"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
- Neil deGrasse Tyson
As a teacher, how do you deal with Easter, Christmas, and Halloween in the classroom? What are your thoughts and ideals about those events?
I have seen Neil deGrasse Tyson described as a national treasure and he is someone for whom I have a great deal of respect. He is not highly intelligent, but he has the ability to explain often complex concepts in a way that makes them accessible without talking down to people. He has always come across in interviews that I have seen, as being an incredibly down to Earth and ordinary man.
As some of us do, I have some quite strong beliefs about a number of things as an individual that influence how I would like to raise my daughter, but which I am struggling to reconcile as a professional in my teaching practice. I would like you to think about some of the sensible beliefs and practices we, as teachers and parents both, work to instill in our children.
If you have not already done so, I would encourage you to go back and watch the above interview with Tyson.
"That's what it's all about right? That's what it's always been about! Gifts, gifts, gifts, gifts, gifts, gifts! Do you know what happens to your gifts? They all come to me...in your garbage. Do you see what I'm saying here? IN YOUR GARBAGE! I could hang myself with all the bad Christmas neckties I found at the dump! And the avarice! The avarice never ends! "I want golf clubs!" "I want diamonds!" "I want a pony so I can ride it twice, get bored, and send it away to make glue!" Look, I don't wanna make waves here, but this WHOLE Christmas season is STUPID! STUPID! STUPID!"
- The Grinch (from the 2000 movie)
I do not like Christmas. The idea that we have to spend so much money people whom we often do not like to show them that we like them and that we can afford to spend money is just ridiculous and the wastefulness during Christmas both materially with packaging and wrapping paper, and with Christmas Cards that go in the bin only a few days later is phenomenal. As parents, we get cranky with our children they demand particular toys, or if they sulk when they get what they want. We do not let them go up to strangers and ask for things. We get cranky when our children lie.
But at Christmas time, we encourage our students to demand things from a fictitious man who we have lied to our children about the existence of by having them write Dear Santa, this year for Christmas I want.... We then take our students for a photo with a complete stranger we know nothing about, often forcing them to be in the photo, often forcing them if the number of photos I have seen with screaming children are anything to go buy. If they get sulky because they did not get what they want at Christmas, it is often called cute. Societally, we then tell people that what they gave us was not good enough by spending, in 2017, $2.4 billion dollars on stuff at the Boxing Day Sales (source).
That said, I love Christmas because it is a guarantee chance to spend a few hours with family. This past Christmas was amusing as we spent Christmas day with my wife's family and both of my brothers-in-law have daughters who were born six and eight weeks respectively after my daughter. Three little girls who are all cheeky in different ways and were all toddling around the house was incredibly cute and you could see the joy on the the faces of the family.
As you may have guessed, I do not plan on doing Santa with my daughter and it is something my wife and have been debating the handling of for a long time. But where I am finding a professional dilemma is in the classroom when it comes to the lead up of Easter, Halloween, and Christmas. As teachers we should not be imposing our beliefs on students. And so I have struggled with those events. It has been made easier the last few years as I have been either job-sharing or team-teaching and simply allowed my partner to do any activities relating to those events.
It is becoming something that I am feeling increasingly uncomfortable with; due, I think, to becoming a parent and feeling the way I do. The way that Neil deGrasse Tyson addresses it seems like a reasonable compromise, challenging the students to think critically for themselves. Is that an approach that could be taken in the classroom without causing too much uproar, do you think?
I would love to hear your thoughts on this, and whether you agree or disagree about the inculcation into the capitalist-fantasy world of the Easter bunny, Santa, and Hallowe'en.
Thank you for reading.
“Stories can conquer fear, you know. They can make the heart bigger.”
- Attributed to Ben Okri
As a child and a teenager I was always reading, devouring books similarly to how I devoured food - voraciously, getting lost in the story of the character about whom I was reading. There are many stories that I look back on with fond memories. Goodnight Mr. Tom by Michelle Magorian is still one of my favourite stories of all time. I read through my mother's collection of Jack Higgins, Wilbur Smith, Robert Ludlum, my Pop's collection of Ion Idriess, Frank Herbert, Isaac Asimov. Each time I would be lost in the story of the protagonist, and much of my spare time was spent reading these great stories. When I then saw that Unit Ten in the Flipped Learning Level II Certification course was titled first person narrative, I was naturally curious as to what it was about.
Ryan Hull is a Year Seven Social Studies teacher in Kansas and he was increasingly finding that his students were heading to Wikipedia for their research and were simply copying and pasting without actually engaging with the knowledge through analysis. Ryan's process was around having them use that knowledge that required them to think about it differently, to analyse and synthesis is it into a different form by having them write, initially, journal entries of particular historical figures reflecting on certain events, and then by having them write scripts for and record interviews with or as those characters.
The concept that Ryan spoke about which intrigued me the most, however, was using what he terms a creative use of social media. Social media is a tool like any other; it can be incredibly useful in the classroom or it can be a hindrance, it comes down to how we use it. There are many tools out there that allow you to create fake social media accounts (a great consolidated post of some of them by Gayle Pinn can be found here) and these can be used to generate exchanges between historical figures, timelines or recounts of historical events (such as the @RealTimeWWI and @RealTimeWWII twitter accounts).
I think this is interesting from how it can be used in History, using historical figures and events as the inspiration, but also for other subject areas as science (maybe a day in the life of the moon, or have some of the elements from the periodic table talking about relationships), for Geography (have a mountain talking about how it has changed and shrunk over time (interesting relationship here perhaps with PE and how we grow?), or for English with various characters from set texts interacting with each other (an interesting take on using Twitter to write stories is here).
I think that the use of first person narratives in the classroom is not a new strategy, however, the use of fake social media accounts presents an opportunity to integrate responsible use of social media into the discussion.
