It is that time of the week again where I send out a summary of the articles that I have published this week over on c21teaching.com.au. There are big things coming, so stay tuned each Saturday or head over to C21 Teaching.
In this article, I reflect on the way that educators use Twitter and our role in society given some of the vitriol that occurs, asking whether we should be doing more to combat it after reading about why one journalist closed her Twitter account after suffering years of personal attacks directed at her.
A reflective article questioning why we refer to some these skills as being twenty-first-century skills and the implication that they are therefore newly discovered or hold a newfound important when they are not newly discovered and do not hold any newfound important.
“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.” – Attributed to Neil Gaiman
Welcome back to a new year! I hope that the Christmas and New Year break was relaxing and you have returned refreshed and ready to start with your new class. Personally, I am looking forward to an exciting and eventful year, and will be achieving some goals and going a long way towards achieving others. What are your goals for the year? Have you set any?
As my regular readers may recall, I have been offered a year-long temporary contract for three days per week on a Year Five class with a more experienced teacher which I am excited for. I am hoping to utilise this year to complete my accreditation to move into the proficient bracket, as well as to expand my skills and abilities.
I am attending FutureSchools again this year and am also hoping to attend FlipConAus in Adelaide in November. I will once again write up a series of review articles based on my notes from the conferences. I am also attending a THRASS Foundation Course in the April holidays, which I am looking forward to.
I plan to continue with this blog, posting an article each day, Monday to Thursday, however, that may scale back to only Monday to Wednesday, depending on time management needs as I have a lot going on, as we all do, outside of education.
I am in the process of an upgrade certification as a Football (soccer) Referee, which when completed will see me refereeing in the third tier of football in Australia, National Premier League Division Two, and this goal will require a considerable amount of time and energy for training and matches.
My biggest goal for the year, however, is to manage my time more effectively. I have decided that in regards to working outside of school hours, I will, where possible and practical, only work while Mrs. C21st is at work, and I will not be working outside of school hours on Thursdays or Fridays unless absolutely necessary (such as during report season and the beginning few weeks of the school year where there is still a significant amount of planning and programming going on). I feel like this is going to be crucial to not burning out this year, given the time, physical and mental demands that I will be under with everything that is happening. I will also allow me time to complete any marking, planning, blog writing, Tweeting etc, but also provides me with time off (Thursday and Friday, though I will be looking to undertake some casual work on these days).
Thank you for reading, and I would love to hear, either in the comments or over on Twitter, what your goals are for the year.
“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” – Attributed to Aristotle
Earlier in the year I attended a TeachMeet about Teaching for Thinking, or Teaching Philosophy in Schools at St Leo’s Catholic College, Wahroonga. The event was a very interesting one, with lots of challenging ideas about education and how we teach children to think. As always, I wrote a series of review articles, which you can find linked to below:
Another Teaching for Thinking TeachMeet has been organised, to be held on Sunday, 29th November from 1300 to 1600 at Wyvern House Preparatory School in Stanmore.
From the invitational flyer:
The teachmeet will be an introductory platform for passionate and interested educators and leaders from a range of schools across Sydney to share their experiences, expertise, vision and learn from one another. Topics for discussion will include: Critical and Creative Thinking; Philosophy in the classroom; and Tools of inquiry The afternoon will include five presenters, a Q&A session, followed by an open forum/panel discussion. The teachmeet will also be a great opportunity to start a broader dialogue about teaching for thinking and build professional networks.
Speakers include Emeritus Professor Phil Cam, President of Philosophy in Schools NSW from the University of New South Wales speaking under the title Because and Therefore; Dr Britta Jensen an English and French teacher from Marist College North Shore speaking under the title Fostering a thinking disposition in our students; Mr Dan Smith Deputy Principal at Leichhardt Public School speaking under the title Bringing philosophy into school – 10 years of experience; Ms Sally Parker, a Science Teacher from Moriah College speaking under the title Stimulus material, Concept games and Questioning tools for the Science classroom; and Ms Ksenia Filatov, English and Philosophy Teacher at St Leo’s Catholic College speaking under Teaching and Applied Philosophy elective course for years 9-10.
“There can be infinite uses of the computer and of new age technology, but if teachers themselves are not able to bring it into the classroom and make it work, then it fails.”
