“Stories can conquer fear, you know. They can make the heart bigger.”
- Attributed to Ben Okri
As a child and a teenager I was always reading, devouring books similarly to how I devoured food - voraciously, getting lost in the story of the character about whom I was reading. There are many stories that I look back on with fond memories. Goodnight Mr. Tom by Michelle Magorian is still one of my favourite stories of all time. I read through my mother's collection of Jack Higgins, Wilbur Smith, Robert Ludlum, my Pop's collection of Ion Idriess, Frank Herbert, Isaac Asimov. Each time I would be lost in the story of the protagonist, and much of my spare time was spent reading these great stories. When I then saw that Unit Ten in the Flipped Learning Level II Certification course was titled first person narrative, I was naturally curious as to what it was about.
Ryan Hull is a Year Seven Social Studies teacher in Kansas and he was increasingly finding that his students were heading to Wikipedia for their research and were simply copying and pasting without actually engaging with the knowledge through analysis. Ryan's process was around having them use that knowledge that required them to think about it differently, to analyse and synthesis is it into a different form by having them write, initially, journal entries of particular historical figures reflecting on certain events, and then by having them write scripts for and record interviews with or as those characters.
The concept that Ryan spoke about which intrigued me the most, however, was using what he terms a creative use of social media. Social media is a tool like any other; it can be incredibly useful in the classroom or it can be a hindrance, it comes down to how we use it. There are many tools out there that allow you to create fake social media accounts (a great consolidated post of some of them by Gayle Pinn can be found here) and these can be used to generate exchanges between historical figures, timelines or recounts of historical events (such as the @RealTimeWWI and @RealTimeWWII twitter accounts).
I think this is interesting from how it can be used in History, using historical figures and events as the inspiration, but also for other subject areas as science (maybe a day in the life of the moon, or have some of the elements from the periodic table talking about relationships), for Geography (have a mountain talking about how it has changed and shrunk over time (interesting relationship here perhaps with PE and how we grow?), or for English with various characters from set texts interacting with each other (an interesting take on using Twitter to write stories is here).
I think that the use of first person narratives in the classroom is not a new strategy, however, the use of fake social media accounts presents an opportunity to integrate responsible use of social media into the discussion.
If you use fake social media to have students write, create, or respond to historical figures or events, I would love to hear about it in the comments.
Thank you for reading.
"Teaching is listening, learning is talking."
- Attributed to Deborah Meier
When I saw that the title of one of the units in the Flipped Learning Level II Certification was titled Peer Instruction, my thoughts immediately went to Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), something that I learned about during my initial teacher education and which I think is a valuable tool. The unit was led by two people, Eric Mazur; a Professor of Physics at Harvard; and Troy Faulkner a Social Studies teacher in Minnesota and my initial understanding, based solely on the unit, is that while it is not, in itself, just ZPD, it does appear to be based on and utilise a lot of ZPD theory.
Eric and Troy defined Peer Instruction as being a process wherein students engage with each other to convince the other of correctness of their position to a question asked by the teacher through discussion, comparison, (classical) argument (as opposed to the I'm right and you're wrong so ner!" style of argument), and reflection. This is of course predicated on students having a basic understanding of the concept before engage in the peer instruction component, with further learning experience through the process of arguing their point and having flaws pointed out to them.
Peer Instruction appears to be a process that, depending on the age of the students, would be relatively straightforward to implement. One of the biggest benefits that spring to mind from this strategy, whether it is used in a flipped context or not, is that it would appear to aid in the development of the ability to argue using evidence and logic. Students are required, as part of this process, to defend their position whilst working to win-over the other person using evidence from the pre-learning, the text, background knowledge, and logic. I can imagine that in the early stages of this process being implemented in a classroom that the arguments would potentially be quite simplistic. Students would of course need training in how to form logical coherent arguments, in identifying evidence that will be useful for demonstrating their position in a logical way.
There was another element about this that I liked, which was that how you implemented it can be varied to suit your personal teaching style; structure with set time frames through to laissez-fair and that even that might change over time. If I was to use this strategy in the classroom, it would be quite structured initially in order to provide a firm structure for the students to work within and learn how to engage with and implement the process, becoming less structured and more open as they became more comfortable and confident with the process.
If Peer Instruction you wanted to look into further, take a look at Peer Instruction by Eric Mazur, or visit Troy's website and his page on peer instruction. There is also a blog written by Julie Schell who is a member of the Mazur Group at Harvard University.
Today's Flipped Teacher Professional Learning video is by request and is a demonstration of how to log into the Mathletics website.
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.
"I like to approach every day like it's the only day I will ever have."
- Attributed to Gene Simmons
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 is under a media pass provided by the organisers.
FutureSchools is shifting to a new home for the 2017 iteration. The Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) will be hosting educators from across Australia in a setting vastly different to that of Australian Technology Park where previous FutureSchools events have been held. I am looking forward to attending, not least because I genuinely enjoy being in Melbourne, but it will be a chance to see FutureSchools from another perspective.
Time is running out to register your place in one of the six masterclasses or the five conference streams. If you are not sure which conference stream is right for you, then keep reading. if you have not yet booked your place, include a Gala Dinner ticket in your registration and use code BTS150 by 11:59pm on Friday 10th February to receive $150 off which effectively makes the Gala Dinner ticket is free.
The Future Leaders conference is focused on looking at the future of teaching and learning through examination of current global trends and developments in school education, including changes to the: schooling system; society; behaviour; pedagogy; curriculum; technology; professional learning; and learning spaces. This conference will include the plenary keynotes from Dr. Milton Chen, Jan Owen AM and Prakash Nair as well as case-studies and presentations from current education leaders and teachers. To read more about the Future Leaders conference, click here. I am hoping to hear Michael Ha's session which will focus on taking the professional and student learning opportunities that arise from technology.