If you use fake social media to have students write, create, or respond to historical figures or events, I would love to hear about it in the comments.
Thank you for reading.
In this Flipped Teacher Professional Learning Video, I show you useful and easy to use tool for showing students time-lapse imagery of different regions of the world. Lots of uses in history and geography across all year groups to help reinforce how the environment has changed over the last thirty or so years..
For more FTPL videos, click here.
"Teaching is listening, learning is talking."
- Attributed to Deborah Meier
When I saw that the title of one of the units in the Flipped Learning Level II Certification was titled Peer Instruction, my thoughts immediately went to Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), something that I learned about during my initial teacher education and which I think is a valuable tool. The unit was led by two people, Eric Mazur; a Professor of Physics at Harvard; and Troy Faulkner a Social Studies teacher in Minnesota and my initial understanding, based solely on the unit, is that while it is not, in itself, just ZPD, it does appear to be based on and utilise a lot of ZPD theory.
Eric and Troy defined Peer Instruction as being a process wherein students engage with each other to convince the other of correctness of their position to a question asked by the teacher through discussion, comparison, (classical) argument (as opposed to the I'm right and you're wrong so ner!" style of argument), and reflection. This is of course predicated on students having a basic understanding of the concept before engage in the peer instruction component, with further learning experience through the process of arguing their point and having flaws pointed out to them.
Peer Instruction appears to be a process that, depending on the age of the students, would be relatively straightforward to implement. One of the biggest benefits that spring to mind from this strategy, whether it is used in a flipped context or not, is that it would appear to aid in the development of the ability to argue using evidence and logic. Students are required, as part of this process, to defend their position whilst working to win-over the other person using evidence from the pre-learning, the text, background knowledge, and logic. I can imagine that in the early stages of this process being implemented in a classroom that the arguments would potentially be quite simplistic. Students would of course need training in how to form logical coherent arguments, in identifying evidence that will be useful for demonstrating their position in a logical way.
There was another element about this that I liked, which was that how you implemented it can be varied to suit your personal teaching style; structure with set time frames through to laissez-fair and that even that might change over time. If I was to use this strategy in the classroom, it would be quite structured initially in order to provide a firm structure for the students to work within and learn how to engage with and implement the process, becoming less structured and more open as they became more comfortable and confident with the process.
If Peer Instruction you wanted to look into further, take a look at Peer Instruction by Eric Mazur, or visit Troy's website and his page on peer instruction. There is also a blog written by Julie Schell who is a member of the Mazur Group at Harvard University.
"There is no science in this world like physics. Nothing comes close to the precision with which physics enables you to understand the world around you."
- Neil deGrasse Tyson
I stumbled on a tool recently that is designed for science classes and is an app for both iOS and Android. I am not doing this as an FTPL video as I have only had a brief look at it. It looks like it has a lot of potential for helping students capture data, particularly outdoors, reducing the amount of paraphernalia that is required for going out and gathering data.
The app asks for permission to access your microphone, camera, and camera roll and it also uses the device's inbuilt accelerometer to capture that data as needed. It also has a note-taking feature.
Together, this enables students to collect data for light, sounds, motion, direction, magnetism, barometric pressure, and make observation notes; all of which can be exported as a CSV to be opened in any spreadsheet software for analysis.
Having such an easy ability to record data live can be helpful across a range of science lessons and will also enable students to capture data anywhere.
As I said, I have not explored this in-depth as yet, but an initial look makes it appear quite useful.
You can download the Science Journal app using the links below:
Android version - Google Play Store link
iOS version - iTunes App Store link
In addition to the apps, Google also provides a collection of activities and lessons to use with Science Journal.ons
In this Flipped Teacher Professional Learning video, I show you a quick and easy way to access free online tools for your coin flip and die roll needs in class using Google.,
For more FTPL videos, please click here.
"Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort."
- Attributed to Paul J. Meyer
What are you planning for at the moment?
As I write this, it is early January 2018, and like many I am trying to get some planning done and set myself up for a good year. As with many who write blogs or record podcasts, I am trying to build in some buffer-space, some articles that can be scheduled to appear at set times; while I have time during the holiday period when Miss One is napping during the middle of the day.
This includes recording a number of FTPL videos that have been uploaded and are ready to be scheduled into articles. It has been an incredibly productive period, having written several articles, recorded nearly a dozen FTPL videos, and completed the Flipped Learning Level II Certification course and there is still time before the students return to school to get some more done.
I have also been thinking about how I want to plan my year out vis-a-vis travel to regional areas in order to be more strategic and proactive than I feel I was last year, and thus far, have had some good conversations about my thoughts on that with Mrs C21, as well the person in the ClickView office with whom I work most closely and frequently. It will hopefully make things easier, more structured, and less reactive - always a good thing!
I hope your summer break has been restful and if you have been aiming to be productive in some way, domestically or professionally, that you have also been able to achieve that.
"An educational system isn’t worth a great deal if it teaches young people how to make a living but doesn’t teach them how to make a life."
What is a good teacher? A great teacher? An average teacher? A terrible teacher? Any EduTwitter chat where those questions are asked will see a series of one-liner well-meaning platitudes reeled off. Various teacher accreditation systems have sought to codify what good practice is and judge teachers based on those standards, and everyone you meet will be able to tell you a story about what a good/great/average/terrible teacher is based on their own experience and a teacher their child had, or even, that they had themselves as a student.
I was born in 1983 and my generation (though which generation I am in varies wildly) is the one that has crossed over the most. My parents' and grandparents' generations had watched as life changed around them with various wars, political crises, financial ups and downs impacting their lives. Technology, however, though changing, was doing so relatively slowly. I have recollections of my mother doing a night course at the local Tech sometime around 1986 when we lived, briefly, in Queensland. Technology, or more specifically, computing technology, was not a mainstay of life for previous generations.
