“Flipping is somewhere between didactic instruction and constructivism”
– Aaron Sams
Welcome back for part two of day three of the FlipConAus review. If you have missed the previous articles, you can find them here:
- Day One, Part One
- Day One, Part Two
- Day Two, Part One
- Day Two, Part Two
- Day Two Part Three
- Day Three Part One
- Storify of Day Three
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:
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.
A discussion of some subject-specific ideas for flipping followed this, which I will summarise below.
- History and Social Sciences
- Tend to be the subject with the longest lectures.
- Use the what happened as the home learning, and the why as the class learning
- This can be done quite effectively. Some examples of this can be found here.
- Think about more than just videos and problems.
- Ripe for project-based learning using real-world issues.
- My school is having a site rebuild, with construction taking place next year, and I fully intend to utilise the learning opportunities therein in the classroom.
- Lots of opportunities to turn home into the learning and the class into the practice space, with all interactions in the language being studied
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.
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
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.
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.
Jon and Aaron reminded us of a very important fact that we need to consider when flipping and where we add the value as professionals:
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.