"Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought."
- Attributed to Albert Szent-Gyorgyi
The penultimate unit in the Flipped Learning Level II Certification program was focused on understanding how to find and engage with research, and was with Dr. Robert Talbert of Grand Valley State University (MI). This unit I think was one that was extremely accessible for everyone and that all teachers should work through.
Given the rhetoric that is often present in the media and from politicians around the need for research-based teaching practice, this segment provided some very practical strategies for engaging with research. Robert acknowledged the challenge that paywalls present in preventing easy access to research, however, Google Scholar is a very good tool to utilise to help with that. It may be worth approaching a nearby university campus to see if you can arrange access to their library and therefore their databases and access research that way.
Anyone who has been required to read research will know that journal articles are often dense, long, heavy on statistics, and use overly-complicated language. One strategy, as obvious as it is, to help determine whether it is going to be worth reading an article or not, is to read through the abstract, which provides a summary of the article. I discarded a number of articles in my research after reading the abstract, however, I still found myself reading articles that I would decide partway through were not actually going to be useful for me.
Robert's advice was to skip straight to end and read the sections labelled discussion and conclusion. Robert pointed out that if these two sections, typically only a few paragraphs each in length, end up not yielding useful information then diving into the remainder of the article is not going to be worth the investment of time. It is such an obvious thing to do that I am disappointed in myself for not realising it while doing my own research.
Robert also spoke about some strategies to help determine if the research was quality, well-conducted research or not. Initially, this revolved around the clarity of the questions that the research was investigating. If the question being asked is not clearly defined or not explicitly stated that should raise some potential alarm bells. As part of this, any variables, or restrictions that relate to the research need to be stated, including any survey instruments such as questionnaires. Critically, the methodology needs to be laid out clearly in order to allow for replication. Good research should be able to be replicated and achieve the same or very similar results.
There does often seem to be a disconnect between research and the classroom, however, there does not need to be. Google Scholar allows you to set alerts so that you receive an email with the titles of a number of articles that meet search criteria that you set. This allows you to simply scan through and perhaps identify one or two articles each week that you want to invest the time into reading.
Another way of engaging with the research is to listen to podcasts where they explore research. Two very good podcasts that I listen to and recommend you listen to are The Education Review by Cameron Malcher, and Teachers Talking Teaching by John Catterson and Pete Whiting. Teachers talking Teaching is the less reverent podcast, however, both podcasts tackle education research and policy, and its implications for classroom and are worth listening to.
As always, thank you for reading.
"If passive learning could penetrate across the entire globe, what do we need to do to have flipped learning achieve the same?"
- Errol St. Clair Smith (paraphrased), FlipConAus 2017
As with day one of the conference, I facilitated two workshops. The first was a logical follow on from day one's Flip the Lesson workshop, where we planned to Flip the Unit. This workshop focused on planning out a flipped unit using a template that I developed for the purpose. There were a few more people in for this session than for the Flip the Lesson session, and the vibe seemed to be quite positive and that people found it useful. The straightforward nature of the template appeared to be helpful and for some, I got the impression that they had not encountered backward-mapping before.
Matthew Burns was also in the room for the session, which added a few nerves for me, as he is someone for whom I have a great deal of professional respect for and whose opinion I value. However, I actually managed to forget that Matt Burns the person was in the room and he became Matt Burns the delegate. I did ask him for feedback on the session after the other delegates had left, both on the session as a whole and the template specifically. Matt, being who he is, generously provided me not just with a few quick sentences, but actually spent about fifteen minutes with me walking through feedback that will allow me to strengthen the template and any sessions that I run like this in the future.
If you attended this session, or any of the other sessions that I was involved in during FlipConAus and you would like to offer some constructuive thoughts and feedback on any aspect of my workshop, please do so. I would very much appreciate the feedback to help me strengthen the effectiveness of workshops that I run in terms of the actual content and flow, the resources, my own effectiveness and style in presenting. You can do so via a direct message on Twitter or using the contact me page on this website.
If you wished to access the resources from that workshop, they are linked below.
The second workshop for the day, and my final for FlipConAus 2017, was focused on a screencasting tool called Camtasia, which is what I use for all of my screencasting, green screen, and video editing needs. Camtasia were generous enough to provide a license key that we could auction off as part of the Fun Money auction, and Alex from Masada College was the lucky winner, which is valued at AUD$260 and cost him $330 fun money dollars.
If you wish to access the resources from that workshop, they are linked below. fun-money auction (watch the Periscope of the bidding for that here).
