The C21 Teaching Review Week 9

This has been a tumultuous week with a lot of just started a new job cognitive dissonance going on but also being away from my family for a week while in Melbourne for FutureSchools 2017. I am in the process of writing further review articles on the back of sessions that I attended and they will be added to this list if they are published today, or to next week’s list if they are published tomorrow (or later). Ideally, however, I will get them all done today so that I can spend tomorrow with my family and then be free to focus on work as of Monday.

The C21 Teaching Review – Week 6

It has been another great week. Here are the articles I posted over at C21 Teaching during Term One, Week Six. As always, head over to c21teaching.com.au for the most up to date articles, Flipped Teacher Professional Learning videos and free resources.

As a heads up, there will be a special announcement article coming on Tuesday afternoon.

  • FTPL – Using DocHub to save time
    • In this episode of Flipped Teacher Professional Learning, I demonstrate how to use DocHub to fill out, sign and send forms back to their recipient without needing to print them out, complete them, and scan them in.
  • FutureSchools Timetable Preview – Day One
    • I am going to FutureSchools 2017, which is in Melbourne this year, and this article outlines a preview of the sessions that I am looking forward to attending courtesy of the media pass that I have been provided by the conference organisers.
  • TMCoast Term One 2017
    • My regular readers would be aware that I am on the TeachMeet Central Coast (TMCoast) organising committee. We have an exciting event planned for Thursday 16 March for our Term One TeachMeet celebrating Aboriginality in education. All the details, including where to register are in this article.
  • Friday Freebie – Stage One Physical Education and Sports Program
    • This week’s Friday Freebie was a semester-long program that covered both physical education (fundamental movement skills) and sport for Stage One.

C21 Teaching Weekly Term One Week Four

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.

Recent Articles

  • FTPL – Using GForms as a booking platform.
    • In this video, I show you how you can use Google Forms to create a system for booking interviews so that the options are removed from the list as they are selected. You can find the full list of Flipped Teacher Professional Learning videos by clicking here.
  • SMART Goals
    • I reflect on the way which SMART goals are used in my refereeing career comparative to my teaching career.
  • Why I am not applying to become an ADE in 2017
    • I reflect on why I was considering and ultimately decided not to apply to become an Apple Distinguished Educator in the 2017 intake.
  • FutureSchools 2017 Conference Overview
    • A summary of the different conference streams at FutureSchools 2017 and some highlights of particular talks that I believe will be interesting. You can find all the articles in my FutureSchools 2017 series by clicking here.
  • FTPL – Using GForms for checking in and out
    • In this video, I show you how you can create a checkout/check-in system for bookable resources. This could be used in a class library, for managing personal resources that colleagues borrow or for creating an easy to use and access register of visitors and other personnel on site for use in emergency situations. You can find my full Flipped Teacher Professional Learning video library here.
  • FutureSchools 2017 Masterclass Preview
    • In this article, I preview each of the Masterclass options for FutureSchools 2017. You can find all the articles in my FutureSchools 2017 series by clicking here.
  • Team Teaching
    • I reflect on the benefits I have discovered thus far working in a team teaching context.
  • Friday Freebie – Writing Observation Template
    • In this article, I share a resource that I have found very useful in helping to make the marking process of my students’ writing more valuable and useful as assessment of learning and assessment for learning.

That is all for this week. Please head over to c21teaching.com.au to stay up to date with my FTPL videos, my Friday Freebies and my reflections on practice.

FutureSchools Review – Day 1 Session 3 – Masterclass with Jennie Magiera

Welcome back for my review of session three of Jennie Magiera’s master class at FutureSchools 2016. If you have missed the previous two articles, you can read about session one here and session two here. The day to this point had been full of energy and excitement, had been engaging and for me, personally, very much worthwhile attending. I feel that the badging concept discussed in session two was something that I could potentially implement in my classroom whereas when I have heard about badging in the past, such as here, I have been left feeling that it falls into the too hard basket. This session, however, was full of activities that I feel confident that I could take back to my school and implement in either the staffroom or the classroom, within the appropriate context.

