongly with me along this same theme.
Jon also defined some new terminology as a way of differentiating flipped learning from traditional pedagogical methods and to reframe the discussions around learning activities.
This shift in the framing language of flipped learning should also encourage a shift in thinking about the way in which time with our students is used. It is easy to add to students workload rather than replace the homework with individual learning tasks, however, that is not how we should be flipping, reminding us that flipped learning is not about the technology or the videos but about the reclaiming of our face to face time with students for more meaningful and deeper learning activities.
The reminder was given that we need to train our students as videos are often merely a source of entertainment and that flipped videos should be engaged with rather than just watched. The new tip (though obvious when said) was that we also need to invest in professional development for ourselves and colleagues when implementing flipped learning. I maintain a list of resources, articles and contacts to start out with flipped learning, however, you can now complete a Flipped Learning Certification course through the Flipped Learning Global Initiative.
Jon shared the top twelve mistakes that educators make and which get in the way of flipped learning success, beginning with lecturing when students have not watched the video. “Do not rescue them from that choice,” Jon told the audience. Making content too difficult or inconsistent to access is another. This last comment can be interpreted in a few ways. The literal interpretation is, I think, fairly clear. The other consideration, particularly in secondary and tertiary education, is that it is not too difficult insofar as students needing to remember a large number of access details with different faculties using a different learning management system. Keep it simple. Joel Speranza (@joelbsperanza) spoke about this during his masterclass at FlipConAus 2015 and reminded us that the learning management system does not even necessarily need to be technology based.
The next mistake Jon said he sees in flipped classrooms that do not work is that the teacher is not active in the classroom after flipping, that they sit at their desk and do not engage with students. This defeats the whole point of flipping a classroom. Following this was giving up too easily. This seems fairly straightforward, as any big change requires a period of acclimation for all those involved and flipped learning is typically a significant change in pedagogy. Another problem consistent in those classrooms where flipped learning does not work is that there is no interactivity in the ILS beyond any notes the student takes. It is important that there are engagement points to ensure that students are actively learning and processing what they are seeing and hearing. There is a range of tools that allow you to do this, such as Camtasia (my favourite), EdPuzzle, and Clickview to name a few.
Jon spoke about something that makes a lot of educators nervous and overly self-critical; making their own flipped learning content.
Peter Whiting (@Mr_van_W) has recently published a peer-reviewed action research study that examined the impact on student learning outcomes of using flipped learning content created by either their own teacher, a team teacher or an external third party (for example, Khan Academy). I attended Peter’s session where he spoke at length about the methodology, the results and the implications of the research project and I will discuss those findings and my thoughts on the implications in that article. There is a significant reason to create your own videos. You are their teacher and therefore the relationship is with you, no with Salman Khan or Mathantics or another provider.
That said, even if you do create your own videos but do not teach students how to watch (read: engage) with them, you are making another of the more common mistakes that Jon sees. Using a video to learn a concept or skill is significantly different to watching a movie or a music video and it is a skill that needs to be taught taking time appropriate for your context. Lower Primary students might need a number of weeks of learning to engage and reinforcement of how to engage, whilst upper Secondary students may only need one or two sessions.
Although it may seem obvious, not ensuring buy-in from key stakeholders is another common mistake that Jon sees worldwide. It is not just your Supervisors and Executive staff who need to buy-in, it is the parents and the students. One way of achieving this is to have your students and parents from this year record short messages talking about why they like flipped learning as a pedagogical approach. These can be stitched together to form a single video and serve as a hook for the sell to stakeholders.
However, the number one mistake that Jon sees internationally in contexts where flipped learning has not worked:
This comment gets to the crux of what flipped learning is about; the reclamation of class time for deeper and broader learning. If that time is not being used to go deeper and broader then it is not being used wisely.
Jon then spoke about the continuum of pedagogical strategies and posed that flipped learning sits in the middle of teacher centred and student centred, providing a good balance between direct instruction and student-led constructivism. He reminded us that students do not know what they do not know and that our job as professionals is to guide them to ensure that they have the conceptual and skill knowledge
When being in the position of wanting to flip, but not knowing where to start, I would point you to my Starting Point for Flipped Learning page and remind you of how Jon finished his keynote:
If you have made it this far, thank you. I will aim to get the next article out in the next few days. Given the time of year, with everyone busy working on writing their end of year reports and a variety of other activities, I am sure my readers will be understanding of the delay.
