"We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us."
- Attributed to Winston Churchill
The fifth module in the Flipped Certification Level II is focused on learning spaces. Several years ago a trend emerged from a number of the larger multinationals such as Google to move away from offices and cubicles to open-plan office space and hot desking under the concept of open office. This trend took hold and many companies were reported as switchign across; however, lately there has been a trend to move back towards more traditional office structures or to find a middle ground.
This trend also hit education, with many schools investing significant funds in redesigning their buildings to create open learning spaces. Whether this works depends on who you talk to. My experience in a two-class space was that it was brilliant. My teaching partner and I loved it and learned from each other as we developed our pedagogy to suit this new space, resulting in one of us being able to do the explicit teaching as required with the other available to work one on one or with small groups.
I have heard stories of it being terrible. Of the space being open but there being invisible walls with an unwillingness to engage in collaborative teaching from one or more of the teachers in the space. So I was curious to hear the Learning Space expert, David Jakes, had to say about structuring learning spaces specifically for flipped classrooms.
One thing which David said that really stood out, when asked by Jon what a teacher should buy to get the most out ofa space, was that if you have a budget, do not go out and buy things to put in your room. Consider what you want the space to be for each lesson/subject, what the teaching and learning experiences are that will need to occur and then find things and furniture that will facilitate that. It may sound like an obvious response, however, so many schools that I have visited have simpy replaced old traditional furniture for new funky furniture and then then six months down the track discovered that they are not using a significant portion of it, or that they are constantly having to shuffle things out of the way.
This was only a short section of the certification course, so I will stop there and not give away the entirety of the contents, but it was an easy to digest component as there was nothing particularly revelatory. A lot of it was good to hear reframed. That said, having been in a school that has gone through a rebuild in the last few years, I also went looking for ideas, thoughts, and advice on different learning spaces, furniture etc. during the process so that I was ready.
Thank you, as always, for reading. Given the time in the year and how busy things are, I may or may not publish further articles this year (though I do intend for a general reflection article). Please enjoy the remainder of your school term, however long that may be, and stay safe over the coming summer break.
"There is a fluency and an ease with which true mastery and expertise always expresses itself, whether it be in writing, whether it be in a mathematical proof, whether it be in a dance that you see on stage, really in every domain. But I think the question is, you know, where does that fluency and mastery come from?"
- Attributed to Angela Duckworth
The concept of mastery learning is that you must truly master each layer of knowedge or skill before moving onto the next, thus building your abilities up from a solid foundation. Cara Johnson is the expert who facilitates, along with Jon Bergmann, the Flipped Mastery unit of the Flipped Learning Level II Certification course. Cara acknowledges that mastery learning is not a new concept, however, with the advent of technology that we now have access to, and the pedagogy behind flipped learning; we now have the ability to see the true power of (flipped) mastery learning as students are genuinely able to learn at their own pace.
"When a teacher decides to take the step ito go nto mastery learning they have to embrace the mess and they have to give up a little bit of control. Although it's chaos for the teacher, it's best for the kids."
One idea that came through from working through the flipped mastery unit is how important it is for planning to be completed ahead of time, that winging it or the ten-step method of planning (i.e., doing the planning in the ten steps before the classroom door) just will not work. It requires the breakdown of concepts and skills into discrete building blocks that can be individually taught and then assessed for mastery before the student moves on to the next block of the unit, rather than an assessment task which may cover three or four part of a unit of learning.
Flipped Mastery, says Cara, follows a simple little cycle. Explcit teacing (via learning objects in the individual learning space), practice and application, mastery check (at this point more learning and review may take place if mastery is not achieved), followed by moving onto the next building block when mastery is achieved. Once all building blocks in a unit have been mastered, the overall summative assessment is then undertaken as a final check.
I find this process really interesting, especially in light of a TED talk that I listened to recently We should aim for perfection and stop fearing failure by Jon Bowers
Jon Bowers talks about how the acceptance of good enough has led to a lowering of standards and is why medical errors are now the third leading cause of death in the United States (250,000 deaths per year) and why thirty-four million cars are being recalled globally because a car company installed an airbag that the manufacturers thought was good enough. I do not think that perfection and mastery are necessarily the same thing, however, I think the concept of mastery, of truly knowing an dunderstanding what you are learning is somewhat akin to to perfection. It is certainly not in sync with the good enough mentality that sees everyone get a participation award in athletics, or the drive to ensure that every student passes a course despite not knowing or understanding the concept.
In (flipped) mastery learning, the student must demonstrate that they truly understand the skill or concept being taught before they are allowed to move on. That sounds incredibly similar to perfection.
One idea about mastery learning and having students set their own pace is that you will have an ever-increasing gap between those who will knuckle down and get on with it and those who will procrastinate, as well as those for whom things click and those who struggle. One very simple way to help get around this is to provide some guidance as to how long it should take them to complete each building block. Another alternative to this is to set signpost expectations such as you should aim to be at point x by time y. This provides some accountability for time for students and gives them something to aim for as well as some structure to work within. What this looks like will vary depending on the age of the students. The guidance that John gave was that he used his pre-existing pacing calendar, but broadcast that to students.
The structures within the classroom are also important. Simply having students enter and get on with things will add to the chaos. Jon and Cara both advocate for what Jon termed a triage moment, or what might simply be called a check in point; checking in where students are at as a cohort, noting any red flags that might present themselves, and ensuring that those who need equipment or resources for experiments or similar hands-on activities have them and are aware of safety concerns etc.
At the other end of the spectrum, Cara identified that it is critical to have a plan in place for the students who get ahead, who complete the learning tasks quickly. Jon comments that there are typically two types of early finishers, those who genuinely get the concept and are able to move through the tasks quickly, and the rushers. Rushers are the ones who just run their way through without actually taking anything in and are trying to get the task completed as quick as they can so they can move onto the next thing. How both of these types of students are handled will vary teacher to teacher, but a plan of some sort is needed.
Reflecting on my practice, this is an area where I struggled. The rushers were relatively easy as there would always be something that demonstrated they did not understand the concept, or that they had put no effort into their output making it unreadable. Those who genuinely understood the concept, on the other hand, required a different approach. It was no benefit to nitpick their output (though I have had these students who were also rushers), nor was it fair to them to constantly use them as teacher assistants. Developing meaningful, higher order thinking tasks at the upper end was a skill I was still developing, and an area I needed to invest more forethought and planning.
The Mastery unit was a really interesting one and Cara was an engaging presenter. It makes me want to be back in the classroom to put into practice what I have learned about implementing mastery. If you have not already done so, I strongly recommend you register for the Level II Certification course to take your flipped practice to the next level.
"I'm realizing for the first time, your life goes on while you're trying to pursue this career. I saw my career as everything. But you have this life, too. Living your life fully, you come to know yourself better. You'll find the place for it."
- Attributed to Nicholas D'Agosto
Whilst this is rather late, given that term two ended nearly a month ago, I have been struggling with time and juggling a new direction in my career along with my family responsibilities and have not had time to write. Term two was, for me, incredibly hectic with trips for work visiting schools in Wagga, Wollongong, Tamworth, Coffs Harbour (twice), Port Macquarie and Nambucca Heads, and Dubbo, attendance at FutureSchools in Melbourne, the Association of Independent Schools IT conference in Canberra, EduTECH, FlipCon New Zealand, two deaths in the family which resulted in a funeral in Tamworth on one day followed by the second in Western Sydney the following day, as well as continuing to wrap my head around being a father to an increasingly independent and cheeky daughter.
One thing that I learned in term two was that I am often too focused on the details and forget to look at the bigger picture. I was away from home far too often in term two because I would look at a week and see that I had no bookings and so could get in a trip to a regional area to visit schools without looking how often that would have me away overall. A rookie error and one that I've corrected by blocking out the weeks when I will and will not be travelling regionally throughout term three and four to ensure no more than five regional trips of two to three nights each. Mrs C21 is much happier about that arrangement than she was with term two's travel arrangements.
I know that I have commented on this before, but I have noticed how there is a common threa running through every school that I have visited thus far, irrespective of socio-economic status, sector base (i.e. Public, Denominational, Independent etc.) and that is that students are all trying to deal with being teenagers and teachers are trying to do the best they can with what they have. As someone from w wholly public school background, as a student and a teacher, it is easy to fall into the trap of just assuming that non-public school teachers are in rich schools and therefore have it easy. I am coming to realise that that is certainly not the case. Whilst the school may be better funded and thus have access to better or more resources, the expectations and demands placed upon teachers are commensurately greater. The obvious example of this is the expectation in many non-public school that every teacher is involved in coaching a weekend sporting team and thus required to spend Saturday morning at a sporting ground with that team.
This realisation has reinforced the need for us as a profession to band together and protect our professionalism and use our expertise as educators to know how to teach to build and maintain networks to share knowledge, resources and practice across schools as we support the influx of new teachers to the profession. A quote from someone at FutureSchools has stuck with me; there is not a dearth of excellence i teaching, but the distribution of excellence is uneven.
Get involved in your local TeachMeet group and help promote professional unity and collegial sharing. Find an early career teacher with whom you can work and mentor to help support their growth as a teacher; but be mindful that they can also possibly teach you something. Brian Host said something to me a few years ago that has stayed with me and gave me the courage to be more active in sharing. He asked if I was presenting at FutureSchools (which is where we were when we were chatting) and I laughed at the apparent absurdity of the notion, remarkign that as an early career teacher I had nothing to offer on par with what others at FutureSchools could offer. Brian said (paraphrasing) that it is not about how long you have been teaching but about how you have been teaching.
I think that my mentality at that point in time is typical of many early career teachers as there seems to be an undercurrent of bias towards more experienced teachers, especially when it comes to trying to find a permanent job. We all come to teaching with out own backgrounds and we need to find a way of sharing that appropriately. Put your hand up to share at a TeachMeet, ask your Principal if you can share a pedagogical approach that has been working for you in the next staff meeting, apply to present at a conference...get involved and share your knowledge and expertise. Early Career Teacher is non synonomous with has no idea what they are doing. There will be somethign they are an expert in and as more experienced teachers we need to find and nurture those things whilst supporting them in the areas where they are strggling.
