#FlipConAus Review – Day Three Part One

““If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”
– Unknown, attributed to various people.

This article begins the review of the third and final day of the first FlipConAus. It was another big day, and will likely be spread across two or perhaps three articles. If you have missed the previous articles in this review series, please see the links below

My day began with Crystal Caton (@cmcaton) speaking under the title How we flipped and you can too, and her first point was one that I had not heard made up til that point. Planning your flip is critical to its success. There are lots of ways to begin planning and thinking about your flip, but Crystal contended that asking yourself what is your need or purpose for flipping is a useful starting point. Identify why it is that you want to flip, and what you hope to gain from it. Each teacher will have potentially a different rationale for flipping their classroom, but it needs to be explicitly understood as that will drive how you utilise flipped learning. She asked us to think about it, in the session, and to consider why it is that we wanted to flip. Personally, I want to flip so that I am able to spend more time with individual students and build the relationships that will allow me to understand their needs as learners better. I also would like to utilise it to, over the long term, create more time in class for more involved learning tasks that take students deeper.

Crystal acknowledged that there will be lots of barriers, but pointed out that investing some time in identifying these barriers before you flip will allow you to have a range of strategies available to you for overcoming them when they occur. Having a range of strategies available to you will increase the likelihood of sticking with flipped learning as a pedagogical practice,  as there will be less stress involved in overcoming those challenges than without preparation. Crystal also pointed out that many of the challenges in a flipped learning context are also challenges in a regular learning context, and so leaning on those as reasons to not flip make very little sense.

Crystal was also adamant that we need to sell flipped learning to our students as much as to their parents and our colleagues or supervisors. Many students are used to the game of school, and understand how to play it successfully, and changing the game on them mid-way through will create a significant amount of anxiety for some students. Selling it to them; explaining the what, how and why of flipped learning to students prior to implementing it will help to relieve much of that angst. This can be done via flipped pedagogies as well, much as you can sell and explain flipped learning to many parents by flipping the parent-teacher meeting.

Crystal reiterated a point made often during the conference, which is that there are no experts in flipped learning at this point in time, as we are all still learning the craft of flipping and refining our pedagogical practice, however, part of the challenge of implementing flipped learning is determining what successful implementation will look like for you in your context. This is, again, something that will look different for different teachers, and success in your context may well be considered to be a failure in another, however if it means success in your context, then it means success. This is the same as differentiating the success criteria for our students in class.

Crystal’s final point was in regards to forward-planning. She indicated that as part of our planning that we should also consider where we would like to be in one year in regards to our flipping (this is in reference to the flipping journey beginning with Flipping 101 as discussed by John and Aaron in their keynote speech, discussed here). This will allow us to backward map what we need to do to achieve that goal, in relation to professional development, to flipping new or different units of subject areas and in relation to critical reflection.

My next session was in the schools language building, and I saw the sign in my tweet above taped to one of the walls and seeing Sean Bean, in yet One does not simply… meme made me laugh, particularly given the truth behind it (though Google Translate is getting better). My next session was with Jeremy LeCornu (@MrLeCornu, Jeremy’s website) under the heading  My Flipped Classroom.

Jeremy began by speaking about some logistical issues around flipping, pointing out that Technical Support and Digital Learning Coordinator (or similar titled positions) are very different roles, and that if you are not the technical support person, then you are not the technical support person. Jeremy was open that flipping, and building up a bank of flipped resources takes time as you can only film one video at a time, no matter how good your time management of planning skills. One thing which Jeremy showed us which I thought was an excellent idea, is the use of two cameras. Jeremy’s little studio utilised a camera, set up in the regular position to record Jeremy’s face, while he has another, mounted above him pointing straight down, to capture what he is doing / writing in front of him.

The finished product looks like this:

This has lots of benefits, including the ability to show exactly what you are doing, as well as describing it. It also alleviates the issue which faces many flippers which is when you film in front of a whiteboard, you are then facing away from the camera (there is another solution to this, which I will discuss later*). This takes a little bit of planning in setting up, and is best done once, and then in-situ.

One obstacle which many teachers face is students ability to access their videos, as most students are unable to access YouTube and most other video-hosting sites due to internet filters at schools, whether private or public. One way of getting around this is to utilise the school server to store videos which then enables students to save the videos they need for that night to a USB if they do not have internet access at home. This also works if your school 1:1 program is laptops rather than tablets (or your tablets have USB ports).

Part of teaching students to engage with flipped learning is teaching them to write down their questions about the explanation. The explanation does not change simply by clicking pause or rewind, and those students who are unable to understand the concept or skill after re-watching the video will need further assistance. Teaching them to write down their questions allows you to identify exactly where the students need support, and provide it to them. This is where flipped learning is beneficial in that while other students are moving on and do not need your assistance, you can give the one to one or small group help that is required, without holding up other students.

Jeremy also discussed the negative connotations surrounding homework, generating a discussion around renaming it as home learning. While for some this will seem like a superficial exercise in semantics, through education of parents and students, it will, in fact, change the conception of the process now known as homework.

Jeremy next showed us VersoApp, a tool that he utilises in class for discussions. Students post comments, questions or replies, which to them, are all anonymous, protecting those who are too shy to verbalise in a traditional class discussion. In teacher view, however, all the names are shown which allows the teacher to stay on top of inappropriate postings.