This session, if I am being totally honest, I do not think was as good as it could have been. I think this one for some reason I had significantly more nerves than my other sessions and looking back, I feel that I was moving too fast for some, I jumped around some of the features a bit, and time got away from us a bit. There were, as always is the case when doing a live tech demo, other challenges (some had an older version, some had the Mac version (which I have never used and is quite a bit different), and some were only just downloading it at the start of the session). I persnally do not feel it was as useful as it could have been. If you did attend that session and you want to go deeper into Camtasia than we did, or revisit various features, there are some great tutorial videos available in the launch screen of Camtasia, as you can see below.
Errol St Clair Smith provided the closing keynote and it was pleasing to see that not many people had left early. One of the things that I personally enjoy about conferences is that you get to see people again, acquaintances who have become friends, as it is often put, you get to see your tribe again. However, as Errol reminded us, you do have to go home and return to your school and that is when you will potentially hit the brick wall of interest. He asked us all to indicate the level of support for flipped learning that we would receive and the results were not actually a little surprising for me. The audience indicated a roughly even split between those who would receive not support and encouragement and those who would encounter a lack of interest, support, or encouragement. This indicates that although flipped learning is growing, there is still work to be done to ensure that people know what it is beyond that video thing.
Kelly Hollis wrote in this tweet that that was part of the reason why she started blogging; a lack of support in her won school at the time meant she needed to look elsewhere and so reflecting on practice through writing which was then shared through her online professional learning network enabled her to connect, get feedback, and develop her practice.
Errol then conteinued by sharing the developing picture of the global landscape regarding flipped learning, based on feedback from a worlwide survey that FLGlobal.org ran. the landsacpe globally was not too dissimilar, with some teachers receiving incredible support, encouragement, guidance, and mentoring; while others, received none or even discouragement.
Errol posed a quuestion to the audience then, asking what would be possible if every person there knew that when they returned to their school it would be to an environment where their work in flipped learning would be respected, supported, and appreciated. He remarked that if it is possible for passive learning, modelled on the industrial revolution, to spread to all corners of the world than it is possible for flipped learning, enacted well, to also spread to all corners of the world and positively impact students.
It has now been just over a week since FlipCon and in the intervening time, I have listened to an episode of the Teachers Education Review podcast, or TER (website, twitter), presented by Cameraon Malcher. In the episode I was listening to, episode 102, Cameron had included an off campus segment by Dan Haesler in which Dan reflects on the messages that are sent, consciously and unconsciously when leaders, whether titled leaders or just leaders by influence, do not engage with professional learning sessions and simply leave them, a reflection which Cameron adds to. Cameron noted (severe paraphrasing here) that the message that is sent is that it is not valuable to the leaders who are leaving but if they do not deem it valuable to them, why then is it valuable to the teaching staff.
In relation to FlipCon, however, I think that the message that is sent to teachers when they return from an off-site professional learning event is as important as the message that is given during the on-site experiences. I presented four workshops over the course of FlipCon and asked participants in a few of them if they were expected to present their learning back to the school somehow and there was a surprising number of people who said no. This indicates that either they paid for the conference out of their own pocket, as many teachers do, particularly casual and temporary teachers; or that the school has willingly paid for the conference without expecting any sort of presentation back, which seems odd. I suspect, with no evidence other than my gut, that there is perhaps a correlation between those who are not expected to present and those who feel unsupported in their schools.
Errol than took a slight conceptual turn by showing this video.
Errol asked asked us what was wrong with the story being told. I, like I imagine many of my readers, have seen this video showed before as an example of how quickly something can grow, but Errol's questioned sparked some interested responses. One of those which stuck out for me was what is the purpose of this movement? In the video, we see people....moving (I cannot, in good conscience, use the term dancing) and the growth from one to a large group. The general message that we are given from this is that good intentions and hard work along with data will generate success, but Errol contends that this is not always the case. There are, as Jon discussed in his keynote (review here) other factors that can affect the result of any movement, not least of which is culture. If the culture of a school is not conducive, then a movement will fail before it begins.
This leads back, in my view, to the point that Dan Haesler and Cameron Malcher were both making around the message that school leaders can send in their attitudes to professional learning and movements. For a pedagogical approach like flipped learning, which largely seems to be coming from the ground up as opposed to school leadership dictating that it must be used, the attitude towards it can make or break the success of it across the school and even within the class.
If you have not already done so, I would encourage you to undertake the Level I and Level II Flipped Learning Certification programs. FlipConAus 2017 was again a great chance to reconnect with colleagues from across the country and to learn more from them and their experiences. I can only hope that those who attended my sessions gained something from them.
To keep in touch with others who are flipping, check out the Flipped Learning Network facebook group (the Australia group or the New Zealand group), as well as the FLGI Flipped Learning Community. Find your tribe.
Thank you for reading.