There is a great chance to get involved coming up. Steph Salazar is organising a TeachMeet event focusing on support and encouraging Pre-Service and Early Career Teachers which is taking place on Tuesday 22 August at Woolpack Hotel Parramatta.
"Have something cool to share as a PST or early career teacher? Perhaps you have golden advice for PSTs! Indicate below that you are interested in doing a presentation and we will be in contact. Any questions? Email email@example.com or tweet me @stephygsalazar."
The above snippet is what this particular TeachMeet is focusing on. Not in Sydney? There is likely a TeachMeet group in your area and if not, then why not start one? TeachMeet events in my area started quite small several years ago and were organised by one person once a year. Now TMCoast runs an event each semester and has a consistent showing of between forty and fifty educators.
I will end this article there as it is will and truly well away from where I thought it would go. I would encourage you to register for TMWooly though as it will be a great event with lots of knowledge for and from pre-service and early career teachers.
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.
“There can be infinite uses of the computer and of new age technology, but if teachers themselves are not able to bring it into the classroom and make it work, then it fails.”
– Attributed to Nancy Kassebaum
Some time ago I signed up to be notified when the Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) program would be beginning this year and recently received that notification. After reading through the requirements (not onerous) and the process I stopped and did some thinking, ultimately deciding not to go through the process of applying to become an ADE this year.
I stumbled on this article by Stephanie Thompson (@TraintheTeacher) and subsequently read through each of ADE-based articles. It got me to thinking about why I wanted to undertake the program. I am already good with technology in the class and have had lots of positive comments about that aspect of my teaching, so I do not need the help of learning the technology. I do not think it would actually lend any weight to applications for permanent teaching positions (though it would be a nice feather in the cap) and I can think of areas of opportunity that would provide far better benefit to my students as a professional development focus.
I realised that it was a badge that I have seen and respect as it implies a high level of knowledge and in some circles, respect. It was something I wanted to do because I felt that it might serve as proof that I am not a fraud when I talk about teaching and technology and it occurred to me that it would not actually achieve those goals and at this point in time, I was wanting to undertake the program for the wrong reasons.
I need to focus on my pedagogy and classroom management skills, my time and organisation skills. I am also teaching on Stage One, a group I have not previously taught and accordingly have a significant amount of professional learning to do this year simply to do my job to what I feel is an acceptable standard. In that, I am blessed to be job-sharing with someone whom I know has vast experience with this Stage and whom I also know socially. Further to that, we are in a team-teaching context with our Stage Assistant Principal who has been nothing but understanding and helpful thus far.
I will certainly be looking at the ADE program, but not this year.
"Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible."
- Attributed to Tony Robbins
As you read this article, I would encourage you to consider the process by which you arrive at your professional development goals and decide which activities, courses, or conferences you will give your time to in the pursuit of your professional development.
Outside of education, my biggest passion (after my family of course) is (association) football, affectionately referred to as the round ball game, and accurately known as the world game.
I did not come to the game until my mid-twenties, and accordingly I was, if I am being kind, completely rubbish as a player. I also did not really understand the things I kept being penalised for and that frustration, combined with a lack of match time from the coach due to my rubbish-ness meant that it was not really serving its purpose for me, which was to help me lose some weight. So I attended a local referee course and became a referee.
I love it. I have the best position to watch football. It is great fitness (I average around ten kilometres a match as a referee and around seven kilometres as an assistant referee in each match, depending on the level of football), it is outdoors amidst the fresh air and the sun and has provided me with some incredible experiences and many new friends. Recently I attended a Level One Theory course run by the Football Federation of Australia (FFA) designed to give me the skills to be appointed to referee the second tier of football in Australia, the Sony PS4 National Premier League and in theory, would mean I am eligible to officiate on the Hyundai A-League, the top tier of football in Australia should I pass my practical assessment matches. If you are interested in reading about the referee development pathway, you can find the Australian Officiating Development Schedule (AODS) here.
Part of the course touched on a number of elements that many educators would be familiar with, particularly around psychology and goal setting. We are required, as part of the program to develop and track a series of goals at the short, medium and long term, and were told we needed to use SMART Goals. The instructor for our course is a Secondary English teacher and he really pushed us to develop SMART goals that would be useful, as they formed part of the program assessment; the making, tracking and if need be, modification of them.
It occurred to me during my drive home that the goals I had set as part of the course were genuine SMART goals and did meet each of the criteria. My regular readers will be aware that I set some goals for this year. Reflecting further, I realised that those goals, my professional goals, were not all particularly SMART goals and were in fact rather vague in some instances. They are all things that I want to achieve, but they were not necessarily specific or measurable and I need to review them and change them if need be. I also realised that for some reason I was more comfortable codifying my goals for my referee development than I am for my professional development.
I am not entirely sure why, though I feel like it may be because I am aware there is so much development in so many areas needed that it feels rather paralysing and constricting to pin down only three of four goals as is required for my mandatory Professional Development Plan.
How do you determine, whether now or in the past, which of the numerous potential areas for development to concentrate on? I feel, as an early career teacher, that there are so many areas I still need to focus on that I am paralysed for choice. I would appreciate hearing anyone's process for selecting development areas.
“This is going to be really stats heavy and so I won’t be offended if you want to leave.”
– Peter Whiting
Welcome back for part four in my review of FlipCon Adelaide. If you have missed the previous articles, you can find them by clicking here. For whatever reason, I had not registered for a session after Aimee Shattock’s and I decided to drop in on Peter Whiting’s (@mr_van_w) session where would be exploring the results from an action research project which was recently peer reviewed and published (you can find it here). Statistics and research is not a flavour that everyone enjoys and it was a small group in the room, however, it was, for me, an incredibly interesting session and I got a real kick out of hearing about the methodologies and the statistical results; it reignited a desire to engage in education research. It was a good session even before Peter spoke, however, as I saw this on the wall, encouraging a growth mindset and a persistent attitude to learning.
Peter spoke about his background, that he was a scientist before entering the teaching profession and so his research was driven by a science mindset, looking at the story told by the data. He also indicated that his working environment is hostile in many ways to flipped learning as a pedagogical strategy, but that the school has moved to action research as a basis for professional development, which sounds strategically sensible, depending on what guidelines are provided for topics of research and the structure. I had some conversations around this topic during the social event which I was intrigued by and will discuss further in a later article.
The action research was driven by two focus questions, what was the impact on student engagement and student learning outcomes when flipped content is made either by their own teacher, a team teacher or an external provider. It is an interesting question as the general feedback that highly experienced flipped educators give is that creation is better than curation for flipped content. Peter spoke about the relationship that he and his team teacher have which other as being very productive and safe vis-a-vis their ability to provide open and frank feedback to each other and that this was essential to the quality of their flipped content and also to the action research project.
This also provided the first departure point from standard flipped learning discourse as Peter noted that they do not necessarily have students engaging with video content in the individual learning space and therefore refer to the flipped content as learning objects or LOs.This allows for a discussion about the flipped content without limiting the discussion to video content.
The research was structured to allow for a number of data points. Peter explained that in a typical action research project, for each query, three data points are required. To this end, the research was structured to allow for a number of data collection points, with two sets of two parallel classes being utilised (an A and B class in each of Stage Four and Stage Five science) to allow for comparisons in different learning contexts. This enabled a comparison of the effect on engagement and outcome as a result of teacher-created, team-teach created or externally created LOs. The overall sample size was fifty-five students and Peter said that he would have liked to have had a larger sample size, however, that was what he had to work with. If you are not familiar with what team teaching is and why that is a topic of potential interest for research, you can find a good overview here.
Peter then did what he promised and went into statistics-mode. The first results that we were shown were the overall results around the engagement levels in the individual space (what would traditionally be referred to as homework). These showed markedly different results between teacher-created LOs and team teacher-created LOs; 91% completion in comparison to 85%. This trend continued when examined in the same way with the data clustered by the unit of study or topic.
The above photo is not the greatest, however, the darker column is Class A and the lighter column is Class B. The results demonstrated that students engaged with the LOs much more frequently and with greater interest when they were created by the class teacher, irrespective of the topic of study. The Class A teacher developed the LOs for the second unit, whilst the Class B teacher prepared the LOs for the first and third units and you can see the interaction patterns quite clearly in the results. It is interesting to note that the subject or topic of the unit (appears) not to have had any impact on the average results and I would be curious to hear about any inferences or conclusions that were made around that.
Following on from that, bookwork results were examined, and student effort was recorded using predetermined success criteria, with the results being clustered together by alternate and classroom teacher. It was reported that there was a significant different between the two sets of results; when students’ book-work marks were clustered together according to the book-work marks from their own and the alternate teacher. Peter reported that this indicated to them that students were taking detailed notes beyond the bare minimum when the learning object being used was created by their own teacher rather than the alternate teacher. Interestingly, it was also reported that as the end of the year drew closer the disparity between the two columns (book work marks for own vs alternate teacher) lessened. I am not sure what results you could infer from this other than potentially an impact of studying for impending exams or major in-class assessment tasks/tests. I do not recall what Peter said, if anything, about this, but he noted it as interesting.
Students were asked directly about whether they had a preference for the LOs that their teacher created in comparison to an alternate teacher and it is telling that although 70% of students thought the LOs were equivalent vis-a-vis quality, that 47% preferred the LOs developed by their own teacher. Peter did acknowledge that 49% of students were neutral on that question; that they did not mind either way. I found it very interesting that such a large proportion of students indicated they did not mind either way. A question along these lines was asked during the primary discussion panel (read the article here) and Matthew Burns (@burnsmatthew) responded that he asks his students about whether they prefer flipped pedagogies or traditional pedagogies. It is a slightly different question with a different focus, however, as far as I am aware, Matt creates the vast majority of his content and he indicated a roughly 70% / 10% / 20% split between preference of flipped/blended/traditional pedagogies. I do not know if Matt has done any similar research into the impacts of third-party created flipped content/LOs.