I grew up learning how to use an Apple IIe on my Pop's lap, with him showing me how to use some of the basic functions, as well as play games like The Ancient Art of War and Prince of Persia. My first recollection of seeing a computer in the classroom was during 1994, when my Year Five teacher, Mr Davies, had a DOS computer running that classic game, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego which Mr Davies used as a reward for good behaviour, as well as time on the game being awarded when it was a students birthday. We also had Encarta Encyclopaedia on the library computers. I remember using the internet for the first time at (high) school, logging in via Netscape Navigator and using Ask Jeeves to ask some sort of question.
I remember being excited when I was able to buy, on special, a 1Gb thumb drive for the then cheap price of $55 and a host of other technical milestones since. The rate of change, especially in regards to technology, has been increasing and so we are now seeing more and more instances of Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR and VR respectively) in the classroom as technology becomes cheaper to build, the content cheaper to make and easier to access, and teachers more open to trying.
That is just the change we have seen in technology.
How mobile phones have changed. Mobile phone evolution, respectively, from left to right: Motorola 8900X-2, Nokia 2146 orange 5.1, Nokia 3210, Nokia 3510, Nokia 6210, Ericsson T39, HTC Typhoon, iPhone 3G, Samsung Galaxy S4, Samsung Galaxy S4 mini, iPhone 5s, iPhone 6 Plus. Retrieved from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mobile_Phone_Evolution_1992_-_2014.jpg on 13 January 2018
There have also been significant changes in policy surrounding education with The Education Portfolio going from being a relative backwater to being the hot-seat portfolio. I remember many days of strikes by teachers with the work the Teacher Federations did here in Australia through the 1990s, whereas I hear many teachers, particularly long-serving teachers, talk about how toothless the Federation has become and many graduate teachers not joining (for the record, I was a member and am not now only because I am not in a school-based role).
Particularly in the last decade, it feels like we have been inundated with change. The MySchools website, the focus on NAPLAN and PISA, arguments about the place of computers and digital technology in the school with the Digital Education Revolution, the growing administrative tasks that teachers are required to do, the funding battles, the growth of coding, STE(A)M, robotics, and a host of other pedagogical strategies combined with the increase in youth mental health issues and suicide rates, with Dolly Everett being the latest tragic victim.
It feels like, and this is just my personal opinion, that things are coming to a head. A conversation with an experienced teacher will yield at some point a discussion about the changes they have witnessed (some interesting article on this exact topic can be found here, here, here, and here).
There have been so many changes, back flips, side steps, shock announcements, useless polices, poorly thought out programs etc that it feels like we are on the way to a proverbial re-balancing of the scales, I could, and quite possibly, am seeing something that is not there, but it feels incredibly like we are heading for a monumental shift in education. I do not know what it is, but I also do not see how it is feasible for education and our society in general to continue on our current pathway; rising social issues around mental health, gender equality, Indigenous issues (such as education, health etc.), an ageing population, housing, childcare, education, teacher abuse (including murders), and a Government system that seems unable to think beyond the next soundbite, let alone the next election cycle, and issues.
Something [monumental] this way comes. Meanwhile, teachers across the country continue to teach, doing the best they can with the resources they have.
What will be the straw that breaks the camel's back? What will be the issue that causes you as an individual and us as a profession to say no more? I would love to hear your thoughts on this.
In this Flipped Teacher Professional Learning video, I show you a simple way to access a timer, whether countdown or stopwatch to use in the classroom and which can easily be displayed on the main screen.
For more helpful FTPL videos, please click here.
“He who knows no foreign languages knows nothing of his own.”
- Attributed to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
When was the last time you learned something that was, for you, genuinely new, that you had no prior knowledge to draw upon other than perhaps some random snippets and words? When was the last time you were a student the same way our students are, unable to fully express themselves due to a lack of vocabulary and understanding of how to articulate what you want to communicate?
When I was in Years Seven and Eight, I like many students in Australia had to spend one period of my school week in a language class. My high school had us learning German in Year Seven and French in Year Eight and by far I prefer the sound and feel of German. The only phrase I remember I can remember from that course in Year Seven is nein! meine hamurger! from the textbook (which was half-comic book) and came about as, if I recall correctly, the main character's hamburger got squashed by a football. I can still remember how to count to ten and of course there is a smattering of random phrases from Hogan's Heroes and from listening to Rammstein since wondering what all the fuss was about in the late 1990s.
I have long wanted to go back and resume learning German and over the summer break I finally got around to starting to do just that. I heard a few years ago about an app called Duolingo which was designed to teach a range of languages, including German, and so I downloaded it and have begun plodding away at learning what I am finding is a challenging language. The program seems well-structured and appears to make logical sense, it provides feedback, provides opportunities for reading, writing, speaking and listening throughout, and contains some well-designed bots that are targeted to providing conversation in a range of contexts, practicing words and phrases that are being covered in the lesson set you are working on. If you have ever wanted to learn another language, I would certainly suggest looking at Duolingo. It being free also helps.
It has, however, provided some insight into how my students feel as we work through the English syllabus, grappling with remembering words, phrases, tense, syntax, grammar and of course spelling. Even typing on the keyboard is a challenge as the German keyboard layout is different to cater for the characters that have umlauts. When I was completing my pre-service training, I had a maths lecturer and tutor named Andrew. He was teaching a maths course that was supposed to be a very hands-on course that would provide us with pedagogical strategies for teaching mathematical concepts. However, he went about it using a strategy that frustrated everyone, annoyed and angered some, but which I felt was quite clever and enjoyed despite the frustration. He taught us using Base Four counting which meant that we could not rely on our own unconscious-competence in both knowledge and ability when solving questions and had, instead, to really apply ourselves. His message all the way through was that however hard and frustrating we were finding it, that was how our students would find it as they learned various strategies, mathematical theorems, and basic facts for the first time.
