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.
“It’s only when every student has a laptop, the power begins.”
– Seymour Papert, quoted by Olivia O’Neill at Education Nation. 8 June 2016
Disclosure: My attendance at Education Nation (#EduNationAu) was through a media pass provided by the conference organisers.
Following the lunch break for day two of Education Nation, I settled in to hear Olivia O’Neill, Principal of Brighton Secondary School, speaking about Engaging Gen Y Teachers. This was a session I was looking forward to, as I knew a reasonable amount of about the reforms that had occurred at Brighton Secondary School through my interactions with Jeremy LeCornu (@MrLecornu), through both FlipConAus in 2015 and FlipLearnCon in 2016, however, I had about it from Jeremy, whose perspective is that of a teacher. This would be an opportunity to hear about the same journey from the perspective of the Principal.
Olivia explicitly said that it had been a slow and deliberate process over an eight-year period that was strongly influenced by Seymour Papert and engaged parents and students through a series of forums.The school chose iPads for pragmatism and after demonstrating they were in a position to make appropriate use the technology, earned a grant under the Digital Education Revolution, and soon discovered that though they had sufficient wireless coverage, their wireless capacity needed substantial work (see here for a rough explanation of the difference between coverage and capacity), with up to one thousand devices online at any one point in time.
We heard that the school was using a combination of Citrix Xen, Verso and Showbie to support their learning management systems and that they have, across the staff, won a number of awards for the innovative approaches being tried, which has been guided, partially by the SAMR model, but largely by the TPCK model. Olivia also spoke about the use of challenge-based learning as an important component of the pedagogical approach in the school. It is not, Olivia made clear, the be all and end all, but it does play a significant role.
Olivia then spoke, in passing, about the use of flipped learning as having played a significant role in the reforms at their school. If you are not familiar with flipped learning, you will find this page useful as a starting point to understand flipped learning. Formative assessment is now conducted using Kahoot and Socrative, with overall assessment philosophy guided by Dylan Williams’ research on assessment. A number of teachers also record their feedback on students learning output to provide more detailed and contextual feedback to students, which has seen positive reactions from students and parents. Whilst the challenges that can occur in a room with technology do still occur, the focus is on the pedagogy and the why of its use.
The school also focuses on character education and providing a large variety of opportunities for students to share their learning in non-traditional ways, which has the flow-on of creating a situation where the students are active participants in their learning, producing as much as they consume, and this is driven by a questioning of the purpose of education (again, this seems to be a pattern!) and why the model of information dumping is still followed when there are so many other options.
There was some interesting information in Olivia’s presentation, and I can only assume that others in the audience gleaned a lot from it. I did enjoy hearing about a story I knew from an alternate perspective, however, I feel like Olivia went for breadth, rather than depth. I would have liked to hear more about the challenges faced in the early days of implementing the reforms; how were parents brought on board? Students? How did the senior teachers react and cope with the changes? How did she gain staff buy-in Olivia mentioned that technology pitfalls still occur, but made no mention of any strategies used to circumvent these in a technology-heavy school. I had hoped to hear more about the challenges faced from the perspective of a Principal, as opposed to what I have heard from the perspective of a teacher (Jeremy LeCornu).
I am looking forward to attending FlipConAus16, which Olivia and Brighton Secondary School are hosting, and learning more about the journey taken whilst I am there. I would like to hear feedback and thoughts on Olivia’s presentation from others who were in the session and did not already know about the changes that have occurred in Brighton Secondary School.
Disclosure: My attendance at Education Nation (#EduNationAu) in June is through a media pass provided by the conference organisers.
Times listed in this article are correct at the time of publishing, but are subject to change.
It is interesting timing, sitting here composing this article, with Education Nation only a week away, considering that the topic for #satchatoz this past weekend was how [do] conferences help us grow professionally. I have been amazed at the response to both my interview with Professor Geoff Masters and the interview with Dr. David Zyngier. I am excited to announce that I have just received the interview with Dr. Kevin Donnelly, who is arguing the side of private education in The Great Debate against Dr. Zyngier. You can get involved with The Great Debate by submitting a question for the moderated questions from the floor component of the Debate by clicking here.
Today, however, I want to have a look at the programs for the various conference streams. There is a lot to be excited about on the program for Education Nation, making it difficult to choose a particular stream to be involved in. Of course, each stream has a particular focus and which you will choose will vary according to your context and your needs. I am in the position of being able to move between the event streams thanks to the media pass, and it made for some very difficult choices, as I wanted to engage with at least one session in each stream across the two days.
