FTPL – Word Online

In this episode of Flipped Teacher Professional Learning, I walk through the layout of Word Online and give you two examples of how it can be used as a collaboration tool in your classroom.

Click here for the full list of FTPL videos.

#FlipConAdl 2016 Day Two Part Three

“I have words, not sure how wise they are”
-Ken Bauer

After our visit to Glenunga International High School (GIHS) (which you can read about here and here) was completed, we returned to Brighton Secondary School (BSS) for lunch, after which we engaged in a debrief session. We were given the dates for upcoming events, including FlipCon New Zealand in June and FlipCon Sydney in October. Following that, Jon Bergmann and Ken Bauer took to the stage with microphones each to start the school tour debrief by sharing some of their own observations and reflections about their tour of BSS. There were some microphones spread around the room for delegates to share their observations and reflections on their of either GIHS or BSS.

Jon spoke about how he saw students who owned their learning, but not learning to pass a test, although that is part of the process, but to own their learning for learning’s sake.Ken spoke about how he could see that teachers are sharing resources, ideas, and skills, which I personally think is a great thing. I absolutely believe in the dissemination of ideas, resources, and knowledge in order to contribute and help the teaching profession grow.

The value and potential power of flipped feedback was a recurring theme across a number of the delegates who shared their thoughts and ideas.Danny Avalos (@danny_avalos66) spoke about the fact that the concrete skills and knowledge we teach are all available on YouTube which means we need to redefine what our purpose as teachers is. Danny indicated that he felt that it was what we do in our classrooms to engage and take our students deeper that makes the difference to them.

Delegates were also reminded of the Flipped Learning Certification course which is now being offered over at FLGlobal.org and for which delegates were offered a discount code. I have taken advantage of that and signed up to complete the course and will be doing so during the summer break. We were also challenged to create some action items to take away and actually put what we had learned into practise, which for me, was about engaging with my colleagues for next year around implementing flipped learning strategies. I would also, after getting excited about research from hearing Peter Whiting’s presentation, like to engage with some action research on flipped learning and its impacts on literacy development in infants students, but I need to sit down and have a conversation about that with my supervisor and job-share partner for next year about their interest and thoughts on engaging with that.

Ken Bauer (@ken_bauer) delivered his keynote next, and to give him due credit and to be able to write about it properly, I will review his presentation in the next article. I do not think I will be able to get it out tomorrow (Friday), as this evening is our school musical, a celebration of the school’s sixtieth anniversary. Each Stage was asssigned two decades and asked to prepare a maximum ten-minute performance for the decade and everyone has been working incredibly hard. I am very proud of my students and am excited to see them on stage this evening.

As always, thank you for reading and please leave any comments or feedback you may have. If you have missed any of the other articles in this series you can find them here.

#FlipConAdl Review Day Two Part One

Day one of FlipCon Adelaide was fantastic and you can find the articles for day one at the links in the brackets (part one, part two, part three, part four, part five) and you can also find the Storify of the tweets from day one here. Peter Whiting (@Mr_van_w) and his colleague Bill Tink (@BillTink) recorded their own reflections as a podcast which is available here and is a great reflection on the day overall from some different perspectives.

Day two promised to be a great day. Part of FlipCon Adelaide was a school tour. Delegates were offered a choice, a few weeks out, of touring the host school, Brighton Secondary School (BSS) or of touring Glenunga International High School (GIHS). Having heard Jeremy LeCornu (@MrLeCornu) speak on multiple occasions (for example, here and here) as well as Olivia O’Neill speak (here) I felt that I would be better served by and would learn more from touring a school of which I knew nothing and therefore had no preconceptions about what I would see or hear.

The initial statistics we were provided were impressive in my mind. Years Eight to Twelve and just fewer than two thousand students representing seventy-four nationalities on the one campus blew my mind, in addition to running the International Baccalaureate Diploma program as well as the South Australian Certificate of Education as parallel courses. Upon arrival at GIHS, we were greeted by the incoming Prefects as well as some of the school Executive staff. In their Performing Arts Centre, we heard a welcome address from Harry Postema, who also introduced the other speakers who would be following him, including Principal Wendy Johnson, Deputy Principal Jeremy Cogan, Innovative Pedagogies Leader Cindy Bunder and incoming Prefects Indigo and Layla.

Part of the tour would be about viewing flipped classes in action, both a technical or academic class and a hands-on or practical class. We were advised that delegates were arbitrarily divided up into the four groups for the school tours, with each group viewing different classes. There was no consideration of our own teaching contexts or faculty background as it was about seeing the flipped pedagogy in action rather than the content.