– Attributed to Nancy Kassebaum
The next few videos in the FTPL series will cover some skills that we have already looked at on the computer from the point of view of using them on the iPad. We begin with setting up Google Drive on your iPad.
Welcome back for this final article in my series looking back on my time at the first FlipConAus, my conference wrapped up, as it did for a number of people, with a double session with Matt Burns (@BurnsMatthew) speaking under the titles Flipping the K-6 Classroom and then The Flipped Classroom: K-12 Leadership. If you have missed the previous articles in this series, you can find the links to them below:
Matt spoke initially about some of the resources that he has made available to aid others in understanding flipped learning and how to implement it via his website (which also includes a link to his blog); as well as his twitter handle (which I have included at the beginning of this article).
Matt made two very important points at the beginning of his presentation. Firstly, that flipping should build stronger relationships and that what flipping is has changed in meaning over time and means different things to different people. That flipping should build stronger relationships was not, by this stage in the conference, a new idea. Hearing it reiterated, however, helps to reinforce that it is an important benefit of flipped pedagogies. It goes back to the point that was made by Jon and Aaron during their keynote the prior day
It seems, to me at least, that content, content, content is forced down our throats as if we are undergoing gavage, with the relationship and curiosity components of our profession discarded to the wayside, and hearing from so many presenters about the importance of flipping to the relationships they have been able to build with their students, over and above what they have been under traditional pedagogical model. It seems to me to be distinct that although the general discussion is about the relationships that can be built with students is the focus, relationship-building with parents and colleagues is a theme that has cropped up a few times over the course of the conference.
After this opening, Matt then took some time to speak about the research and indicated that there is a dearth of it that is contextually relevant to us as primary and secondary teachers; that much of the research focuses on tertiary education and that there is a need for a comparative study. I know that there were, at least, three research-based attendees (Marijne Slager being one with whom I connected over the course of the conference), however, the research, at this point in time, is not readily available in the primary space, and you can only extrapolate the findings from studies done at the tertiary-level so far before you begin to lose validity. That said, Clintondale High School in Detroit, USA, experimented with flipping a year group of one hundred and forty students. Academically, the results can be seen in two ways.
This set of data that Matt showed us gives an indication of the academic changes that the school saw in this cohort. You can also read about the changes on the Clintondale High School website:
“We have reduced the failure rate by 33% in English Language Arts, 31% in Mathematics, 22% in Science and 19% in Social Studies in just one semester. In addition, we have seen a dramatic reduction of 66% in our total discipline for our freshman group as well.”
One discussion point that arose from this was that when the teacher is no longer the sole gatekeeper of knowledge and students can access the knowledge any time and anywhere, then students’ target their frustration around learning across multiple sources which removes some emotional and social barriers between the teacher and student, allowing the teacher to work more closely with the student, providing the required assistance.
Matt indicated that quantitative data can be difficult to obtain, but that informal qualitative feedback is relatively easy, and shared some examples of feedback his students had provided:
Matt then spoke about flipping little things, like the spelling test, introducing new writing genres, instructions for projects, explanations of projects and rubrics, handwriting and times tables. This allows students to hear what the word should sound like, which can also benefit students with Non-English speaking Backgrounds (NESB) in developing their English. Flipping allows students to ask questions without the fear of being embarrassed, and if you put structures in place, without needing to wait for the teacher.
Matt reiterated that point that the videos should not be perfect, asking do you need the screencast perfect or by Tuesday? We are not perfect teachers in the classroom, we make mistakes and goof up, and we should be the same on the video as in the classroom. I say that with the caveat that we should fix up any conceptual or factual mistakes may confuse students. Matt also indicated that if you have the Smart Notebook software, then it has inbuilt recording and screencasting functions, which I was not aware of, and that that can be one way of making your videos.
Matt also made the point that this (flipping) is a learning curve, both for you and the students and that open communication should be sought to ensure that any issues are addressed quickly and that your classroom grows comfortable with what is expected, on both sides of the coin, from flipped learning.
Matt’s final point in this session was that the video, as an instructional tool, allows for experiencing the learning in different ways. Some students may watch the video, others may read the textbook, whilst others will work it out collaboratively.
While the majority of the room then moved on to their next session, myself and a few others stayed comfortable in our seats, or stood up and stretched, as we were staying in for Matt’s follow up presentation, around leadership in a K-12 flipped classroom context. Matt opened this up by indicating that he had a range of topics that he could speak to for this presentation, but was aware that it was the afternoon on the last day of the conference and wanted to avoid repeating what we had already heard. To get around this, he crowd-sourced the direction the topic would take by listing out the topics and asking us to vote on the ones we wanted to hear about.