In this Flipped Teacher Professional Learning video, I show how you can make files in GDrive available offline. This is great if you have shared resources with students who will need to access those resources at home or somewhere else that they may not have internet access.
For the full list of FTPL videos, please click here.
“Education is like a tapestry. Wiggle one thread and many others will move as well.
Following on from his lecture on The Case Against Competition, which I reflected upon here, and a break for dinner, Alfie Kohn delivered a lecture on The Homework Myth, As much as I struggled to reconcile some of what Alfie said during his Competition lecture, much of what was said during this lecture mirrored a lot of my own thoughts on homework.
The lecture was introduced using the above quote and then Alfie spoke about what would happen if we abolished grades. Students, we were told, would question the point of why they attend school and completed the tasks they are assigned. This means that we, the teachers, need to reconsider what and how we teach; to reexamine the curriculum and the pedagogy. This is an interesting challenge and one that seems to fail on the curriculum front. The Australian curriculum is not remotely national, with NSW, Victoria and Western Australia implementing their own curriculum, which encompasses the Australian Curriculum. We also, connecting it to the lecture topic, need to consider the purpose of homework and what it is connected to.
Alfie’s next point was interesting. He pointed out that we as adults have all been on the receiving end of homework and typically the vast majority of us as students neither liked nor wanted (and often did not complete) the assigned homework. Why, therefore, does homework persist? We do it because of rather than in spite of that history. I do wonder why so many parents continue to want their children to have homework. I had a few parents asking me about homework this term as I had not sent any home in the first two weeks and I responded with a message to all my parents via Class Dojo that I wouldn’t be assigning any homework other than some reading of interest and perhaps some SumDog, which they love. The students were relieved and I had a few messages from parents who were relieved as well.
So why does homework persist?
Homework has the capability to cause stress and frustration in students, frustration in parents; it can cause conflict between parents and their children, loss of time to other activities that a child would rather be doing and is passionate about.
So why does homework persist?
For those students who are interested and passionate about a topic, homework or a unit around that topic has the potential to cast a pall over it and kill the passion and desire for learning (there is still mixed evidence for this either way from what I could see of a very quick search). When even those students who consider themselves academically inclined are pleased to have completed their homework and would rather be doing any one of a number of other things, often involving friends we need to ask ourselves why homework still exists. Alfie singled out reading logs as being particularly harmful. There is no better way, stated Alfie, of killing a passion for reading than the enforced use of a reading log to monitor how much a child is reading. It becomes a thing that must be done to get a reward from their teacher of a sticker or a stamp. If you are not sure about rewards and why they are potentially bad, read the previous article in this series.
One of the alleged reasons that support homework is that it supposedly improves achievement. Before going into what Alfie had to say on the matter, the definition of achievement here is very important to this statement. In conversations that I have had, the achievement that is typically being referred to is testing scores. Testing scores are useful in many ways, but they are an indicator only of how well a student answered a specific set of questions at a particular moment in time. The familiar adage that goes something like what is tested is not important and what is important is not tested comes to mind here, though I do not doubt that there are those who would argue that testing is a valuable source of data.
Alife stated that no controlled study demonstrates any measure of improvement before a student reaches the age of fifteen and that even then, there is only a correlation not a causative relationship of statistical significance. Furthermore, at the High School level, the correlation between increased levels of homework and increased test scores is only a very modest correlation and explains very little of the growth.
Including the above graph is perhaps a tad facetious, but the website provides some laughs at the bizarre correlations that can be made between unrelated data. Alfie continued by commenting that the relationship between homework and improved achievement is only measurable in standardised tests which do not measure anything other than a student’s ability to answer that set of questions. An additional factor that needs to be considered is an interesting one, particularly in the case of internationally administered tests such as The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) and The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).
These tests are initially developed in the English language and are then translated into the other languages required. What impact does this have on the terms chosen and the clarity of the question vis-a-vis the raw wording? How about the way a question is composed and understood culturally? How are questions transliterated (I hope that is the right term, please let me know if it is not) to ensure the meaning and underlying spirit/vibe/focus of the question are retained across cultures with different understandings and interpretations of different events and contexts?