Wendy Johnson, GIHS Principal and Flipped Learning International Ambassador, was introduced next, and she spoke about the importance of pedagogy for flipped learning. The role of Innovative Pedagogies Leader at GIHS was focused on helping teachers change their pedagogy to make the best use of the reclaimed class time as a result of flipping their classes. This was facilitated by making a decision to start classes later on Wednesday mornings and make the morning a time for staff professional development and collaboration on developing pedagogies that would assist in taking the school from good to great.

As a primary teacher, we are continually reminded that the first two hours of our school day are the critical learning times when students are at their freshest cognitively and therefore this is where literacy and numeracy teaching is to take place (which makes me question the value assigned to the other key learning areas by policy makers). It is for this same reason that the decision was made to move staff professional development to the morning. Teachers typically feel the same as students in the afternoon; tired and worn out and so the retention of learning and the cognitive engagement is lowered and therefore the value of that time is reduced.

I was curious about the late start and what impact it had on the students and the opportunity to ask came during the morning tea break. The Prefects remained with us and quite confidently and willingly engaged the delegates in conversation and so I asked them about what they used that time for and whether those two hours were added back into the timetable somewhere else with late classes. We were told that they were not added back in and that what they were used for varied, as would be expected student to student. The two Prefects we were speaking with said that typically they would use it to either catch up on sleep or would get up at their normal time and use it to complete homework individual space tasks or study for exams.

Returning to Wendy’s address, she advised that they made a conscious decision to invest time and money in professional development on technology use and on pedagogical practice. The then-current model of professional development and learning was not working as teachers would draw on their own experience to form their pedagogical framework or paradigm and then listen to what was being said and take they already know or what they wanted to know. Changing that mentality was a significant challenge.

As you would perhaps expect there was some strong resistance to this change in focus on professional development but that traction won over the period of a few years and that they now have a pedagogical framework that all staff members are committed to. They utilised the mandated Teaching for Effective Learning framework as a starting point and the final GIHS Pedagogical Framework evolved from there. The clear focus from each speaker was on pedagogical improvement for students’ benefit and it was coming through not just in the words that were being said, but in how they were being said and the way that the Prefects held themselves and spoke.

We were told that the capture of learning cycle documentation (lesson plans, programs, assessment schedules etc.) was revamped to make it more a more valuable process rather than merely the satisfying of policy. I do not have notes on what that revamp looked like which leads me to believe we were not told the specifics of that. Given my current career status as an early career teacher, any guidance on making the development of learning cycle documentation more beneficial and useful is welcome.

The above statement is an interesting one and requires some unpacking. The first inference is that if you only have pockets of excellence than by deductive reasoning you must have large amounts of stagnant and / or stale teachers and pedagogies; a sad indictment on a beleaguered teaching profession. It would seem intuitive that teaching, as with any other profession or sector contains a continuum of practitioners of varying qualities and abilities. I do not know if I agree with the surface implications of the statement, however, I can understand the position that the statement is made from.

We also heard about how it was critical for the success of the change in focus that parents understood the goals and to that end, the school hosted an information night showing a unit taught using traditional pedagogies and then using contemporary pedagogies, including flipped learning. They were expecting around fifty parents, however, ended up with two hundred and fifty. Part of the education process for the parents and the students alike was that the change to flipped learning, improved pedagogies, and improved learning outcomes would not be instantaneous.

For a change of pace, we heard from two of the incoming school Prefects, Indigo and Layla. One of the key messages that came through in their address was that the change to contemporary pedagogies was not about teachers providing all of the answers to students, but that it was about the teachers guiding students to understand what questions to ask.

The message in here is one of trust and strong relationships. Students are used to playing the game of school and of being given the answers when they are unable to work it out themselves. This focus on relationships between teachers and peers is also building trust that the teachers want to work with the students for the students’ benefit.

The vision for the pedagogical framework moving forward into 2017 is that any teacher can walk into any lesson and see the required characteristics and that if that is not the case, then a conversation about why not needs to occur. It is a tough stance; however, given the process that the school has gone through to reach this point, it seems fair. The impact of this framework is especially critical given that teachers need to plan for effective use of the group space with flipped learning to ensure that students are engaging more deeply and using higher level cognitive skills and processes than in traditional classrooms.

We next heard about the flipped content or learning objects (LOs) and the delegates heard, once again, that getting hung up on the quality of the LO is not useful. The LO prepared by the students’ own teacher is the best option, and having high-level production values does not make or break the quality of the instruction imparted in the video. This assertion, which I have heard from numerous flipped educators as do you want it perfect or on Tuesday? is supported by research, such as that conducted by Peter Whiting which I wrote about here.