Love @BurnsMatthew practice of crowd sourcing feedback on what 2 focus on during session at #FlipConAus Great way to target audience needs!
One of the topics that the audience selected was hearing about some research results. It was rather interesting, that the first study Matt spoke about found that students were doing more learning, were not happy about that fact, did not enjoy flipping, but achieved better results.
I found this rather intriguing, as we are often told that higher engagement, often seemingly used as a proxy for enjoyment, leads to improved results, ergo, lower engagement (read lower enjoyment) leads to lower results. I wonder what impact the school culture around learning and mindsets would have on this particular result. It also brings to mind an article that Greg Ashman (@Greg_Ashman) recently published, Motivating students about maths, discussing a study which was recently published about the relationship between motivation and achievement in mathematics. Greg’s view, or rather my interpretation of Greg’s view, is that we should not be targeting our learning activities based on what we think will engage them as this is a superficial motivation which will not last under the difficulty of more complex cognitive loads. Greg posits that we should be aiming for learning activities that maximise learning, creating a feeling of mastery, as this internal sense of achievement with concepts will lead to greater engagement with the subject more organically than simple engagement with the concepts.
“Don’t misunderstand me. I am not the fun police. If you can make the learning more interesting without diluting it then go for it. It is even appropriate to take a break from time-to-time just to have some fun with your students. Not a problem. Just remember what you’re here for; to teach a subject.
Matt spoke about four studies (which I erroneously referred to as a meta-study on Twitter. I should have called it a literature review) which he had read, where all the studies showed that the academic achievements were improved across all four, but with contrasting results in students satisfaction. Reading deeper into the studies, the study where students reported lower satisfaction with flipped learning had the ‘extra’ class time used poorly, with no apparent change from traditional pedagogies. This reinforces the critical nature of the use of the class time. You cannot ‘hide’ behind the teacher’s desk and let the students go about their activities, you need to be getting in amongst the students and providing the close support you may not ordinarily be able to offer due to time constraints. If you wish to read further on that, Matt has included the references on his website on this page.
Some students, Matt related, indicated that they liked having an alternate perspective from another teacher (which lends credence to curating in addition to creating your instructional videos) as all teachers have different teaching styles and slightly different ways of explaining things. This allows those students who do grasp a concept from your explanation to view an alternate explanation (which you have, of course, vetted) to gain the conceptual understanding they need.
Does having a great flipped video from another teacher, make a struggling teacher a better one? #FlipConAus
There are some students who do not like flipped pedagogies, and this may be for a few reasons. They may have experienced bad flipping, where the teacher misused the class time, or they may be more senior students who know and understand the game of school and do not want to change how they go about doing school.
There was one final session, a conference closing led by Jon and Aaron, where they challenged us to consider what we would do with our learning from the conference over the ensuing five days, five weeks and five months, and to write it down. Within the ensuing week, my plan was to turn my notes into articles, which I did get done, but it has taken longer than five days. Within the ensuing five weeks, I wanted to begin planning for next year, which I have begun doing conceptually. Solid planning will need to wait for another few weeks as I am job-sharing next year and my partner needs to get her reports finished for this year before she can sit down and think about next year. Within the ensuing five months, I wanted to have planned, resourced and flipped my class in one area, and be looking to move on to another area. At this point in time, I am tossing up between mathematics and literacy. I can see great scope for using flipped pedagogies for teaching grammar and spelling, as well as many mathematical concepts.
I want to thank you for reading through this and (hopefully) the other articles in this series.FlipConAus was a fantastic and tiring experience, and it was late on Saturday night (Sunday morning) before I got to sleep as my mind was whizzing with ideas and inspiration to the point where I turned the light on around three in the morning and jotted down the outline for a research project. This process of turning my notes into articles has been useful and reinforced some ideas for next year. I want to thank Jon, Aaron, Val and Margo for their efforts in putting the conference together, as well as St Stephen’s College for opening up their school to all of us for the three days. I greatly valued my time at FlipConAus, and have every intention of attending in November next year, when it will be held at Brighton Secondary College in Adelaide.
If you want to engage in the discussion around flipped learning further, keep an eye on #ausflipchat as well as #flipconaus as both tick over reasonably regularly.