The Teaching Kids to Code conference is focused on teaching students to code through professional development for teachers around the Australian Digital Technologies curriculum. This conference stream will explore the challenges of teaching students to code and why we should be teaching students to code as well as provide a forum for collaboration in driving STEM, computational thinking and coding beyond the classroom. This conference will include the plenary keynotes from Dr. Milton Chen, Jan Owen AM and Prakash Nair as well as case-studies and presentations from educators currently utilising coding as part of their pedagogical practice. To read more about the Teaching Kids to Code stream, please click here. I would particularly like to hear the panel session focusing on the national digital technologies rollout and the opportunities and trouble areas that have arisen thus far for integrating the curriculum.
My usual FutureSchools home, the ClassTech conference has a broad agenda which focuses on how to use various technologies and technology-based pedagogical practices in the classroom. I've written extensively over the last two years from the ClassTech conference stream and this year looks to be as good as ever. This conference will include the plenary keynotes from Dr. Milton Chen, Jan Owen AM and Prakash Nair as well as case-studies and presentations from educators currently utilising coding as part of their pedagogical practice. As I am currently working in a team-teaching context, I a particularly looking forward to hearing Sally Wood and Simone Segat speak about how team teaching can enhance digital technology learning. I have heard Joel Speranza speak about using videographic feedback previously and can also recommend his session with cnofidence. To read more about the ClassTech conference, please click here.
The Special Needs and Inclusion Conference (SNIC) is aimed at presenting practices that are working for educators around the country when it comes to integrating and support students with difficult backgrounds or who have learning disorders and disabilities such as auditory processing, Autism Spectrum Disorders, behavioural issues, dyslexia, as well as those students whom are identified as being gifted or talented. The focus is to provide innovative, proven and practical ideas that can be implemented in your classroom within existing frameworks and taking advantage of special needs technologies. Delegates will also hear the plenary keynotes from Dr. Milton Chen, Jan Owen AM and Prakash Nair. I am particularly looking forward to hearing Karina Barley speak about creating a space in which an autistic student can feel secure and engage with their learning.
I am actually looking forward to a number of the sessions on the Young Learners agenda this year. I have to admit that in previous years I have not looked at the agenda as I have been teaching upper primary, however, this year I have shifted to Stage One and so it has become rather relevant. This conference stream is focused on examining how Early Years through to Stage One teachers can tap into digital technologies to provide new and enhanced learning opportunities, with practical sessions allowing delegates to get hands on and confident with various tools. This session does include the plenary keynotes from Dr. Milton Chen, Jan Owen AM and Prakash Nair. As a new parent, I am particularly interested in hearing from Dr Kristy Goodwin who will be addressing the impact of digital immersion on a child's physical development, health and well-being, and learning and how this can redefine not just the role of educators, but the approach.
There are also six Masterclasses to choose form, however, I will publish a separate overview of those early next week. I look forward to meeting some of my readers at FutureSchools 2017 and remember to register before 11:59pm Friday 9 February to take advantage of the BTS150 giving $150 off the registration price when a Gala Dinner ticket is included.
In this Flipped Teacher Professional Learning video, I show you how you can use Google Forms as a platform to allow parents to book in for Parent/Teacher Interviews, or for staff booking of breakout sessions during Professional Development sessions etc. There are of course many other uses, however, such as the booking of resources (school hall, playground space before or after school for sport team training for example), so this is not a definitive list.
For more helpful FTPL videos, click 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.
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 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.
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.
Disclosure: My attendance at Education Nation (#EduNationAu) was through a media pass provided by the conference organisers.
As anyone who has been to education conferences in the past knows, by the time you reach the last session, there is serious mental fatigue setting in. I was struggling a little, though a slice of excellent chocolate brownie and a hot chocolate whilst sitting on the deck at Luna Park chatting with Corinne Campbell, who had her Teacher’s Education Review (@TERPodcast) hat on, made for a nice mental change of direction. Corinne interviewed me in my role as a blogger for Education Nation, and to be honest, I do not remember very clearly what the questions were or what I said in response and I just hope that I did not sound too waffly or pompous!
The last session of Education Nation was one that I had chosen specifically because the topic it was covering was one that I was not completely sold on, having never seen it run particularly well. It meant, or I felt it meant, that I would go in skeptical (always healthy) and would either have my feelings confirmed or changed. I would not be able to come out of the session still sitting on the fence about it. The Hewes Family (@biancaH80 and @waginski) were speaking about Project Based Learning (PBL), a pedagogical practice which has become increasingly popular and mainstream over the last few years.
I arrived slightly late, and to the Hewes’ boys speaking about their experiences as students with PBL, acknowledging that there are many different models of PBL, but that at its core, it is more than a project. It is often touted as a project go make this or show this and teachers are then hands-off. Lee jumped in at this point and said that if you are not having students hitting the top tiers of Bloom’s taxonomy during a PBL unit, then you are not utilising PBL properly. Bianca and Lee laid out some key ideas to keep in mind when considering using PBL as part of your practice.
The first key thing to be aware of, Lee told the audience, was that the PBL unit needs to be thoroughly planned out and that in the early days of learning about PBL that a good PBL unit will often require as much time to plan properly as it does to actually implement it. As you and your students become more confident and competent with the process and skills required, that time is reduced, but there is a significant investment in time up front. The key to planning any good PBL unit is to keep in mind three key factors; students should be discovering, creating and sharing throughout the unit, though Lee added that a variety of verbs can replace those three.
The driving question should be student-friendly, which was elaborated as meaning that students can confidently repeat it correctly and can understand what the question is asking and explain it to others in their own words. This also implies that there should be some sort of problem to be solved which is significant to the students. This does not necessarily mean that they are solving a local problem. The significance can be wider than just the immediate area and assessment, but it should be significant, in some way, to the students. There should also be a continual cycle of assessment for the duration of the PBL unit, assessment of learning, for learning and as learning, and this includes not only the internal assessment by the teacher but an opportunity for external assessment through online sharing of learning.
Quality resources should be planned for and utilised. This includes any kind of resources, whether it be digital, soft-copy, physical resource or a personnel resource; the use of a subject matter expert (SME) as part of the PBL unit. There is more than the textbook available, especially in the age where many questions are easily Google-able or answerable with a small amount of research.