I am finding that learning German is giving me that same "oh wow, no wonder my students get frustrated and give up easily" as I am finding it quite challenging to remember the various tense rules, the gender rules for different nouns and accusatives, and just trying to remember which word means what. It also has me questioning my own unconscious knowledge about English syntax. This article has been floating around on the internet for a while and outlines that native English speakers are not even aware of much of what they know about using English.
This is not a rule I have ever come across before, let alone taught, but it seems to ring true. The article to goes on to talk about some others and it has me questioning how much I reeally know about the English language as I grapple with learning the syntax of German and trying to remember how to conjugate verbs (see this article to get an idea of the complexity).
The point that I am trying to make here is that as teachers we need to be putting ourselves in our students' shoes by learning something new, something that genuinely challenges us cognitively to remind ourselves what our students are going through on a daily basis. If you have ever wanted to learn a language, have a look at Duolingo and remember what it is like to not have the vocabulary and understanding to express yourself fully.
Danke fürs Lesen (Thank you for reading).
"To know, is to know that you know nothing. That is the meaning of true knowledge."
Socratic seminars are a strategy that I had heard of but knew nothing about, nor did I know anyone who used them. Unit Seven on Socratic Seminars with Peter Paccone has been the unit that I have learned the most from as I had no prior knowledge. I had made some assumptions that it would be some sort of discussion strategy based on knowledge of Socrates and his influence, but that was all.
Peter provided a simple but clear definition of what a Socratic seminar was, calling it a "...formal discussion led by students based on a text." He also made it very clear that a Socratic seminar is not a debate; that it is not about making a point, to win the discussion.
One of the aspects of this strategy is how simple it can be to execute. It would of course require some training for the students so that they understand how it is supposed to work and for those who are often more reserved in conversation to realise that they will not be shouted down, however, I can see how it would be useful in a range of subject areas.
One area I can see as being challenging is that, as Peter explained this strategy, the teacher does not get involved in the discussion except to return the discussion to the topic if it veers significantly of course. This means that even if there is an awkward silence, that the teacher's voice should not fill it, or if there is some kind of failure in process, or in logic, if fallacies are being employed, the teacher remains quiet. They can, perhaps, be reflected upon after the fact, but this strategy is largely about challenging students to think their position through, to argue in the classical sense of the word, without seeking to win.
Jon asked Peter to outline why a teacher should or would want to use Socratic seminars in their classroom. Peter's response was interesting. He acknowledged that while they take some work to get them going and build them into the culture of the classroom, that teaching also takes work to get it right and that the benefits, improved questioning, reasoning, and speaking, are worth the investment in time.
If you do use Socratic seminars as a teaching strategy, I would appreciate hearing your thoughts on the strategy and the sorts of texts and opening questions you use.
Thank you for reading.
In this FTPL video, I show you how to force someone to make a copy of a document rather than simply accessing your copy. This process works for all file types within GSuite.
Please note - this is not the process to have each student receive a copy of a document through GClass.
For the full list of FTPL videos, please click here.
"The classroom should be an entrance into the world, not an escape from it."
-Attributed to John Ciardi
I have heard many times since I entered education, phrases akin to our classrooms should have glass walls, meaning that we should be communicating what is going on in our classroom to parents all the time, that our rooms should be completely transparent. On the surface, that sounds fine, and I agree that our practice should be transparent. We should have nothing to hide as educators.
Enter the apps and websites. Class Dojo, Edmodo, SeeSaw, School Circle, Class blogs, class websites, class social media accounts, the list goes on. I have used a number of them myself and they can be great ways of communicating with parents anything from remember to send in the permission note this week to please call me when you have ten minutes, or of providing students with a voice and a way of communicating with a genuine audience what they are learning about. I have seen and heard, however, of this trend going even further, with hourly updates and photos of what is happening in the classroom. A few years ago, I had about half of my parents engaging with me via Class Dojo in a range of ways, Gertrude will be late tomorrow due to a Doctor's appointment, Bob's drink bottle leaked, can you please tell me what was on the now water-ruined note? etc. and I used to wonder why the other parents were not interested.
There will always be a range of reasons, but I discovered a new one recently. The day care that Ms One goes to is low-tech. No communications through the day that show what the kids are doing etc., and only a summary sheet of when she ate/slept/wet or soiled her nappy etc, along with a two-minute conversation she had an average day today, was sooky and wanted cuddles all day etc. At the end of the year we were provided with a portfolio with some photos, work samples, notes about why they engaged in particular activities etc. and I realised that I was completely happy and satisfied with that.
I realised that I did not want the updates during the day about what was going on. There is an element of trust that the staff know what they are doing and will contact me if they need to. The other aspect is that I did not want the updates because I wanted a mental break and to able to focus on whatever I was doing without getting distracted (or judgemental!) about whatever they were doing. I want them to be focused on the children, not ensuring they are getting the photos and captions sorted (one our of friends has their child in a Centre with hourly updates)
Early Childhood, Primary, and Secondary are all very different in terms of parent expectations about how their child will develop, what they want communicated, even the worry or anxiety levels, and so I am not sure what impact this will have on my own practise if/when I return to a classroom role. I will, however, be more understanding of those parents who choose not to engage. When Ms One moves onto Kindergarten and beyond, I will probably only want the necessary communication and will look forward to the various masterpieces that come home.*
What are your thoughts on the way in which we communicate to parents? Those of you who are parents, do you feel it is too much? Not enough? What do you want?
* I of course reserve the right to change my mind and be a super clingy, anxious, I want to know everything that happens parent, however, I do not think my general attitude to life would tend that way.
"...[Project based learning] is really the act of using a project as a tool for students to gain understanding and demonstrate mastery..."
