“Why do we make our students demonstrate what they learned by making them take a test?”
– Jon Bergmann
What I am referring to as day two of FlipConAus (Friday Storify) was actually day one of the conference proper, and it began with a networking (full continental) breakfast, which was a great way to start the day. Day Two will be split across, most likely, three articles, in order to allow proper depth of exploration from each session.
The conference opened with the standard housekeeping information, and then Jon and Aaron started proceedings with an interesting, thought-provoking and challenging keynote presentation, starting with this (in)famous clip from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off with Ben Stein as the teacher that we both all been, and all suffered through.
The point was two-fold here; both that we should strive to not be like this teacher, but that the way in which students are able to access information is now fundamentally different to what it was when this film was made, but that our pedagogy is still largely the same. Students no longer require the teacher to access information as they used to. Jon and Aaron showed us a clip of a teacher, Steve Kelly, they met at FlipCon in the US a few years ago, and Steve made this point.
This is an interesting thought, and I think reinforces the connotations for teachers from the Ferris Bueller clip. How many of us have not kept up with the times and changed our pedagogy as technology and the way in which students engage with and use technology to learn has changed? Aaron related how his son defaults to using YouTube to learn things and that in a particular origami video he was learning from, the instruction was to make a particular fold. Aaron said that his son asked him for help but that he did not know how to do this fold and asked his son how he would solve the problem. His son’s solution was to rewind the video and pause it just before that instruction, open a new tab and search for an instructional video on YouTube to learn how to make the particular fold type, return to the original video, click play and continue on. This is not something that we could have done ten years ago, but it is common practice for many to do so now.
Then Jon and Aaron showed us this slide:
They acknowledge that the data was from US classrooms, but was from over a thousand classrooms across a range of states with various learning contexts. It is rather scary to consider that the majority of time is spent interacting with new content, which is the term used to indicate the teacher lectured about the new content. The point here is that despite all the rhetoric about the need and valuing of higher order thinking seen across various policies and statements, that, generally speaking, the need for higher order thinking is not being met.
Jon stated that we need to acknowledge that education is the intersection between content, curiosity and relationships and should look like this
Unfortunately, it was pointed out, it often looks like this:
Dr Margerison (who tweeted the above photo) also noted that “content cannot be abandoned but we need to make room for curiosity and relationships” which is an important point to note. Our teaching is heavily driven by the stipulated curriculum, and the testing to which our students are subjected, however we still have sufficient independence in our practice to include learning activities that hit the ‘sweet spot’ where content, curiosity and relationships meet.
Jon and Aaron’s next point is potentially quite contentious. They said that “…we do Bloom’s Taxonomy wrong. We do the bottom two sections at school, and ask our students to do the middle three at home, and rarely get to do the top section at all, we send the kids home with the hard stuff.” This is an interesting assertion and speaks to the heart of one reason why some teachers flip their classrooms. They stated that we need to not flip Bloom’s Taxonomy, but to reshape it.
Remembering and understanding should be what is done at home, the basic cognition, with the more difficult cognition, requiring support and scaffolding done in class, where the teacher is able to provide the support required to allow the learning to appropriately apply, analyse and then evaluate and create. John and Aaron pointed out that simply flipping Bloom’s Taxonomy results in a Ph.D. Bloom, they explained did a lot of research into mastery learning and found that for those students who don’t get it, mastery learning can be quite demoralising.This makes a lot of sense, as students with low resilience will give up after only one or two attempts, citing the learning task as being too hard. By modifying the shape of Bloom’s Taxonomy, and flipping the classroom, whereby remembering and understanding activities are completed at home, this frees up class time for the more cognitively demanding and complex tasks and ensures that the teacher is available to provide needed assistance and scaffolding. Jon and Aaron also indicated that the inquiry approach to learning, typically used in science, is particularly well suited to flipped learning.
The above tweet shows an amalgam of two photos. Both are from the same event, taken eight years separately. They are both from the announcement of the new Pope. In the top photo, you can see one early adopter, one lone nut in the bottom right-hand corner. The lower photo, only eight years later, shows a completely different scene. There are as many glowing screens, almost, as there are people. Our students now are as different to the students of eight years ago, as these two images are different to each other. They learn differently, socialise differently and utilise technology differently.
The above three tweets all capture the sentiment that Aaron and Jon were trying to get across nicely. (The UDL that is referred to in Alfina’s tweet is Universal Design for Learning, which sounds similar to Understanding by Design, which I have (briefly) written about previously). They were trying to get across the point that our students learn differently, and therefore, we need to be teaching differently. While there is research debunking differing learning styles (here, for example), most teachers will comfortably tell you about how they’ve noticed that different types of learning activities better suit different students in their class, and the point here is that flipping, and modern pedagogy, allows for the flexibility to offer ways of learning the same skill or concept, and different ways of demonstrating their learning.
Aaron related a story about a student who was failing his class and just did not seem to get chemistry. This student’s passion was welding, and he approached Aaron and after a conversation, this student then spent the next few weeks in the welding workshop rather than the chemistry lab, researching through exploratory application the chemistry principles that Aaron had been teaching, and wrote a highly detailed paper about the experiments that he had been conducting. This flexibility was only possible through utilisation of flipped learning, however, it turned this student around.
This session was told through the lens of the below continuum:
Jon and Aaron both started their teaching career in the bottom left -hand corner, and the journey of developing flipped learning, taking them to somewhere closer towards the top right-hand corner (both not all the way there) took around six years. Jon and Aaron were adamant that not every teacher should aim for the same place as them, and that different teachers will travel at different rates as they change their teaching styles. Everyone should start with Flipped-101, and then, as is appropriate for them in their specific context, move to other levels. Aaron said that if you just flip without moving deeper over time, then you are doing it wrong. The below image is an example of the differing pathways that can be taken on the flipped learning pathway.
Jon and Aaron’s keynote was a challenging, exciting and inspiring way to open AusFlipCon. They set the stage with some challenging ideas, explored their own journey with us a little and set the stage for some of the concepts that would be explored throughout the day.
I invite you to explore the Storify of the day, and to engage with #AusFlipCon, which still sees action with conference attendees sharing their journey and learning about flipped learning.
Click here to view the full list of FlipConAus 2015 articles