These tests are initially developed in the English language and are then translated into the other languages required. What impact does this have on the terms chosen and the clarity of the question vis-a-vis the raw wording? How about the way a question is composed and understood culturally? How are questions transliterated (I hope that is the right term, please let me know if it is not) to ensure the meaning and underlying spirit/vibe/focus of the question are retained across cultures with different understandings and interpretations of different events and contexts? Alfie also told the audience that the modest correlation disappeared altogether when multi-variables are taken into account.
Alfie’s next point is an interesting one. He commented that cross-cultural tests, such as PISA and TIMMS show a negative correlation between tests and the amount of homework given. I want to believe this, and it feels instinctively true partly because I want to believe it (confirmation bias?) because a quick Google Scholar search returned a few articles that allege to have found positive relationships between the amount of homework given and general test scores (such as here, here and here), though that is based on reading the abstract only as they are all hidden behind pay-walls. The SmithsonianMag website has one very brief article which indicates that some homework has a positive impact on test scores.
The above image was sourced from a well-written blog by Darren Kuropatwa (@Dkuropatwa) (though it appears to have been sourced from a PIRLS document) examining the value of homework based upon the Assessment Matters! publications by The Council of Ministers of Education Canada examining the data using The Pan-Canadian Assessment Program (PCAP), PISA, PIRLS and TIMSS. The results, it seems, are still inconclusive when looking at this data.
Another reason that is often touted for the ongoing assignment of homework is that it builds character, self-discipline, organisation and other similar non-academic benefits, which I have recently seen referred to as soft-skills. Alfie remarked that no study has ever validated this belief, and to my mind, it is not even particularly logical, and even if it were, there are far better ways of teaching children those characteristics. I do not see it as logical due to the fact that the student has to do the homework, whether that is enforced at home by the parent/s or at school by the teacher and therefore no learning of such characteristics is going to occur. If it those type of soft-skills (are we really using that term?) that you want to teach your child/student, then look into having them take up a team sport to teach them getting along, collaboration and teamwork. Or a martial art for resilience, organisation and focus. Or have them complete minor age appropriate chores, involve them in conversations about organising the grocery list or the household budget.
The next argument for homework Alfie indicated he hears regularly is that it creates a window into the class which seems completely nonsensical to me. If you genuinely want to develop a relationship or connection between home and school, invite the parents to visit and help out with reading or maths groups, set up a class Twitter account for students to share what they are learning, or a class blog so they can publish their writing, art or audiovisual creations and reflections.
The final argument for assigning homework that Alfie spoke about was what he called the Beguti argument; better get used to it. This is, again, illogical and is used to justify a range of tools such as competitions, marks and group-work and, remarked Alfie, developmentally inappropriate. It seems silly to me, to use that argument. Because you will have to complete this task which is dreary and you will dislike it later in life, to prepare you for that dreariness, it will be inflicted upon you earlier than necessary. Children do not get better at dealing with negative things by having negative things happen to them at a younger age and using the beguti argument is, Alfie noted, akin to giving up the game.
Parents are often sent home a homework letter that states something along the lines of your child will receive homework on x days or is required to complete the following tasks each week. This sends home the message that the individual needs of the child do not actually matter. Further to this, the audience was told that where schools advertise as teaching the whole child, but then assign homework, that they are paying the whole child lip service by assigning additional academic tasks.
We did hear some of the arguments against homework that Alfie has heard regularly. Parents opposing it on a value basis; that school work is for school and the family home is for family time, not school work. Additionally, homework exists, he has been told, because we do not trust children to occupy themselves without wasting time on Facebook, computer games etc and as an argument, implies that homework is merely busy work anyway. I find that an intriguing statement as I know that I, and every other adult I know, likes and needs to spend some time doing nothing, or, wasting time, to relax and unwind after being at work or to deal with stress.
Alfie qualified his dislike of homework by indicating that he can see some occasions when homework should be assigned, but that there should be some criteria for it:
Assigning homework should be done after a class discussion with all students and the teacher agreeing that the homework is genuinely needed and that the default setting for homework should be no homework. Students who can complete a task and understand the task and how they completed it initially do not need to complete the homework, and those students who need the homework are likely unable to complete it and having to try and complete it will result in frustration, Googling the answer or a parent/guardian completing it for them.