- Dan Jones
After attending FlipConAus 2017 in October (review articles here), I had enrolled to undertake the Flipped Learning Certification Level II course and had been writing some reflections and thoughts on a few key points from each of the topics (articles can be viewed here). I resumed this course having taken some time off over the Christmas and New Year period, with Unit Six - Project Based Learning (PBL), which, along with Jon Bergmann, was facilitated by Social Studies teacher, Dan Jones.
This was going to be exposure to project based learning from a different person and from a different perspective. Regular readers may recall my initial writings on PBL after attending a workshop with the Hewes' (Bianca and Lee) went from being rather disinterested in PBL to open to it. I was curious to hear what Dan would have to say about PBL coming from a flipped learning perspective.
Without giving the game away, the way that Dan utilises PBL sounds quite different to how the Hewes' utilise it. I do not know enough to comment much beyond that, and I certainly would not try to say one is better than the other, but different is key here. My understanding from the Hewes' and other conversation is that PBL is a mammoth to get going if you are going to do it well, that it takes a significant amount of time to complete a PBL, and requires outside experts on the given topic. The way that Dan explained his utilisation of it was much simpler sounding. Not necessarily easier, but not as difficult.
Dan explained his definition of PBL and how it is different from simply being a project by using a meal analogy. A project on its own is a main course where all the students get the same ingredients and are told to make a certain dish. PBL, however, is like the dessert where students get different ingredients based upon where they did their research during the main course. It was an analogy that I felt worked quite well.
There were some similarities with the Hewes' explanation. The driving question provides the ten thousand foot view while the rubric provides the closeup detail of what is going to be covered and what needs to be mastered and demonstrated. This, I think, is where things get quite different from the Hewes' explanation of PBL.
Dan talks about a design lab (you can find his run through as well as the handout on his website, here). This process, Dan says, is done in a week. The structure of it quite thorough, but also quite simple and I think would be easily adapted for a wide range of class and assessment tasks across a vast array of year groups and subject areas.
As part of the project flow, there is a think-pair-share process (steps one to eight in the Design Lab), which, after a few steps, moves into a visualisation process. At this point, and I found this very interesting, students need to visualise, to come up with at least five broad project ideas. They only choose one to implement, but that one needs to be justified in writing - why is this the best way of demonstrating my understanding? It also provides students with some back up ideas if they realise later on that their chosen idea isn't going to work or is not going to be feasible for some reason.
This idea, and the subsequent design process, is shared within their group to get feedback from their peers and the students are then required to reflect on the feedback they have receivedand what it means for their chosen project - helps to capture those projects which are too big or not feasible for various reasons.
There is of course a lot more to using PBL in a flipped classroom than the above, but that process, for me, was something that stood out, providing clarity around those initial stages of PBL in the classroom for a particular unit. If you have not used PBL before, I would encourage you to look at Dan's website, get in touch with Dan or the Hewes' (Bianca and Lee) via twitter. Remember to check out the Level II certification course to get a more in depth look at implementing PBL in a flipped context.
Thank you for reading and remember to read the rest of the articles in this review series, which can be found on my Starting with Flipped Learning Page.
In this second FTPL video focusing on Reflector (Teacher), I walk through connecting and highlighting one or more devices out of those connected, recording the device content being shown and other features.
For the first FTPL article on Reflector Teacher and all other FTPL articles, click here.
"By one popular estimate, 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist"
- The Future of Jobs. (2018). [ebook] The World Economic Forum, p.3. Available at: http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Future_of_Jobs.pdf [Accessed 6 Jan. 2018].
The notion that the future is unpredictable and that it will be vastly different to today, in terms of general day-to-day life, work, education, etc. is not a new one. Enter preparing students jobs that don't exist into Google as I did today, and you will receive more than one hundred million results. I wrote yesterday that the way we consider the alleged twenty-first century skills needs to be reframed and that the recent drive for them to be included explicitly in curriculum, points to a need for a genuine national conversation about the purpose of education.
This near-fetish of generic skills extends into other areas, and in the last few years, has seen coding pushed to the top of the agenda. In 2015, a statement from then-opposition leader Bill Shorten (available here) wrote that
Coding is the literacy of the 21st Century, and every young Australian should be able to read and write the global language of the digital age.
The statement also included the announcement that, if elected, a Shorten-led Labor government would "...ensure that computer coding is taught in every primary and secondary school in Australia so the next generation have the skills they need for the jobs of the new economy." There was at the time, a burgeoning industry of companies offering coding courses for students, at a cost of course; as well as lunch or after school coding clubs springing up across the country.
There is an interesting issue, however, within this focus. We are told on the one hand that we do not know what the jobs of tomorrow will be nor the skills needed for those jobs, yet on the other hand we are forcing a very specific skill, coding, into the curriculum, which has limited application; only so many people will go into or be interested in entering occupations which will require coding.
Why then, the focus on coding, the elevation of it to an imperative?
"We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist . . . using technologies that haven’t yet been invented . . . in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet."
- Richard Riley, Secretary of Education under Clinton. Quoted in What is 21st Century Learning p.3. Retrieved from http://21stcenturyskillsbook.com/wp-content/uploads/21stCS_excerpt.pdf on 6 January 2018
I acknowledge that coding is not the only thing on the agenda or in the curriculum that will have limited appeal. I can almost hear the uproar of what about The Arts? and that the same issue applies, that only so many people go into that area for an occupation after school, and while I am a huge believer in the benefits of The Arts (for example, read this article), I am hoping to provoke a debate and some critical thought about why there is such a strong push for coding.
This article from The Conversation acknowledges that coding languages change regularly, but posits that "...if taught properly, students can rapidly transfer the principles of one language to another." There is a challenge with implementing coding nationally in that, without proper support there will very quickly be a gap between schools as those who have teachers knowledgeable enough to run coding classes (whom are also willing to run them), those who can afford to bring in third-party commercial companies (many of whom use free websites such as code.org as the platform from which they teach), and those who have access to neither.