A key factor in this is knowing the content and the learning goal for the LO that is being developed to enable it to be created quickly, with minimum fuss and with no post-production, a practice that Joel Speranza (@JoelBSperanza) promotes and which can be seen in the below video.

Flipping does not happen every lesson, however, deep thinking and deep learning can [happen every lesson] was the message we heard next, as Cindy Bunder took the podium. Flipped classes should be more active, both mentally and physically with a focus on the Four Cs. She posited that the individual learning space should take no longer than ten minutes maximum, and should not be meaningless homework.

I asked two prefects during the morning tea break about this and was told that on average they were both completing roughly three hours of homework most nights. This was across all of their courses and they included their general revision and studying load in this time. On further probing, they both indicated that they felt that the actual homework component of their nightly workload was less than prior to flipped learning, however, that the time spent on a specific course varied depending on the context of what was being covered and how much time was spent engaging by pausing, re-watching, and taking notes from the LO.

It was interesting to hear that with flipped learning in place teachers now feel that they have time to teach key skills that are not part of the explicit curriculum such as note taking, time management, critical thinking and how to use individual time and group time to gain the maximum benefit for their learning. Direct instruction is still important within flipped learning; however, it needs to be appropriate and minimal.

At that, the opening addresses concluded and it was time for morning tea, pockets of delegates peppering GIHS Prefects with questions formed. I will leave off here and discuss the conversations I had with the Prefects and some other students as we completed the tour and our lesson observations. Thank you for reading, as always, and I would appreciate any feedback on this article. The clear message that came through from all of the speakers was that flipped learning is about and has resulted in improved pedagogies and relationships.

Learning any time, anywhere….from anyone?

“All the world is my school and all humanity is my teacher.”
– Attributed to George Whitman

Many of us, I hesitate to say all, would be familiar with the slogan learning; any time, anywhere and how it is often applied to contemporary pedagogical* movements as a type of panacea for education and improved learning outcomes. I write that as someone who has said and written it, acknowledging that that particular outcome of contemporary pedagogy is valid in its own right. At the same time, I acknowledge that it has always been the case (as evidenced by the saying every day is s school day but that our idea of what learning is and how it occurs has changed over the last twenty years or so.

I made the choice over the break, upon reflecting upon the skills and concepts that I had yet to cover with my students, to focus on learning one skill or concept very well for this term, rather than attempting to get through everything for the sake of covering all of my program. It seems to make sense to myself, and the students, on the whole, agreed with me when I have explained the situation to them over the course of yesterday and today. For Stage Three, we are looking at research skills, specifically, the ability to take good quality notes, a skill which I do not recall ever being explicitly taught, yet which is an assumed skill in both secondary school and definitely in tertiary education.

This term I am attempting to provide my Stage Three students with skills that will help them avoid the mistakes I and many of my classmates in both high school and university made, in frantically trying to copy down every single word, in not having any sort of structure to the notes, other than, perhaps, indented dot-points. I went so far as to bring in and show my students a copy of my Honours Thesis, explaining how long it was required to be, and then showing them the notes that I had made in doing my research of the literature. We talked about the benefits of good note-taking skills, not just in academic terms, but in the way that it helps to organise your thoughts and ideas.

This week was an introduction to the layout of the Cornell Note-Taking Strategy, how you set out a page, what each section is used for and a discussion of the various ways that we become more efficient note-takers through the use of abbreviations and acronyms that are contextually appropriate. I found that some of my students were struggling to understand the purpose of the left hand column, the cue word column and I was working to formulate a different explanation of the use when one of the students put it to me like this:

Is it like how when I read something for a project, I just write down the main idea of each paragraph?

Such a simple explanation, and when I used that explanation with the next class, a large number of light bulbs flicked on. It reinforced to me that even though I am the teacher, I am still a learner. This Year Six student handed me another way of explaining a skill that I had not thought of, that enabled a number of other students to engage and understand the concept that I was teaching.

*I refuse to call it twenty-first century learning anymore. That particular phrase, to my mind, something that implied forward thinking and being ahead of the curve. We are now fifteen years, coming up to sixteen years into the twenty-first century. If you are not doing twenty-first century teaching and learning, you are likely behind the curve. I also acknowledge that a some of what is considered twenty-first century learning is actually what was old, is once again, new. The skills, such as critical thinking and problem solving, listed as being twenty-first century skills are not, in fact, modern at all. They are skills that have been taught in a variety of formats, often implicitly for many years, but have been done without being explicitly taught as critical thinking, or explicitly taught as problem solving.

I do realise the apparent juxtaposition of that statement given my Twitter handle and the name of this blog, however I view those more as a statement of when rather than what I am teaching.