The above graph was shown to us next and it is a very intriguing set of results. It demonstrates that although there is a preference for teacher-created LOs, that the measured summative metrics revealed no statistically significant variance in the achievement of learning outcomes. This has significance for teachers interested in flipped learning as a pedagogical strategy. Engagement in the classroom or group learning time is an important factor in classroom management and the perception of whether you are a good teacher. John Hattie (@john_hattie) has written extensively around effect sizes, and engagement has an effect size of 0.45 which is not insignificant.
One potential reason for the preference for teacher-created LOs is that students are used to you; your vocal rhythms, patterns, tonal quality, and lilts, however, it is key that we remember that the LOs are not everything. Flipped learning is about videos, primarily, but that is not the goal of flipped learning. The goal of flipped learning to reclaim time for deeper learning and engagement with higher level thinking as envisioned on the reimagined Bloom’s Taxonomy.
Peter related that Derek Muller (@Veritasium) completed a study for a PhD, which he (Peter) summarised as can we learn stuff from videos – the short answer from Derek is no. The learning happens in the class.” He pointed out that a video provides background and foundational information, but that it does not necessarily provide a context, an application or a synthesis of the skill or concept; that is what the classroom time needs to be used and as Jon Bergmann pointed out in his keynote address earlier that morning, the biggest mistake in implementing flipped pedagogies is not using the reclaimed group space time well.
The video does not teach students how to think critically around a topic or provide them with strategies for synthesising new information or evaluating the impacts of something, that is our role as teachers, to provide the opportunity for students to take that information and apply, analyse, evaluate and create with it. It provides the opportunity for teachers to build and strengthen the relationships with students which has a sizable effect size (0.52) on student learning outcomes according to Hattie.
We moved onto discussions around the human research ethics approval (HRECs), requirements around which varies depending on the jurisdiction. Essentially though, if the research is in-house for reflection and improvement of practice, ethical approval is not strictly necessary (unless otherwise indicated in your State or Territory), though it is still a good idea. If you intend to publish or share the results externally, then it becomes necessary. Even if it was not necessary, the process of completing a HRECs application is very useful. I found that it helped me to crystallise exactly what my guiding question was and how was going to go about researching that and understanding the results. Peter also said that there is money available via grants for research assistants and that we simply need to go through the processes. This was not something I was aware of, however, it would be very useful to have someone who can collect, collate and assist in data analysis.
We were told that the most basic interpretation of action research methodology is to ask a question, enact a plan to gather data, reflect and reiterate. The complication or the challenge comes from the need to continually ask so what and where to from here when the data is collected and conclusions have been drawn at each iterative step.
The question was asked how far away from your own institution do you go before content becomes external? Is it external content if it by anyone outside of your own Stage or Faculty? Your own school? your Local Learning Community or Dioecese? That, Peter indicated, is the next step for the research.
I personally found the session with Peter to be exciting and reinvigorating. My current long-term career goal is to end up in the education research space. I feel like this will be ongoing or multiple over a period of time, action research projects where specific questions are researched and iterations made to pedagogical practice and strategy with the end goal being to share results at each step for feedback and peer review (whether this is formalised for publication or merely social peer review through trusted colleagues I do not know). I am a teacher first and a researcher second, however, I genuinely enjoyed the process of reviewing the literature, synthesising it, researching, analysing the data and then writing the thesis. I would like to take it to the next step and be able to make iterative changes to my practice and to be able to share those results with peers. That is largely why I maintain this blog and also try to maintain the formal-ish academic style of writing, so that I do not lose the ability to write in that style when ( am determined it will be when not if) I get the opportunity to dig into some research again.
Thank you as always for reading this rather long article. I know that research and statistics is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I personally really enjoyed Peter’s session. We enjoyed a long conversation around it later on over dinner and drinks, and I daresay that when I read his article that I will have further questions for him. I would like to hear your thoughts on the research described and what direction you think it could go in next and what questions you feel would be valuable for research.
“If you are the expert on flipped learning, be generous and be polite”
– The Primary School Discussion Panel
Following the opening address by Rupert Denton (@rupertdenton) and the Keynote by Jon Bergmann (@jonbergmann), both of which I reviewed in the previous article, the conference delegates split off into their first session. I attended a Primary School Discussion panel consisting of Jon Bergmann, Matthew Burns (@burnsmatthew) and Kirsty Tonks. It was an intimate group, with around twenty delegates in the room to ask questions.
One of the questions was about strategies to check that students have watched the video. A useful strategy that was offered up was to have students submit an entry ticket as a summary of what they have learned, or that an interesting question related to the flipped content needs to be offered to the class for exploration during the subsequent lesson or unit.
The question was asked about what do students prefer vis-a-vis flipped learning compared to traditional pedagogical approaches. Matt Burns spoke to this and indicated that he actually asked his students for their thoughts on this and that it was typically a mix between some preferring straight flipped, some preferring straight lecture and some preferring a mixture of flipping and lecture and which was typically around 70% / 10% / 20%. Looking back at that conversation, I wonder if the results are influenced by how much which teacher-made videos are used in comparison to teacher-curated as the research by Peter Whiting which I referred to in the previous article and will write about in more depth in a later article indicated that that can have a significant impact on student academic outcomes.
This also fed into a question about how to manage the forest of hands in the air requesting assistance during the group learning time and understanding who wants to be rescued from thinking and who is unable to continue without assistance because they do not understand a concept. A very simple solution was offered up, and it was also pointed out that squeaky wheels sometimes are the ones which do not need the attention.
A criticism that is often leveled at flipped learning is dealing with students not completing the homework, now referred to as the individual learning. The response really is quite simple. Students often do not do assigned homework in the traditional context because it is either too difficult, takes too long, is too boring, so this problem is not new at all. However, flipped learning can encourage students to complete the homework. One of the keys to a successful flipped classroom is that the flipped content is succinct, therefore the individual learning space for a single class should not be longer than perhaps ten to twenty minutes allowing time to watch, rewatch, make notes, and answer and also ask some questions based on the flipped content.
Someone asked a question about whether there has been a noticeable age where the shift from in-flip to out-flip is a good choice. Jon responded that from what he has seen, the tipping point appears to be in Year Three. Prior to that, in-flipping definitely appears to be a better choice for implementing flipped learning, while from Year Four onwards, out-flipping appears to be the best way to utilise flipped learning. Within Year Three, it appears that it will depend on the particular cohort of students as to which option will work best, or perhaps even use the year to transition from in-flip to out-flip.
There were a range of other issues discussed to varying degrees. Recording the marking and feedback of student work was posited as being a worthwhile way of providing higher quality and quanitity of feedback, particularly in writing, and projects within the applied sciences and the creative arts. We were reminded that how we think we sound is not how we actually sound. The way our voice sounds on a recording is our actual voice and irrespective of whether we like the sound of our voice on a video, it is what our students hear everyday anyway. Essentially, tough luck and get over it!
The panel were asked about differentiation in a flipped classroom and whether multiple videos are recorded to suit each level of learning needed in the classroom. One suggestion was that you record your video as normal and then when you reach the point where the content is going to step up to a higher level simply say in the video that the next level of content is for Group X and then give the next level of the concept or skill in that section of the video.
The next interesting discussion point was around the benefits to utilising flipped learning. We are often told that it is a good thing when students ask questions, and in many cases that is most certianly true. However, there are times when it is not a good thing for students to ask questions. One of the benefits of flipped learning is that you can give the full explanation of the concept or skill being addressed without being asked a question that you were going to answer in your next sentence, or any other of a dozen types of interruptions that make a five minute explanation take fifteen minutes.
Discussion returned to homework, and I asked Jon, via e-mail after the conference if he could elucidate vis-a-vis his thoughts on homework as it related to flipped learning and the research around homework and what education thinkers such as Alfie Kohn (@alfiekohn) have said about homework and he advised that he has written a book outlining in detail his thoughts around homework and how to adress it as part of flipped learning, Solving the homework problem by flipping the learning, which will be released in April 2017. Jon also reminded the audience that the evidence around homework is not as conclusive as Alfie Kohn has made it out to be.
The panel was asked whether flipped learning works with disadvantaged or those students who might be considered academically challenging or disengaged. Some of the best results are being seen with students who are disengaged, such as Clintondale High School who saw a significant reduction in negative and anti-social behaviour and a rise in student engagement and academic outcomes for their students.Part of this success comes with using a single system for managing student access to the flipped content, a learning management system or LMS. The audience was told that it typically takes two to three to really become comfortable and au fait with a learning management system and then another year or two after that to really decide whether or not it is suitable and works within the specific context.
The panel was once again a very informative and interesting session. It was great to hear from other primary educators and get a feel for what challenges and concerns they are dealing with. As always, thank you for reading, and if you missed the previous article in this series, you can find it by clicking here. It will likely be early next week before I am able to get the next article out, however, I will aim to have it up on Tuesday afternoon.
After attending a masterclass with Jon Bergmann (@JonBergmann) at FutureSchools in 2015 (review articles here) and the subsequent FlipConAus on the Gold Coast later that year (review articles here), I was excited to get to be attending this year’s Flipped Learning conference in Adelaide. It came at a good time for me personally, with the preceding few weeks having been very stressful for a number of professional and personal reasons. The Storify of the lead up and day one of the event has been storified, which you can find here.
For me, the trip to FlipCon began with a train trip, a long wait (not to be confused with the long weight that many apprentices have been sent to get from the hardware store) at Sydney Airport with an overpriced lunch, a flight which involved a random conversation with the two passengers sitting in my row on the plane and then randomly running into Heather Davis (@misshdavis) and her entourage at the baggage collection. We all ended up going out for dinner together and it was a great way to get to meet some new people beforehand as well as being a nicer way of spending the evening than dinner alone and getting some work done in the hotel room.
The actual conference began with a welcome address from Val Macauly of organisers IWBNet and the Principal of hosts Brighton Secondary School, Olivia O’Neill.
Following Olivia was Rupert Denton (@rupertdenton) of Clickview who spoke about the need to make technology educational, rather than make education technological. It was an important distinction and one which he spoke passionately. It is, I have to admit, the only opening address that I have heard where the Cambrian Explosion and the Cambrian Extinction have been so seamlessly woven into the talk.