Resourcing and teacher self-efficacy and availability is not a new issue, the same one arises with, effectively, every subject area. I know of a Principal who has six subjects they are unable to find qualified teachers for and have heard second-hand that there is a dire national shortage of physics teachers in New Zealand, even in the major cities. This challenge is amplified when coding is mandated, which this February 2017 article writes was what occurred in Queensland, with parents unable to opt out their children.
Returning to the central point, however, when we are told that we do not know what kinds of jobs the future will bring, that many of today's jobs not exist in the future due to robots and automation, and that many of the jobs our children will have do not exist at the moment; why are we focusing on such narrow skill-sets as coding? All of the benefits that I hear for coding, understanding of algorithmic or computational thinking, creativity,critical thinking, analysis etc. are all able to be taught within the current curriculum areas.
I would love to hear an argument for coding that can cite something other than the above and justifies the significant investment in time and money that many schools are making.
"People will create the jobs of the future, not simply train for them, and technology is already central. It will undoubtedly play a greater role in the years ahead."
- Attributed to Jonathan Grudin, Principal researcher at Microsoft
There are many tensions or conflicts in education. As an early career teacher, I spent much of my pre-service training hearing about the desperate need for to focus on teaching our students twenty-first century skills. In addition to this, we have been hearing, for some years now, the narrative that it is no longer the case that you join a firm as a graduate and retire from the same firm with your gold watch (this has borne out in my own experience, with ClickView being my seventh employer).
What I find worrying, however, is the way that these supposed twenty-first century skills are talked about, as if they are newly discovered skills. There always appears to be the intimation that these are new skills, such as in this article by Professor Barry McGraw, this news.com.au article, or this article from The Australian. Though I did come across this sentence in a report from the Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority:
"The skills derived through senior education and needed in the 21st century are unique, and differ from those skills needed in the past."
- 21st Century Skills for senior education. An analysis of educational trends (QCAA, 2015, p.2). Retrieved from https://www.qcaa.qld.edu.au/downloads/publications/paper_snr_21c_skills.pdf on 5 January 2018
I believe that anyone with a modicum of sense recognises that these skills are not new, as pointed out by Charles Fadel in this interview, and so I wonder why there is suddenly such a focus on these so-called twenty-first century skills. This focus appears to be driven by the needs that we are hearing from industry through such reports as The New Work Mindset (Foundation for Young Australians, 2017). This desire for twenty-first century skills has also been echoed in numerous news articles such as this article from The Australian, and this article from the Conversation; and there is a plethora of images outlining these new skills.
Is it an issue that we are taking paying such attention to industry about what needs to be taught in our education systems? The answer to that will depend on your belief about the purpose of schooling and education, something that I touched on in this article after attending Education Nation, though I did not at that time outline my own answer to that question.
I was told, during my pre-serve training, that education is not a factory line; where parents input blank slates and the education system produces trained workers (read this article for a great explanation of the problems with the utilitarian model of education). The production model of education, however, is the framework within which how education systems are ranked, using economic terms alongside testing scores from both domestic and international standardised testing regimes (NAPLAN, ATAR Scores, PIRLS, TIMMS, PISA etc.), but that they should not be what drives our pedagogy.
This is in direct contrast to the 2008 Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (hereafter; Melbourne Declaration) whose preamble states:
"Schools play a vital role in promoting the intellectual, physical, social, emotional, moral, spiritual and aesthetic development and well-being of young Australians, and in ensuring the nation’s ongoing economic prosperity and social cohesion."
The language used in the Melbourne Declaration, when compared to the daily rhetoric about education and schooling, indicates that the individual fulfilment component of the Melbourne Declaration is lip-service only. This article by Thomas William Nielsen makes an interesting point that, for me, highlights the lip-service. Thomas writes
"The first thing to note is that spending power has at least doubled in western countries since the end of World War II, but depression and suicide rates have increased.
Our youth are more troubled than ever before and the rhetoric around domestic and international test result is that our education system is falling behind and performing (are teachers really performers? That's a different conversation, stay on target!) worse than in the past. Thomas William Nielsen, later on in the above article commented that education was based on the US and UK model, a model which has already failed, that is centred on this utilitarian view of education which is self-destructive in the long run. Why then do we continue down this pathway? My Grandparents taught me that if you fail the first time, to try again, but that trying the same thing over and over expecting different results indicates madness.
We need to take this on board and try something different.
You may argue that the infusion of these twenty-first century skills into the curriculum is trying something new, however, incorporating these skills has arguably been a part of every teachers pedagogy, whether implicit or explicit, since the early days of civilisation. Learning how to make fire, paint, build houses, hunt animals, make clothes, build roads, cars, and skyscrapers; and to develop number and writing systems required problem solving, communication, creativity, and critical thinking.
There is also the small issue that cognitive science appears to indicate that teaching these rather generic skills is not effective, as we have evolved to have them hard-wired but that effective use of these skills requires domain-specific knowledge and skills. As Greg Ashman puts it in this article,
"You can learn to solve problems in algebra but very little if anything transfers to solving problems in interior design. The thing that does transfer is a strategy known as ‘means-end analysis’ which we all have hard-wired into us through evolution and that therefore does not need extended, school-based training."
Despite all the rhetoric around twenty-first century skills, Dr. Michael Nagel notes in this article that little has changed and that the Digital Education Revolution was '...focused on tools and infrastructure" and that you could "...argue that this strategy is more refurbishment than revolution."
Why the persistence, then, in forcing the twenty-first century skills into the curriculum as an explicit component? Why the derision for pedagogical strategies which use explicit instruction to provide students with the domain-specific skills and knowledge required to effectively utilise these twenty-first century skills?
Thank you for reading and share your thoughts in the comments.
In this FTPL video, I go through how to access and use the basic features of Reflector (Teacher), a tool for broadcasting tablets and smartphones to a central screen in the classroom.