What are your thoughts on homework in general and what I have written about Alfie’s lecture in particular? What are your thoughts on how this relates to cognitive load theory and the completion of basic tasks? I have reached out to Jon Bergmann for his thoughts on how Flipped Learning and the research which Alfie spoke about are related and I have also reached out to Alfie for feedback on both this article and the previous article and to check the accuracy of my interpretation of what he said.
I would very much like to hear your thoughts on this topic and I thank you for reading through both this and the previous article which are both rather lengthy.
Competition is a recipe for hostility. By definition, not everyone can win a contest. If one child wins, another cannot. This means that each child comes to regard others as obstacles to his or her own success. Forget fractions or home runs; this is the real lesson our children learn in a competitive environment.
-Alfie Kohn. Retrieved from tinyurl.com/nc288ej on 19 November 2016
As I sit here at Adelaide Airport after an excellent few days at FlipCon Adelaide with Jon Bergmann, Ken Bauer and many other fine educators (review articles here), I thought it prudent to begin organising my reflections on the evening spent listening to Alfie Kohn (@alfiekohn) speak. There was a lot to take in that evening, with two sessions, The Case against Competition and The Homework Myth and I was left with a strong sense of cognitive dissonance as a result. As you read this article and the next, I would like you to consider your own philosophy about punishment and rewards.
I had heard of Alfie Kohn during my Initial teacher Education (ITE) during my first-year Sociology of Education and my second-year Classroom management courses. All that I could remember from then was that Alfie promoted a laissez-faire approach to classroom management, however, I could not remember anything that was discussed vis-à-vis his views on competition. Alfie opened by remarking that the best teachers do not talk, they let the students do the talking. He also noted that the best teachers also do not test and find another way of fulfilling their requirement to provide a grade.
Rewards are as bad as punishments
This statement was, for me at least, a very unexpected and odd remark. Fortunately, Alfie spoke about some of the research behind the comment. He commented that in studies that have been undertaken about the impacts of rewards, that on average they reveal that providing rewards to participants for completing a task or achieving a goal results in less success than those participants who are asked to complete the same task knowing that there is no reward. This is particularly the case in studies where the goal has been to quit smoking or to lose weight with one set of participants being offered a reward and the other set receiving no additional intervention. Two studies, he continued, show that being praised for characteristics such as generosity, niceness, sharing etc. actually results in the participants becoming less generous, less kind, less willing to share; that the reward tends to undermine the characteristic being praised.
Alfie then asked us to pair up and develop a hypothesis for why being praised for social characteristics has been shown to be counter-productive. When many people moved into groups of three or four, he commented at the end that he did not mind that we had not actually followed his instructions worked in pairs for the task; however, he added that he hopes we are as tolerant of our own students doing the same thing, a remark which elicited a smattering of slightly nervous laughter.
He commented that he is often asked questions along the lines of “but what about acknowledging rather than rewarding?” and that he sees that there are many ways of distinguishing between the two. I do not actually have any notes indicating what he said about that topic and I cannot recall whether that was because he made that comment and then moved on or if it was because I simply did not write anything down. Personally, I do not see that acknowledging a student’s effort or results can be the same as rewarding them for the same. Something as simple as “I can see that you have been practicing x” or “I can tell that you have been working on y” is not, in my view, rewarding them, but merely acknowledging that you can see the effort, particularly if you then move on to providing feedback or whatever it is that you are doing.
Alfie then began to speak about punishments, or as they are often called; consequences. He remarked that the language does not change the fact that if a student feels like it is a punishment then it is a punishment. Forced social isolation sounds terrible, yet it is often referred to as detention or time-out and spoken as being a consequence of some action he said. Alfie continued by noting that to understand rewards, we need to understand punishments and that punishments (and rewards) can work. They can achieve temporary compliance in a specific context, but only at a great cost.
Alfie posits that when we tell a student “Do x or I will do y (or y will happen to you)” we are teaching them self-interest as it encourages students to think about the action as being necessary for the reward or avoidance of punishment. It also, in the case of punishments, enacted when the student is caught doing whatever the act is that is being frowned upon, which means that if they can avoid being caught in the act then they will do the act irrespective of the threat. This creates distrust and fosters selfishness.
