"By one popular estimate, 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist"
- The Future of Jobs. (2018). [ebook] The World Economic Forum, p.3. Available at: http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Future_of_Jobs.pdf [Accessed 6 Jan. 2018].
The notion that the future is unpredictable and that it will be vastly different to today, in terms of general day-to-day life, work, education, etc. is not a new one. Enter preparing students jobs that don't exist into Google as I did today, and you will receive more than one hundred million results. I wrote yesterday that the way we consider the alleged twenty-first century skills needs to be reframed and that the recent drive for them to be included explicitly in curriculum, points to a need for a genuine national conversation about the purpose of education.
This near-fetish of generic skills extends into other areas, and in the last few years, has seen coding pushed to the top of the agenda. In 2015, a statement from then-opposition leader Bill Shorten (available here) wrote that
Coding is the literacy of the 21st Century, and every young Australian should be able to read and write the global language of the digital age.
The statement also included the announcement that, if elected, a Shorten-led Labor government would "...ensure that computer coding is taught in every primary and secondary school in Australia so the next generation have the skills they need for the jobs of the new economy." There was at the time, a burgeoning industry of companies offering coding courses for students, at a cost of course; as well as lunch or after school coding clubs springing up across the country.
There is an interesting issue, however, within this focus. We are told on the one hand that we do not know what the jobs of tomorrow will be nor the skills needed for those jobs, yet on the other hand we are forcing a very specific skill, coding, into the curriculum, which has limited application; only so many people will go into or be interested in entering occupations which will require coding.
Why then, the focus on coding, the elevation of it to an imperative?
"We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist . . . using technologies that haven’t yet been invented . . . in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet."
- Richard Riley, Secretary of Education under Clinton. Quoted in What is 21st Century Learning p.3. Retrieved from http://21stcenturyskillsbook.com/wp-content/uploads/21stCS_excerpt.pdf on 6 January 2018
I acknowledge that coding is not the only thing on the agenda or in the curriculum that will have limited appeal. I can almost hear the uproar of what about The Arts? and that the same issue applies, that only so many people go into that area for an occupation after school, and while I am a huge believer in the benefits of The Arts (for example, read this article), I am hoping to provoke a debate and some critical thought about why there is such a strong push for coding.
This article from The Conversation acknowledges that coding languages change regularly, but posits that "...if taught properly, students can rapidly transfer the principles of one language to another." There is a challenge with implementing coding nationally in that, without proper support there will very quickly be a gap between schools as those who have teachers knowledgeable enough to run coding classes (whom are also willing to run them), those who can afford to bring in third-party commercial companies (many of whom use free websites such as code.org as the platform from which they teach), and those who have access to neither.
Resourcing and teacher self-efficacy and availability is not a new issue, the same one arises with, effectively, every subject area. I know of a Principal who has six subjects they are unable to find qualified teachers for and have heard second-hand that there is a dire national shortage of physics teachers in New Zealand, even in the major cities. This challenge is amplified when coding is mandated, which this February 2017 article writes was what occurred in Queensland, with parents unable to opt out their children.
Returning to the central point, however, when we are told that we do not know what kinds of jobs the future will bring, that many of today's jobs not exist in the future due to robots and automation, and that many of the jobs our children will have do not exist at the moment; why are we focusing on such narrow skill-sets as coding? All of the benefits that I hear for coding, understanding of algorithmic or computational thinking, creativity,critical thinking, analysis etc. are all able to be taught within the current curriculum areas.
I would love to hear an argument for coding that can cite something other than the above and justifies the significant investment in time and money that many schools are making.
"People will create the jobs of the future, not simply train for them, and technology is already central. It will undoubtedly play a greater role in the years ahead."
- Attributed to Jonathan Grudin, Principal researcher at Microsoft
There are many tensions or conflicts in education. As an early career teacher, I spent much of my pre-service training hearing about the desperate need for to focus on teaching our students twenty-first century skills. In addition to this, we have been hearing, for some years now, the narrative that it is no longer the case that you join a firm as a graduate and retire from the same firm with your gold watch (this has borne out in my own experience, with ClickView being my seventh employer).
What I find worrying, however, is the way that these supposed twenty-first century skills are talked about, as if they are newly discovered skills. There always appears to be the intimation that these are new skills, such as in this article by Professor Barry McGraw, this news.com.au article, or this article from The Australian. Though I did come across this sentence in a report from the Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority:
"The skills derived through senior education and needed in the 21st century are unique, and differ from those skills needed in the past."
- 21st Century Skills for senior education. An analysis of educational trends (QCAA, 2015, p.2). Retrieved from https://www.qcaa.qld.edu.au/downloads/publications/paper_snr_21c_skills.pdf on 5 January 2018
I believe that anyone with a modicum of sense recognises that these skills are not new, as pointed out by Charles Fadel in this interview, and so I wonder why there is suddenly such a focus on these so-called twenty-first century skills. This focus appears to be driven by the needs that we are hearing from industry through such reports as The New Work Mindset (Foundation for Young Australians, 2017). This desire for twenty-first century skills has also been echoed in numerous news articles such as this article from The Australian, and this article from the Conversation; and there is a plethora of images outlining these new skills.
Is it an issue that we are taking paying such attention to industry about what needs to be taught in our education systems? The answer to that will depend on your belief about the purpose of schooling and education, something that I touched on in this article after attending Education Nation, though I did not at that time outline my own answer to that question.
I was told, during my pre-serve training, that education is not a factory line; where parents input blank slates and the education system produces trained workers (read this article for a great explanation of the problems with the utilitarian model of education). The production model of education, however, is the framework within which how education systems are ranked, using economic terms alongside testing scores from both domestic and international standardised testing regimes (NAPLAN, ATAR Scores, PIRLS, TIMMS, PISA etc.), but that they should not be what drives our pedagogy.
This is in direct contrast to the 2008 Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (hereafter; Melbourne Declaration) whose preamble states:
"Schools play a vital role in promoting the intellectual, physical, social, emotional, moral, spiritual and aesthetic development and well-being of young Australians, and in ensuring the nation’s ongoing economic prosperity and social cohesion."