Jon and Aaron began their second keynote of the conference by saying that we, those in attendance, were all early adopters and that our job was to flip well and be lighthouses for those who would come later, to be examples of what flipping can achieve. I thought this was an interesting way of beginning, as personally, I do not feel like an early adopter, I feel like I am late to the game, so to speak, of flipped learning, given that it has been around since around 2007.
Thinking about it further, though, there is no real timeline defined for what constitutes the movement between the stages of adoption. Statistically speaking, when you overlay the adoption of new technologies, you do still end up with the regular bell-curve, and I certainly would not consider flipping to be mainstream, meaning it has not reached the early or late majority phases (or the laggard phase, for that matter). I also do not think I am an innovator which means that I am an early adopter. Our feeling of where we sit in the adoption bell-curve does not necessarily represent reality, and wherever we sit, we need to be aiming to flip well to show what flipping can do for education.
Jon and Aaron made the point again that flipping is between didactic pedagogy and constructivism, and that the elephant in the room is assessment, with the enormous pressures on teachers and students to ‘perform’ (as though we are all seals at an amusement park balancing beach balls on our noses for treats) well in the standardised testing to which we, students and teachers alike, are subjected through NAPLAN and the HSC, and from what I understand in some states, the School Certificate in Year Ten.
Their advice was to operate within the constraints in which you find yourself; manipulate your assessment as you are able to within your context. Marijne Slager put it slightly differently when she tweeted this:
Elephant in the room: Flexible assessment in flipped classrooms. Be flexible up to point of assessment and keep your job! #FlipConAus
This is a fair point, as there is a substantial amount of pressure on both teachers and students to perform ‘well,’ whatever that means, and I recall when the NAPLAN results for this year were posted on the staffroom wall that there was much discussion about where we had done well and done poorly. There is much debate about the validity and purpose of standardised testing, particularly NAPLAN (for example, here and here), however for better or worse, it is a significant part of education, and much funding goes into the delivery of the tests, and we as teachers need to negotiate our way through this in the context of implementing flipped learning.
After a brief note about assessment, Jon and Aaron spoke about Bloom’s Taxonomy, reiterating the point that there are so many different shapes (as seen here), that we need to not get hung up on the appearance, but to remember the goal is to engage students in deeper learning and thinking. We also need to remember that just like the SAMR model, Bloom’s Taxonomy is not a ladder to climb. It is a tool to help us consider what kind of learning activity our students are engaging with and there are valid and useful occasions where students should be at the remembering phase just as there are valid and useful times when students should be at the creation phase, and the two occasions are not necessarily mutually exclusive. It should be used contextually, as a guide for designing and thinking about learning activities.
The key though is to ensure that content is correct and to remember that you do not need to out-flip, that is, do the flipping at home. In-flipping is perfectly valid, particularly as a starting place. To gain the most benefit for your students learning out of flipping, the aim should be to out-flip, eventually.
Nothing profound about flipping your class, the magic happens in class. It's about creating time to give them more feedback #FlipConAus
Another point is that the discussion around flipping often centers around the videos and the home-learning. We need, however, to talk about the class-time and how we, as teachers, utilise that. There have been teachers who have flipped their classes and then left the students to do the in-class learning on their own, sitting at their desk. This is not flipping well. We need to use the in-class time better, and we can do this in a range of ways, from instituting weekly student-led conferences to talk about how they are are doing in general or in specific areas, whether it be academic or social, to deliver small group tutoring or mentoring, to do more hands-on active learning such as experiments in science or making/tinkering in other learning areas. How you use the time is, of course, up to you, but it needs to be used effectively for flipped learning to be worthwhile.
It was also observed that although there is a tendency to think of flipped learning as being high-tech, it can be done with low-tech tools. Rather than using a complicated Learning Management System to outline what students need to do and where to access the content required, there are some teachers flipping quite successfully who are using a physical workbook as their LMS. They note down what needs to be covered with timeline expectations as a guideline, and then include QR codes for the online content, and each student is given a copy
Language teacher: stick QR code referring to your videos onto bookmarks and into the students' paper manuals #FlipConAus
In conjunction with this, it was also observed that instructions can be flipped successfully, freeing up time in class for the doing and that flipping staff meetings or professional development is also often a very successful way of introducing flipping to staff. I deliver flipped professional development for colleagues quite simply because everyone is time-poor and they can access the learning whenever and wherever they want, and then ask follow-up questions later on as needed.