Jennie spoke about IEP’s, or Individual Education Plans, a document utilised to help with planning for and making adjustments for students with additional needs (whether that be below or above the grade standard) and how they are a document often perceived negatively and that we need to change that perception by using them positively, for ourselves as teachers, as a method of focusing on a single problem, what Jennie termed a problem of practice.

david-sipress-there-s-nothing-to-be-scared-of-mrs-miller-it-s-just-another-teaching-cartoon
Retrieved from tinyurl.com/hnshoze 5th March 2016

When Jennie first entered the role of Chief Technology Officer (CTO) within her school district in the United States, she said that she found she would enter a school and that teachers there would literally turn and run in the opposite direction; “she’s the tech lady who’s here to make us use tech!” Jennie wanted, and needed, a way of changing the perception of technology in education0, this ethereal and magical thing that Jennie heard teachers downplay their self-efficacy with “I’m no good at technology.” It is a refrain that I have heard far too often.

The Teacher Individual Exploration Plan (TIEP) that Jennie formulates is a different approach to thinking about technology in the hands of teachers. The object is to shift the focus from getting better with technology to getting better as educators. The second goal is one that we should all be striving for, one which teachers the world over invest time and money out of their own account, investing in their ability to be a better teacher.  Jennie came up with what she called gripe jam.

screenshot2013-05-15at9-20-30am
Retrieved from tinyurl.com/z3k2k775 March 2016

Gripe jam is a process which consists of every teacher in the room having a stack of post-it notes (side-story: Jennie found that having too many post-it notes in your luggage registers as bomb-components with customs! Apparently it has something to do with the adhesive used on them), and when presented with various daily scenarios, the teachers write down all the problems they encounter in that scenario with one problem per post-it note, and generally only one to two minutes per scenario. We all complain about something in our lives, but when was the last time you were not only given permission, but encouraged to do so?

The scenarios were daily situations that she refers to as problem catalysts, linking this process to the wonder catalyst from session one, and were typical situations that any teacher would be able to relate to; arriving first ting in the morning, the middle of the first teaching block, planning / marking time, professional development sessions run by the school, preparing for the start of a new school year etc. The key here, as with the wonder catalyst process, is not to audit the problems. It does not matter what anyone else at your table, in your school or in your district office thinks of that issue, if you perceive it as a problem, than for the purposes of this exercise, it is a problem.

Step two involves arranging all of your problems into a continuum from most frustrating to least frustration, in a single line. For this, participants need to spread out so they have approximately an arm-span worth of free space to allow them to order their post-it notes into one continuous line. Jennie indicated that there can be no ties, that you must have a single line of problems, ranking every problem as more or less frustrating as the others. It is also critical here that you rank them based on how frustrating you find the problem. Not your colleagues / students/parents / administrators etc., just your frustration level.

The next step turns this ranked list into a scatterplot and is aimed at reflecting on how many people are frustrated by the same thing. If you are the only person who finds something frustrating, then you would move it down the y-axis, if everyone is frustrated by it, then you would move it up the y-axis.  This process allows you to reflect on then audit for the purposes of creating the scatterplot, how widespread the impact of this problem is felt within your context, and can end up looking something like this:

IMG_1575
A photo of my post-it note scatterplot.

 

At this point I was wondering what the point of the exercise was. Despite being intrigued and finding it personally useful to categorise the problems and their relative levels of importance to each other, I could not yet see the overall purpose. The next step was brief; leaving your scatterplot in place, draw a star on those problems that you think you may be able to address or fix with the right resources. This was about looking at a problem and thinking “if I had x then I could probably do y about it, which might resolve part of the issue.” Additionally, we were to place a circle on those problems that we were passionate about, that thing in your school that you see as catastrophic and that you want to engage with and solve where no-one else is interested or sees a problem.