I have included a copy of the EduNationAu Timetable, which I have put together from the separate programs on the Education Nation website to allow for seeing what was happening at any time and it showed that the events do not necessarily line up in regards to timings for each session. I have chosen the sessions I will be attending according to a few criteria:
The first session I plan to attend is in the Rethinking Reform stream, and will be my first opportunity to hear Brett Salakas (@Mrsalakas) speak. He will be exploring the subject of PISA and the growing fascination with the results and our place in relation to the other OECD member nations. It promises to provide an open and frank exploration of our current relationship with PISA pipe dreams and the cultural contexts involved. Following Brett’s session was my first dilemma.
Do I stay and listen to Professor Geoff Masters (@GMastersACER) identify and discuss the five most important challenges facing schools, or alternatively, head across to the Digital Dimensions stream to hear Simon McKenzie (@connectedtchr) identify if we have just made everything worse with the rollout of technology in schools, from both positive and negative perspectives. Simon’s session promises to be very intriguing and potentially controversial given the explosion of one-to-one and BYOD programs in recent years.
Both options are incredibly appealing, however, in the end, I decided to remain in my seat for Professor Masters’ session. Primarily due to time; both sessions are scheduled to commence at 0940, and though there is typically some fluidity in the actual timings at conferences, I wanted to avoid being that person who enters a room late and then proceeds to become the show as they attempt to find a seat, get there and then set up for the session. I look forward to reading the tweets stemming from Simon’s session, and please, if you write a blog article from that session (or any other), send me the link so that we can re-share it with the wider Education Nation PLN.
After the morning break, I plan to spend the entire second session engaging with one of the deep-dive workshops, The Leader. Specifically, I will be attending the session which examines strategies for bridging the gap when policy and practice diverge, presented by Peter Mader (@Mader_Peter). It is an interesting area to explore, and also a common problem. Educational policy is typically slow to respond to new information and requirements, particularly when it is required to run the gamut of a bureaucracy.
Michael’s session finished and provides me with a ten-minute window to move across to my next session, hearing from Ed Cutherbertson and Prue Gill (@Ed_Cuthbertson and @Prue_G) of Lanyon High School share strategies that teachers are able to utilise in their classroom to provide their students with voice and agency, allowing them to feel valued, and encouraging students to become active participants in their own learning. This session is a lengthy one, which gives me that it will provide a wide range of strategies to assist teachers in building those relationships, in providing the voice and agency to their students. Student voice and agency has been a topic of discussion more and more on social media and there is a body of research building around this issue.
Following the afternoon break, my first choice, actually, it was the first thing I marked down as wanting to attend, is The Great Debate between Dr. David Zyngier (@DZyngier) and Dr. Kevin Donnelly (@ESIAustralia). The debate surrounding public versus private education is a hot one, and both sides have some excellent arguments. I have not heard the two sides facing off in a debate before, and this is sure to be interesting and fiery. I have already published my interview with Dr. Zyngier and tomorrow I aim to publish the interview with Dr. Donnelly. Dr. Donnelly is well known in the media for his provocative statements, and I look forward to engaging with his responses, and to hearing the feedback on the article.
Do not forget to submit your questions about public education versus private education. There is still time!
Though my choices for the final session of day one of Education Nation were guided by The Great Debate, I am genuinely interested in hearing what Teresa Deshon has to say about the role of the pastoral curriculum in her case study; People of Character – Your Best Self. The academic curriculum takes the majority of our teaching time and Teresa’s question, “…[b]ut what of the pastoral curriculum?” is an excellent one. I am looking forward to hearing the strategies that Teresa and her colleagues have employed to change the focus to the pastoral curriculum, and still maintained the academic curriculum learning outcomes for their students.
At the end of day one of Education Nation, I will be attending the live #AussieEd event at Kirribilli Club (view map), tickets to which are still available. It will be my first AussieEd event, and am looking forward to it.
Day two begins bright and early, and pending Ministerial commitments, will begin for those in the Rethinking Reform forum, with an Address and Question and Answer session with the incumbent Federal Minister for Education and Training, Simon Birmingham (@birmo). I requested a pre-Education Nation interview with Minister Birmingham, which was accepted, however, with the announcement of the impending Federal election made shortly thereafter, I daresay I ended up down the priority list as neither myself nor my speaker liaison heard back regarding the interview. I am very curious to hear about his views on the future of education in Australia, as well as what questions from the floor will be accepted and how they will be answered.