The language used in the Melbourne Declaration, when compared to the daily rhetoric about education and schooling, indicates that the individual fulfilment component of the Melbourne Declaration is lip-service only. This article by Thomas William Nielsen makes an interesting point that, for me, highlights the lip-service. Thomas writes
"The first thing to note is that spending power has at least doubled in western countries since the end of World War II, but depression and suicide rates have increased.
Our youth are more troubled than ever before and the rhetoric around domestic and international test result is that our education system is falling behind and performing (are teachers really performers? That's a different conversation, stay on target!) worse than in the past. Thomas William Nielsen, later on in the above article commented that education was based on the US and UK model, a model which has already failed, that is centred on this utilitarian view of education which is self-destructive in the long run. Why then do we continue down this pathway? My Grandparents taught me that if you fail the first time, to try again, but that trying the same thing over and over expecting different results indicates madness.
We need to take this on board and try something different.
You may argue that the infusion of these twenty-first century skills into the curriculum is trying something new, however, incorporating these skills has arguably been a part of every teachers pedagogy, whether implicit or explicit, since the early days of civilisation. Learning how to make fire, paint, build houses, hunt animals, make clothes, build roads, cars, and skyscrapers; and to develop number and writing systems required problem solving, communication, creativity, and critical thinking.
There is also the small issue that cognitive science appears to indicate that teaching these rather generic skills is not effective, as we have evolved to have them hard-wired but that effective use of these skills requires domain-specific knowledge and skills. As Greg Ashman puts it in this article,
"You can learn to solve problems in algebra but very little if anything transfers to solving problems in interior design. The thing that does transfer is a strategy known as ‘means-end analysis’ which we all have hard-wired into us through evolution and that therefore does not need extended, school-based training."
Despite all the rhetoric around twenty-first century skills, Dr. Michael Nagel notes in this article that little has changed and that the Digital Education Revolution was '...focused on tools and infrastructure" and that you could "...argue that this strategy is more refurbishment than revolution."
Why the persistence, then, in forcing the twenty-first century skills into the curriculum as an explicit component? Why the derision for pedagogical strategies which use explicit instruction to provide students with the domain-specific skills and knowledge required to effectively utilise these twenty-first century skills?
Thank you for reading and share your thoughts in the comments.
"A growing number of business leaders, politicians, and educators are united around the idea that students need twenty-first century skills to be successful today. It's exciting to believe we live in times that are so revolutionary that they demand new and different abilities. But in fact, the skills students need in the twenty-first century are not new."
- Rotherham, A. J., & Willingham, D. T. (2010). “21st-Century” Skills. American Educator, 17. Retrieved from tinyurl.com/RotherWill
I entered my initial teacher education (ITE) during the transition from the old curriculum to the National Curriculum (which is not at all national, but that is a different conversation) and actually had to buy the new curriculum for Mathematics and English and the old curriculum for the other Key Learning Areas (KLAs). Throughout the new documents, as well as throughout the discussions in media, rhetoric used by politicians and language used in discussions online, I consistently see references to things such as twenty-first century learning, the new skills or the twenty-first century skills as if these particular skill sets were only discovered post-1999.
Why do we refer to these supposedly new skills as new or as twenty-first century, imbuing them with some sort of mystical innovative and revolutionary qualities? One issue I have with them is that it is hard to pin down exactly what people mean when they refer to these twenty-first century skills. The Four Cs are one example I often hear people refer to as being twenty-first century skills.
"The Four Cs of 21st century learning, also known as the Four Cs or 4 Cs, are four skills that have been identified by the United States-based Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) as the most important skills required for 21st century education: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity."
I really struggle with thinking of these as being twenty-first century skills. Or rather, I struggle to think about twenty-first century skills as being anything other than a temporal indicator; as indicating in which time period the skill is being used by the person learning it. Do we really think that Plato and Aristotle did not think critically? Do we think that the Indigenous peoples around the world did not communicate? Do we think that the famous Chinese General and philosopher, Sun Tzu did not collaborate with his peers when developing strategy and tactics? Do we really think that Da Vinci, Rembrandt, Picasso or Van Gogh were not creative?
Why then, do these skills, highly useful and versatile to be sure; valuable for a successful life most certainly, continue to be referred to as twenty-first century skills in such a way that it implies a newness, a revolutionary nature to them that they most certainly do not possess. Or have I simply completely misunderstood what people are saying when they talk about twenty-first century skills? Let me know your thoughts.
In today's Flipped Teacher Professional Learning video, I show you how you can utilise Google Forms to create a check in/out system. This could be used for tracking who is borrowing classroom resources from you, sports or science equipment, hall or toilet passes for students, who has the iPads or laptops etc.
For more helpful videos like this one, please click here.
In this episode of Flipped Teacher Professional Learning I show you how to set up a basic MS Form and how to access the results of responses through Office365.
For the full list of FTPL videos, please click here.
“What is your superpower?”
– Dr Jenine Beekhuyzen, Founder and Director of the TechGirls are Super Heroes Movement
Welcome back to my review of the FutureSchools conference. Today I will begin reviewing the ClassTech Conference Stream which I attended. If you have missed the previous articles, you can find them here.
I elected to attend the ClassTech conference for FutureSchools2016, having attended the same conference in 2015 as I felt that it was still the best fit for me and where I am, currently, in my teaching career. Day One of the ClassTech conference (Day Two for FutureSchools2016 overall) began with a welcome by Dr Jenine Beekhuyzen, who is the founder and Director of the TechGirls are Super Heroes movement (@TGAsuperheroes), and her introduction of our first speaker, Anita L’Enfant who spoke, briefly, under the title of Discover Authentic Learning in the Makers Playground.
Anita’s talk was very short, approximately fifteen minutes and the two main notes that I have from that talk were that authentic learning, for her, was learning that was relevant, involved real-world problem-solving, was meaningful and was useful. Being relevant does not mean that it has to be relevant to their immediate area; just that it had to be relevant to them in some fashion. The other key point was in relation to safe internet usage. Anita related that everyone in her house uses the internet, as is the case in many households and that part of the discussion around the internet involved ensuring safe usage. She spoke about a pair of websites (one aimed at parents and teachers and the other at students) called Think u know which has been developed by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) in an effort to provide useful information about using the internet safely, particularly in regards to the various forms of social media.