The Phet was offered up as a useful website to allow students to complete many experiments through simulation, rather than only one or two due to the time required to set up and conduct some experiments. There was a discussion about the benefits of flipping student feedback when marking students learning output.
Record video feedback for student work – provides significant improvement in writing scores and takes the same time #FlipConAus
Flipping also allows greater opportunity for student choice, though it should be relatively structured, and be choice from defined options as many students freeze like the proverbial deer-in-headlights when presented with free choice. I have been doing that with my Stage Three classes as part of our end of unit assessment. We have been learning about the Cornell Note Taking strategy, and as I did not feel like reading a hundred of the same submission, I have had discussions with the classes about the options they have to demonstrate that they understand and can use the strategy. With each class, we discussed the options available to them. Some students have elected to record a video explaining what it is and then demonstrating how to use it, some to use the strategy, and submit their notes about a self-selected topic with annotations, and some to create a Kahoot. We then discussed, in each class group, what success would look like in each of these options, which I then turned into a digital rubric on Google Docs and distributed via Google Class. We also negotiated when it would be due.
Our value as professionals in the guidance during the more cognitively demanding portions of Bloom’s Taxonomy, and we need to ensure, when we flip, that we do add value to the students learning. so that we do not create the situation where students are overloaded with homework that has no value in the classroom. We should be providing students with opportunities to apply and analyse and create, using real-world contexts that are relevant to the students lives’.
The final point was that the metaphorical train of flipped learning has already left the station and we should not get left behind.
Before we moved off for the afternoon break, Jon and Aaron made an exciting announcement. I had asked Aaron over drinks during Thursday night’s social event whether there were plans to make FlipConAus an annual event, and he confirmed that it was the plan, and a venue for next year was being sought. The announcement made before we moved off to afternoon tea was that the venue had been located and confirmed:
Jeremy LeCornu’s school, Brighton Secondary School would be the site of next year’s conference and by proposing to my wife that she come with me to the conference as she will be able to visit some family she has in Adelaide she has not seen since our wedding while I am at the conference, I already have tacit approval to attend.
Thank you for reading this penultimate article in the FlipConAus review series. Tomorrow’s article will see out the end of the conference with presentations from Matt Burns. As always, thank you for reading, and please leave your thoughts and questions in the comments section.
“I realized if you can change a classroom, you can change a community, and if you change enough communities you can change the world.” – Attributed to Erin Gruwell
Thank you for following this series reviewing #TMSpaces back on the 15th of October. This will be the final part in the series, and will look at the presentations by Dan Bowen (@dan_bowen), Michelle Jensen (@bibliothecare3), Alan Allison (@adscall) and Monique Dalli (@1moniqued). I include here links to the #TMSpaces Storify put up by the event organiser, Phillip Cooke (@sailpip) as well as the links to the previous articles in the series
Dan introduced himself by explaining that he was coming from a corporate viewpoint, and that the way that the offices at Microsoft are, are arranged in what could very much be termed an open learning space, if transplanted into a school. From there, he reminded us that while learning is important, it does not stop at the school fence. I feel like this is a point which needs to be drummed into our heads in the current age of ubiquitous technology, where, although I do hear the phrase learning any time and anywhere, or some variation thereof, I do not feel that it has been absorbed into the fabric of schools as yet.
Dan, under the heading Spaces’ Secrets to Success, made the observation that Kindergarten learning spaces are, typically, fantastic with a variety of seating modes, regular activity rotations to afford students the opportunity to get up and move and refresh or reset mentally and that it gets progressively worse as students get older, prompting the exchange of observations on learning spaces seen below.
Primary schools enviornments usually so much better than secondary… which are better than university #TMSpaces
Dan explained that they have taken simple things like rooms names and changed them, with offices and meeting/conference rooms being named after various people or places. His view is that while they do utilise the open space principal, that it is important to provide places where privacy can be obtained as there are times in both the corporate world and in education where privacy is required for sensitive conversations, and that the busy staff room is often inappropriate for those phone calls. The privacy can be provided by furniture, not just by walls and he showed some examples of this type of furniture.