This was something that I could understand in terms of its purpose relative to the task and my career as a teacher, and there were a few problems or issues in my scatter plot that, with the right resources and support, I believe I could potentially influence and accordingly added a star to those issues. It was the subsequent step, however, that I found to be the most powerful and useful.

With scatterplots in place, indicating how frustrating the issue was to you personally as well as how many people also felt the frustration, with some indication on the post-it notes of your passion or belief about your ability to influence the problem positively, Jennie instructed us to go on a gallery walk. This involved us leaving our scatterplot in place and moving about the room, looking at other people’s scatterplots, looking for two things and leaving a mark on their post-it note, or a post-it note of our own per the image below.

Gallery walk
Jennie’s instructions for leaving marks on others’ posit-notes during the gallery walk.

Looking at other teachers’ scatterplots and seeing problems that I was facing as well was reassuring; as it meant that I was not alone in facing x, that it was encountered by others, and from conversations with others in the room, I was not the only person who felt relieved in making those observationsThe second aspect of the gallery walk was to leave either an idea or our contact details whenever we came across a problem that we felt we could positively contribute to. Personally, I returned to some advice on one of my post-it notes, which I will be able to follow-up on later, and I noticed a number of other scatterplots also had ideas and contact details, hopefully which the owner of the scatterplot found useful.

At this point, we returned to the TIEP form, which Jennie has kindly given permission for me to share via the blog, asking that I note that it will be included in her upcoming book, Corageous Edventures. So I include a blank template of the TIEP here for you to access, in MS Word format.

After selecting one problem to focus on, and ignoring the rest for the moment, you need to get to know the problem, detailing as much as you can about what the problem is, factors impacting on the cause or the lack of a solution, what has been tried in the past as a solution to the problem, and what parts of that solution did and did not work as well as why, which looks like this on the TIEP form:

Problem of Practice
The Problem of Practice section of Jennie Magiera’s TIEP Form

Jennie related problems to the radio waves by reminding us that at any given moment there are dozens of radio station signals in the air in a big city, but that it is only by focusing your tuner on one radio band that you can listen to a station clearly. We need to select one problem of practice to focus on, otherwise our attention and effort is diluted across many issues, and each will suffer because of that. Jennie indicated that it is the same with attending conferences, that we should go with one problem of practice to which we want to obtain some ideas, help, tips or solutions for in order to focus our attention, our note-taking, and before all of that, our choice of conference stream and workshop enrolment, a tip that I have heard previously from Kirsty Nash (@NasherK), via Dr Inger Mewburn’s blog The Thesis Whisperer (@thesiswhisperer).

This led to a discussion about teacher-led models of professional development. EdCamps are a crowd-sourced model with no presenters’ per-se , which does not need to be done face-to-face as they are now often offered via Google Hangouts. EdCampHome (@edcamphome) offers kits that lay out how to organise and run an EdCamp if that is a route you wish to go down. Further to that, Google Hangouts on the air (GHOTAs) allows you to have up to fifteen actively engaged participants who all have @education.gov accounts. This of course does not take into account the ability for an unlimited number of others to participate via simply watching the GHO and participating via a backchannel such as Twitter (GHOTA FAQ page)

A virtual Professional Learning Network (VPLN) is also an important tool to continuously access professional learning on a topic or area that is of interest to you, outside of the professional development that is being offered in your school community. The added bonus here is that you can access a VPLN anywhere and anytime you are connected, which, with the ubiquitous nature of smart phones in society, is essentially anywhere, bring us around to a current buzzphrase:

mainbox5
Retrieved from tinyurl.com/h9qswfe on 5 March 2016

There is one more activity which Jennie took us through, another hands-on process which can be implemented easily in the school, which I will leave for the next article. For now, thank you for reading this, another lengthy article, and as always, I would appreciate any feedback whether here or via Twitter.

Jump straight to Session Three Part Two.

Planning ahead for 2016

“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.