With devices becoming increasingly more common in classrooms, it is important to have a way to leverage their power constructively, and having a tool that empowers students to showcase what they are working on using this technology is a useful feather in the cap to have. There are lots of mechanisms out there for this, however, I personally quite like the ease and simplicity of Reflector.
For more helpful FTPL articles, find the full list here.
By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and Third, by experience, which is bitterest.”
2017 has been an incredible year in so many ways. Incredible due to personal and professional achievements; as well as incredible due to some of the challenges that came up. I find myself at the end of the year utterly exhausted; mentally, physically, and emotionally drained, knowing that there are going to be some big events in 2018.
This year I secured a permanent full-time job with ClickView, which brought with it some security and stability, something that had been lacking over the last few years with twelve-month job-share contracts at my school, and which the birth of my daughter late last year increased the stress-levels around. Having that security and stability helped immensely and Mrs C21 and I feel less-stressed as a result.
What else happened this year?
This last week we had our end of year internal conference, Christmas Party etc. and my counterparts in the other states, as well as some our support people, all came together to receive our debrief from the Hogan Assessments. This was very interesting and as a group we shared many laughs as different personality traits were confirmed, others were a surprise to the group and certain personality traits started to make sense. If you have never heard of the Hogan Assessments, you can more about them on this page.
Personally, I found that it was pretty well spot on for me. There were a few results that I was surprised by, but which made sense when they were explained in more detail than just the report. There were a few things which were also quite concerning and, if I am being completely honest, rather depressing. One of the sections was about strengths that can become weaknesses and in that section my results were actually quite depressing in that they were spot on for me and confirmed something I had slowly been coming to realise and acknowledge. I am a generally an introverted person and prefer my own company to crowds or talking to strangers.
This highlighted, thought, that it was far worse than I thought. It was actually quite depressing, and when I showed Mrs C21 she said that she has been trying to get that across to me for a while but has not known how. And in a move completely in line with what the report highlighted, after we had finished the debriefing as a group, I asked the consultant providing the debrief, Peter Berry, a few questions and quietly left the office to go out and get some lunch away from everyone, despite there being quite a good spread of food provided for the office that day.
Interestingly, most of my colleagues were surprised at the...severity(?) of my results as they all said they would never have picked which actually made me rather proud of myself at how well I hide it, but also reinforces the old adage that the loudest and most outgoing ones are sometimes the ones who need support the most.
Mrs C21 and I had a long conversation about the results and what it means for me as a professional, as a father, and as a husband (she will be completing the same assessments and we will have a joint debrief with Peter in the new year as well). Peter said, when asked how long the reports are valid for, that typically five years, however, life changes such as births, deaths, marriages, divorces, as well as an active effort to focus on and change personality traits can cause the results to change. I realised earlier this term that I had been getting worse; more reserved/insular/reclusive for a while.
Accordingly, my goal for 2018 on a personal development level, is to take steps to try and reverse that trend despite knowing how uncomfortable it will be. I went to a concert (Muse) last weekend with a friend. I think that is the first time, since I went out to dinner with some friends in Canberra while I was there for work back in September, that I have been out with a friend without there being family involved just to hang out with them and do something fun. I will be trying to do more of that; catch up with friends just to hang out.
This year has been huge. According to what is described in this article, I burned out this year. When I look at what has happened, both positive and negative, personal and professional, I am not too surprised. I will be taking the summer break to reset. The work phone and laptop have both been turned off with out of office messages put in place and I do not return from annual leave until 22 January. I will be putting the phone down more and playing with Ms One more, taking her out to the beach, to the different parks and play centres, to see her cousins. And I want to try and do more social things with friends.
I hope you enjoy the summer and recharge, reconnect with friends and family, and forget about work for a while. It is hard, but we need to do it.
"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.
"Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything."
-Attributed to George Bernard Shaw
How do you decide whether or not a tool is worth using in the classroom?
I recently stumbled on a retweet from Marco Cimino which was itself a retweet from Carl Miller which was a gif of every front page from the New York Times since 1952. I found watching this to be quite mesmerising, watching the wholly text images gradually introduce images to the front page suddenly explode into being almost wholly images instead.
I feel like this front page encapsulates education's views towards video in the classroom. I remember, as a student in the nineties, getting excited as our teacher rolled in the boxy looking CRT tv on a trolley; Yes, we're watching a video now, that means we don't have to do anything.
That attitude, there is a video on which means we can switch off, was setting a low low bar about the expectations of video use in the classroom. However, it is an attitude which still prevails today. There are fewer people now who believe that, as there has been enough demonstration of effective practice around the use of video in the classroom, but it is still there.
Video is just like pencils, paper, laptops, textbooks, chalk, and science experiments; they are all simply tools and it is how we use them that determines whether or not they are an effective tool. Dismissing video as simply being a babysitting tool is to dismiss the potential to provide your students with the explicit instruction that they need, accessible whenever and wherever they need.
If you use video just as a babysitter, then yes, it is a poor tool reflecting poor practice. If, however, you use video effectively it can be incredibly powerful. The flipped learning movement is contingent on the effective use of video instruction to return class time to teachers for use in practical learning activities that take the concept or skill and apply it.
How will you effectively use video in the classroom?
"In every job that must be done there is an element of fun."
- Mary Poppins
Gamification (also referred to, sometimes interchangeably, as game-based, game-inspired, or game-centered learning) is something that I have written about in the past (such as this article) but not something that I have ever invested time into exploring or implementing. I refer to myself as a gamer, but a casual gamer rather than a hard-core gamer. I will happily escape into (at the moment) the Uncharted world and pretend that I am a treasure hunter, relax into some low-cognitive load FIFA18, or watch my wife play the incredibly beautifully written Final Fantasy series and marvel at how far computer graphics have come in the last thirty years. Take ninety seconds and watch the below video which shows the original Final Fantasy released in 1987 and reminisce about how amazed we were at the time to see these little pixels moving about the screen controlled by us, and then compare it to Final Fantasy 15 released in 2016 and marvel at how photorealistic much of the scenery is, the change in the music quality etc.