He also reminded us that the most important place in the room is wherever the power points are. You only need to visit an airport or a conference to see this in action. Returning from FlipConAus just recently, I had a wait of a few hours at Brisbane airport before my flight, and there were clusters of people huddled around the power points that were accessible by the public, with an array of phones and tablets plugged in to charge. Interestingly enough, he indicated that in conversations with students that visit, a regular occurrence he says, that when asked what the most frustrating part of the school is, that students invariably respond with it being the toilets. This is an area that staff rarely think about, with the exception perhaps, of kindergarten teachers. Dan concluded by showing a bit.ly to the School Edition of the Makerspace Playbook
Michelle Jensen spoke next, under the heading The twenty-first century library and began by saying that libraries are key.I expected to be hearing about the use of space within a library for learning, however this was not what Michelle spoke about. Or rather, it was, but a very different perspective was taken. Michelle spoke to the fact that learning should be any time, anywhere, and that maker spaces fell into this, as they are targeted to learning by doing. She reminded us that maker spaces can, and should be, a combination of both high and low-technology and that a library is often a great spot for them to occur in as there is generally someone present.
Michelle’s view is that maker space should be flexible and should evolve to suit the needs, desire and constraints within which they operate, which may mean running workshops at recess and/or lunchtime, for students and staff alike. I can see substantial benefits for those teachers whom are willing to get involved. The relationships that would form between students and teachers, as they co-learn the skills and techniques needed, as they collaboratively make, and the respect and understanding for each other through the process of learning together, and of the teacher being open to being taught by students more skilled in various facets of making, would reap significant boons in the classroom, as the intersection between content, curiosity and relationship would be easier to meet in the classroom.
The point was also made that a maker space can be virtual through the use of software such as Minecraft, JoyKadia,Sim-on-a-stick. Furthermore, these virtual maker spaces can be managed by students and for students in order to give ownership of the maker space to the students that will be using the space. I have written previously about maker spaces and I can see the benefits to them. I am still working out how to embed them authentically in my classroom, and to do so without a budget. Additionally, I agree that there are significant benefits to using Minecraft in the classroom, if it is implemented authentically, as I wrote about here, however at this point in time, I am not sure that I would be able to embed it authentically in my students learning; and I would rather wait until I have built up a better range of teaching strategies to support the use of Minecraft, something seen as a game with no educational value by many teachers.
The penultimate speaker was Alan Allison (@adscoll) of Granville College, speaking under the title Eclectic Tech for Years Eleven and Twelve. Alan spoke very quickly, as we were running well behind schedule due to some speakers speaking over time, and his focus was on emphasising a high-quality on-line learning space and the various tools that he uses to achieve this.Alan indicated that, primarily, he utilised Moodles to record work and Wikispaces to for content delivery. Within WIkispaces, Alan explained that using the Projects function as spaces for providing feedback to students, as well as a place for students to store their notes on-line in a secure location.
This seems to my thinking to be a version of a flipped classroom with a mix of in-flip and out-flip, though Alan made no mention of flipped learning in any explicit way. In addition to Moodle and Wikispaces, Alan mentioned Quizlet, Alan was also adamant that A3 whiteboards were a better option for classrooms than A3 due to the larger amount of usable space, and the fact that when students utilised them for note taking, or brainstorming ideas, that they provided for better photos as students naturally wrote larger on the larger space. Alan indicated that his students take and then upload photos of their notes to their Wikispace. I really like this idea of conserving the students’ learning, as it is a resource they have created and could utilise again in the future.
The final speaker was Monique Dalli (@1moniqued), who also spoke very quickly for the same reasons as Alan. Monique had some thought-provoking things to say, reminding us that we are the converts in our schools for alternative learning spaces and that the biggest challenge is moving what we currently have to what we want, both in our own learning spaces and in the mindset of our colleagues. She exhorted us to question who the converts are not and what can be done to interest them in alternative learning spaces and in changed pedagogy. Monique challenged us to remember that if we are going to change the learning space, then we must also change the pedagogy, otherwise we have changed for change’s sake.
The typical classroom has not changed a great deal in the last few decades, other than perhaps the movement away from the rigid requirement for all desks to be in rows, and was developed during the industrial revolution. Research into how students learn conducted over the last thirty years has lead to changes, as has the rise to prominence of the individual.