Where the rubber hits the road

One of the most exciting and practical speakers, for me, from the FutureSchool expo in Sydney this year was the Flipped Learning Masterclass lead by Jon Bergmann that I was fortunate enough to attend. When I was offered the temp block that I have for the coming term, I decided that I was going to flip at least some of my classes.

I’ve finally finished my programming, and it is now time for the rubber to hit the road, and for me to actually record the videos that I will use with my classes. I have just finished recording and editing my first video, and it is currently rendering in Camtasia 8. It was a long process, with a lot of time devoted to my attempts to figure out the best way with the space and tools I had to record the actual video, and then how to get the video off the iPad onto the computer and into Camtasia. That was more of an ordeal than it needed to be.

This particular video is a book study in the leadup to ANZAC Day here in Australia. I was able to source the book And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda by Eric Bogle, and the song (also by Eric Bogle) of the same name. I recorded myself reading the book on an iPad, and then took a photo of each page and stitched it together.

For a first effort, I think it is reasonable. I certainly want to fine tune things for further videos, and I will be looking into chromakey to enable me to be a bit more precise with the video work.

I’d love to hear some feedback on the video from anyone who has been flipping for a while, or has experience with chromakey work as to any tips they may have.

Temp Block Ahoy!

“dum loquimur, fugerit invida aetas: carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero.”

Translation:

“While we speak, envious time will have {already} fled: seize the day, trusting as little as possible in the next day.”

-The Horatian Odes 1.11

I would like to think that I have managed to impress my readers that I enjoyed and valued my time at the FutureSchools expo, ClassTech conference stream and the Masterclass with Jon Bergmann. I also was able to spend some time wandering around the exhibitors stalls, chatting with a few, and networking with other educators from around the country.

Whilst chatting with an e-learning Leader from Melbourne and an Assistant Principal from Brisbane, I received a text message from a Deputy Principal at one of the schools at which I do casual/supply/relief  teaching (I discovered during conversations at FutureSchools that the term ‘casual teacher’ is not universally used) with an offer for a temporary block at their school for term two. I would be acting as a teacher-librarian, and the role would be four days a week for the full term, with the remit to teach computer and research-skills as appropriate for the various age groups from K-6 within the school.

Naturally, I said yes, and have since spent much of my time plotting through what I want to achieve, how I can implement some of my learnings from FutureSchools to this block and how to go about setting the students up to achieve the skills and conceptual understanding I want for them, and also to be able to transfer those skills and concepts to other disciplines. I very much will be working to incorporate flipping, whether it be in-flipping or out-flipping, as well as leveraging student interests such as Minecraft, and trying to shift the locus of control to my students, away from myself, as recommended by Gary Stager when he said during his closing presentation for the ClassTech conference, “Every time you have to engage in an educational transaction, ask if there is more they can do and less you can do to give your students more agency.”

It is a rather exciting time, and at the moment I feel a little bit like this guy:

ifw-so-little-time-so-much-to-do

So it is time to switch off the modem, and take my own advice and start Planning for Learning so that I can provide a draft of my program to my supervisor for feedback asap.

I think the hardest part is going to be remembering all of my students’ names when I only have the classes once or twice a week. Wish me luck!

FutureSchools Masterclass review – Flipped Class with Jon Bergmann

After looking through the masterclass options (as outlined in this article) I opted to enroll in the masterclass with Jon Bergmann, focusing on the Flipped Class. Primarily, I selected this class as the class I was in during my internship was trialing, at that point, 1:1 BYODD utilising iPads, and was ‘sort of’ using the flipped class, using what Jon Bergmann calls in-flipping where the instructional videos are watched by students in the classroom, rather than at home, and I found it to be highly effective, and wanted to learn more about how to implement it.