The resources for planning, refining and assessing a PBL unit on the Buck Institute for Education (BIE) (@BIEpbl) were available and very easy to use, particularly as a starting point, and include rubrics to help assess the final learning output. Bianca and Lee stressed that we need to teach students how to read and use the rubric as a signpost throughout the unit so that they understand what will be assessed and how and can use that to track their process and that the rubrics are guided by research from Geoff Petty (@GeoffreyPetty). Part of helping students utilise them is to make them engaging, and this is where the ongoing assessment of, for and as learning comes into play.
We were also advised to teach students how and why to use a project calendar; as part of teaching accountability, planning and forward thinking, all skills needed in everyday life, but particularly useful for managing time and resources in any sort of project. The students should be encouraged to plan out their project and fill in the due dates for milestones of their project by backward mapping the overall process after a discussion about realistic timeframes and then roles and responsibilities within the group should be negotiated. I get the impression that this would be an investment in time, up front, but that would long term, see strong dividends. Students would, with the right instruction in how to use them, be able to apply the concept across the rest of their learning and stay on top of any other assessment tasks, particularly in a secondary setting where there might be multiple tasks in play at any one time.
Part of the process of planning high-quality resources, which I mentioned above, also included booking conference time with the teacher. Lee spoke about how he encourages students to consider particular skills or concepts they will need to learn and to book in lessons with him, cooperatively with other groups, to ensure they get the instruction they need. This gives students some agency over their learning but lets them know that there are instructional sessions that they will need to complete in order to learn skills or concepts needed for the end product.
Additionally, you need to prepare students for PBL by developing specific skills such as teamwork, collaboration, presenting, conducting research and knowing how to be independent and a team player, as well as when to be both of those. Lee advocated using starbursting as a tool to help students understand the skills needed for PBL and also to help them develop teamwork criteria.
Bianca next spoke about the importance of remaining organised before and during a PBL unit. Using Project Packets which contains unit outlines, rubrics, lists of resources and where or how to access them etc are a great way of helping students stay organised (see here for examples of what else might be in a project packet), and that these can be digital, hard copy or both. Using a project wall can also be a useful way to keep PBL units organised, as can some form of online resource management or LMS for communication and sharing of resources.
Next, we heard about the [not so] secret structure for successful PBL units.
Bianca has written about the various aspects of structuring a PBL unit on her own blog. One article found, which seems to speak to some of the specifics I have covered above can be found here.
The session was closed out with a task for the audience. In our table groups, we had to develop a brief PBL unit overview that we could take back to our context and with further planning using the tools and strategies shared with us, put into practice. We were given some examples of PBL Unit outlines created by Bianca and Lee that they provided to students as part of their own PBL teaching, one of which I have included below.
I can certainly see the benefits of PBL now, and I feel that with some time and preparation I could develop and run a good PBL unit in my class. It is the time, as always, that is the issue and, at this point in time, I still wish to pursue flipped learning and strengthen my skills in that area. I can certainly see myself returning to PBL in the future, however, and they have given me confidence that it can be done and done very well whilst till hitting the various outcomes that we are required to hit.
This is the last of the session review articles, and at this point, the first iteration of Education Nation was done and dusted, at least from the delegates’ perspectives. I do plan to write one further article as an overall wrap-up and review to address some general feedback that I have received about various aspects of the event, and to tie in some of the themes that I saw across the conference.
If you have missed any articles in this series, please click here.
In this FTPL video, I demonstrate a tool designed by Alice Keeler (@alicekeeler) to help your use of Twitter as a tool for teaching and learning. This tool will give your students a voice and create an easy way to collect entry/exit tickets.
For the full list of FTPL videos, please click here.
In this episode of Flipped Teacher Professional Learning, I go through eight ways in which to use Twitter as a tool for Teaching and Learning. Some of these may not be appropriate to use in your specific context, but the majority would be achievable in most classrooms. I do think we underestimate our students sometimes.
For the full list of FTPL videos, please click here.
If you have read yesterday’s article, I recently attended the Sydney iteration of FlipLearnCon. Heather Davis, as discussed in that article was presenting from the secondary education perspective and kindly consented for her presentation to be recorded and shared online. I have embedded below Heather’s presentation split into short sections. Please note that the first video contains a section which has deliberately been pixelated to protect the privacy of the students who are providing their feedback.
For the full list of articles in this series, please click here.
Welcome back for part two of the view of session two of the FutureSchools conference. If you missed the previous article, you can find it here. Following Peggy Sheehy, was Glenn Carmichael, who described the school in which he teaches as “…a smallish high school…” called St Michael’s Collegiate School in Hobart, speaking under the title STEM Projects with real world applications.
Michael spoke about how he heard the question “…when will we use this?” on a regular basis from his students, and that it seemed as thought mathematics was the subject in which this question was asked more in than any other, which I think is true. From my own schooling, I would not have even considered asking that question in English, science or creative arts, yet in mathematics, it seems like it is asked on a regular basis (read this interesting and thought-provoking article on the topic).
Glenn discussed how the school wanted to embed STEM in the school in a manner that it had intrinsic value to students and spoke about two projects that were utilised to put that in place. The first project required students to develop an iPhone app that had meaning and practical use for them. From a programming perspective, xcode was utilised as it is free and is a real coding language, not a kiddy language with excellent tools for student planning including a storyboarding facility and the ability to simulate the app in its current state to debug and test various iterations. The students, after much discussion, concluded that they would develop an app for use at school to fill in a lot of the gaps in information that students required for getting around.
Glenn related how student timetables were not particularly informative, with a time, room code and a teacher code being the sum total, and that the teacher code did not necessarily mean that you knew who it was before your first class when you first arrived. I remember my first timetable in year seven, and it had a timeslot, room identification and the teachers name (Mrs Smith etc). This particular teacher coding, from what I recall of what Glenn said was a series of letter from their name. Students decided they wanted an app that provided a mapping function so that you could work out where rooms were, and the easiest route from where you were to where you needed to go, teacher’s names and their photo, a to do list, and useful links.