We, as an audience, utilised Verso to respond to a question, generating the conversation about how Verso functioned and could be utlilised in class. Jeremy then led a discussion about why creating your own videos is a better option than curating others’ videos and made the point that you should be, as much as possible, the same on camera as you are in the classroom. He made an observation that many teachers tend to become rigid and staid in their delivery when on camera, even if that is not their teaching personality in the classroom. Being the same on video is an important part of building the relationships with our students.

Both Crystal’s and Jeremy’s sessions were very well delivered, and also well attended. I really appreciated the observations that both Crystal and Jeremy made and some of the tools and ideas they presented to help flip a classroom. Thank you for reading and if you have any follow-up questions or comments, please leave them in the comments section. Tomorrow, I will explore Jon and Aaron’s second keynote speech and begin to wrap up the conference.

*Another alternative is the lightboard. For examples of what this looks like and how to make one, watch this video, this video or this video. Joel Speranza has made one since FlipConAus, and I thought he had posted a video showing how he made it, but I cannot find where it is.

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#FlipConAus Review: Day Two Part Three

“Students can probably get information quicker than I can give it to them”
-Warren McMahon

Welcome back for a special Saturday edition of the blog, today I am continuing my review of day two of FlipConAus. If you have missed the previous articles in this series, they can be found below.

In the previous article, I explored the Primary Panel discussion session. After the panel discussion, I headed off to listen to Warren McMahon speak under the title Flipping – Can I really do it? After having everyone introduce themselves, Warren’s first point was that flipping works in different ways for different people according to their specific context. What works for one teacher in one subject area will not necessarily work for another teacher of the same grade level in the same subject area as the specific context will be different.

Part of the conversation was around the support for flipped learning that can be found within AITSL, within the Illustrations of Practice as part of the Highly Accomplished Teacher and that it is a recognised pedagogical approach by those charged with certifying teachers in Australia. One of the biggest benefits, in my view, of flipped learning, and it has come up in previous articles in this series, is the improved relationships with students that result, if the teacher puts in the effort to utilise the extra class time. Lisa Pluis, in the AITSL video, discusses that in her chemistry lessons she is able to provide more assistance to her students in tutorial-style lessons rather than the lecture style which she had been employing. What she does not explicitly discuss as a result of this, is the deeper relationships  that would result from increased time side-by-side with students helping them learn.

Warren reminded us that our students are flipping their learning without us. It is now quite natural for many students to go to YouTube to learn how to do something in a non-school context, and we should embrace this. It must be acknowledged that being a digital native does not necessarily equate to being digitally savvy, as has been pointed out here, here and here, as well as some research. This has strong implications for the classroom, where it cannot be assumed that any student is digitally savvy, and that time needs to be invested in teaching students how to get the most out of their technology.

It was also pointed out that we need to set the expectation that students are responsible for their own learning. As Antonio Porchia has been quoted as saying “I know what I have given you…I do not know what you have received,” or to use the vernacular, you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink. Some teachers have labelled flipped learning as a failure when students do not engage with the home learning and they have simply delivered it traditionally in the classroom to get them up to speed. The onus needs to be put on the student to engage with their learning and there are a range of ways of dealing with this issue, as I wrote about yesterday, but student accountability is key. Further to this, educating parents about flipped learning is also key. Before flipping the class, educate the parents what it is, and why you are doing it so that you do not get an angry phone call fro ma parent asking “why aren’t you teaching John’s class anymore?”

Warren was also adamant that you cannot be the technical support person for a teacher who is interested in flipping. You are a teacher, not a technical support person. This will be much harder in those schools which do not have a technical support staff, where, if you know anything more advanced than how to turn a computer on, you seem to become the technical support team by default, but this may be an area where flipped professional development can be useful. This is (partly) why I have been delivering Flipped Teacher Professional Learning to colleagues, to alleviate the time required to find a suitable time with those teachers wishing to engage with the technology individually.

Warren’s final point is an important one; we need to define what success will look like for us before we begin. Consider this as an action research project, and determine what a successful flipped classroom will look like for your students, prior to implementing flipped learning. Doing this, along with determining barrier to implementation and how to overcome them, will increase the chances of flipped learning being successful.

Katie Jackson was leading the next session on my agenda, How to run a maths flipped classroom. Katie spoke about some of the great reasons she saw for flipping, which were echoes of Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams, in that there were always students away for various things, and that flipping allowed those students to keep up with the learning. Katie provided some good advice, I thought, when she commented that it is still useful to prepare your lesson plan as per normal. Katie said she uses this as her script for her videos to ensure that the video is focused on the learning goal.

Katie also made the point that not only is it important to teach students how to engage with the videos, but it is equally important to teach them how to take notes, or to ask questions when implementing flipped learning. Katie was also adamant that there needs to be more than drill and skill, that learning in the classroom time needs to be authentic and deeper to make best use of the flipped model, and that where possible, learning should be made visible, which can be done, for example, by using liquid chalk and allowing students to show their learning by writing on the windows. At this point, Katie indicated that she uses MyEdApp, and handed over to Rowan and Yohan from MyEd and they walked the audience through how to use the site. I have written about myEd in the past, and I still believe it to be a fantastically useful tool to use in conjunction with flipped learning.

Katie’s session was the last one for the day that was structured. The final time slot for the day was devoted to subject-specific networking. This was to be self-driven by the participants, and in the primary cohort, at least, there was some excellent discussion and networking, and I was able to catch up with a few educators that I have interacted with on Twitter for some time, but not actually met in person, which was great.

I am unlikely to get an article out tomorrow due to prior commitments. If that is the case, the review of day three at FlipConAus will begin on Wednesday. Until then, thank you for reading, and please, leave your questions and comments below.

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