I did visit the AFP stand on the FutureSchools Expo floor and spoke with the Officers running it (yes, they had actual AFP Officers there) and they spoke about how the information and handouts on various forms of social media that were currently popular (such as Instagram, SnapChat, Kik and Twitter) had been developed based upon what they had learned as a result of incidents that had come to the attention of various Police Agencies. The leaflets they had on the desk were available in both adult-friendly and student-friendly form on the respective websites. I do believe that the resources put together are well worth using as a way of teaching students about cyber-safety in particular forms of social media as, despite the required age to register being thirteen years old, I know of a number of my students who have and use social media such as Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter.
After Anita had spoken, we were introduced to our first keynote speaker, Jennie Magiera, and while a lot of what she said I had heard the previous day during the master class, there were some points of difference. Jennie opened with a quote from J.R.R. Tolkien: “I am looking for someone to share an adventure that I am arranging,” which she used to launch into a discussion around the Polynesian seafarers who left their homeland centuries ago to discover what was beyond the horizon and the fact that all they would have been able to see from their home shores, which is apparently believed to be Taiwan, was the sea, and so they were taking a big risk.
These seafarers were leaving behind two types of people and were themselves a third type of people, which neatly fits into the Rogers’ Curve for Early Adoption. There were the Innovators, which Jennie referred to as the hooray! group; those in the middle of the bell-curve, the large majority of people, whom Jennie referred to as the hmmm group, and then finally the laggards, who were dubbed the heck no! group.
We are used to thinking about early adopters of technology when we discuss the Rogers’ Curve for Early Adoption and typically the discussion is focused on the innovators or early adopters, with little thought or discussion of the remainder of Rogers’ bell curve. Jennie’s talk, however, focused on those people who are seemingly oft-forgotten in talks at conferences or are discussed in simple reference to how we, as innovators or early adopters of technology, need to drag them to where we are.
Jennie asked us to consider that the laggards are often saying “I cannot….” out of fear or disbelief. The point being made here was that rather than admonish the laggards for not being on board, as often happens, we should instead take a leaf from the Polynesian early explorers. It was pointed out that they had to have said something powerful to convince others to join them on their exploration voyages. What can we say to the laggards around us to convince them to start their adoption of technology, and support them along the way.
Jennie then continued to outline some steps for ensuring a good Edventure (her use of puns was high and deliberate…and fun!) and she said that we need to find a crew; gather those around us who are on the same page, willing to learn, or who will support us, even if they do not wish to be involved actively. We need to name the ‘ship’ that we are edventuring aboard, take the obligatory pre-voyage selfie and then our briefing needs to include that we need to make sure that students fail and fail often.
Jennie elaborated on this point by reminding us that we are often told that we need to ensure our students are successful, whether it is in testing, in sports or socially; that it is our responsibility as teachers to ensure they experience success. Jennie (and I, for what it is worth) disagree. It is in the iteration and reflection upon failure that learning can occur. The acronym FAIL, meaning First Attempt in Learning should lead, with reflection and constructive feedback from the teacher to SAIL, or the Second Attempt in Learning. We need to allow our students to fail so that they learn how to fail. Failing is part of life, whether it is a test, or not getting the job or promotion you wanted. Jennie continued by asking us to let go, commenting that “like all fascist dictators, even though we think that it is for the greater good of our students, it is not.” We do not need to micromanage each stage of learning for the students.
Jennie’s next piece of advice was that we need to charm our inner student. We forget to be gleeful and to allow our lessons to be gleeful. If we are not enjoying a lesson, chances are that our students are not either.
Following on, Jennie reminded us, again, that innovation is an ongoing process and that we should not judge others for their starting point, which generated an interesting conversation with Rhoni McFarlane (@rhonimcfarlane) via Twitter on this subject:
I believe that although it appears we were coming from different places, that ultimately, Rhoni and I are on the same page in regards to supporting the laggards, those who are reluctant to take up technology in the classroom, we need to do so from their starting point, as Rhoni puts it, “we need to meet them where they are.” Though we are most likely technology leaders, and the laggards around us perhaps see us as some kind of mystical technology wizard, we need to remember that the basic and mundane for us is likely equivalent to Jedi mind-tricks for them. Innovation is a never-ending continuum and we have to start somewhere.
Following this was a reminder to audit our innovations. Jennie spoke about how the recent National Education Technology Plan (#NETP16) noted that authentic learning in non-technological contexts abounds if we let go of our assumptions. Often as leaders, we operate in a bubble, an echo chamber, that is impenetrable to the heck no group. We need to emerge from that bubble and audit the answer to why are we a proponent of this piece of technology?
Jennie encouraged us to teach beyond the standards, to go above and beyond and spoke about her Year Four students, who surveyed other students about how they could give back to their community, with the typical response being “we can’t, we’re just kids.” Her students subsequently made a video with the core message “no matter how small you are, or how small the change is, yes, we can [make a change].”
Following this was a reminder that as the Polynesian’s reached each island on their voyage, they did not stop there and rest on their laurels, they kept going to see what impossible goal they could achieve next. Jennie spoke about introducing Google Explorations to a class for the first time and having a student exclaim that “I can’t wait to tell my parents where I’ve been today!” Not that the student said where she had been, not what she had learned. The what will be embedded, but for the student, the where is the immediate thing of importance.
Jennie’s final note was that we need to “share our crazy pills,” that whatever it is that excites us, our “poison of innovation. Rebecca Hepworth (@bechep2) put it succinctly via Twitter:
The vibe in the room at the end of Jennie’s keynote was energetic and invigorated. Jennie is a fantastically engaging speaker, and as you can see, despite having experienced a master class with her the previous day, I still learned a lot from this keynote.
There are still two speakers to review from session one, so I will close out this article now, and focus on the talks from Cathie Howe and Jill Margerson in tomorrow’s article. As always, thank you for reading, and I would appreciate any feedback or thoughts on this article or the ideas contained therein.
You can find the other articles in this series by clicking here.
“We forgot the third date!”