For those of you who have not heard of the Cambrian Explosion, it was a twenty to twenty-five million years period of time in which the vast majority of animal species originated. He likened the current period of educational technology to that period of time as it seems that there is a new toy, app, gadget, tool or technological pedagogy emerging and becoming a favoured flavour every other day. There was competition for food (teachers to use the product), competition for resources (schools to use the product school-wide rather than a single teacher) and competition for growth (developers to create more apps, gadgets etc). The clear underlying message of Rupert’s address was captured succinctly.
Rupert exhorted delegates to critique the value of technology which purports to be educational and question what is it that makes it educational? If you follow Rupert’s analogy vis-a-vis the Cambrian Explosion to its logical conclusion, there must be a Cambrian Extinction event looming on the near horizon.
The distinction is important, as it feels like education is being made technological sometimes, rather than making technology educational. I hear complaints from colleagues both in my own school and from other schools that it feels like there have been more fads in education in the last five years than in the preceding ten, particularly as technology in our daily lives becomes more ubiquitous and companies realise that by promising much, they can sell even more. This sounds like a similar line of thought to the digital natives vs digital immigrants discussion to me. It should always, however, come back to the pedagogy and the good of the students’ learning.
After Rupert spoke, Jon Bergmann was up to deliver his keynote address. Before he did that, however, he mentioned that Battledecks (or PowerPoint Karaoke as it is called in my classroom) would be on again at the social event. Along with that, to ensure that everyone was up and fresh for the day, Jon also mentioned that he would be holding a FlipCon 5k event starting from Glenelg Pier the next morning.
I have to admit that I was not sure how much value I would receive from hearing Jon speak. Not because I feel that I know everything about flipped learning, I most certainly do not, but because I had heard him speak about flipped learning on a number of occasions prior to this and I was not sure how much of what he said would be new. The initial stage of his keynote was mostly familiar content, however, the middle and latter stages held some new nuggets of ideas for me to consider.
Jon spoke to the concern about replacing teachers with YouTube videos that is often levelled at flipped learning as a pedagogical strategy by reminding us that our value as teachers and professionals is not in our information dissemination but in our ability to analyse and deep dive on a subject with our students so that when they resurface, they have gained a new understanding for not just the surface understandings but the more nuanced subtleties of the topic or skill. I saw the below tweet by Jeff Atwood this morning and it resonated very strongly with me along this same theme.
Jon also defined some new terminology as a way of differentiating flipped learning from traditional pedagogical methods and to reframe the discussions around learning activities.
This shift in the framing language of flipped learning should also encourage a shift in thinking about the way in which time with our students is used. It is easy to add to students workload rather than replace the homework with individual learning tasks, however, that is not how we should be flipping, reminding us that flipped learning is not about the technology or the videos but about the reclaiming of our face to face time with students for more meaningful and deeper learning activities.
The reminder was given that we need to train our students as videos are often merely a source of entertainment and that flipped videos should be engaged with rather than just watched. The new tip (though obvious when said) was that we also need to invest in professional development for ourselves and colleagues when implementing flipped learning. I maintain a list of resources, articles and contacts to start out with flipped learning, however, you can now complete a Flipped Learning Certification course through the Flipped Learning Global Initiative.
Jon shared the top twelve mistakes that educators make and which get in the way of flipped learning success, beginning with lecturing when students have not watched the video. “Do not rescue them from that choice,” Jon told the audience. Making content too difficult or inconsistent to access is another. This last comment can be interpreted in a few ways. The literal interpretation is, I think, fairly clear. The other consideration, particularly in secondary and tertiary education, is that it is not too difficult insofar as students needing to remember a large number of access details with different faculties using a different learning management system. Keep it simple. Joel Speranza (@joelbsperanza) spoke about this during his masterclass at FlipConAus 2015 and reminded us that the learning management system does not even necessarily need to be technology based.
The next mistake Jon said he sees in flipped classrooms that do not work is that the teacher is not active in the classroom after flipping, that they sit at their desk and do not engage with students. This defeats the whole point of flipping a classroom. Following this was giving up too easily. This seems fairly straightforward, as any big change requires a period of acclimation for all those involved and flipped learning is typically a significant change in pedagogy. Another problem consistent in those classrooms where flipped learning does not work is that there is no interactivity in the ILS beyond any notes the student takes. It is important that there are engagement points to ensure that students are actively learning and processing what they are seeing and hearing. There is a range of tools that allow you to do this, such as Camtasia (my favourite), EdPuzzle, and Clickview to name a few.
Jon spoke about something that makes a lot of educators nervous and overly self-critical; making their own flipped learning content.
Peter Whiting (@Mr_van_W) has recently published a peer-reviewed action research study that examined the impact on student learning outcomes of using flipped learning content created by either their own teacher, a team teacher or an external third party (for example, Khan Academy). I attended Peter’s session where he spoke at length about the methodology, the results and the implications of the research project and I will discuss those findings and my thoughts on the implications in that article. There is a significant reason to create your own videos. You are their teacher and therefore the relationship is with you, no with Salman Khan or Mathantics or another provider.
That said, even if you do create your own videos but do not teach students how to watch (read: engage) with them, you are making another of the more common mistakes that Jon sees. Using a video to learn a concept or skill is significantly different to watching a movie or a music video and it is a skill that needs to be taught taking time appropriate for your context. Lower Primary students might need a number of weeks of learning to engage and reinforcement of how to engage, whilst upper Secondary students may only need one or two sessions.
Although it may seem obvious, not ensuring buy-in from key stakeholders is another common mistake that Jon sees worldwide. It is not just your Supervisors and Executive staff who need to buy-in, it is the parents and the students. One way of achieving this is to have your students and parents from this year record short messages talking about why they like flipped learning as a pedagogical approach. These can be stitched together to form a single video and serve as a hook for the sell to stakeholders.
However, the number one mistake that Jon sees internationally in contexts where flipped learning has not worked:
This comment gets to the crux of what flipped learning is about; the reclamation of class time for deeper and broader learning. If that time is not being used to go deeper and broader then it is not being used wisely.
Jon then spoke about the continuum of pedagogical strategies and posed that flipped learning sits in the middle of teacher centred and student centred, providing a good balance between direct instruction and student-led constructivism. He reminded us that students do not know what they do not know and that our job as professionals is to guide them to ensure that they have the conceptual and skill knowledge
When being in the position of wanting to flip, but not knowing where to start, I would point you to my Starting Point for Flipped Learning page and remind you of how Jon finished his keynote:
If you have made it this far, thank you. I will aim to get the next article out in the next few days. Given the time of year, with everyone busy working on writing their end of year reports and a variety of other activities, I am sure my readers will be understanding of the delay.
“In a world that changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”
– Attributed to Mark Zuckerberg
My regular readers will be aware of my proclivity for conferences. Earlier this year I was fortunate enough to be invited to contribute to the Education Nation conference as a blogger and reviewer for the conference, which went well both in my own estimation and based on the feedback I was given from various quarters. On the back that experience, as well as already having submitted a speaker application for FutureSchools 2017 and not having attended EduTech in the past, I decided to send an e-mail to inquire about the possibility of attending EduTech 2017 under a media pass in order to review sessions, interview speakers and generally cover the event.
Lo and behold, the organisers accepted and I am now attending EduTech under a media pass. I am in the process of going over the speaker list to formulate a list of who I plan to either interview or hear speak. As part of growing EduTech, the organisers have launched their Ambassador program and have listed me as their first ambassador on their website. I am excited and looking forward to connecting with a range of educators from across the broader Education sector as well as reconnecting with old friends.
EduTech 2017 will be held at the new International Convention Centre in Sydney (the old Sydney Entertainment Centre) on June 8 and 9 next year, with Masterclasses being held on June 7. If you are interested in going and would like 10% off the registration price, use code BRM10. Let me know through Twitter or my website contact form if you are going and you use the code. It would be great to meet up face-to-face.
In the meantime, if you have not read any of my conference review articles, please visit here to see the list and peruse to find something that catches your eye.
Education Nation | Prue Gill and Ed Cuthbertson - Encouraging students to become active participants in their learning
“We need to till and fertilise the soil before we can harvest the growth in our classroom.”
– Prue Gill and Ed Cuthbertson
Peter Mader’s session led into lunch (which was fantastic), after which I headed off to The Learner to hear from Prue Gill and Ed Cuthbertson (@prue_g and @ed_cuthbertson) about how to encourage students to become active participants in their own learning. It promised to be an interesting session, which was unfortunately poorly attended, but from which I learned a lot. Prue and Ed have kindly made their slide deck available and you can find it here.
They began by providing some context for the audience, indicating that they came from a low socioeconomic status (SES) area called Conder in the ACT. They qualified it by saying that low SES in the ACT is not the same as low SES in NSW or other states, but that they are, relatively speaking, disadvantaged and isolated from the rest of the region. They added that they have both been in the school, together, for some years, which is actually an unusual situation. Apparently the ACT used to have a policy in place to ensure cross-fertilisation of ideas and practices that a teacher moved to a new school every two years. The unintended consequence of this was that staffing in the school was fluid and there was constant change, resulting in it beign very difficult to build or change school culture. The practice has, thankfully, fallen by the wayside and has resulted in vastly improved relationships between staff members and between staff and students
We began by considering that we cannot empower students when teachers are not themselves empowered and were asked to consider and map on a Cartesian Plane, school practices that were low or high quality and were empowering or disempowering for teachers.
The audience spent time collaboratively filling in their own Cartesian planes and then came back together and shared the ideas. They related to us, as they added groups ideas to the plane, that they were shown this tool by Dan Meyer and that it provided a usable tool for helping a school move from across the plane to the top right-hand quadrant.
They explored the idea that it was impossible to teach the curriculum if a teacher too busy managing behaviour issues and how teachers need to sit down at the same level as students as part of the behaviour management process, conferencing with them to discuss the root cause of the behaviour. This goes back to the theory that all behaviour has a reason or purpose behind it. The school began using the mini-conference process as a way of addressing behaviour issues constructively and that as it gained traction and acceptance from teachers, students and parents, that they were then able to use it not only to assist in resolving teacher:student issues but also in resolving teacher:teacher and student:student issues.