However, gamification is not something that I have ever explored more deeply. I had my hands full on developing my pedagogy and classroom management. It was exciting to see that someone I know, Pete Whiting, was facilitating the gamification component of the Flipped Learning Certification Level II course.
Flipped learning is the meta-strategy that supports other pedagogical approaches and Pete makes a very interesting comment early on that he could not see how they could get to gamification without using flipped learning as the backbone as flipped learning allows for the decentralisation of the classroom (i.e. the teacher does not need to be at the front of the class) that is needed for gamification to be implemented.
Gamification, implementation of game mechanics, is also more familiar to us and students than we realise and this makes it easy to implement from an explanatory perspective. Think about your loyalty and rewards cards; buy nine coffees and get the tenth or similar. That is gamification of commerce.
It is important to note that merely changing the mechanics from do this for an A to do this for 10XP is not in itself gamification. Gamification requires more thought than that and needs to be implemented well for it to be effective, both as a tool to generate engagement and as a tool for learning. This comes across in Yu-kai Chou's TEDx talk above when he comments that all games have some form of points, badges or leaderboards, yet not all games are engaging. Gamification should be about changing the focus from academic ability to academic effort.
When students can see that if they put in the effort to complete the mission and therefore get the loot and the associated XP, thus leveling up for the next mission or quest, that changes the way they think about learning. This has ramifications for the I'm no good at [insert subject] so I don't bother trying. When genuinely implemented, it changes that mindset to being about effort, not about how good they are at something. By engaging in the missions and learning through them those students will potentially become more comfortable with the topics and thus change their mindset and openness to further learning.
It is witnessing the eureka! moment that makes, in some ways, teaching such a joy. Paul Andersen says in the below TEDx Talk that it is "[t]hat look of learning, trying something new and failing and trying it again is something that we aspire to see in the eyes of our kids" and I think it is interesting, and somewhat disheartening that when it comes to video games, children are happy to fail and try again over and over until they achieve success, but in the classroom, when it comes to academic learning, our children are often defeated and want the answer when they fail the first time. What has happened that this is so?
One thing that really came through is how the feedback to students and the application of different expectations is critical. This is not particularly revelatory, however, the way in which it is implemented is tweaked. The explicit expectations around students success criteria for the missions, the effort required, is different. Rather than have one expectation for all students and when you complete the mission you get the XP, there are, if you will, different difficulty levels. Those who could be referred to as being good at the game of school might be put on the hard difficulty level and have different expectations to achieve the XP than the student who struggles with a concept. This helps, as Pete remarks, with rewarding effort rather than the genetics and home life.
Jon and Pete are both quite clear that the pedagogy behind gamification is much deeper and broader than the scope for the gamification unit of the flipped learning certification allowed for and that to get a true understanding, more time an exploration through other sources would be needed. One which they recommended was Goblin.Education, an online professional learning course which goes through the elements of gamification in education through game-based learning.
Pete's unit was a little bit more in depth and practical than what I had been exposed to on gamification in the past and is something that I now feel a bit more comfortable with using in the classroom than previously. If you wanted to hear what Pete had to say, then I would encourage you to click on the button above to register for the Level II flipped learning certification (after you have completed the level I certification). I have added Goblin to my list of courses to look at but for now, gamification is something that I do believe has a solid place in the classroom, when it is implemented well.
As always, thank you for reading.
In this flipped teacher professional learning video, I demonstrate how to access and use the My Maps tool available in GSuite. There is a resource that has been put together by Alice Keeler which shows many different ideas for using the tool in the classroom available here.
For more FTPL videos, please click here.
"I would argue that the most important infrastructure we have are minds, educated minds."
- Amel Karboul, Oct 2017, TED@BCG, Milan
Podcasts are a great way to keep up with new ideas and thoughts as well as to broaden the mind and challenge yourself. TED Talks Daily is one of the podcasts I listen to, and occasionally I will skip an episode because the subject is too far away from my interest to engage, or the speaker is not at all engaging. Recently, however, I listened to the global learning crisis and what to do about it. It was just merely the next episode in the list.
When the Dr. Amel Karboul opened by commenting that she is "the product of a bold leadership decision," and goes on to say that the first Tunisian President, Habib Bourguiba, made a decision to invest twenty percent of the country's national budget into education to ensure high-quality, free, education for every child, both girls and boys.
Immediately, my ears perked up. I did not know what percentage of our budget was dedicated to education (I have since looked and for 2017-18, it appears to be 7.28% based on this document) but I did not think it would be anywhere near twenty percent. There were protests, cries of what about...with lots of key infrastructure needs pointed to, however, Amel made an interesting point when she commented that she sees educated minds as the most important infrastructure.
Without an educated populace, how do you advance society?
Our national budget for 2017-18 is $464.3 billion dollars, investing twenty percent of that would be $92.86 billion. What could be achieved in education if that amount was invested? What gaps across early childhood, primary, secondary, and tertiary could be filled? Personally, I believe there would need to be a mix between investment in paying educators properly, particularly in early childhood, and investment in infrastructure. How many schools have old and ugly demountable buildings? How much more effective would it be to provide more space for the students to run around and play games during breaks if we built up? My school had thirteen demountables. Removing those and going three stories (at one end, only two stories at the other due to slope) provided so much more space for the students.
Forgetting about politics and the discussion around the funding split, what could be achieved if the government decided to invest in the future and value education so highly?
This point about valuing education and how much is invested is not even the most important point from Amel's talk, but it was one that struck me as significant given the current climate around education funding here in Australia.
"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.