– Jennie Magiera
Welcome back for the last article in my review of the masterclass run by Jennie Magiera as part of FutureSchools 2016. If you have missed the previous articles, you can find them here. This final article will be shorter than the others, I suspect, as it will focus on one particular activity that Jennie took us through, called app speed dating. This activity is an excellent tool for sharing with a large number of people what an app was called, its purpose and how it could be utilised in the classroom. This exercise is also an excellent opportunity for students to show off the apps they love and want to see utilised in the classroom and teach the teachers.
In the first instance, it requires willing presenters who know an app inside out and can explain in four minutes what the app is, what it does, why they love it and how they think it could be used in the classroom as a learning tool. Teachers are allocated a random number (according to how many student-presenters there are set up) and start with that number student. In the four minutes allocated, the student delivers their presentation, and if a teacher likes the app and wants to see more, they add it to their dance card. The teachers may only ask questions if there is time at the end, and when the end of the time is up, they must move to the next student-presenter. Jennie related that they had to teach their student presenters in one school to power down like a robot (with the sound effect!) and ignore any teacher who continued to try to ask questions in order to have the exercise proceed smoothly and without large time delays
“Teachers are the worst students for not moving on when they’re asked.”
The second date is a little more structured and involves teachers having a playdate with one app in which they see the most potential for them to use in the classroom. They are given a specified time-frame (Jennie nominated one hour as the time they use) in which the teacher in that play-date group can play with that app; press buttons, try things out, fail and learn on their own, without intervention or assistance from the student presenter. Jennie made clear that the value in this phase is that the teacher should be learning and experiencing success and failure on their own playing, rather than with the instruction of another. Anyone within that play-date group with prior experience of the app should be focusing on developing it further and trying more advanced things rather than instructing others.
The above video is from the EduSlam (@eduslam) YouTube Channel in a Google Hangout session with Jennie where she talks about what App Speed Dating is and you can see some video of it in action.
The third date is a concept that arose from a conversation Jennie had with Miriam of LearningBytes.net who reached out to Jennie and said that she had forgotten to include the third date in the overall concept. A little bit of digging found the below excerpt from an entry on the Learning Bytes website about this very topic:
“So what happens on the third date?
The third date is where the teachers’ trial an App they like in their classroom. Ultimately, this is where they will decide whether they want to go all the way with their chosen App and integrate it into their pedagogy.
The PD session next week will incorporate staff who went on the ‘third date’ as a result of participating in the PLAYDATE. They will each have a couple of minutes to present about their favourite App and what happened when they used it in the classroom.”
– Miriam Scott. Retrieved from http://tinyurl.com/j3tnzhx on 7 March 2016
So we have the first date, where, as Jennie put it, we meet some of the fish in the sea, the play-date where we get to know the app a bit more and try it out, followed by the third date, which is where we give the app a test run in the class to see how it works out. Jennie said that failure at this point can be an important part in subsequent success as it can create cognitive dissonance, which, when pushed through, can assist in embedding new information into our schema. Jennie placed a caveat on this, however, saying that we need to fail with purpose, to reflect and understand why we failed in order to improve on the next occasion.
Reading through the Learning Bytes blog article, it was interesting to note that Miriam took this one step further, where teachers were required to come back to the following Professional Development session and present, briefly, about the app that they chose to take on the third date. Jennie did note that the whole process can be distilled into a one-hour professional development session, similar to how she put us through the exercise.
The first date is dropped off entirely, and the session begins with a playdate. Each teacher is assigned to a table with pre-loaded apps, and teacher’s have thirty minutes, under the same restrictions as in the regular roll-out of the concept, in which to experiment, explore, fail and learn with an app. The members of that table then need to decide who will remain on that table to present to the next group in the rotation, after which, they choose someone from that group to stay and present to the next group.
For example, Jill from Group Two might be elected to stay and present on an app to Group One as they rotate into Group Two while Group Two rotates onto Group Three. Jill presents to Group One and then elects someone from that group to stay and present to Group Four while Jill remains with Group One who rotate around again.
We did not have time for the full set of rotations, however, I was nominated to present in the first set of rotations about the Google Cultural Institute, and then I heard presenters speak about MoveNote, Canva, YouTube360 and Storybird.
After this, we went through some closure activities, sharing with others in a series of rotations how we were feeling at the end of the day, what we had learned over the course of the day and would put into practice, and then general chat. I am very glad that I took the opportunity to attend the master class, and will be speaking with my Principal to see if I can get the ball rolling for the school to fund someone else attending along with myself (I will self-fund again to ensure my ability to go), especially someone who is not particularly keen on technology in the classroom, as if that person attends, gains some insight into the potential and what can be achieved and have the opinion changed, then it could have significant ramifications for the school. It could of course completely backfire, but as the popular saying goes, you have to buy a ticket to win the lottery.
As always, thank you for reading and I hope that you have found some benefit from these review articles. Tomorrow I will begin publishing reviews of the ClassTech conference stream I attended this year. I have seen some useful review articles other conference streams (such as this review of the Leadership stream by Michael Eggenhuizen (@M_Eggenhuizen) or this review by Anna DelConte (@annadelconte) on the Young Learners Stream).
Find all articles in this series here.
“Flipping is somewhere between didactic instruction and constructivism”
– Aaron Sams
Welcome back for part two of day three of the FlipConAus review. If you have missed the previous articles, you can find them here:
Thinking about it further, though, there is no real timeline defined for what constitutes the movement between the stages of adoption. Statistically speaking, when you overlay the adoption of new technologies, you do still end up with the regular bell-curve, and I certainly would not consider flipping to be mainstream, meaning it has not reached the early or late majority phases (or the laggard phase, for that matter). I also do not think I am an innovator which means that I am an early adopter. Our feeling of where we sit in the adoption bell-curve does not necessarily represent reality, and wherever we sit, we need to be aiming to flip well to show what flipping can do for education.
Jon and Aaron made the point again that flipping is between didactic pedagogy and constructivism, and that the elephant in the room is assessment, with the enormous pressures on teachers and students to ‘perform’ (as though we are all seals at an amusement park balancing beach balls on our noses for treats) well in the standardised testing to which we, students and teachers alike, are subjected through NAPLAN and the HSC, and from what I understand in some states, the School Certificate in Year Ten.