The school invested time in helping staff develop their professional development plans (PDPs), identifying development opportunities that met both staff and school needs and used action research to gather data on what practices were and were not working and to be able to determine the level of impact that practices were having using data.
They spoke about the need to value the passion and knowledge of teachers and to invest in and then leverage that, compromising as needed logistically. The example they gave was that a science teacher wanted to run a particular program and had built up the interest in science to the point where students wanted to engage in that program. The school leadership was able to recognise the passion and knowledge of that teacher and gave the go-ahead for the program, with a quid-pro-quo of taking on an additional class.
The school also uses collaboratively teaching and have placed all Year Seven mathematics classes on the same line, allowing for team teaching, planning, programming, and assessing.
Another aspect of the school which I believe is fantastic is that every teacher in the school, including the Assistant Principals and the Deputy Principal, are expected to observe and provide feedback to two other teachers, as well be observed and given feedback about their own teaching practice. I have heard this concept given many names, but the underlying spirit is brilliant and promotes growth, learning, and best-practice and that it has resulted in significant growth throughout the entire teaching staff.
The school has also worked hard to remove useless and wasteful staff meetings consisting of items that belong in an e-mail. They map out the agendas for staff meetings for the full year and make them visible to the entire staff, creating an environment where e-mail meetings are reduced and promoting genuine discussion and debate on substantive issues. One of the issues examined was the use of funding and the recognition that data and accountability for the use of funding go hand in hand. To this end, funding began to be targeted to specific purposes and programs, which needed to be evaluated and the data used to determine success and the impact thereof through action research. One outcome of this was that the way rubrics were used to judge assessment tasks was changed. They are now structured and given to students indicating that by the end of the unit they need to be able to answer specific in-depth questions, rather than simply writing a report that uses a few keywords.
In order to improve the level of teacher wellbeing, the school instituted a family week wherein staff are encouraged to not arrive at school prior to 0800 and to not be on premises after 1530. In addition to this, once a week, each subject block (the school is grouped into three cross-faculty blocks) has a staff lunch. During that staff lunch, which is cooked by the staff specifically to share with each other, students are not allowed to go to that staffroom and all playground duties are taken care of by the other two faculty-blocks. I have written previously about the benefits of sharing a meal with colleagues, and they have held consistently for Lanyon High School staff.
One area that was identified as needing improvement was in collaboration with other schools. To this end, a learning community was established with nearby primary and secondary schools. As part of this, joint assemblies are held on a regular, but not interferingly regular, basis so that when students transition from primary to secondary, the school they attend is already relatively familiar due to the community environment that has been established.
At this point, we were asked to consider what an empowered student looked like and in our table groups, discussed and explored this with some consistent themes emerging in the room.
Prue and Ed also noted that if it is easy to measure, then it is probably not worth measuring, which led to a discussion about how do we measure if our students are empowered. Some tools that they use as a school include attendance rates, especially for those with historically low attendance as well as reading student reflection journals.
The discussion then moved onto an explanation of the merit and reward system that was being used across the school and that while it was working well and having positive effects, there was an awareness of Alfie Kohn’s Punished by Rewards theory and the negative potential of extrinsic motivation. There was a discussion of the fact that some schools physically cannot get through the whole curriculum and that one way they were working through that issue was to utilise the learning by design methodology in their planning and programming, as well as peer feedback on practice.
They discovered that students were working on assignments outside of school hours, collaboratively, and diving into deep discussions on concepts that were being covered in class.
We are often told, as educators, that we need to leverage a student’s interest and teach to it. However, Prue and Ed argued that if a student likes bikes, do not give him a book about bikes and teach everything through bikes as that will only destroy the love of bikes. It is also, they said, our job to expose students to other ideas, concepts, and interests rather than allow them to become single-minded about something.
Closing out, Prue and Ed spoke to us briefly about the Giving Project they run through Years Seven, Eight and Nine, the use of a genuine student parliament which has input in the school and issues that affect students, and the last comment was from Prue; “that what works is not the right question. What works somewhere does not work everywhere.”
I enjoyed the session with Prue and Ed, their passion shone through and we heard some interesting ideas about engaging students in their own learning, stemming from a focus on improved school culture. The session was not well attended, I thought and did them a disservice, however, their enthusiasm was infectious and they engaged the audience well.
As always, thank you for reading. If you have missed the other articles in this Education Nation series, you can fidn the full list here.
Yesterday I published an article containing Heather Davis‘ keynote presentation from FlipLearnCon in Sydney, broken into bite-size sections. This article provides my keynote presentation, also broken into sections. Given that this was my first keynote presentation, I would appreciate any constructive feedback people would like to share, positive or otherwise.
My role at FlipLearnCon generated some useful discussion with my students. In the week prior to the event, students had been presenting speeches of their own, which were required to be between three and five minutes in length, as an end-of-unit assessment task. Many of the students were incredibly nervous but actually spoke quite well. Many of them sat down afterwards, convinced their speech was terrible and struggled to take on board the positive feedback from peers. I had told the students why I would be away for two days, and when they found out it was to deliver a twenty-minute speech they were horrified at the very thought.
Interestingly enough, when I returned to class the day after FlipLearnCon, they wanted to know how it went. So I turned it back to them, asking for a show of hands as to who sat down after their speech and thought it was terrible,with a large number of hands going up. I then asked for a show of hands as to who heard a speech they thought was terrible, not difficult to hear because of volume or annunciation (a common issue we found), but actually terrible. Not a single hand went up. I then shared with them that my presentation ended up going longer than twenty minutes, that there were some technical issues and that I stood up feeling incredibly nervous with the adrenaline pumping. I was seeing lots of heads nodding at this point as much of the class, other than technical issues, felt the same when presenting their speeches.
Like them, I continued, I persisted, despite feeling nervous, and gave the speech. I finished it and felt that it was not particularly great (unlike my Graduate Address, which I am still very proud of, and sat down afterwards feeling that I had nailed it) but that I had been given positive feedback which means that despite what I thought, the speech was good. I pointed out to them that with practice, public speaking becomes easier, but that being nervous is ok, as long as we do not allow the nerves to control us and stop us from taking opportunities.
Below, you will find my keynote presentation at FlipLearnCon. If you are interested in having a copy of the slide deck, you will find it here.
For the full list of articles in this series, please click here.
Again, I would appreciate any feedback on the usefulness, structure, delivery or content of my keynote so that I can make my next presentation stronger and more useful for the audience.
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.
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.
“There are few things as important in schools as providing all students with sound foundations in literacy and numeracy.”
– Professor Geoff Masters. E-Mail correspondence, 2016
Disclosure: My attendance at Education Nation (#EduNationAu) in June is through a media pass provided by the conference organisers.
All interpretations of Professor Masters’ views are my own and any misinterpretation also mine. The Interview with Professor Masters has been included for the sake of transparency.
After I had accepted the invitation to attend Education Nation in order to write a series of review articles about the event, I asked if it would be possible to conduct a series of pre-conference interviews via e-mail with some of the speakers. I was privileged to have been granted an e-mail interview with Professor Geoff Masters AO, the Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) as well as head of ACER’s Centre for Assessment Reform and Innovation.
In developing the questions for Professor Masters, I felt that it would be remiss of me to not take advantage of the opportunity to ask his opinions about statements by Professor John Hattie in April 2015, where Professor Hattie indicated that he felt classroom teachers should leave education researcher to trained researchers. I recall there being quite the uproar on social media as a result of Professor Hattie’s remarks, with a great number of educators commenting that there is no reason they cannot engage with research.
Professor Masters’ view is that it is unreasonable to expect teachers to be both highly trained and effective educators; and highly trained and effective educational researchers. It is reasonable, however, to expect teachers to be informed users of research evidence; evidence which should be a consideration for teachers when engaging in the informal research process of evaluative reflection upon their pedagogical practice.
The title of the article in which Profess Hattie’s statement was published was certainly clickbait and as with most instances of clickbait, upon reading further, the statements were not as provocative as at first glance. Indeed, Professor Masters’ response to this question implies that Hattie’s sentiment that teachers should leave the research to the researchers is reasonable. Indeed, when you read further in the article, where Professor Hattie is reported as also having said “I want to put the emphasis on teachers as evaluators of their impact. Be skilled at that,” I find it difficult to disagree.
I cannot speak to the level of training that other classroom teachers have received in research. Personally, having only received an introduction to educational research through the Honours program I completed as part of my initial teacher education (ITE) (delivered by Dr. Nicole Mockler), I do not feel that I would be able to put together a large-scale strong and rigorous research project on my own, whilst also managing the day-to-day requirements of teaching and evaluating the effectiveness of my practices. That said, I do feel that I have had enough training through the Honours program to enable me to read and utilise the outcomes of research to inform my reflections, or to work with a researcher to conduct more formal research.
Professor Masters further noted that high levels of training and proficiency are required for certain types of research, which dovetails neatly with Professor Hattie’s comment that “[r]esearching is a particular skill. Some of us took years to gain that skill.” I do not have years to invest in mastering the skills to become proficient with rigorous, high-quality formalised research. I would prefer, at this point in my career, to invest that time in developing my pedagogical practice. In that frame of reference, leave the research to the researcher is not, in my opinion, as provocative a sentiment as it first sounds.
During the last four years in various staffrooms and study sessions with my colleague pre-service teachers, I have encountered a variety of opinions regarding the relationship and relevance that research has to classroom teachers. Whilst there are pockets of teachers who see the value in the relationship, by and large, educational research appears to be seen as irrelevant. Professor Masters stated that too often pedagogical practice is shaped by beliefs about what should work in the classroom and beliefs shaped by fads and fashions of the day (Greg Ashman has written about various fads and fashions in education including here, here, here and here). Additionally, I have heard the “it worked when I was in school/first started teaching/we did it this way in the 70s and 80s” refrain regularly, with its unstated implication that it will still work.
To improve the quality of classroom teaching, and by extension, the learning outcomes for students, Professor Masters asserts that evidence-based pedagogical practices should be implemented; that is, those pedagogies which have been demonstrated through research and experience to be effective in improving students’ learning outcomes and engagement. The relationship between educational research and classroom teaching is one of sharing, with Professor Masters commenting that “[p]rofessions are defined largely by a shared knowledge base. Educational research is playing an essential role in building that knowledge base.”