“The best way to ensure that something happens is to ban it.”
This desire to avoid being caught doing something deemed wrong and therefore avoid being punished stifles conversations about the kind of woman or man the child wants to grow up to be. The implication here is that the paradigm of how we teach children about right and wrong and about consequences, punishments and rewards is ineffective and detrimental to achieving what we want. However, this assumption depends on what the goal is. We should be asking students to consider what kind of person do I want to be?
I struggle with this. My (admittedly limited) experience tells me that students struggle to think about abstract things in a concrete way. That considering what their personality will be like when they are adults is a very difficult feat to achieve to with real sincerity. I have tried to talk with students about their goals for the future, some with very specific goals, and encourage them to consider how their learning now will impact their ability to achieve their goal and it is not something they are able to do.
Additionally, I struggle with the concept of removing punishments or consequences, which I get the impression is what Alfie is arguing for when I know that there are students with whom that approach will only exacerbate their behaviour, escalating it to be dangerous. I have friends who have been in classrooms and have had chairs thrown at them, or tables have been flipped and fights have broken out amongst students. I agree with the premise that all actions occur for a reason (Aristotle, Rhetoric), yet how do you educate a violent child that violence is not the answer when, in their experience, violence gets them what they want? I have heard it said that if your lesson is engaging enough that you will not have class management problems. But with more experience and (a little) less naiveté, how can you deliver a lesson when you cannot engage the students because they are violent and disruptive or disengaged with school, or there is no support for education at home?
Alfie posits that punishments and rewards are as manipulative as each other and are therefore merely two sides of the same coin. Rewards, he said, disrupt the vertical (teacher-student) and the horizontal (peer-peer) relationships and trust. Rewards reinforce power that the parent or teacher holds over the child or student. Alfie remarked that in classrooms where a reward is offered for a certain level of achievement, or grades that a student who needs and wants help is less disposed to ask for help in order to conceal the weakness.
This on reflection seems rather counter-intuitive. If a reward is offered for achieving a certain grade and assistance was required to achieve the grade and therefore achieve the reward then why would you not make the request for help? Am I being too simplistic here in my understanding of the scenario? Perhaps this is the kind of context that Alfie spoke about, that if the reward is large enough then the result will be temporary compliance.
One of the greatest predictors of learning, Alfie informed the audience, is being part of a caring community; with a sense of us rather than a sense of me. This links back to what was said about the way in which punishments create a sense of if I do not get caught and implies that a strong community will actually contribute to a reduction for the need for punishments. He also stated that just as punishments change the thinking to be ego-centric, to avoid punishment, so too do rewards change thinking to be ego-centric, to be given the reward.
An award is simply an artificially rarefied reward. Alfie posits that creating a competitive culture in the classroom tells students that others are an obstacle to their success and that their value or worth is only as good as the extent to which they defeat others. We were also told that competition makes students less communicative. The point that was made here was that why would a student communicate openly or trust others when it potentially creates a situation where their help will be used against them, fostering a culture where people are envious of winners and contemptuous of losers. Perhaps this is remedied by changing the system and removing grades and marks?
In this day and age we are all aware and understand the dangers of second-hand smoke. Alfie said that “the impact of competitiveness is as bad as second-hand smoke in the psychological sense as it creates a situation where students cannot feel good about themselves in one context or another without others failing. I have not read enough of the research (read: I have not read any of the research) to have a grasp on the accuracy of this statement. My initial reaction was that it is a gross exaggeration and that that could not possibly be true, however, I have seen advertisements from the days when smoking was considered a good thing and I remember the arguments and the gradual social shift that took us from a society where smoking was acceptable to it being seen as a disgusting and smelly habit, with smokers shunned in many ways.
Alfie began to wrap up the session at this point. He reminded us that rewards and punishments focus on the end-result, not the underlying reason for the end-result and all behaviour happens for a reason.
