After having presented my first keynote at FlipLearnCon yesterday (Tuesday 17 May, 2016), I have a profound new respect for speakers who are tasked with presenting in the final session of a conference or professional learning day. It is a very tough gig.
Recently I became involved in a Twitter backchannel that was occurring parallel to the FlipLearnCon event in Melbourne. FlipLearnCon is a two-day conference organised by MyLearning and facilitated by South Australian educator, Jeremy LeCornu (@MrLeCornu) to provide a boot-camp style introduction to flipped learning. I have written extensively about Flipped Learning in the past (such as here and here) and there are a number of educators on Twitter who are also heavily involved in flipped learning, whether through implementing flipped learning (such as Jeremy, Heather Davis, Joel Speranza, Alfina Jackson and Matthew Burns), or as researchers of flipped learning (such as Marijne Slager and others).
In this article, I am going to focus more on my reflections of being involved as a presenter rather than a participant. I was given the opportunity to keynote from a primary education perspective for the Sydney iteration of FlipLearnCon (Heather Davis was the secondary educator presenting in Sydney) by Jeremy and Justine Isard and asked to speak about my EdVenture, how I am implementing flipped learning in my classroom, and what I have learned through trial and error. It was, I felt, a huge opportunity. I had been dabbling with flipped learning for some time, as my regular readers will be aware, and in many ways I still did not feel that I knew enough, or was far enough along with flipped learning as a pedagogical practice, to have credibility as a presenter.
However, I trust Jeremy and was excited to take the plunge. I felt that my first presentation at TeachMeet Coast in Term One went well and this was the next opportunity that popped up.
One of the fantastic takeaways from FlipConAus15 was that there was the realisation that I was not the only one wanting or trying to flip, and that there was lots of support out through online professional learning networks. Heather commented in her keynote that one of the most important things you can do to help you flip your class is to connect with others, “find your people” and leverage the support and experience of those around you.
The great benefit of being involved in FlipLearnCon was seeing the excitement and eagerness of the participants, hearing the stories of what the teachers involved have been trying and hearing about their contexts and seeing the growth in the confidence and abilities over such a short period of time.
We had a range of primary and secondary educators from Wollongong up to Newcastle, and the secondary teachers were from a range of disciplines, which afforded us a fantastic spread of perspectives and ideas for sharing with others to try in different learning areas. As part of the presentation team, seeing participants not wanting to go to lunch, so that they could continue working on practicing with the tools we had been showing them as they created their own flipped content was incredibly exciting and rejuvenating.
One of the struggles of being the lone nut leader is that you are always giving. This is not the issue, that is actually part of what we do as educators, is that we give. The issue is that if we are the leader or the person who is driving the practice in our context, or if we are the only person in the school who is interested and trying to implement is that it can be draining and disheartening. The excitement and energy in the room as teachers tried, failed, persisted, tried again, learned from each other, tried something different, experimented with different tools and came back to us excited for what they had managed to create reinvigorates and rejuvenates the soul.
We had a number of educators who went returned home/to their hotel rooms at the end of day one night and worked on creating further content, refining what they had developed that day. One of our participants, Will, is a Japanese language teacher and the content that he finished up with was fantastic and looks very refined and ready to utilise in the classroom, and he was not the only one. One of our participants, Phil, arrived on day one unsure about flipped learning and whether he would gain any real learning from the two-days. He stood up during our Content Showcase at the end of day two and proudly showed off what he had been able to develop , and for his first attempt at creating flipped learning content, it worked.
“Do you want it perfect or Tuesday?”
We were also able to convince a number of educators to join Twitter to enable them to stay in touch and connect with other educators as a way of continuing to be able to share and learn, which was also exciting, and the Principal of one school, who brought along six of his teachers for day one of the conference is now seriously considering taking them to FlipConAus16 later this year, which demonstrates a serious commitment to ensuring flipped learning as a pedagogical practice in his school succeeds.
I have to note that I was amazed at some of the contexts within which some of the participants are working. Some, like myself, are in the public education system and are working with slow, often damaged equipment, with systems and processes in place which hinder the advancement of flipped learning and are simply battling through. Others, however, are in private school contexts, with 1:1 MacBooks, Forwardboards/Lightboards purchased and funded by the school, and Principals willing to send them off to conferences such as this without them having to take leave without pay. I cannot fathom working in that kind of context and the feeling of being supported and encouraged in that way.
That said, everyone involved across the two days was incredibly hardworking, attentive, and invested in learning as much as they could. I am excited to hear from a number of our participants as to how they go implementing flipped learning in their classroom, hopefully at FlipConAus16, which is occurring in two locations this year; the Gold Coast in October, and in Adelaide during November.
As a presenter, a conference is a very different experience. I still took notes, though using Twitter rather than my normal format of handwritten notes, and I still learned a lot, primarily about some additional tools and strategies that are available to support flipped learning. I enjoyed being able to work with participants to help them develop their flipped content and experiment with the tools we had been showing them.
I want to thank Jeremy LeCornu and Justine Isard for providing me with the opportunity to extend myself beyond my comfort zone and present at FlipLearnCon, it was an experience I am glad to have under my belt. I also want to thank Heather Davis, my secondary education counterpart at the event, for her support over the course of the conference. Finally, I want to thank those who attended for being so willing to go out on a limb and invest the time to gain extend their knowledge and capabilities and for engaging so strongly across the two days. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and I know that everyone involved left feeling excited about the possibilities.
I have included the links to the Storify of both days of the conference at the top of the article, and when I get a chance to upload them, will provide links to both Heather and my own keynote presentations.
As always, thank you for reading.