The project had inherent usefulness and significance to the students involved in the project and as such, the natural engagement in the project was high. The decision was made that simply embedding Google Maps would not be sufficient, as it would not provide the specific room locations, or the ability to allow for second level rooms, that a custom map would, which meant that students had to create their own maps with all of the mathematical skills and concepts that go along with that.
The students were also required to create and present a sales pitch to gain experience in considering factors such as cost/profit margins, clients wishes against what the developer wanted (colour schemes to fit with corporate designs etc.), modification of prototype to meet client demands, determining cost of production and then what a fair retail price would be.
Glenn did indicate that the learning curve on xcode was incredibly steep and that the success and failure rates of students in completing particular tasks needed to be balanced. As a result of the challenges from learning xcode, xcode Edu was created, a more manageable version for use with students.
The second project was a 3D Printing project where students utilised Google Sketchup with two add-ons; one called Solid Inspector and the other being Sketchup STL. Once again, students were required to treat the project as a business project and determine the real cost of the final product, including time, plastics, general wear and tear on the 3D printer itself, electricity (which introduced unit conversion), packaging and handling.
Glenn spoke very well and was apologetic at having to rush through his presentation, openly admitting that he had a number of short videos that he could not show due to time constraints at having to start late.
After Glenn’s brief talk, it was the morning break which was followed by the roundtable sessions. Last year, I was not very impressed with how the roundtable sessions had been organised from the perspective of the physical set up. None of the issues have been addressed or remedied in preparation for this year, and if anything, they were worse. My first roundtable was with Glenn and I was excited to be able to hear him speak further and hopefully glean some of what he had been forced to omit in his conference presentation. It was not to be.
Once again, the round tables were tucked at one end of the expo hall, where the concrete floor combined with the cavernous size of the overall space to create an annoyingly loud echo chamber with multiple conversations overlapping creating a cacophony of noise. I was again standing at the back, approximately three metres away from Glenn and could not hear him. At one point, there was someone at the other end of the table speaking, and I could not hear them, and when the person in front of me, who was sitting down, asked a question, I could not hear them very clearly. My total notes from the session consisted of the FutureLearn online professional development side could be useful for coding and STEM-based learning as an educator, and a something which I did manage to hear, as it was very early in the roundtable, when he said “this is bigger than I thought; it was meant to be a small group.”
I gave up after about ten minutes, as I was gaining nothing other than a headache, and spent the remainder of the session speaking with Brian Host, Paul Hamilton and Alfina Jackson, who introduced me to Meredith Ebbs, which from my perspective, was quite productive. I did not attend the second roundtable I had nominated as I strongly suspected it would be the same, and the conversation with Brian and Paul was, for me, valuable. I received a few pieces of advice, including the use of Blendspace as a host for flipped videos as a work around the NSW Department of Education block on YouTube, TeacherTube and Vimeo, and also a contact name regarding the inability of Android devices to connect to the DoE wi-fi.
I can only hope that with FutureSchools moving to Melbourne for 2017, that the issues with the roundtable sessions are properly addressed and those sessions are more beneficial for attendees. When you pay a significant sum for a conference (and I was not the only person that I am aware of who was there having self-funded their attendance) you expect all the sessions to be well managed. At this point, with the advice that FutureSchools is moving to Melbourne, and EduTech is moving to Sydney, I do not know which event I will attend as I have not been to EduTech previously. A decision for next year.
I hope you have gained some benefit from this article, and as always, thank you for reading. The next article will cover the penultimate session, with presentations from Shireen Winrow and John Burfoot.
For the full list of articles in this series, please click here.
Welcome back for this final article in my series looking back on my time at the first FlipConAus, my conference wrapped up, as it did for a number of people, with a double session with Matt Burns (@BurnsMatthew) speaking under the titles Flipping the K-6 Classroom and then The Flipped Classroom: K-12 Leadership. If you have missed the previous articles in this series, you can find the links here.
Matt spoke initially about some of the resources that he has made available to aid others in understanding flipped learning and how to implement it via his website (which also includes a link to his blog); as well as his twitter handle (which I have included at the beginning of this article).
Matt made two very important points at the beginning of his presentation. Firstly, that flipping should build stronger relationships and that what flipping is has changed in meaning over time and means different things to different people. That flipping should build stronger relationships was not, by this stage in the conference, a new idea. Hearing it reiterated, however, helps to reinforce that it is an important benefit of flipped pedagogies. It goes back to the point that was made by Jon and Aaron during their keynote the prior day.
It seems, to me at least, that content, content, content is forced down our throats as if we are undergoing gavage, with the relationship and curiosity components of our profession discarded to the wayside, and hearing from so many presenters about the importance of flipping to the relationships they have been able to build with their students, over and above what they have been under traditional pedagogical model. It seems to me to be distinct that although the general discussion is about the relationships that can be built with students is the focus, relationship-building with parents and colleagues is a theme that has cropped up a few times over the course of the conference.
After this opening, Matt then took some time to speak about the research and indicated that there is a dearth of it that is contextually relevant to us as primary and secondary teachers; that much of the research focuses on tertiary education and that there is a need for a comparative study. I know that there were, at least, three research-based attendees (Marijne Slager being one with whom I connected over the course of the conference), however, the research, at this point in time, is not readily available in the primary space, and you can only extrapolate the findings from studies done at the tertiary-level so far before you begin to lose validity. That said, Clintondale High School in Detroit, USA, experimented with flipping a year group of one hundred and forty students. Academically, the results can be seen in two ways.
This set of data that Matt showed us gives an indication of the academic changes that the school saw in this cohort. You can also read about the changes on the Clintondale High School website:
“We have reduced the failure rate by 33% in English Language Arts, 31% in Mathematics, 22% in Science and 19% in Social Studies in just one semester. In addition, we have seen a dramatic reduction of 66% in our total discipline for our freshman group as well.”