Their advice was to operate within the constraints in which you find yourself; manipulate your assessment as you are able to within your context. Marijne Slager put it slightly differently when she tweeted this:
This is a fair point, as there is a substantial amount of pressure on both teachers and students to perform ‘well,’ whatever that means, and I recall when the NAPLAN results for this year were posted on the staffroom wall that there was much discussion about where we had done well and done poorly. There is much debate about the validity and purpose of standardised testing, particularly NAPLAN (for example, here and here), however for better or worse, it is a significant part of education, and much funding goes into the delivery of the tests, and we as teachers need to negotiate our way through this in the context of implementing flipped learning.
After a brief note about assessment, Jon and Aaron spoke about Bloom’s Taxonomy, reiterating the point that there are so many different shapes (as seen here), that we need to not get hung up on the appearance, but to remember the goal is to engage students in deeper learning and thinking. We also need to remember that just like the SAMR model, Bloom’s Taxonomy is not a ladder to climb. It is a tool to help us consider what kind of learning activity our students are engaging with and there are valid and useful occasions where students should be at the remembering phase just as there are valid and useful times when students should be at the creation phase, and the two occasions are not necessarily mutually exclusive. It should be used contextually, as a guide for designing and thinking about learning activities.
A discussion of some subject-specific ideas for flipping followed this, which I will summarise below.
History and Social Sciences
The key though is to ensure that content is correct and to remember that you do not need to out-flip, that is, do the flipping at home. In-flipping is perfectly valid, particularly as a starting place. To gain the most benefit for your students learning out of flipping, the aim should be to out-flip, eventually.
Another point is that the discussion around flipping often centers around the videos and the home-learning. We need, however, to talk about the class-time and how we, as teachers, utilise that. There have been teachers who have flipped their classes and then left the students to do the in-class learning on their own, sitting at their desk. This is not flipping well. We need to use the in-class time better, and we can do this in a range of ways, from instituting weekly student-led conferences to talk about how they are are doing in general or in specific areas, whether it be academic or social, to deliver small group tutoring or mentoring, to do more hands-on active learning such as experiments in science or making/tinkering in other learning areas. How you use the time is, of course, up to you, but it needs to be used effectively for flipped learning to be worthwhile.
It was also observed that although there is a tendency to think of flipped learning as being high-tech, it can be done with low-tech tools. Rather than using a complicated Learning Management System to outline what students need to do and where to access the content required, there are some teachers flipping quite successfully who are using a physical workbook as their LMS. They note down what needs to be covered with timeline expectations as a guideline, and then include QR codes for the online content, and each student is given a copy
In conjunction with this, it was also observed that instructions can be flipped successfully, freeing up time in class for the doing and that flipping staff meetings or professional development is also often a very successful way of introducing flipping to staff. I deliver flipped professional development for colleagues quite simply because everyone is time-poor and they can access the learning whenever and wherever they want, and then ask follow-up questions later on as needed.
The Phet was offered up as a useful website to allow students to complete many experiments through simulation, rather than only one or two due to the time required to set up and conduct some experiments. There was a discussion about the benefits of flipping student feedback when marking students learning output.
Flipping also allows greater opportunity for student choice, though it should be relatively structured, and be choice from defined options as many students freeze like the proverbial deer-in-headlights when presented with free choice. I have been doing that with my Stage Three classes as part of our end of unit assessment. We have been learning about the Cornell Note Taking strategy, and as I did not feel like reading a hundred of the same submission, I have had discussions with the classes about the options they have to demonstrate that they understand and can use the strategy. With each class, we discussed the options available to them. Some students have elected to record a video explaining what it is and then demonstrating how to use it, some to use the strategy, and submit their notes about a self-selected topic with annotations, and some to create a Kahoot. We then discussed, in each class group, what success would look like in each of these options, which I then turned into a digital rubric on Google Docs and distributed via Google Class. We also negotiated when it would be due.
Jon and Aaron reminded us of a very important fact that we need to consider when flipping and where we add the value as professionals:
Our value as professionals in the guidance during the more cognitively demanding portions of Bloom’s Taxonomy, and we need to ensure, when we flip, that we do add value to the students learning. so that we do not create the situation where students are overloaded with homework that has no value in the classroom. We should be providing students with opportunities to apply and analyse and create, using real-world contexts that are relevant to the students lives’.
The final point was that the metaphorical train of flipped learning has already left the station and we should not get left behind.
Before we moved off for the afternoon break, Jon and Aaron made an exciting announcement. I had asked Aaron over drinks during Thursday night’s social event whether there were plans to make FlipConAus an annual event, and he confirmed that it was the plan, and a venue for next year was being sought. The announcement made before we moved off to afternoon tea was that the venue had been located and confirmed:
Jeremy LeCornu’s school, Brighton Secondary School would be the site of next year’s conference and by proposing to my wife that she come with me to the conference as she will be able to visit some family she has in Adelaide she has not seen since our wedding while I am at the conference, I already have tacit approval to attend.
Thank you for reading this penultimate article in the FlipConAus review series. Tomorrow’s article will see out the end of the conference with presentations from Matt Burns. As always, thank you for reading, and please leave your thoughts and questions in the comments section.
“Start flipping, don’t wait.”
– Warren McMahon
After Jon and Aaron’s keynote speech, I was registered to attend a panel discussion on flipping in the Primary School context. Jon Bergmann facilitated the panel, which was made up of Warren McMahon, Matt Burns and June Wall (I have been unable to find June on Twitter). There were, according to my notes, thirteen questions over the course of the session. Some of these questions were somewhat expected, and others were rather unexpected.
The first question was about equity and access to devices and content. In-flipping (watching the video’s in class) is a great way to overcome this obstacle, however, beyond this, there are some great options. Utilising USB/flash drives, DVDs or cheap MP4 players will allow you to send the video content home with the students. Another option, which I had forgotten about at the time, and only recently re-discovered, is iTunesU. It allows you to build courses or units of work, and to either link to videos (or other content) outside of iTunesU, but you can also upload the content intoa post. This means that those students who have a device, but no internet access at home (which is still sadly common in 2015) can download the content they need during the school day, ready to go when they are at home that night.