Rewards undermined the interest of students in whatever it is that is being rewarded, the audience was told. I have not seen this for myself, however, I have seen how schooling can destroy a student’s interest in something through the edufication of a student interest . My school is putting on a musical this year to celebrate the school’s sixtieth anniversary, calling it Dancing through the decades. Each Stage has been assigned two (non-consecutive) decades and will be performing a ten-minute block for each decade. Stage Three has been assigned the seventies and the current decade (are we really calling it the teens?) One of the songs chosen was quite popular when we first began but is now very much less so because they are sick of hearing the music and practicing singing.
The model is wrong, to the point where students are sometimes rewarded for a reward. Being rewarded for a reward, whether it be a car for good exam results in the case of those at the end of their schooling or something much smaller such as a toy, lollies or fast food for a perfect spelling test is wrong. We did not get explicit reasons for this, however, I feel that it is an amplification of the overall problem with rewards, that it undermines whatever is being strived for by limiting growth and putting a cap on excellence.
The topic of motivation arose, and Alfie reminded us of the typical understanding that there are two types of motivation, intrinsic and extrinsic, and that, he alleges, research shows that the kind of motivation has a much more significant impact on the outcome than the amount of motivation. He went on to say that research indicates that as levels of extrinsic motivation increase, levels of intrinsic motivation shows a proportional decrease.
Rewarding someone for doing something actively damages a person’s interest in that thing. Alfie spoke about research that was done to study this using soft-drink. A new flavour was tested and those who drank it knowing that they would be rewarded showed more negative feelings about the product a few weeks later. In contrast to this, those who drank the product knowing they would not be receiving a reward demonstrated the same or slightly better feelings about the product afterwards.
Alfie posed a hypothetical: what is the alternative to rewards? Ultimately, it varies according to what the end goal is and no one alternative is a panacea to solve the issue. He indicated that it is his view that programs such as Positive Behaviour for Learning (PBL) do not achieve anything more than produce mindless obedience and that they do not result in more proficient learners. Giving students more say in the way that classrooms are run is one way of impacting attitudes and behaviours and I have heard of a system where a class runs their own court system (as outlined here) which apparently works quite well.
Alfie’s talk raised lots of questions and I feel like I still do not have answers for them. I did not have an opportunity to speak to him after the session as he, like all of us, needed a break to eat some dinner before the second session began. Reflecting on the ideas and what he spoke about, though, I can agree with much of what he spoke about. Where I begin to struggle is with implementing the changes that would be necessary to change my own practice.
What does this look like in a classroom? What does it look like in a school? Even if you negotiate the rules within a class and punishments for breaking them with the class and everyone is on board, is that generating the same results as rules arbitrarily set down and enforced by the teacher? Consequences are a part of life; touch a hot stove and you get burned, commit a crime and you face the consequences set down in law. If that is wrong, then the fundamental fabric of how our society functions is wrong and needs to be re-examined, which I do not see ever happening due to a large range of factors, not the least of which is tradition and a need for control (which in and of itself speaks to a lot of what Alfie was saying).
If you do manage to create a model without punishments, how do you correct the behaviour which is socially unacceptable; swearing, derogatory language, violence, and disrespect of self and others; in students who see those things modelled as acceptable at home? How does this model fit with research from The Dunedin Project? This world-renowned longitudinal study has found that there is actually a genomic predisposition towards violence and extreme violence in some people, amongst other traits often regarded as socially unacceptable (Caspi, A. , McClay, J., Moffitt, T. E. , Mill, J.S., Martin, J. , Craig, I., Taylor, A., Poulton, R. (2002). Role of genotype in the cycle of violence in maltreated children. Science, 2002, 297 (297), 851-854). . What impact does that have on this issue?
I often hear that secondary education cops it because things that happen or do not happen in primary school. I also often hear parents ask why I am trying a particular approach or idea when their child is off to high school and it will straight back to traditional classrooms, masses of homework etc. How does this concept fit within that constraint, the transition from primary to high school? There is a lot to consider here and I would very much appreciate hearing your comments on the topic, as well as any feedback on the article or your own interpretations of Alfie’s work in this area.
As always, thank you for reading. Alfie's session on Homework will be reviewed in the next article.
In this episode of Flipped Teacher Professional Learning, I show you how to create a Kahoot using the new Kahoot Creator.
For the full list of FTPL videos, please click here.