The timing of Minister Birmingham’s address meant that I am unable to attend any other event streams in the morning session as I would be arriving midway through, which is never pleasant. That said, Lila Mularczyk’s (@LilaMularczyk) subsequent presentation examining trends in education policy and the translation to the Australian context will be very interesting. I feel that this session will follow on nicely from Brett Salakas’ day one keynote address. Both keynotes will be examining the Australian relationship with global educational systems, from slightly different perspectives. I look forward to seeing what crossover conclusions the two share.
I will be spending a significant portion of day two in the Rethinking Reform session, as returning from the morning will see me settling in for two sessions which I suspect will provide a lot of food for thought. Murat Dizdar will commence the session with an examination of how some schools in the NSW public education system are adopting the national education reform platform a discussion of the operational lessons that can be taken from those schools.
Following on from Murat, is Dr. Kenneth Wiltshire, presenting an exploration of the future of curriculum in Australia. Dr. Wiltshire is not likely to hold back, having been openly critical of the national curriculum and the process through which it has been developed. Dr. Wiltshire lays blame on the doorstep of ACARA itself, specifically the structure and functioning, labelling it a largely discredited body within education circles. I am very much looking forward to hearing him speak. As an early career teacher, the future of the curriculum is a rather important topic for me and my students, both now and in the future.
After Dr. Wiltshire’s presentation, I plan to take some time out. His speech will finish at roughly the same time as the concurrent sessions from The Leader, The Learner, and The Educator, and with all due respect to Phillip Cooke (@sailpip), who is presenting immediately after Dr. Wiltshire; a discussion of the HSC and how it prepares students for life after school is not in my area of interest at the moment. I believe that I would gain more benefit from taking some time to refresh my brain, to re-engage with my notes, get some writing done, explore The Playground and network and meet up with some educators that I have chatted with on Twitter in the past.
Following the lunch break, I will have the opportunity to hear Olivia O’Neil speak in the Digital Dimensions forum about redeveloping a school by engaging the emerging Gen Y teachers. I am looking forward to hearing Olivia speak, as I know a lot of what has been occurring at the school she is Principal of, Brighton Secondary College from conversations with Jeremy LeCornu (@MrLeCornu), whom I heard speak originally at FlipConAus last year. I am looking forward to hearing about a journey of which I already know a little bit from the perspective of the Principal, and the challenges that were faced from that vantage point and how they were dealt with.
I plan to remain in the Digital Dimensions forum to hear Leanne Steed and Elizabeth Amvrazis as they examine the purpose of education through a lens of technology-laden classrooms and the way in which technology can empower our students.
I will then be moving back to the Rethinking Reform forum to hear someone whom I admire greatly, Corinne Campbell (@Corisel) as she speaks about the relationship between the focus on using evidence-based pedagogies and the feeling of empowerment or disempowerment by teachers. Evidence-based pedagogies are another hot topic (I quite enjoy reading Greg Ashman’s (@greg_ashman) articles in this area). If the discussions about performance-based pay for teachers come to fruition, it will be an issue of even greater importance, and make the difference, perhaps, between teachers keeping and losing their positions.
The final Education Nation session on my agenda is part of The Educator stream, and I have chosen it specifically as it is a presentation on a topic that I am not still somewhat skeptical about. The Hewes family will be closing out The Educator with a workshop giving deeper insight into Project Based Learning (PBL). The workshop is slated to allow participants to design a PBL project, ostensibly, I presume, to take back to our classroom and implement. I am not entirely sure why I am skeptical about PBL. I suspect that a lot of it is most likely misconceptions, and I have heard some local horror stories about PBL gone wrong. That said, I am looking forward to engaging with this workshop, and hopefully coming away with a new understanding and appreciation for PBL and its place in my pedagogical toolkit.
That, as I mentioned, is the final session for Education Nation 2016. I am very much looking forward to the two days and fully expect that I will need the ensuing few days to recover mentally. What are your expected highlights for the event? Let me know via Twitter using #EduNationAu which will be the main event hashtag.
As always, thank you for reading, and stay tuned tomorrow for the interview with Dr. Kevin Donnelly.
For the full list of articles in this series, please click here.