One discussion point that arose from this was that when the teacher is no longer the sole gatekeeper of knowledge and students can access the knowledge any time and anywhere, then students’ target their frustration around learning across multiple sources which removes some emotional and social barriers between the teacher and student, allowing the teacher to work more closely with the student, providing the required assistance.
Matt indicated that quantitative data can be difficult to obtain, but that informal qualitative feedback is relatively easy, and shared some examples of feedback his students had provided:
Matt then spoke about flipping little things, like the spelling test, introducing new writing genres, instructions for projects, explanations of projects and rubrics, handwriting and times tables. This allows students to hear what the word should sound like, which can also benefit students with Non-English speaking Backgrounds (NESB) in developing their English. Flipping allows students to ask questions without the fear of being embarrassed, and if you put structures in place, without needing to wait for the teacher.
Matt reiterated that point that the videos should not be perfect, asking do you need the screencast perfect or by Tuesday? We are not perfect teachers in the classroom, we make mistakes and goof up, and we should be the same on the video as in the classroom. I say that with the caveat that we should fix up any conceptual or factual mistakes may confuse students. Matt also indicated that if you have the Smart Notebook software, then it has inbuilt recording and screencasting functions, which I was not aware of, and that that can be one way of making your videos.
Matt also made the point that this (flipping) is a learning curve, both for you and the students and that open communication should be sought to ensure that any issues are addressed quickly and that your classroom grows comfortable with what is expected, on both sides of the coin, from flipped learning.
Matt’s final point in this session was that the video, as an instructional tool, allows for experiencing the learning in different ways. Some students may watch the video, others may read the textbook, whilst others will work it out collaboratively.
While the majority of the room then moved on to their next session, myself and a few others stayed comfortable in our seats, or stood up and stretched, as we were staying in for Matt’s follow up presentation, around leadership in a K-12 flipped classroom context. Matt opened this up by indicating that he had a range of topics that he could speak to for this presentation, but was aware that it was the afternoon on the last day of the conference and wanted to avoid repeating what we had already heard. To get around this, he crowd-sourced the direction the topic would take by listing out the topics and asking us to vote on the ones we wanted to hear about.
One of the topics that the audience selected was hearing about some research results. It was rather interesting, that the first study Matt spoke about found that students were doing more learning, were not happy about that fact, did not enjoy flipping, but achieved better results.
I found this rather intriguing, as we are often told that higher engagement, often seemingly used as a proxy for enjoyment, leads to improved results, ergo, lower engagement (read lower enjoyment) leads to lower results. I wonder what impact the school culture around learning and mindsets would have on this particular result. It also brings to mind an article that Greg Ashman (@Greg_Ashman) recently published, Motivating students about maths, discussing a study which was recently published about the relationship between motivation and achievement in mathematics. Greg’s view, or rather my interpretation of Greg’s view, is that we should not be targeting our learning activities based on what we think will engage them as this is a superficial motivation which will not last under the difficulty of more complex cognitive loads. Greg posits that we should be aiming for learning activities that maximise learning, creating a feeling of mastery, as this internal sense of achievement with concepts will lead to greater engagement with the subject more organically than simple engagement with the concepts.
“Don’t misunderstand me. I am not the fun police. If you can make the learning more interesting without diluting it then go for it. It is even appropriate to take a break from time-to-time just to have some fun with your students. Not a problem. Just remember what you’re here for; to teach a subject.
Matt spoke about four studies (which I erroneously referred to as a meta-study on Twitter. I should have called it a literature review) which he had read, where all the studies showed that the academic achievements were improved across all four, but with contrasting results in students satisfaction. Reading deeper into the studies, the study where students reported lower satisfaction with flipped learning had the ‘extra’ class time used poorly, with no apparent change from traditional pedagogies. This reinforces the critical nature of the use of the class time. You cannot ‘hide’ behind the teacher’s desk and let the students go about their activities, you need to be getting in amongst the students and providing the close support you may not ordinarily be able to offer due to time constraints. If you wish to read further on that, Matt has included the references on his website on this page.
Some students, Matt related, indicated that they liked having an alternate perspective from another teacher (which lends credence to curating in addition to creating your instructional videos) as all teachers have different teaching styles and slightly different ways of explaining things. This allows those students who do grasp a concept from your explanation to view an alternate explanation (which you have, of course, vetted) to gain the conceptual understanding they need.
There are some students who do not like flipped pedagogies, and this may be for a few reasons. They may have experienced bad flipping, where the teacher misused the class time, or they may be more senior students who know and understand the game of school and do not want to change how they go about doing school.
Matt finished by mentioning two adaptive learning systems (ALS) that he has come across; the AITSL Self-Assessment tool and Smart Sparrow. This is something which I thought would become more visible and mainstream in education sooner than it has, but which the 2015 NMC Horizon Report (K-12 Edition) predicts as a mid-term trend.
There was one final session, a conference closing led by Jon and Aaron, where they challenged us to consider what we would do with our learning from the conference over the ensuing five days, five weeks and five months, and to write it down. Within the ensuing week, my plan was to turn my notes into articles, which I did get done, but it has taken longer than five days. Within the ensuing five weeks, I wanted to begin planning for next year, which I have begun doing conceptually. Solid planning will need to wait for another few weeks as I am job-sharing next year and my partner needs to get her reports finished for this year before she can sit down and think about next year. Within the ensuing five months, I wanted to have planned, resourced and flipped my class in one area, and be looking to move on to another area. At this point in time, I am tossing up between mathematics and literacy. I can see great scope for using flipped pedagogies for teaching grammar and spelling, as well as many mathematical concepts.
I want to thank you for reading through this and (hopefully) the other articles in this series. FlipConAus was a fantastic and tiring experience, and it was late on Saturday night (Sunday morning) before I got to sleep as my mind was whizzing with ideas and inspiration to the point where I turned the light on around three in the morning and jotted down the outline for a research project. This process of turning my notes into articles has been useful and reinforced some ideas for next year. I want to thank Jon, Aaron, Val and Margo for their efforts in putting the conference together, as well as St Stephen’s College for opening up their school to all of us for the three days. I greatly valued my time at FlipConAus, and have every intention of attending in November next year, when it will be held at Brighton Secondary College in Adelaide.
