After having presented my first keynote at FlipLearnCon yesterday (Tuesday 17 May, 2016), I have a profound new respect for speakers who are tasked with presenting in the final session of a conference or professional learning day. It is a very tough gig.
Recently I became involved in a Twitter backchannel that was occurring parallel to the FlipLearnCon event in Melbourne. FlipLearnCon is a two-day conference organised by MyLearning and facilitated by South Australian educator, Jeremy LeCornu (@MrLeCornu) to provide a boot-camp style introduction to flipped learning. I have written extensively about Flipped Learning in the past (such as here and here) and there are a number of educators on Twitter who are also heavily involved in flipped learning, whether through implementing flipped learning (such as Jeremy, Heather Davis, Joel Speranza, Alfina Jackson and Matthew Burns), or as researchers of flipped learning (such as Marijne Slager and others).
In this article, I am going to focus more on my reflections of being involved as a presenter rather than a participant. I was given the opportunity to keynote from a primary education perspective for the Sydney iteration of FlipLearnCon (Heather Davis was the secondary educator presenting in Sydney) by Jeremy and Justine Isard and asked to speak about my EdVenture, how I am implementing flipped learning in my classroom, and what I have learned through trial and error. It was, I felt, a huge opportunity. I had been dabbling with flipped learning for some time, as my regular readers will be aware, and in many ways I still did not feel that I knew enough, or was far enough along with flipped learning as a pedagogical practice, to have credibility as a presenter.
However, I trust Jeremy and was excited to take the plunge. I felt that my first presentation at TeachMeet Coast in Term One went well and this was the next opportunity that popped up.
One of the fantastic takeaways from FlipCon Australia 2015 was that there was the realisation that I was not the only one wanting or trying to flip, and that there was lots of support out through online professional learning networks. Heather commented in her keynote that one of the most important things you can do to help you flip your class is to connect with others, “find your people” and leverage the support and experience of those around you.
The great benefit of being involved in FlipLearnCon was seeing the excitement and eagerness of the participants, hearing the stories of what the teachers involved have been trying and hearing about their contexts and seeing the growth in the confidence and abilities over such a short period of time.
We had a range of primary and secondary educators from Wollongong up to Newcastle, and the secondary teachers were from a range of disciplines, which afforded us a fantastic spread of perspectives and ideas for sharing with others to try in different learning areas. As part of the presentation team, seeing participants not wanting to go to lunch, so that they could continue working on practicing with the tools we had been showing them as they created their own flipped content was incredibly exciting and rejuvenating.
One of the struggles of being the lone nut/leader is that you are always giving. This is not the issue, that is actually part of what we do as educators, is that we give. The issue is that if we are the leader or the person who is driving the practice in our context, or if we are the only person in the school who is interested and trying to implement is that it can be draining and disheartening. The excitement and energy in the room as teachers tried, failed, persisted, tried again, learned from each other, tried something different, experimented with different tools and came back to us excited for what they had managed to create reinvigorates and rejuvenates the soul.
We had a number of educators who went returned home/to their hotel rooms at the end of day one night and worked on creating further content, refining what they had developed that day. One of our participants, Will, is a Japanese language teacher and the content that he finished up with was fantastic and looks very refined and ready to utilise in the classroom, and he was not the only one. One of our participants, Phil, arrived on day one unsure about flipped learning and whether he would gain any real learning from the two-days. He stood up during our Content Showcase at the end of day two and proudly showed off what he had been able to develop , and for his first attempt at creating flipped learning content, it worked.
“Do you want it perfect or Tuesday?”
We were also able to convince a number of educators to join Twitter to enable them to stay in touch and connect with other educators as a way of continuing to be able to share and learn, which was also exciting, and the Principal of one school, who brought along six of his teachers for day one of the conference is now seriously considering taking them to FlipConAus16 later this year, which demonstrates a serious commitment to ensuring flipped learning as a pedagogical practice in his school succeeds.
I have to note that I was amazed at some of the contexts within which some of the participants are working. Some, like myself, are in the public education system and are working with slow, often damaged equipment, with systems and processes in place which hinder the advancement of flipped learning and are simply battling through. Others, however, are in private school contexts, with 1:1 MacBooks, Forwardboards/Lightboardspurchased and funded by the school, and Principals willing to send them off to conferences such as this without them having to take leave without pay. I cannot fathom working in that kind of context and the feeling of being supported and encouraged in that way.
That said, everyone involved across the two days was incredibly hardworking, attentive, and invested in learning as much as they could. I am excited to hear from a number of our participants as to how they go implementing flipped learning in their classroom, hopefully at FlipConAus16, which is occurring in two locations this year; the Gold Coast in October, and in Adelaide during November.
As a presenter, a conference is a very different experience. I still took notes, though using Twitter rather than my normal format of handwritten notes, and I still learned a lot, primarily about some additional tools and strategies that are available to support flipped learning. I enjoyed being able to work with participants to help them develop their flipped content and experiment with the tools we had been showing them.
I want to thank Jeremy LeCornu and Justine Isard for providing me with the opportunity to extend myself beyond my comfort zone and present at FlipLearnCon, it was an experience I am glad to have under my belt. I also want to thank Heather Davis, my secondary education counterpart at the event, for her support over the course of the conference. Finally, I want to thank those who attended for being so willing to go out on a limb and invest the time to gain extend their knowledge and capabilities and for engaging so strongly across the two days. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and I know that everyone involved left feeling excited about the possibilities.
I have included the links to the Storify of both days of the conference at the top of the article, and when I get a chance to upload them, will provide links to both Heather and my own keynote presentations.
As always, thank you for reading.
For the full list of articles in the FlipLearnCon series, please click here.
““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.