If you are currently scratching your head, wondering what the flipped classroom and flipped learning is, then I recommend reading this article, or this article, or watching the below video, which together, do a good job of explaining what flipping is about. Much of what Jon talked about in terms of the why to flip, during the masterclass, is covered in either the above articles, or the below video. The one point which I don’t believe is made clear in the video or the articles is that flipped brings a visual element to the explicit teaching of our students, an idea which Ian Jukes made plain in his presentation, is something we as educators should be doing more of.

A lot of the masterclass consisted of Jon walking us through various tools, pitfalls, and strategies for success when flipping, and there was a wide range of people, from myself as a K-6 casual teacher, to a high school mathematics teacher, to IT or e-learning people, all with different levels of experience, in different parts of Australia, in different educational structures (government, non-government, primary, secondary, tertiary). I will try to condense the nine pages of notes that I took down to a reasonable length, which I think will be quite manageable. Jon did also mention that he and Aaron Sams have released some books in the “How to flip….” series, starting with “Flipping Your English Class to Reach All Learners.”

First of all, three key resources that Jon listed were flippedclass.com, flippedlearning.org and flippedclassroom.org. While they do all sound the same, they serve very different purposes. From memory, flippedclass is the for core website for starting off on the discovery of how and why to flip, flippedlearning.org is a not-for-profit organisation and flippedclassroom.org is an online community of flippers.

The first thing Jon showed us, was just part of his toolbelt for the presentation, which was mirroring his laptop onto his iPad using an app called Doceri. This allowed him to move around the room while he talked, and still interact and manipulate the laptop, not only moving back and forth between the slides, but to change applications, make notes and do anything else that he would ordinarily need to be at the computer to do.

Jon was quick to point out that any subject area can be flipped, telling us the story about the PE teachers that he mentions in the above video, and reiterated that the key question you need to ask yourself is what is the best use of my face-to-face time?” The answer to this question conceptually be the same for all subject areas – more time to do stuff. What that stuff is, will of course differ from subject to subject.

Jon showed us a clip, which I have included below, which anyone who lived in the 1980s will know, and which I will not give any further introduction too, as an example of what teaching often feels like for our students, and said that it has to be better than this, or as Gary Stager put it, “those that know better, should do better.”

Interactive whiteboards are simply glorified chalkboards and don’t actually change the pedagogy, resulting in classrooms that are still teacher-centric. He pointed out that everything we teach is already on the internet, in some form, and that we need to move towards more inquiry and discovery, a theme which I suspect Gary Stager would agree with.

Jon then spoke about some strategies for flipping particular subject areas. English, he said, you would only flip partially. You would still need to read the book, but the explicit instruction about particular themes, ideas, or plot lines could be done via flipping. He also pointed out that the writing conference could be flipped. He pointed out that teachers have to mark and provide feedback on writing anyway, so why not film it as its being done and providing higher quality feedback than you can write in just a few lines.

Session two of the day was about the tools. Jon strongly recommends recording your own videos, as it lends the personal touch, and helps foster the relationship between you and your students, and also you and your students’ parents. It will also help with the claims that you are no longer teaching your students. There are four tools to master in flipping your classroom: video creation, video hosting, video interaction and learning management. The first two, I think, are fairly straight forward as to what they are. Video interaction is about setting the videos up to have interactions, such as formative questions during the video, whilst learning management is about the management of the process of tracking and recording and monitoring students’ learning progress. Jon quickly pointed out that there are a plethora of options when it comes to tools, and that the best tool is the one that you’ll use, and that tools need to be easy for all to use.

13 Tips to Making a Good Video

Jon spoke about his thirteen tips to making a good video.