As part of the change, it is important to take small steps, a point echoed made many times throughout the night. Monique indicated that as much as change can create anxiety amongst teachers, “…change can fear out the students as well.” The baby-steps approach affords students, as well as teachers, the opportunity to adjust to changes and evaluate the effectiveness of the change before making another change. Monique finished by commenting that Ebay is a valid source of furniture, and that much can be acquired, for decent prices, via Ebay.
It was a long night, but worthwhile attending. Given the impending move to open learning spaces at my school, and my desire to begin flipping, thinking about the classroom ecology is something that I need to begin doing. There were some great ideas presented during the evening, and I am glad that I went. My thanks to Phillip Cooke for organising the night and to Bradfield SC for hosting the event.
“There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.” – Attributed to Jiddu Krishnamurti
This, the third part of my review of #TMSpaces from Thursday 15th October picks up with Re-imagining Oakhill College Library, presented by Lyn Revai. Lyn echoed much of what had been said previously, emphasising that rushing in to change, particularly large-scale change, was not a helpful move, and that the desire to shift pedagogy was a helpful driver. Lyn also made the point that it was necessary to provide support for both teachers and students in learning how to use and conceptualise new or changed learning spaces, particularly when the conceptualiation of the learning space by those at the centre of the change involve a new way of thinking about the use of the space.
Kim Kofod (@kim_kofod) spoke next from the perspective of thinking about the intersection between education and industry. As a teacher involved in in secondary teaching of subjects with a strong basis in professional industry, a need was observed to match the learning space and the equipment to what is commonly used and expected in the specific industry. The space was effectively turned into a Makerspace, with industry-standard equipment including woodworking, CAD, textiles and graphic design equipment in the same space. Kim noted that a trend is appearing whereby learning spaces are being designed skin to tertiary or professional industrial spaces more and more, which is an interesting observation given this tweet from earlier in the evening.
Primary schools enviornments usually so much better than secondary… which are better than university #TMSpaces
It was interesting to hear that the space doubled as theory and practical use, however I suspect that without the intersection between learning and industry that has occurred with the equipment available for use in the space, this would be much more difficult than it is.
John Goh (@johnqgoh), the energetic principal of Merrylands East PS (@merrylandseast) spoke next under the title Less is best. John spoke about being in a community with significant change occurring, with a number of students living in apartment buildings, with more apartment buildings being constructed. John made some very interesting comments. When they were looking for new furniture for the new space they looked to industry. They wanted more intimacy and more comfort in their small groups so they looked to the casinos. There were some quiet gasps of shock at that statement, but the reasoning makes sense. Casinos utilise the horseshoe shape for their gaming tables to create a sense of intimacy with the operator of that game, and the chairs are designed to be able to be sat in, comfortably, for long periods of time. They wanted to demarcate different spaces without using furniture, so they ended up utilising carpet to do this.
John also stressed that we need to use our space far better than we do at the moment, and showed images of students around a table coffee-shop style. He pointed out that when we go to a coffee shop with friends, that three or four people will gather around very small tables, each with our coffee and often a plate with food on it with no issues. Yet the same table in a classroom would be used for only one or maybe two students as it would be too small for any more than that. John’s view is that tables are full of redundant space; storage for our students’ pencil case, drink bottle or other things which are not needed moment to moment and thus can be stored elsewhere for access as needed, such as under the chair. I came across this great example (top left image in panel below) while in conversation with someone at FlipConAus last week.
John made the point, as had others, that we need to change how we conceptualise the purpose of learning spaces, and that when re-furnishing after a change, that it is easier and better to start with less and add more in as it is directly needed. He also mentioned that this is significantly cheaper as you are not paying for furniture that you end up not using and putting into storage. He reminded us that it is important to allow our students the opportunity to work outside when practicable as well. They utilise vertical gardens in the school and also local outside spaces, such as parks.
John’s final point, which I think is critical, was that the pedagogy should drive the learning, which should in turn drive the space.
I will leave you with some more PicCollage’s that I put together from the school tour I was given at St. Stephen’s College, Coomera, last week. St Stephen’s was the host venue for the very first FlipConAus, and is a remarkable premises. The first is a collection of images from around the school, including the library. The second is the staffroom and attached office annexes for staff.
“A good teacher, like a good entertainer first must hold his audience’s attention, then he can teach his lesson.” – Attributed to John Henrik Clarke
I am taking a deviation from the recent videos with this one. Something a bit more fun to utilise, and still with some benefits educationally. This video shows you what Kahoot looks like, how to find Kahoots created by others. and how to preview them. A discussion of the benefits of them is included, though only briefly due to time. I will include more on that aspect in the next video on creating a Kahoot.