The second question is a common question; what if they fail to watch the video? It is, in my opinion, both a great and a terrible question at the same time. It is a great question because the concept of the videos being watched at home is often the only thing that teachers and parents alike know about flipped learning, and so they see not watching the videos as ‘breaking’ the system. On the other hand, It is a terrible question because what if they (students) fail to do their homework now? In conversations with teachers who are already flipping their classrooms, they have indicated that this is rarely a problem, for a number of reasons. Initially, you gain traction from the novelty factor. Beyond that, however, students often will not only need less time to do the homework, but they will be able to do the homework as it is cognitively easier than what is currently being set as homework. The point was also made that if your videos are enticing, through being short, concise, clear, and interactive (such as I wrote about here), then students will want to engage with them.
Beyond that, if you set, and hold to, the expectation that the videos have been engaged with at home, prior to school, and that the higher order learning tasks may not be done until the required understanding has been demonstrated (Jon and Aaron have said in the past that they have used a range of methods to do this, including conceptual check lists that are ticked off after reviewing student notes, or through conversation) than students will quickly learn that they need to watch the videos. It was noted that some students will not engage with the videos outside of class irrespective of the consequences, and will only engage with them in class. When (part of) the point of flipped learning is that not all students need to be on the same page and doing the same thing, then that is ok. As long as those students are engaging with the skills and concepts, and are moving through the required learning, then their choice not to engage with the videos outside of the classroom is potentially not detrimental to themselves, or to their classmates.
Here is a short video from a secondary teacher, Katie Gumbar, about her thoughts on this very question.
Someone then asked about the investment in time to train students how to engage with learning in this new and different way, compared to the normal game of school. There were two key points to the responses to this question. Firstly, it needs to be done, you need to invest the time to teach students how to engage with flipped learning, as it is so vastly different, and many will not engage, without the training, for fear of getting it wrong. So the investment in time, initially, is significant and involves heavy scaffolding. The exact amount of time with vary from context to context. Upper secondary students fill need far less time to acclimate to this new way of learning than lower primary, but even within the same cohort, there will be differences. You need to make a professional judgement as to when your students are au fait with flipped learning.
The second point that was made was that having interactive videos will make a large difference. Tools like Educannon (which I have previously discussed) and VersoApp can add a layer of interest which helps drive engagement with the learning. I do not recall where I heard it, but someone told an anecdote about a teacher who taught a class how to engage with flipped learning by asking them to learn a card trick. A link was provided to a video tutorial (perhaps something like this), and students were asked to learn how to do the card trick. Afterwards, the teacher engaged students in a discussion about how they went about using the video to learn the trick, discussing the use of pausing and rewinding to re-watch sections of the tutorial. This had the students engaged in a metacognitive discussion, and facilitated the introduction of flipped learning to the students and showed them how it works without the need for a long explanation.
What does success look like in a flipped classroom was answered quite simply. It varies context to context, both across cohorts of students, across different subject areas, across the grade levels, but the important thing is to determine a measure of success that will be SMART for your specific context.
The impact on teacher time as a result of flipping generated a significant amount of discussion. The initial investment is significant and unavoidable, however, it is also transformational and the long-term gains outweigh the initial lost time. The comment was made by someone that implementing flipped learning, initially, is like being a first-year teacher all over again. Do not flip because you think it will save you time, it will certainly not do that, not initially. The time benefit is in the classroom where instead of doing lower-order thinking teaching, you are able to engage with students, either one-on-one or in small groups to drive deeper learning, thus building stronger relationships and developing your understanding of how students learn. This is something that should be part of our professional knowledge; flipped learning allows us to develop that knowledge more authentically, and more deeply.
The additional point made about the impact on teacher time was in relation to re-using videos that you have developed. All panellists agreed that you absolutely can and should re-use videos (though I would personally recommend re-watching just to double check that it is the video you want) in order to save time, however, there is a very important factor to remember, in this regard, when it comes to creating your videos.
You may create sequences or playlists of videos in a specific order for specific concepts, however, avoiding numbering the videos allows you to drop any video into the students’ learning at any point in the particular unit of learning.
How do you flip all the KLAs in a primary context was answered succinctly, one brick at a time. Jon made the observation that in primary classes which he and Aaron have visited, there seems to be a tendency for primary teachers to flip mathematics in the first instance. I can certainly understand that tendency, as my first exposure to flipped learning was in a Year Five and Six class where mathematics was being in-flipped, and it seems, to my mind, to be naturally suited to being flipped. That said, having spoken to a number of teachers from across primary and secondary over the course of FlipConAus, I can certainly see scope for flipping other areas, including English, Creative Arts, the Parent-Teacher night, or Physical Education.
Why should teachers record their own videos was the subject of a long discussion, however, the key point is that you are the students’ teacher, not Khan Academy, or any other resource; it is you.
Not only will it build relationships with students, and those parents engaging with their child’s learning by helping them at home, but it also ensure that the concept is taught the way that you want it taught.
How critical reflection is embedded within flipped learning is something that I only took one note for, flipping allows for it to happen naturally, which reading that note a few weeks after the fact, is not particularly clear. Thinking it through, however, I believe that embedding critical reflection is a part of teaching students how to engage with the learning in this context. Part of your expectation could be a metacognitive discussion in class or through a writing task of some type (class blog, in learning journals etc.)
When someone asked whether flipping removed grouping structures, such as maths groups or reading groups, the answer was, essentially, no. Traditional grouping structure can be, and often are still utilised, however the way they are utilised may change as students may be at various points along the learning continuum any given concept.
One person or a whole school can work was the response when someone asked if flipping needs to be implemented across the board to be successful. The caveat is that flipping works best when it is implemented from the bottom up, and spreads through the school organically as teachers see what is happening, see the benefits to students and take it into their own classroom. It is also highly beneficial to have someone with whom you can collaborate your flipping who is in a similar context to yourself. Whether this is a teacher in your own school, or someone on the other side of the country teaching the same grade or subject as you is not particularly relevant. It is the ability to discuss barriers, wins and new techniques and ideas with someone who is in a similar context that matters.