It is interesting to note that there is a growing community of educators on various forms of social media sharing with their practices, both the successes and the failures, with each other, and it will be interesting to see what role the online Professional Learning Networks play in contributing to educational research in the future, both as a source of information and participants, and as a vehicle for dissemination.
I asked Professor Masters what his thoughts were on what stood in the way of Australian education and the heights of PISA and TIMMS testing results that seem to be the benchmark by which educational success is judged. I did so with reference to the ITE programs in Finland and the well-publicised reign of Finland at the top of the table in regards to PISA and TIMMS. Professor Masters’ response was relatively simple. High-performing countries, such as Finland and Singapore have raised the status of teachers.
Professor Masters noted that there are a number of high-performing countries who draw their teachers from the upper echelons of secondary education, typically starting with the top thirty percent and some drawing only from the top ten percent, making teaching in those countries, a highly respected and sought after career. This is not the case in Australia, where the required Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR) is quite low, as highlighted in this article from May 2015 which indicates that almost a third of all pre-service teachers achieved an ATAR of less than sixty. That demonstrates the low respect held for teaching compared with some of the ATARs listed in this article from January 2014, indicating that a to enter a Bachelor of Health Science/Master of Physiotherapy degree at the University of Western Sydney required an ATAR of 99.95, or the combined law degrees at the University of Sydney and the University of NSW, both with minimum ATARs of 99.70.
The school of thought that simply increasing the minimum required ATAR to enter an ITE program will improve the quality of teachers is not necessarily true. This article from October 2015 indicates that only a small percentage of pre-service teachers enter their ITE immediately upon completion of their secondary education. However, I do not believe that Professor Masters is advocating such a simplistic solution. His comment that “…teaching is a highly respected and sought after career and these countries have succeeded in making teaching attractive to their brightest and best schools leavers…” (emphasis mine) indicates to me that it should be merely one component of the admission process.
Professor Masters observed that in teaching in Australia is trending in the other direction to high-performing countries, becoming less attractive, an opinion I agree with. Personally, I am finding that time I would spend planning and preparing for a lesson is being taken up by mandatory training modules which provide no actual training, or on paperwork which is needed for the sake of bureaucracy. I, like many other teachers around the world, am struggling to balance work and family and am left feeling guilty for not spending time with my family. Perversely, I also find myself feeling guilty for not spending the time I want on marking and writing feedback, or on planning and resourcing a lesson, (often with things from my own home or which we have purchased with our own money).
The debate about how to improve the attractiveness of teaching as a profession is an old and ongoing one, and I look forward to hearing it discussed during Education Nation. When asked for his view on how the issue could be resolved, Professor Masters pointed out that it would require a series of deliberate policy decisions on a range of issues including teacher salaries, resourcing, and autonomy; as well as the number of admissions into ITE programs. Professor Masters noted that the countries which appear at the top of the international testing results, including Finland, limit the number of pre-service teachers each year. This article indicates that only one in ten applicants is successful in gaining entry into a Finnish ITE program.
There are also come clear benefits to restricting the number of entrants to ITE programs. You are also restricting the number of graduates, thereby helping to prevent what has happened here in Australia, where there is a glut of teachers who are unable to gain permanent employment due to the high number of graduates each year. Professor Masters’ final point was that an important factor in the perception of teaching is the academic rigour of the ITE program itself. I have written previously about my own ITE (part one can be found here), and I do believe that ITE programs, in general, can be improved, and look forward to hearing about that topic at Education Nation.
NAPLAN, which commences next Tuesday for Year Three, Five, Seven and Nine students Australia-wide, is an incredibly high-stakes testing process which has the potential to cause great anxiety and consternation amongst students, parents, teachers and policy-makers, and which invariably receives a great deal of attention in the media. When asked about why he thought NAPLAN moved from being a low-stakes test to what it is now, Professor Masters wrote that it is part of a deliberate strategy to improve performances through incentives.
These incentives appear to use the carrot and stick method, with some financial rewards for school improvement or, alternatively, the threat of intervention and sanction for poor performance, and yet, the international experience has demonstrated that school behaviour is changed when the stakes attached to tests are increased. This is shown by the annual breaches that occur during the administering NAPLAN tests, including cheating and inappropriate assistance by some teachers, and the way in which many schools prepare their students for NAPLAN, as indicated in this article. Further to this, the public release of NAPLAN allows parents to compare schools and can result in some schools losing students as parents opt to send their child to seemingly ‘better’ schools.
Professor Masters commented that high-quality tests are an important component of education, providing diagnostic data around topics or concepts that require attention, monitoring improvement over time and evaluating the effectiveness and impact of programs and interventions. The widely used Progressive Achievement Test (PAT) is an example of the kind of test that can be an invaluable part of a teacher’s toolkit.
I do agree with Professor Masters about the value of testing. At the beginning of this year, Stage Three students in my school all completed a series of diagnostic tests across reading, spelling, and mathematics. That data was invaluable in identifying those students who need additional assistance in particular areas, and plays a role in developing Individual Education Plans (IEPs) for some students, and also for discussions with parents about the student’s results and progress throughout the year. It will also play an important role in quantifying students’ growth across the year when those tests are re-administered at various points throughout the year.
My final question to Professor Masters was his advice to new teachers as they enter their classrooms pressured to ensure that their students to achieve high NAPLAN results. He responded that “[t]here are few things as important in schools as providing all students with sound foundations in literacy and numeracy.” Professor Masters’ belief that the goal should be to improve our students’ literacy and numeracy levels, and that if we do raise the NAPLAN results, it should be as a result of improved literacy and numeracy levels. The problem, he pointed out, is that NAPLAN scores can be increased in ways that do not lead to better literacy and numeracy levels.
I am grateful to Professor Masters for his time and willingness to engage in the interview process. I very much look forward to hearing him speak at Education Nation, where he is speaking to the title Addressing the five key challenges in school education that matter to you on day one. Professor Masters will also be joining Dennis Yarrington, Dr. Kenneth Wiltshire and Lila Mularczyk for a panel discussion about Student Testing on day two. If you have not yet registered for Education Nation, I would encourage you to do so by clicking here.
As always, my thanks for reading, particularly given the length of this article. Please feel free to contact me with any comments, questions or feedback via the comments section below or on Twitter.
For other articles in the Education Nation series, please click here.
With the start of a new term, I have put together some new videos for the Flipped Teacher Professional Learning series. This new series of FTPL videos focuses on why and how to use Twitter as an educator, both as a tool for your own professional learning and networking as all as a tool for teaching in learning in your classroom.
This first video focuses on why you would want to use Twitter in those two contexts. As always, please leave any comments or feedback below or connect with me on Twitter.
For the full range of FTPL videos, please click here.
“Time stays long enough for those who use it.“
– Attributed to Leonardo Da Vinci
I am looking for some feedback on my teaching career progression and am hoping that you, my readers, are able to help. Last year I was fortunate enough to gain regular casual employment each week until I was eventually offered a temporary contract from Term Two through to the end of the year.That role was as a Release from Face-to-Face (RFF), or as I have heard it called elsewhere, Non-Contact or Supply Teaching. In this capacity, I had a timetable wherein I moved from class to class at set times, teaching digital literacy to students from Kindergarten up to Year Six.
This year, I have been offered a contract for the full year on a Year Five and Six composite class, for three days a week. I am discovering a great number of tasks that last year went unnoticed by me, as they did not fall within my purview, mainly administration issues. I had a conversation with another teacher recently who has gone the other way, from teaching a class in a job-share arrangement, back to an RFF role, and it was interesting that she is discovering all of the things that she no longer has to worry about.
It makes me glad that I was not offered a permanent position immediately after graduating, as I am not sure how I would have coped, worrying about programming and planning, accreditation, the actual teaching and building relationships with my students, if I had also been required to complete the various paperwork and administration with which I am now faced. It enabled me to spend a year focusing on my pedagogy and classroom habits, which I believe has put me in a position for this year where I am not as stressed about juggling everything.
It has also made me think about my career progression. The end goal, for myself, at least, is to gain a permanent position in a classroom. However at this point in time, and I am open to feedback on this, I am considering that I am better off not applying for permanent jobs this year. That might sound odd, however, I feel that in the long run, my teaching, and therefore, my students would be better served by having a full year in a class, with a full year’s worth of teaching a single class with all of the associated experiences which come with that, rather than potentially being offered a permanent position mid-year, causing consistency issues for myself and both sets of students.
Students are resilient, and would get over it, however as someone who changed schools a lot as a student, I feel that the disruption, and the time for students to adapt to a new teachers routines, processes, and quirks, mid-year, would cause significant issues in regards to classroom more issues than would be worth it.
Of course, the alternative would be to simply ask my Principal to not release me until the end of the year, should I be offered a permanent position elsewhere, which I have heard of happening. However, I am not sure how well that idea would be received, both by the current Principal and my new Principal.
My reasoning makes sense to me and I am happy with the decision, but I am open to feedback and other ideas on the issue from those more experienced.
“I am indebted to my father for living, but to my teacher for living well.”
– Attributed to Alexander the Great
Recently I wrote an article talking about the issue of teacher work-life balance, and my current lack thereof. It has generated some interesting discussions and I have had some helpful conversations with members of my PLN who have reached out, for which I am grateful. It seems that the conversations I have had face-to-face where it has been indicated that the hours I keep currently are somewhat normal have been somewhat supported by conversations on Twitter.
A conversation with one Tweacher indicated they kept similar hours to myself vis-a-vis time spent at school but allowed a longer break between the end of the school day and resuming work at home, and with more frequent breaks over the weekend when working at home. Another Tweacher noted that for them, involvement with professional associations and Twitter allowed them to blend their social life with their educational life, acknowledging that they were unsure if this constituted having a work-life balance.
When I first began this blog, I wrote about why I teach and why I joined the teaching profession in a time when there is intense scrutiny of men professing a desire to work with children and men are seemingly avoiding the teaching profession. In my own Initial Teacher Education (ITE) cohort, there were perhaps only ten of us out of around one hundred and fifty.