If you want to engage in the discussion around flipped learning further, keep an eye on #ausflipchat as well as #flipconaus as both tick over reasonably regularly.
“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.
““If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”
– Unknown, attributed to various people.
This article begins the review of the third and final day of the first FlipConAus. It was another big day, and will likely be spread across two or perhaps three articles. If you have missed the previous articles in this review series, please see the links below
My day began with Crystal Caton (@cmcaton) speaking under the title How we flipped and you can too, and her first point was one that I had not heard made up til that point. Planning your flip is critical to its success. There are lots of ways to begin planning and thinking about your flip, but Crystal contended that asking yourself what is your need or purpose for flipping is a useful starting point. Identify why it is that you want to flip, and what you hope to gain from it. Each teacher will have potentially a different rationale for flipping their classroom, but it needs to be explicitly understood as that will drive how you utilise flipped learning. She asked us to think about it, in the session, and to consider why it is that we wanted to flip. Personally, I want to flip so that I am able to spend more time with individual students and build the relationships that will allow me to understand their needs as learners better. I also would like to utilise it to, over the long term, create more time in class for more involved learning tasks that take students deeper.
Crystal acknowledged that there will be lots of barriers, but pointed out that investing some time in identifying these barriers before you flip will allow you to have a range of strategies available to you for overcoming them when they occur. Having a range of strategies available to you will increase the likelihood of sticking with flipped learning as a pedagogical practice, as there will be less stress involved in overcoming those challenges than without preparation. Crystal also pointed out that many of the challenges in a flipped learning context are also challenges in a regular learning context, and so leaning on those as reasons to not flip make very little sense.
Crystal was also adamant that we need to sell flipped learning to our students as much as to their parents and our colleagues or supervisors. Many students are used to the game of school, and understand how to play it successfully, and changing the game on them mid-way through will create a significant amount of anxiety for some students. Selling it to them; explaining the what, how and why of flipped learning to students prior to implementing it will help to relieve much of that angst. This can be done via flipped pedagogies as well, much as you can sell and explain flipped learning to many parents by flipping the parent-teacher meeting.
Crystal reiterated a point made often during the conference, which is that there are no experts in flipped learning at this point in time, as we are all still learning the craft of flipping and refining our pedagogical practice, however, part of the challenge of implementing flipped learning is determining what successful implementation will look like for you in your context. This is, again, something that will look different for different teachers, and success in your context may well be considered to be a failure in another, however if it means success in your context, then it means success. This is the same as differentiating the success criteria for our students in class.
Crystal’s final point was in regards to forward-planning. She indicated that as part of our planning that we should also consider where we would like to be in one year in regards to our flipping (this is in reference to the flipping journey beginning with Flipping 101 as discussed by John and Aaron in their keynote speech, discussed here). This will allow us to backward map what we need to do to achieve that goal, in relation to professional development, to flipping new or different units of subject areas and in relation to critical reflection.
My next session was in the schools language building, and I saw the sign in my tweet above taped to one of the walls and seeing Sean Bean, in yet One does not simply… meme made me laugh, particularly given the truth behind it (though Google Translate is getting better). My next session was with Jeremy LeCornu (@MrLeCornu, Jeremy’s website) under the heading My Flipped Classroom.
Jeremy began by speaking about some logistical issues around flipping, pointing out that Technical Support and Digital Learning Coordinator (or similar titled positions) are very different roles, and that if you are not the technical support person, then you are not the technical support person. Jeremy was open that flipping, and building up a bank of flipped resources takes time as you can only film one video at a time, no matter how good your time management of planning skills. One thing which Jeremy showed us which I thought was an excellent idea, is the use of two cameras. Jeremy’s little studio utilised a camera, set up in the regular position to record Jeremy’s face, while he has another, mounted above him pointing straight down, to capture what he is doing / writing in front of him.
The finished product looks like this:
This has lots of benefits, including the ability to show exactly what you are doing, as well as describing it. It also alleviates the issue which faces many flippers which is when you film in front of a whiteboard, you are then facing away from the camera (there is another solution to this, which I will discuss later*). This takes a little bit of planning in setting up, and is best done once, and then in-situ.
One obstacle which many teachers face is students ability to access their videos, as most students are unable to access YouTube and most other video-hosting sites due to internet filters at schools, whether private or public. One way of getting around this is to utilise the school server to store videos which then enables students to save the videos they need for that night to a USB if they do not have internet access at home. This also works if your school 1:1 program is laptops rather than tablets (or your tablets have USB ports).
Part of teaching students to engage with flipped learning is teaching them to write down their questions about the explanation. The explanation does not change simply by clicking pause or rewind, and those students who are unable to understand the concept or skill after re-watching the video will need further assistance. Teaching them to write down their questions allows you to identify exactly where the students need support, and provide it to them. This is where flipped learning is beneficial in that while other students are moving on and do not need your assistance, you can give the one to one or small group help that is required, without holding up other students.
Jeremy also discussed the negative connotations surrounding homework, generating a discussion around renaming it as home learning. While for some this will seem like a superficial exercise in semantics, through education of parents and students, it will, in fact, change the conception of the process now known as homework.
Jeremy next showed us VersoApp, a tool that he utilises in class for discussions. Students post comments, questions or replies, which to them, are all anonymous, protecting those who are too shy to verbalise in a traditional class discussion. In teacher view, however, all the names are shown which allows the teacher to stay on top of inappropriate postings.
We, as an audience, utilised Verso to respond to a question, generating the conversation about how Verso functioned and could be utlilised in class. Jeremy then led a discussion about why creating your own videos is a better option than curating others’ videos and made the point that you should be, as much as possible, the same on camera as you are in the classroom. He made an observation that many teachers tend to become rigid and staid in their delivery when on camera, even if that is not their teaching personality in the classroom. Being the same on video is an important part of building the relationships with our students.