How do you engage parents? was a topic of interest for many, and the biggest suggestion from the panel was communication and education around what flipped learning is about, how it works and why you are implementing it, beginning with flipping the parent-teacher night. Sending home a video introducing yourself and going through the basics that you would cover in person allows the parents to engage with your ideas and come to the evening with questions as they will have had time to think about and process what you have said.
In a job-share context (where two teachers share the load of one class with one teaching three days and the other teaching two days), where one teacher wants to flip and the other does not, communication before the year begins and during the year is absolutely critical. If the teaching load is split down subject or concept lines, with one teacher being responsible for the arts; or dividing mathematics up by concept area, then it will be relatively simple to implement flipped learning. If any other arrangement is made vis-a-vis splitting the teaching load, then it will be significantly more difficult.
In closing, all panellists were asked to offer one practical piece of advice to the audience. Warren advised everyone not to wait to start flipping, but to just do it. Matt backed this up with the caveat of doing it one brick at a time. June also reiterated Warren’s advice but cautioned the audience to identify the learning scaffolds needed and ensure they are available or in place beforehand, and Jon closed out the session by advising to flip with someone in some way if it is at all possible.
Thank you for reading through this rather lengthy article. I found the panel session very worthwhile. There was also a secondary panel that took place at the same time, and if someone has written a review on that, please send me a link so that I can include it here, with credit to the author (you can find the twitter discussion around it in the day’s Storify). My next article is likely to appear tomorrow, and will include a review of sessions from Warren McMahon, Katie Jackson and Crystal Caton.
To view the other articles in this review of FlipConAus 2015 click here.
“I realized if you can change a classroom, you can change a community, and if you change enough communities you can change the world.”
– Attributed to Erin Gruwell
Thank you for following this series reviewing #TMSpaces back on the 15th of October. This will be the final part in the series, and will look at the presentations by Dan Bowen (@dan_bowen), Michelle Jensen (@bibliothecare3), Alan Allison (@adscall) and Monique Dalli (@1moniqued). I include here links to the #TMSpaces Storify put up by the event organiser, Phillip Cooke (@sailpip) as well as the links to the previous articles in the series
Dan, under the heading Spaces’ Secrets to Success, made the observation that Kindergarten learning spaces are, typically, fantastic with a variety of seating modes, regular activity rotations to afford students the opportunity to get up and move and refresh or reset mentally and that it gets progressively worse as students get older, prompting the exchange of observations on learning spaces seen below.
Dan explained that they have taken simple things like rooms names and changed them, with offices and meeting/conference rooms being named after various people or places. His view is that while they do utilise the open space principal, that it is important to provide places where privacy can be obtained as there are times in both the corporate world and in education where privacy is required for sensitive conversations, and that the busy staff room is often inappropriate for those phone calls. The privacy can be provided by furniture, not just by walls and he showed some examples of this type of furniture.
He also reminded us that the most important place in the room is wherever the power points are. You only need to visit an airport or a conference to see this in action. Returning from FlipConAus just recently, I had a wait of a few hours at Brisbane airport before my flight, and there were clusters of people huddled around the power points that were accessible by the public, with an array of phones and tablets plugged in to charge. Interestingly enough, he indicated that in conversations with students that visit, a regular occurrence he says, that when asked what the most frustrating part of the school is, that students invariably respond with it being the toilets. This is an area that staff rarely think about, with the exception perhaps, of kindergarten teachers. Dan concluded by showing a bit.ly to the School Edition of the Makerspace Playbook
Michelle Jensen spoke next, under the heading The twenty-first century library and began by saying that libraries are key. I expected to be hearing about the use of space within a library for learning, however this was not what Michelle spoke about. Or rather, it was, but a very different perspective was taken. Michelle spoke to the fact that learning should be any time, anywhere, and that maker spaces fell into this, as they are targeted to learning by doing. She reminded us that maker spaces can, and should be, a combination of both high and low-technology and that a library is often a great spot for them to occur in as there is generally someone present.
Michelle’s view is that maker space should be flexible and should evolve to suit the needs, desire and constraints within which they operate, which may mean running workshops at recess and/or lunchtime, for students and staff alike. I can see substantial benefits for those teachers whom are willing to get involved. The relationships that would form between students and teachers, as they co-learn the skills and techniques needed, as they collaboratively make, and the respect and understanding for each other through the process of learning together, and of the teacher being open to being taught by students more skilled in various facets of making, would reap significant boons in the classroom, as the intersection between content, curiosity and relationship would be easier to meet in the classroom.
The point was also made that a maker space can be virtual through the use of software such as Minecraft, JoyKadia, Sim-on-a-stick. Furthermore, these virtual maker spaces can be managed by students and for students in order to give ownership of the maker space to the students that will be using the space. I have written previously about maker spaces and I can see the benefits to them. I am still working out how to embed them authentically in my classroom, and to do so without a budget. Additionally, I agree that there are significant benefits to using Minecraft in the classroom, if it is implemented authentically, as I wrote about here, however at this point in time, I am not sure that I would be able to embed it authentically in my students learning; and I would rather wait until I have built up a better range of teaching strategies to support the use of Minecraft, something seen as a game with no educational value by many teachers.
Michelle also spoke about her utilisation of the NSW State Library as a resource bank as well as the Information Skills Process, a Web 2.0 tool summarised in the below graphic put together by NSW Department of Education and Training:
Michelle closed by mentioning the FAIR Campaign, an initiative by the Australian Library and Information Association “…campaigning for a fair, open, democratic society where information can be accessed by everyone.” I would encourage you to visit their site to learn more about their specific campaigns, including “…copyright law reform, cybersafety and the problems with internet filtering, digitising our nation’s history, encouraging children to read, evidence-based decisions in law, health and business, evidence-based policy making, learning at any age,qualified library staff in schools, supporting Australia’s book industry and well funded public libraries.”