It has been a while since I have published an Flipped Teacher Professional Learning article. In today’s article, I demonstrate two ways of using Google Sheets to record and maintain student data for the purposes of comparison throughout the scholastic year.
For the full list of FTPL videos, please click here.
“In a world that changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”
– Attributed to Mark Zuckerberg
My regular readers will be aware of my proclivity for conferences. Earlier this year I was fortunate enough to be invited to contribute to the Education Nation conference as a blogger and reviewer for the conference, which went well both in my own estimation and based on the feedback I was given from various quarters. On the back that experience, as well as already having submitted a speaker application for FutureSchools 2017 and not having attended EduTech in the past, I decided to send an e-mail to inquire about the possibility of attending EduTech 2017 under a media pass in order to review sessions, interview speakers and generally cover the event.
Lo and behold, the organisers accepted and I am now attending EduTech under a media pass. I am in the process of going over the speaker list to formulate a list of who I plan to either interview or hear speak. As part of growing EduTech, the organisers have launched their Ambassador program and have listed me as their first ambassador on their website. I am excited and looking forward to connecting with a range of educators from across the broader Education sector as well as reconnecting with old friends.
EduTech 2017 will be held at the new International Convention Centre in Sydney (the old Sydney Entertainment Centre) on June 8 and 9 next year, with Masterclasses being held on June 7. If you are interested in going and would like 10% off the registration price, use code BRM10. Let me know through Twitter or my website contact form if you are going and you use the code. It would be great to meet up face-to-face.
In the meantime, if you have not read any of my conference review articles, please visit here to see the list and peruse to find something that catches your eye.
“One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from a horse master. He told me to go slow to go fast. I think that applies to everything in life. We live as though there aren’t enough hours in the day but if we do each thing calmly and carefully we will get it done quicker and with much less stress.”
– Attributed to Viggo Mortensen
Welcome back to Term Four, the downhill run of the school year and what I am discovering on Stage Three is an incredibly busy time. I have not written an article for some time for a huge variety of reasons. The primary reason, of course, being my amazing now eight-week-old daughter. She arrived on August 25, at the end of week six of term three. The timing could not have been better. I took four weeks off which lead into the two weeks of school holidays and thus was able to spend the first six weeks of my daughter’s life being there. I became incredibly used to spending time on the couch at four in the morning with her sleeping soundly on my chest after an hour of crying, or having had a feed but not wanting to go back to sleep.
I will be honest. I did not want to return to school for term four.
It has not, as any parent can attest to, been easy. It has been very tough at various points and Mrs C21 and I have battled through the lack of sleep, the incessant worrying, the fear that we had done something when she was diagnosed with developmental hip displaysia, the frustration and resentment and anger when we could not settle her down after two hours of hysterical crying and the worry about returning to work and not being able to support Mrs C21 and Youngling as I return to work full-time (my job share partner has gone off on maternity leave herself!). There have, truth be told, been times where I have wanted to put my daughter down and walk away. You can only take hysterical crying at two in the morning for so long before it gets under your skin and you are crying yourself with a mixture of each of the neutral and negative emotions. But as a team, Mrs C21 and I got through it. She is a rock, though she does not see it, and is far stronger than she gives herself credit for.
It has been a stressful return to school and there are so many interruptions to the week it is amazing anything is achieved and I am finding that to be incredibly stressful. I took some maths diagnostic tests home to mark on the weekend, something I could do while Audrey slept in the ring sling on my chest so that Mrs C21 could go out and have some time out from being a mother. I got my marking completed, but it took the whole day. Mrs C21’s mobile phone stopped working last week, so a new one was in order. She asked if I wanted to go out with her (I had literally not left the house since arriving home on Friday at this point) and I responded with I need to get x and y done, sorry.
It was a powerful moment for me.
My wife wanted to go out and spend some time with me, something we are finding difficult to do now that school has returned, on a Sunday afternoon and I said no. There was a moment of disappointment and hurt and I realised that I was falling into the trap of burying myself in work, in I need to get x done. I felt horrible for being the cause of that and realised that I was falling into the trap of just burying myself in work. As a teenager, I had a friend with a father who did that and it destroyed the marriage and his relationship with the children. I do not want to be that kind of father.