Despite how I was feeling in general, I was still excited to be in the classroom. I have some great things going on with my students, particularly my Stage Three classes and this morning reinforced that. I had one of my Stage Three classes, and we have been learning about the Cornell note-taking strategy. To be able to take good quality notes is a very handy skill and something that I wish I had had in high school, or even in my first two years at university.
I was open about that, as well. I showed them some of my notes from a first-year course and we talked about what was wrong with them and why those notes were not as helpful as they could be. We then talked about the projects that they had completed that year with their classroom teacher and the research they did as part of that and how having useful notes would have made things easier.
I have been really proud of the way they have engaged with the learning process for this topic. We have spent a considerable amount of time practicing using the strategy and are now at the point where it is time to wrap the unit up with a summative assessment task.
Part of my professional development recently has included conversations about student choice, prompted, I think, by a comment that Jon Bergmann made during one of his keynotes at FlipConAus recently when he asked the audience “Why do we make our students demonstrate what they learned by making them take a test?”
I had heard something similar previously, though I cannot recall where, and I decided to try it out. So I had a conversation with each of my Stage Three classes and asked them “what do you want to do to demonstrate to me that you know how to use and can use the Cornell note-taking strategy on your own?” We discussed that, and then I asked them “what does success look like in your chosen strategy?” which prompted a conversation about what would be expected in each method that demonstrates understanding. The students loved it and were genuinely engaged with the process of developing their assignments.
It was a “so this is why I teach” moment for me. The students were genuinely engaged, poring through the notes they had taken as we learned about Cornell note-taking together to help them put together their own demonstration. Some of my students were filming a video where they explained it and then demonstrated how it was used, some of my students chose to take some notes on a self-chosen topic and submit those with annotations, and some have chosen to put together a PowerPoint presentation. There was creation, there was analysing, there was collaboration, group work, individual work, peer support as one of a more advanced students worked closely with a student who required some additional support, going through the same steps that I would have to support the students. I was cheering inside.
I told the students this during the session-end reflections. I also asked them how they felt about being able to direct their own learning in this way and as a whole group, they felt empowered to own their learning and show off what they actually knew in different ways, rather than in the same way as everyone else.
It was a great morning.
Then things returned to Earth and I ended up wandering down to our Deputy Principal’s office and asking her for some advice on an incident, which in and of itself, was very minor, but which in the larger picture of the students involved could merely be a stepping stone to something larger.
The afternoon was much better, I had another Stage Three class, who are one session away from finishing the current unit of work, after which I have said we will explore green screen technology using VeeScope Live.
Oh, the roller coaster of teaching! I wonder if students are truly aware of their impact on us, as teachers.
““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.
“Start flipping, don’t wait.”
– Warren McMahon
After Jon and Aaron’s keynote speech, I was registered to attend a panel discussion on flipping in the Primary School context. Jon Bergmann facilitated the panel, which was made up of Warren McMahon, Matt Burns and June Wall (I have been unable to find June on Twitter). There were, according to my notes, thirteen questions over the course of the session. Some of these questions were somewhat expected, and others were rather unexpected.
The first question was about equity and access to devices and content. In-flipping (watching the video’s in class) is a great way to overcome this obstacle, however, beyond this, there are some great options. Utilising USB/flash drives, DVDs or cheap MP4 players will allow you to send the video content home with the students. Another option, which I had forgotten about at the time, and only recently re-discovered, is iTunesU. It allows you to build courses or units of work, and to either link to videos (or other content) outside of iTunesU, but you can also upload the content intoa post. This means that those students who have a device, but no internet access at home (which is still sadly common in 2015) can download the content they need during the school day, ready to go when they are at home that night.
The second question is a common question; what if they fail to watch the video? It is, in my opinion, both a great and a terrible question at the same time. It is a great question because the concept of the videos being watched at home is often the only thing that teachers and parents alike know about flipped learning, and so they see not watching the videos as ‘breaking’ the system. On the other hand, It is a terrible question because what if they (students) fail to do their homework now? In conversations with teachers who are already flipping their classrooms, they have indicated that this is rarely a problem, for a number of reasons. Initially, you gain traction from the novelty factor. Beyond that, however, students often will not only need less time to do the homework, but they will be able to do the homework as it is cognitively easier than what is currently being set as homework. The point was also made that if your videos are enticing, through being short, concise, clear, and interactive (such as I wrote about here), then students will want to engage with them.
Beyond that, if you set, and hold to, the expectation that the videos have been engaged with at home, prior to school, and that the higher order learning tasks may not be done until the required understanding has been demonstrated (Jon and Aaron have said in the past that they have used a range of methods to do this, including conceptual check lists that are ticked off after reviewing student notes, or through conversation) than students will quickly learn that they need to watch the videos. It was noted that some students will not engage with the videos outside of class irrespective of the consequences, and will only engage with them in class. When (part of) the point of flipped learning is that not all students need to be on the same page and doing the same thing, then that is ok. As long as those students are engaging with the skills and concepts, and are moving through the required learning, then their choice not to engage with the videos outside of the classroom is potentially not detrimental to themselves, or to their classmates.
Here is a short video from a secondary teacher, Katie Gumbar, about her thoughts on this very question.
Someone then asked about the investment in time to train students how to engage with learning in this new and different way, compared to the normal game of school. There were two key points to the responses to this question. Firstly, it needs to be done, you need to invest the time to teach students how to engage with flipped learning, as it is so vastly different, and many will not engage, without the training, for fear of getting it wrong. So the investment in time, initially, is significant and involves heavy scaffolding. The exact amount of time with vary from context to context. Upper secondary students fill need far less time to acclimate to this new way of learning than lower primary, but even within the same cohort, there will be differences. You need to make a professional judgement as to when your students are au fait with flipped learning.
The second point that was made was that having interactive videos will make a large difference. Tools like Educannon (which I have previously discussed) and VersoApp can add a layer of interest which helps drive engagement with the learning. I do not recall where I heard it, but someone told an anecdote about a teacher who taught a class how to engage with flipped learning by asking them to learn a card trick. A link was provided to a video tutorial (perhaps something like this), and students were asked to learn how to do the card trick. Afterwards, the teacher engaged students in a discussion about how they went about using the video to learn the trick, discussing the use of pausing and rewinding to re-watch sections of the tutorial. This had the students engaged in a metacognitive discussion, and facilitated the introduction of flipped learning to the students and showed them how it works without the need for a long explanation.
What does success look like in a flipped classroom was answered quite simply. It varies context to context, both across cohorts of students, across different subject areas, across the grade levels, but the important thing is to determine a measure of success that will be SMART for your specific context.
The impact on teacher time as a result of flipping generated a significant amount of discussion. The initial investment is significant and unavoidable, however, it is also transformational and the long-term gains outweigh the initial lost time. The comment was made by someone that implementing flipped learning, initially, is like being a first-year teacher all over again. Do not flip because you think it will save you time, it will certainly not do that, not initially. The time benefit is in the classroom where instead of doing lower-order thinking teaching, you are able to engage with students, either one-on-one or in small groups to drive deeper learning, thus building stronger relationships and developing your understanding of how students learn. This is something that should be part of our professional knowledge; flipped learning allows us to develop that knowledge more authentically, and more deeply.
The additional point made about the impact on teacher time was in relation to re-using videos that you have developed. All panellists agreed that you absolutely can and should re-use videos (though I would personally recommend re-watching just to double check that it is the video you want) in order to save time, however, there is a very important factor to remember, in this regard, when it comes to creating your videos.
You may create sequences or playlists of videos in a specific order for specific concepts, however, avoiding numbering the videos allows you to drop any video into the students’ learning at any point in the particular unit of learning.
How do you flip all the KLAs in a primary context was answered succinctly, one brick at a time. Jon made the observation that in primary classes which he and Aaron have visited, there seems to be a tendency for primary teachers to flip mathematics in the first instance. I can certainly understand that tendency, as my first exposure to flipped learning was in a Year Five and Six class where mathematics was being in-flipped, and it seems, to my mind, to be naturally suited to being flipped. That said, having spoken to a number of teachers from across primary and secondary over the course of FlipConAus, I can certainly see scope for flipping other areas, including English, Creative Arts, the Parent-Teacher night, or Physical Education.
Why should teachers record their own videos was the subject of a long discussion, however, the key point is that you are the students’ teacher, not Khan Academy, or any other resource; it is you.
Not only will it build relationships with students, and those parents engaging with their child’s learning by helping them at home, but it also ensure that the concept is taught the way that you want it taught.
How critical reflection is embedded within flipped learning is something that I only took one note for, flipping allows for it to happen naturally, which reading that note a few weeks after the fact, is not particularly clear. Thinking it through, however, I believe that embedding critical reflection is a part of teaching students how to engage with the learning in this context. Part of your expectation could be a metacognitive discussion in class or through a writing task of some type (class blog, in learning journals etc.)
When someone asked whether flipping removed grouping structures, such as maths groups or reading groups, the answer was, essentially, no. Traditional grouping structure can be, and often are still utilised, however the way they are utilised may change as students may be at various points along the learning continuum any given concept.
One person or a whole school can work was the response when someone asked if flipping needs to be implemented across the board to be successful. The caveat is that flipping works best when it is implemented from the bottom up, and spreads through the school organically as teachers see what is happening, see the benefits to students and take it into their own classroom. It is also highly beneficial to have someone with whom you can collaborate your flipping who is in a similar context to yourself. Whether this is a teacher in your own school, or someone on the other side of the country teaching the same grade or subject as you is not particularly relevant. It is the ability to discuss barriers, wins and new techniques and ideas with someone who is in a similar context that matters.
How do you engage parents? was a topic of interest for many, and the biggest suggestion from the panel was communication and education around what flipped learning is about, how it works and why you are implementing it, beginning with flipping the parent-teacher night. Sending home a video introducing yourself and going through the basics that you would cover in person allows the parents to engage with your ideas and come to the evening with questions as they will have had time to think about and process what you have said.