Both Crystal’s and Jeremy’s sessions were very well delivered, and also well attended. I really appreciated the observations that both Crystal and Jeremy made and some of the tools and ideas they presented to help flip a classroom. Thank you for reading and if you have any follow-up questions or comments, please leave them in the comments section. Tomorrow, I will explore Jon and Aaron’s second keynote speech and begin to wrap up the conference.
For the full list of articles in this series, please click here.
*Another alternative is the lightboard. For examples of what this looks like and how to make one, watch this video, this video or this video. Joel Speranza has made one since FlipConAus, and I thought he had posted a video showing how he made it, but I cannot find where it is.
“The phrase, “technology and education” usually means inventing new gadgets to teach the same old stuff in a thinly disguised version of the same old way”
– Seymour Papert (1972, as quoted on p. 19)
In my initial post, which began this series, I wrote about the introduction to Libow Martinez and Stager’s book Invent to Learn where they gave us a brief overview of the maker movement and its place in society today. In the previous article in this series, looking at the first part of chapter one, we were given an overview of the historical origins of the maker movement and its pedagogical relationships with some of the giants of education including Piaget, Montessori and Dewey. This article will move through the remainder of chapter one, bringing us up to more recent times.
Technology often comes across in the media and policy speeches as being some sort of panacea for education, as though decades of low-investment in schools and teachers can be ‘fixed’ by giving students with only a few years left of their schooling a laptop as was the case during the Australian Digital Eduction Revolution. Seymour Papert’s quote above is something that the authors called “…revolutionary for 1968, but sadly remains a perceptive critique of schooling today” (p.19).
While technology can be an amazing enabler of creativity and critical thinking, it can only be such if it is utilised in a way that empowers students to be creative and critical thinkers. The current boom in the use of coding in schools, being labelled as a foundation skills that is as important as mathematics and reading only six months ago an article in The Age newspaper, is rather late considering that Seymour Papert and Cynthia Solomon published a paper in 1971 entitled Twenty Things to Do with a Computer that included coding, mechatronics, mathematical modelling and a range of other, then highly advanced learning activities that would by highly multi-disciplinary. The article also included a case for 1:1 computing, which has also taken education by storm as a seemingly new idea in the last decade.
Papert’s contention in 1972 was that the newly popular concept of gamification; specifically, game design, would be a powerful way of teaching children mathematical concepts. In 1996, Papert wrote that John Dewey’s argument for a move away from authoritarian classrooms was now more epistemologically accessible due to computers, and that the ultimate pressure for change in the structure of classrooms will come from children themselves. The potential for technology to change how students learn concepts across the sciences, mathematics, literacy and the creative arts is monumental, but the thinking about learning needs to catch up. Papert likens the great educational thinkers such as Dewey, Montessori and Vygotskys, to name but a few, to Leonardo DaVinci. The ideas are new and exciting and powerful, however there is not the infrastructure in which to properly implement the ideas.
The authors wrote that the Sputnik crisis created an environment where investment in hands-on science and mathematics was politically and socially popular, as were creative arts programs in schools and this led to less coercive schooling, with greater emphasis placed on individuality. It was, however, during the early 1960s in the Italian city of Reggio Emilia that making first became entrenched in an educational context. The community had been ravaged during World War Two and the decision was made to invest heavily in the rebuilding of the city with a long-term plan; the education of its youngest. The Regio Emilia Approach is the result of those years where the town’s infant and toddler care centres were built and run around the philosophies of Dewey, Piaget, Vygotsky and others, placing the child at the centre of the learning process.
From the Reggio Emilia Early learning (Australia) website:
“It’s only natural that children who are regarded in a warm and positive light will always succeed at a higher level than those who are judged in a limited or negative way.
Libow Martinez and Stager write that the teacher’s primary role in this learning context is a researcher tasked with preparing a learning environment suitable for a child based upon an understanding of that child’s thinking and interests. Vastly different from the role of a traditional teacher. There is now around fifty years worth of documentation and research on the Reggio Emilia Approach, and the authors contend that it “…may represent the world’s most mature model of sustained constructionism and progressive education” (p.23).
It is the advent of microcomputing that heralded the next large step forward for progressive education, with Neil Gershenfeld predicting that the next technological revolution would be one wherein users would make the tools they needed to solve their problems, something is now happening thanks to the growing use of Three-Dimensional Printers in school, industry and at home (p.24). This is leading to a situation where students are now being seen as inventors, teachers and collaborators with the driving force being mutual need, interest and style (p. 25). Thinking this through cause something of an “A-ha!” moment for me, as I connected the dots between the Reggio Emilia Approach, making and the Gershenfeld’s prediction, I realised that what we call self-directed learning is very often not that at all. It is in actuality, Teacher-led, but with less teacher involvement in the doing.
This has profound implications for teachers, as there is also a growing body of literature to help guide and inspire adults ‘in charge’ of children’s learning to incorporate making in their pedagogical practice, such as Make magazine, Howtoons, Fifty Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do) and 62 Projects to Make with a Dead Computer (and Other Discarded Electronics). Materials are also becoming cheaper and easier to access, including MakeDo, Suguru, MakeyMakey and a range of others, beyond the household items like empty boxes, bed sheets, cushions and lego.
All of these factors are coming together to create an environment ripe for children to be the creators of the learning, as evidenced in Sylvia’s Super Awesome Maker Show series of Youtube videos.
Libow Martinez and Sager write that it was in the late 1960s when Papert asked whether it was the computer programming the child or the child programming the computer, and it is now in the early twenty-first century that we have reached a point where it is now relatively easy for any child to access the equipment and information required for them to program a computer. Indeed, it is now becoming common for coding to be a part of a school curriculum, a movement that is becoming stronger, seemingly unchecked.
I would very much like to hear what my readers think about making in general, and making in the school context in specific. Thank you, as always, for reading, and you can find the other articles in this series by clicking here.
“Why do we make our students demonstrate what they learned by making them take a test?”
– Jon Bergmann
What I am referring to as day two of FlipConAus (Friday Storify) was actually day one of the conference proper, and it began with a networking (full continental) breakfast, which was a great way to start the day. Day Two will be split across, most likely, three articles, in order to allow proper depth of exploration from each session.