I was two minds while I was on paternity leave. One part of me was excited by the prospect of the time off and the thought of how much I would be able to achieve vis-a-vis planning, programming and developing of resources. Another part of me wanted to completely disconnect with work and just focus on my daughter and my wife. In the end, I got nothing done for school until the second week of the school holidays. Part of me resents teaching for taking away even that small part of the precious time with Youngling. Part of me wants to resent Youngling for taking away from what could have been such a productive time.
As teachers, we often put our students before everything else. I know that my personality is the type that will do that without even realising. However, family comes first. Specifically, my family comes first; before my students and before anything else to do with school.
I do not know how often I will be posting now, certainly not every day as I was doing. I do have some other, positive news to share and a range of other things I wish to write about. However, my priorities have shifted slightly and I need to rebalance myself accordingly.
In this episode of Flipped Teacher Professional Learning, I show a very easy to use but useful function for Google Drive that I call Multi Visibility (If it has an actual name, please let me know) that allows you to have a single copy of a document visible in multiple folders. The reason this is so useful as a function is that changes you make to the file are reflected across all versions.
For the full list of FTPL videos, please click here.
"I love every minute of fatherhood, staying up all night, changing nappies, kids crying, I find it really funny and inspiring. It connects you to the world in a new way."
-Attributed to Elton John
Dads….what has been your favourite moment so far of being a dad?
As my regular readers would be aware by now, recently, Mrs. C21 gave birth to our first child, a healthy and amazing baby girl we named Audrey. Last night was our first night at home on our own which was rather scary and nerve-wracking, but we managed. This article is only semi-organised, written on what feels like very little sleep. As I sit here on the couch, with Mrs. C21 dozing in her feeding chair and Audrey asleep in the bassinet next to her, I have time to reflect on these first few days of fatherhood.
It is, without a doubt, the most amazing experience to hear the first cry of your child as it is born and I am not ashamed to admit that I wept tears of complete and utter overwhelming joy and relief when I heard her cry that first time. The prospect of having a child, until then a fairly abstract concept, very suddenly became real. I had been a little blase about a lot of things during the pregnancy, by virtue of having a seven year age gap between myself and the first of my three younger siblings, but I suddenly realised, or rather, understood, just how much I had to learn still.
I am incredibly thankful for the parental leave provisions available which mean that I am able to be at home learning how to adult, bonding with Audrey, helping Mrs. C21 recover from giving birth and being able to be here to help Mrs. C21 cope with learning how to be a mother. I could not imagine having to back to work and teach on Monday, leaving a tired and stressed wife and new mother alone. Whilst the midwives in our hospital were, overall, fantastic, it is my job (I believe) to be there to shoulder my share of the burden of raising this new child.
It has changed my relationship with my students as well. This term has been a tough one with a lot going on in the Stage and I had felt like I was trying to swim against the tide for the last few weeks. When I got the call to go to the hospital, my class went bonkers. I cannot think of any other way of putting it.
I headed to school this morning for a meeting and was spotted by some of my students who, again, went bonkers. The teacher who is taking my class while I am on leave is actually someone I completed my initial teacher education with. This afternoon, having seen both her and some of my students while at school this meeting, she sent me a photo of some of the work my students had completed this afternoon; some acrostic poems with either Audrey, New Life, Awesome Dad or Congrats as the spine which both Mrs. C21 and I found incredibly touching.
It would be very easy to completely spam my social media accounts with photos of Audrey as Mrs. C21 and I have taken a crazy amount of photos, and we did post a few photos over the first few days. Mrs. C21 and I had a number of conversations about that topic during the pregnancy, however, and how many photos and what type of photos we were going to post in the public domain and came to a decision to limit what we would post. There are a few reasons for this, but the primary reason is out of respect for Audrey’s privacy. We are taking a bucketload of photos but are only posting a select few and are storing the rest to allow Audrey to make a decision when she is old enough to understand, whether she wants the photos of her naked for her first bath, or the birth itself and any number of other photos that we have taken and will take over the years to capture various moments.
That is all I have time for at the moment, as Audrey is asking for cuddles from Daddy. I understand more, now, why my dad was so anxious, and worried about every noise and movement my younger brother made…or did not make for that matter. Thank you for reading this marginally coherent and organised article.