Henrietta Miller (@henriettam) speaking under the heading How sixteen chairs and twenty-eight students work. Henrietta opened by indicating that her first steps with changing learning spaces began with the opening of the bi-fold doors that separated her classroom from the next. This transformed two separate rooms into a single large room with two teachers, and was a small step. Take small steps, initially was a key theme throughout the night from the majority of speakers, as this will allow staff and students alike to adjust and get used to the idea of change and how it will impact their learning. Following on from this, Henrietta indicated that at the beginning of 2015, any walls in the two (now one) rooms that could be knocked out, were knocked out, which had this reaction from one attendee:
Oh, for the money to 'just knock down a wall'! #tmspaces
The remaining walls were transformed into functional walls through the use of whiteboard paint. The other key decision that was made was that no new furniture was purchased. This idea was echoed by a number of presenters on the night and the back channel indicated some agreement, in general, to the idea.
You don't need a chair and table for every student #TMSpaces
This drastic change necessitated that some retraining be done, for the students, as to how they thought about and utilised the learning space, moving towards considering what learning would be taking place in the session, what kind of learning space would be needed for that learning to take place and moving into that learning space, making use of a range of furniture. The need for retraining about how a learning space is conceived and utilised is a valid point, and it was pointed out by Cathy Maguire and Kylie Norburn that an induction into non-traditional learning spaces would be highly beneficial to teachers, both those already on staff, as well as new teachers as they entered the space in order to allow teachers to make full use of the learning space. Greg Longney (@Geelong71) also made the point, echoing that of Mark Liddell’s, that a change in learning spaces requires a change in culture. Monique Dalli (@1moniqued) took this further and commented that change without support can ‘fear out’ our students, causing them to react negatively in a range of ways. As many noted, starting with small changes is key, and this includes not attempting to change too much at any single point in time.
A common point throughout the evening was that there is a need for more usable space in the classroom, and Henrietta’s suggestion was to remove the teacher’s desk from the room. Create a place where belongings can be securely and safely stored, and then dump the desk. The space it takes up and the clutter that they often create, and the perils of storing something deep inside, never to be seen again, outweigh any benefits of having a desk. Additionally, it was noted, they create a barrier between the teacher and the students. Removing the desk creates an entirely new space that can be utilised in a variety of ways in different contexts.
Greg Longney (@Geelong71) followed on from Henrietta, talking to us about a building named C Block, but known as Cell Block, that was loathed by students. Greg indicated that a new Head of School wanted to reorganise and this is what followed:
After the reorganisation was completed, the new space was promptly over-filled with furniture, much of which was not actually wanted and Greg was quite strong on the point that the accountant should not be the one doing the ordering. The benefits of the change to the learning space however included significantly more natural light (generally a good thing), an increase in the amount of team-teaching that occurred and the ability to transform how the space was used and the learning activities that were able to be undertaken by students.
A very interesting point that Greg made was the review process undertaken by staff at the end of term, in the new space.Greg said that whiteboards were spread around the room, each with a different focus, and staff were asked to give feedback about the new learning space on the appropriate whiteboard, with a board for challenges, one for rewards etc. I feel like this is a part of the change process that often seems to be overlooked, and I like the way in which it was done in this instance at it provides an outlet for all staff. Greg did not indicate that a similar process was provided for students, however, I believe that that would have been a valuable process also. Greg closed by re-making a recurring theme; a changed learning space requires a changed culture.
Cathy Maguire and Kylie Norburn followed on, and they indicated that they began their change by removing the majority of furniture in a room to see how students coped and that changing the student culture around the learning space was, for them, a natural process. Students can, in their experience, see that the school and the staff are working to provide a higher quality learning space and it follows that the students will have a higher level of respect for the learning environment. I do not necessarily agree that this will be the case in every context, but as a general rule, I can see their point.
The big step that they made was to ensure that all furniture was light and movable to allow a high degree of flexibility and seating options for students. They made a very interesting point, that not all students will always need a hard surface at the same time. I am not entirely sure that I agree with the sentiment, as I can certainly envision situations where you do need all students to have access to a hard surface to lean upon as they write. However, I agree that it does not necessarily need to be a table. The point was made that there are other options.