In a job-share context (where two teachers share the load of one class with one teaching three days and the other teaching two days), where one teacher wants to flip and the other does not, communication before the year begins and during the year is absolutely critical. If the teaching load is split down subject or concept lines, with one teacher being responsible for the arts; or dividing mathematics up by concept area, then it will be relatively simple to implement flipped learning. If any other arrangement is made vis-a-vis splitting the teaching load, then it will be significantly more difficult.
In closing, all panellists were asked to offer one practical piece of advice to the audience. Warren advised everyone not to wait to start flipping, but to just do it. Matt backed this up with the caveat of doing it one brick at a time. June also reiterated Warren’s advice but cautioned the audience to identify the learning scaffolds needed and ensure they are available or in place beforehand, and Jon closed out the session by advising to flip with someone in some way if it is at all possible.
Thank you for reading through this rather lengthy article. I found the panel session very worthwhile. There was also a secondary panel that took place at the same time, and if someone has written a review on that, please send me a link so that I can include it here, with credit to the author (you can find the twitter discussion around it in the day’s Storify). My next article is likely to appear tomorrow, and will include a review of sessions from Warren McMahon, Katie Jackson and Crystal Caton.
To view the other articles in this review of FlipConAus 2015 click here.
“For it is in giving that we receive.”
– Attributed to Francis of Assisi
This afternoon I spent close to an hour and a half providing some one on one PD, around some new software that is being utilised in the school. I had indicated in conversations that I was familiar with the software, and after my colleague was left feeling overwhelmed by the quick training session offered by the vendor’s local representative, I was approached and asked if I could spend some time this week helping this teacher learn their way around the software.
Thank you to Nicole Mockler
Part of the reason that I write these blog articles, record the instructional videos for my colleagues each week and am active with Twitter on a professional basis is that it is an investment in my own professional development. The opportunity to consolidate my own understandings on a variety of topics and skills, to reflect on my practice, to engage in networking, is invaluable and is an investment in my own continuing professional development. However, an additional reason is that is also an investment in my colleagues.
Thank you to Andrea Stringer
A school is a community (1), a sentiment we see often in the narratives around education. When you hear about successful schools, you often hear that the teaching staff have a high level of collegiality. Harris and Anthony(2) concluded that “providing teachers opportunities for continued development as they practice their profession is crucial for meaningful change in any educational system.” Additionally, they wrote that the ongoing development of skills and self-confidence in students is impacted by the personal and professional development of their teachers’ than anything else within a school.
Thank you to Paul Hamilton
The ongoing publishing of this blog, production of instructional videos and engagement with Twitter are an opportunity to invest on the school community, at the immediate, local level, and then also further abroad, to the wider school community of teachers everywhere. I invest of my time as I want the best for my students, and that means that not only my practice needs to be top quality, but so does the practice of my colleagues. If society is to continue to develop and improve, then the broader community of teachers need to do the same. I invest of my time, as it is an opportunity to do my part to develop teachers. While I certainly do not believe myself to be a paragon of teaching practice, I know that I can offer something to the teaching community.
Thank you to Amanda Gibson
I happily gave of my time to my colleague this afternoon. This person is in the twilight of their career, yet is still incredibly passionate for their craft, and has been outspoken in staff meetings around the need for further investment in technology in the school in a range of areas. They always have a kind word and time for a chat, and have invested their time in the development and mentoring of younger teachers, including myself and others in the school, both temporary and casual. I am not able to offer something to every teacher, I still very much feel that I am a developing teacher, and am only in the very early stages of my career. This person still desires to learn and increase their skill set in order to improve their own craft. If I can offer something that will benefit this person, I can think of no good reason to not do so.
Thank you to Mitch and Trish
Investing time in my colleagues is not just that. It is an investment in my students, in the teaching profession, and an investment in myself. Knowing that I have been able to help a colleague learn something new has a similar effect for me, mentally and emotionally, as seeing the “a-ha” moment in my students. As a new teacher, who feels like he has daily struggles in a range of areas, who is very much discovering my teaching identity, and finding my place in the school community, the value of a thank you from a more experienced teacher cannot be understated.I feel valued, I feel appreciated, I feel worth while and it reminds me why I teach.
Thank you to Linda and Nessie
With the recent news that nearly forty percent of new teachers are walking away from the profession (which is not necessarily a revelation), I felt that it was a timely reminder. If a colleague has invested of their time in you, whether they are more, less or equally experienced than you are; higher, lower or equal to you in in your local hierarchy, whether they are in your local and physical professional learning network or in your online professional learning network thank them. Let them know their time, knowledge and experience is valued and appreciated. I have not even remotely thanked everyone who has invested their time, knowledge and experience in my professional development, but I have included throughout, a small few who have, and I cannot thank them enough.
Who has invested time in your professional development?
(1) Redding, S. What is a School Community, Anyway?, The School Community Journal, 1:2, pp.7-9. Retrieved from http://www.adi.org/journal/fw91%5CEditorial-ReddingFall1991.pdf October 14, 2015
(2) Harris, D.L. & Anthony, H.M., Collegiality and its role in teacher development: perspectives from veteran and novice teachers, Teacher Development, (2001) 5:3, pp.371-390http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13664530100200150
Ordinarily, Monday afternoon is the day that I post a new FTPL video, such as this one, and ordinarily, I would open an article with a quote that has either some relevance to the article topic, or education in general. Not today. You may recall that I recently wrote about my troubles with engaging with reading for professional development and that I would begin reading Invent to Learn by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager. I have read the introduction, and I have begun writing an article based on that portion of the book, but I felt that the last page of the Introduction was deserving of an article in its own right.
If you do not yet have a copy of the book (a state you may rectify by clicking here), the Introduction concludes with a poem, which I have found online and included in full, below.
The Hundred Languages (1)
I showed this poem to Mrs C21 this afternoon and asked her for her impressions, wanting to find out if they echoed my own. She replied “yep, that was school” which was essentially my own initial emotional response to the poem. It is a sad indictment on our education system, I believe, that the above poem is an indicator of what schooling has been reduced to. It is a narrative that we have seen play out in the nightly news and the election cycle over the last few decades as schooling gradually moved towards the data-driven standardised-testing focus mechanism that it now appears to be. Many teachers do work hard to include facets of tinkering and play in their teaching, and I believe, I hope, that we will see a balance found between the need for data to drive the political cycle, and the needs of our students and their futures.
I am looking forward to diving into this book over the coming weeks, and to challenging my own perceptions and beliefs about tinkering, the makerspace movement, its application to education and education in general, and would very much like to hear what your thoughts and responses are to the poem above.
(1) Loris Malaguzzi (translated by Lella Gandini) as cited in Libow Martinez, Stager (2015), p. 8, Constructing Modern Knowledge Press. Retrieved from http://www.innovativeteacherproject.org/reggio/poem.php 12 October 2015
“The best part of learning is sharing what you know.”
– Attrbuted to Vaughn K. Lauer
My regular readers would be aware that I am delivering profession development sessions to colleagues around the use of technology in the classroom. This afternoon will be the second session in this series, and will be focusing on developing a greater knowledge in using the Google Apps for Education (GAfE).
Last week, I introduced them to Google Apps for Education, and delivered the session via Google Classroom. This afternoon, I will be spending further time with them looking at ways that Google Drive can be used in conjunction with Google Docs, Google Sheets and Google Slides in the classroom, and as tools for collaboration.
On that note, here are some ways that you can deploy Google Docs in the classroom.
Those are a few simple ways that Google Docs can be used.
As always, thank you for reading, and I would like to hear from anyone with ideas on how you use Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Class or Drive in the classroom or for staff Professional Development.
“Part of the problem, we argue, has been a tendency to only look at the technology and not how it is used. Merely introducing technology to the educational process is not enough.”
-Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: A Framework for Teacher Knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054
Today was the first of a series of professional development sessions that I will be delivering to my colleagues over the course of this term, and potentially further, depending on interest. The purpose of today’s session was to introduce TPCK and SAMR as frameworks for thinking about the use of technology in the classroom.
The first activity that I had my colleagues undertake was a formative assessment task using Google Forms, to gain an understanding of what my colleagues thought and felt in relation to the term twenty-first century learning, in relation to the use of technology both as a consumer and as a teacher, and then in relation to what technologies my colleagues wanted to learn about.
The responses were very interesting. To the question what do you think of when you hear the phrase twenty-first century learning, the responses varied, from simply help, to computers, to concerns about those with additional learning needs being left behind and finally to the increase in the requirement for students to learn and use critical thinking skills as teachers increasingly become facilitators of learning; the guide on the side, not the sage on the stage.
We moved from that to an introduction and explanation of both the TPCK and SAMR frameworks, and discussed some examples of each of the levels of the SAMR model through the use of well known examples and video demonstrations sourced from YouTube. I have attached a copy of the presentation, for anyone who is interested in viewing it, to this article (Rethinking EdTech Presentation), and links to the videos that were used are embedded within that document.
Today was an introduction to these concepts, and next week, we will begin to delve into practical examples of technology utilised at the various levels of the SAMR model. On that note, I would be very appreciative to anyone who can offer examples of how they have used technology in the classroom at the four levels of the SAMR model.
As always, thank you for reading.
Beginning next Wednesday afternoon, I will be running a series of after-school workshops to help up-skill my colleagues in the authentic use of technology in the classroom. Thus far I have had fifteen of my colleagues indicate they will be attending, and some others indicate that they would attend if they did not already have commitments after school on Wednesdays.
I have a rough outline in my head of the concepts and skills I wish to explore of the course of the sessions, and am putting together a rough outline of the scope and sequence I will be using. The first thing I will be covering will be a survey using Google forms to determine some of the preconceptions and fears that my colleagues hold around using technology as a pedagogical tool.
After that, the plan at the moment is to introduce the TPCK and SAMR as the theoretical framework for considering the use of technology in the classroom. The idea is that with an understanding of both concepts, we will be able to brainstorm a range of lesson ideas using the school bank of laptops as the technology to cement the concept, but to also allow staff to brainstorm a range of ways that they can use the laptops beyond the substitution and augmentation levels, and to take students to modification and redefinition levels.
I would be interested in hearing back from anyone who has ideas about how I may implement some technology in-servicing based on their own experience.
As always, thank you for reading.