The conference opened with the standard housekeeping information, and then Jon and Aaron started proceedings with an interesting, thought-provoking and challenging keynote presentation, starting with this (in)famous clip from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off with Ben Stein as the teacher that we both all been, and all suffered through.
The point was two-fold here; both that we should strive to not be like this teacher, but that the way in which students are able to access information is now fundamentally different to what it was when this film was made, but that our pedagogy is still largely the same. Students no longer require the teacher to access information as they used to. Jon and Aaron showed us a clip of a teacher, Steve Kelly, they met at FlipCon in the US a few years ago, and Steve made this point.
This is an interesting thought, and I think reinforces the connotations for teachers from the Ferris Bueller clip. How many of us have not kept up with the times and changed our pedagogy as technology and the way in which students engage with and use technology to learn has changed? Aaron related how his son defaults to using YouTube to learn things and that in a particular origami video he was learning from, the instruction was to make a particular fold. Aaron said that his son asked him for help but that he did not know how to do this fold and asked his son how he would solve the problem. His son’s solution was to rewind the video and pause it just before that instruction, open a new tab and search for an instructional video on YouTube to learn how to make the particular fold type, return to the original video, click play and continue on. This is not something that we could have done ten years ago, but it is common practice for many to do so now.
Then Jon and Aaron showed us this slide:
They acknowledge that the data was from US classrooms, but was from over a thousand classrooms across a range of states with various learning contexts. It is rather scary to consider that the majority of time is spent interacting with new content, which is the term used to indicate the teacher lectured about the new content. The point here is that despite all the rhetoric about the need and valuing of higher order thinking seen across various policies and statements, that, generally speaking, the need for higher order thinking is not being met.
Jon stated that we need to acknowledge that education is the intersection between content, curiosity and relationships and should look like this
Unfortunately, it was pointed out, it often looks like this:
Dr Margerison (who tweeted the above photo) also noted that “content cannot be abandoned but we need to make room for curiosity and relationships” which is an important point to note. Our teaching is heavily driven by the stipulated curriculum, and the testing to which our students are subjected, however we still have sufficient independence in our practice to include learning activities that hit the ‘sweet spot’ where content, curiosity and relationships meet.
Jon and Aaron’s next point is potentially quite contentious. They said that “…we do Bloom’s Taxonomy wrong. We do the bottom two sections at school, and ask our students to do the middle three at home, and rarely get to do the top section at all, we send the kids home with the hard stuff.” This is an interesting assertion and speaks to the heart of one reason why some teachers flip their classrooms. They stated that we need to not flip Bloom’s Taxonomy, but to reshape it.
Remembering and understanding should be what is done at home, the basic cognition, with the more difficult cognition, requiring support and scaffolding done in class, where the teacher is able to provide the support required to allow the learning to appropriately apply, analyse and then evaluate and create. John and Aaron pointed out that simply flipping Bloom’s Taxonomy results in a Ph.D. Bloom, they explained did a lot of research into mastery learning and found that for those students who don’t get it, mastery learning can be quite demoralising.This makes a lot of sense, as students with low resilience will give up after only one or two attempts, citing the learning task as being too hard. By modifying the shape of Bloom’s Taxonomy, and flipping the classroom, whereby remembering and understanding activities are completed at home, this frees up class time for the more cognitively demanding and complex tasks and ensures that the teacher is available to provide needed assistance and scaffolding. Jon and Aaron also indicated that the inquiry approach to learning, typically used in science, is particularly well suited to flipped learning.
The above tweet shows an amalgam of two photos. Both are from the same event, taken eight years separately. They are both from the announcement of the new Pope. In the top photo, you can see one early adopter, one lone nut in the bottom right-hand corner. The lower photo, only eight years later, shows a completely different scene. There are as many glowing screens, almost, as there are people. Our students now are as different to the students of eight years ago, as these two images are different to each other. They learn differently, socialise differently and utilise technology differently.
The above three tweets all capture the sentiment that Aaron and Jon were trying to get across nicely. (The UDL that is referred to in Alfina’s tweet is Universal Design for Learning, which sounds similar to Understanding by Design, which I have (briefly) written about previously). They were trying to get across the point that our students learn differently, and therefore, we need to be teaching differently. While there is research debunking differing learning styles (here, for example), most teachers will comfortably tell you about how they’ve noticed that different types of learning activities better suit different students in their class, and the point here is that flipping, and modern pedagogy, allows for the flexibility to offer ways of learning the same skill or concept, and different ways of demonstrating their learning.
Aaron related a story about a student who was failing his class and just did not seem to get chemistry. This student’s passion was welding, and he approached Aaron and after a conversation, this student then spent the next few weeks in the welding workshop rather than the chemistry lab, researching through exploratory application the chemistry principles that Aaron had been teaching, and wrote a highly detailed paper about the experiments that he had been conducting. This flexibility was only possible through utilisation of flipped learning, however, it turned this student around.
This session was told through the lens of the below continuum:
Jon and Aaron both started their teaching career in the bottom left -hand corner, and the journey of developing flipped learning, taking them to somewhere closer towards the top right-hand corner (both not all the way there) took around six years. Jon and Aaron were adamant that not every teacher should aim for the same place as them, and that different teachers will travel at different rates as they change their teaching styles. Everyone should start with Flipped-101, and then, as is appropriate for them in their specific context, move to other levels. Aaron said that if you just flip without moving deeper over time, then you are doing it wrong. The below image is an example of the differing pathways that can be taken on the flipped learning pathway.
Jon and Aaron’s keynote was a challenging, exciting and inspiring way to open AusFlipCon. They set the stage with some challenging ideas, explored their own journey with us a little and set the stage for some of the concepts that would be explored throughout the day.
I invite you to explore the Storify of the day, and to engage with #AusFlipCon, which still sees action with conference attendees sharing their journey and learning about flipped learning.
Click here to view the full list of FlipConAus 2015 articles
“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.