The penultimate speaker was Alan Allison of Granville College, speaking under the title Eclectic Tech for Years Eleven and Twelve. Alan spoke very quickly, as we were running well behind schedule due to some speakers speaking over time, and his focus was on emphasising a high-quality on-line learning space and the various tools that he uses to achieve this.Alan indicated that, primarily, he utilised Moodles to record work and Wikispaces to for content delivery. Within WIkispaces, Alan explained that using the Projects function as spaces for providing feedback to students, as well as a place for students to store their notes on-line in a secure location.
This seems to my thinking to be a version of a flipped classroom with a mix of in-flip and out-flip, though Alan made no mention of flipped learning in any explicit way. In addition to Moodle and Wikispaces, Alan mentioned Quizlet, Alan was also adamant that A3 whiteboards were a better option for classrooms than A3 due to the larger amount of usable space, and the fact that when students utilised them for note taking, or brainstorming ideas, that they provided for better photos as students naturally wrote larger on the larger space. Alan indicated that his students take and then upload photos of their notes to their Wikispace. I really like this idea of conserving the students’ learning, as it is a resource they have created and could utilise again in the future.
The final speaker was Monique Dalli (@1moniqued), who also spoke very quickly for the same reasons as Alan. Monique had some thought-provoking things to say, reminding us that we are the converts in our schools for alternative learning spaces and that the biggest challenge is moving what we currently have to what we want, both in our own learning spaces and in the mindset of our colleagues. She exhorted us to question who the converts are not and what can be done to interest them in alternative learning spaces and in changed pedagogy. Monique challenged us to remember that if we are going to change the learning space, then we must also change the pedagogy, otherwise we have changed for change’s sake.
The typical classroom has not changed a great deal in the last few decades, other than perhaps the movement away from the rigid requirement for all desks to be in rows, and was developed during the industrial revolution. Research into how students learn conducted over the last thirty years has lead to changes, as has the rise to prominence of the individual.
As part of the change, it is important to take small steps, a point echoed made many times throughout the night. Monique indicated that as much as change can create anxiety amongst teachers, “…change can fear out the students as well.” The baby-steps approach affords students, as well as teachers, the opportunity to adjust to changes and evaluate the effectiveness of the change before making another change. Monique finished by commenting that Ebay is a valid source of furniture, and that much can be acquired, for decent prices, via Ebay.
It was a long night, but worthwhile attending. Given the impending move to open learning spaces at my school, and my desire to begin flipping, thinking about the classroom ecology is something that I need to begin doing. There were some great ideas presented during the evening, and I am glad that I went. My thanks to Phillip Cooke for organising the night and to Bradfield SC for hosting the event.
“Investing time to learn something in your professional make you RICH in your KNOWLEDGE, if you are not then it will make you POOR in your PERFORMANCE.”
– Attributed to Sivaprakash Sidhu
This afternoon I am heading off to the Gold Coast for a few days to attend FlipConAus, the first time that Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams have brought the long-running US conference dedicated to flipped learning to Australian educators. My flight leaves this afternoon (I will be mid-flight when this article posts) as I am attending a Masterclass on Thursday, followed by the conference itself on Friday and Saturday, returning home Sunday morning.
I look forward to meeting up with some of my readers and members of my online professional learning network face-to-face for the first time I still have article from #TMSpaces to write, and so my review of FlipCon likely won’t begin until the end of next week, if not the week after. Have a great weekend, and I hope to see you at FlipCon.
“All the world is my school and all humanity is my teacher.”
– Attributed to George Whitman
Many of us, I hesitate to say all, would be familiar with the slogan learning; any time, anywhere and how it is often applied to contemporary pedagogical* movements as a type of panacea for education and improved learning outcomes. I write that as someone who has said and written it, acknowledging that that particular outcome of contemporary pedagogy is valid in its own right. At the same time, I acknowledge that it has always been the case (as evidenced by the saying every day is s school day but that our idea of what learning is and how it occurs has changed over the last twenty years or so.
I made the choice over the break, upon reflecting upon the skills and concepts that I had yet to cover with my students, to focus on learning one skill or concept very well for this term, rather than attempting to get through everything for the sake of covering all of my program. It seems to make sense to myself, and the students, on the whole, agreed with me when I have explained the situation to them over the course of yesterday and today. For Stage Three, we are looking at research skills, specifically, the ability to take good quality notes, a skill which I do not recall ever being explicitly taught, yet which is an assumed skill in both secondary school and definitely in tertiary education.
This term I am attempting to provide my Stage Three students with skills that will help them avoid the mistakes I and many of my classmates in both high school and university made, in frantically trying to copy down every single word, in not having any sort of structure to the notes, other than, perhaps, indented dot-points. I went so far as to bring in and show my students a copy of my Honours Thesis, explaining how long it was required to be, and then showing them the notes that I had made in doing my research of the literature. We talked about the benefits of good note-taking skills, not just in academic terms, but in the way that it helps to organise your thoughts and ideas.
This week was an introduction to the layout of the Cornell Note-Taking Strategy, how you set out a page, what each section is used for and a discussion of the various ways that we become more efficient note-takers through the use of abbreviations and acronyms that are contextually appropriate. I found that some of my students were struggling to understand the purpose of the left hand column, the cue word column and I was working to formulate a different explanation of the use when one of the students put it to me like this:
"Is it like how when I read something for a project, I just write down the main idea of each paragraph?"
Such a simple explanation, and when I used that explanation with the next class, a large number of light bulbs flicked on. It reinforced to me that even though I am the teacher, I am still a learner. This Year Six student handed me another way of explaining a skill that I had not thought of, that enabled a number of other students to engage and understand the concept that I was teaching.
*I refuse to call it twenty-first century learning anymore. That particular phrase, to my mind, was something that implied forward thinking and being ahead of the curve. We are now fifteen years, coming up to sixteen years into the twenty-first century. If you are not doing twenty-first century teaching and learning, you are likely behind the curve. I also acknowledge that some of what is considered twenty-first century learning is actually what was old, is once again new. The skills, such as critical thinking and problem solving, listed as being twenty-first century skills are not, in fact, modern at all. They are skills that have been taught in a variety of formats, often implicitly for many years, but have been done without being explicitly taught as critical thinking, or explicitly taught as problem solving.
I do realise the apparent juxtaposition of that statement given my Twitter handle and the name of this blog, however I view those more as a statement of when rather than what I am teaching.