  1. Keep it short – no more than 1 to 1.5 minutes per grade level. E.g. Year five videos should be no longer than 5 to 7.5 minutes, whilst year twelve videos should be no longer than twelve to eighteen minutes.
  2. Animate your voice – don’t be the economics teacher from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
  3. Work with a partner. Utilising a colleague, or an inquisitive student in your videos models interaction, and provides a different voice for students to hear, and also allows for genuine questioning of concepts to facilitate elaboration or re-explanation in different language.
  4. Add humour.
  5. Audio matters – the key to a good video is a quiet room and a noise cancelling microphone.
  6. Less text more images (I think Jon was channeling Ian Jukes again).
  7. Utilise annotations on screen where appropriate
  8. Insert or splice in video clips where appropriate.
  9. Picture in picture – if you are screencasting, have your face visible through picture in picture.
  10. Use callouts and zooms.
  11. Embed quizzing (this is the video interaction component I mentioned earlier).
  12. Make sure that you are copyright compliant.

Jon went through some of the software options for each of the four tools that need to be mastered. Thankfully, he has included a very brief (a few dot-points) review on the flippedclass website. For the video creation tools, click here. For the video hosting tools, click here. For the video interaction tools, click here (It does need to be noted that there is one tool missing from the video interaction list, which Jon only discovered whilst at the FutureSchools expo, and that is myEd. I’m currently trialling it, under a thirty day free trial option, and am very much leaning towards purchasing myself a single-user license. Jon said he would explore it and include it in the list once he had done so). For the Learning Management tools, click here (myEd also fits into this category).

After discussing the different tools and their features, Jon challenged us all to select a tool that we had not used before, and to make a one-minute video including a subtle reference to a kangaroo and the opera house. I had not come to the masterclass with an iPad or a laptop, which in hindsight was rather silly of me, and so I paired off with a high school mathematics teacher from the Gold Coast who was experimenting with Screencast-o-matic,

The third session was a continuation of the discussion around tools, including showing us where to access the repository of (unscreened by Jon or Aaron), videos created by teachers around the world for flipping, which are organised by subject, with notes for the age/year level the videos were made for and who made them. This can be accessed here. We watched short sections of a few videos and as a group discussed what did and did not work for those videos, and what made them engaging (or not). He also showed us the collection of two other, separate teachers Jonathan Thomas-Palmer’s Flipped Physics (example below) and Mr Brown’s 3rd Grade Class website.

The question was asked about how to convince skeptics of the flipped movement, and Jon thoughtfully showed us how to access the bank of research that he and Aaron have collated onto the flippedlearning website, which includes case studies, white papers, and research done by both Jon and Aaron, as well as other educational researchers.

The conversation again turned to the pitfalls of flipping, and Jon reiterated the point that it’s not just creating the videos and sending the students home to watch them. We need to teach them how to interact and engage with them, which is different to just watching Spiderman or Star Wars. This is best done by doing it together, in the classroom – in-flipping, for the first period of time, the length of which will vary depending on your context (age of students, topic etc). It is largely about teaching them how and why to take notes and to organise those notes, and recommended the Cornell system for doing so. Taking the time to ensure that your students know how to engage with the video and not just watch it will provide dividends down the road, with improved effectiveness of the flipped structure and improved outcomes accordingly.

The final session of the day, was the what next? step. After we have been flipping for a few years, and have got Flipping 101 down pat, what comes next? Jon talked about their being different paths, and which one is taken will vary, again on the context. The choices are flipped mastery, peer instruction, the introduction of growth of project based learning, mastery with gamification, and genius hour. A lot of this discussion centered around the fact that flipping creates more time in the class, and it needs to be decided how to use this time.

Providing choice days for students (as opposed to activity days) where students are empowered to pursue any question, problem or interest that they choose provides agency, and can lead to higher levels of engagement when it is an activity day, as students are aware that they have time for for self-directed and self-chosen learning. It does of need to be done within a framework, where students are held accountable for their learning through having to provide evidence of learning, in some form. Providing time for students to be metacognitive about their learning also provides benefits, and can be done either by the student on their own, with a peer or as a student led student-teacher conference.

Coming to the end, Jon outlined the four biggest hurdles that need to be overcome to successfully implement the flipped classroom.

  1. Flipping the thinking of colleagues/supervisors/administrators – which is essentially a process of evangelism.
  2. The time factor – recording all the videos does take time (initially, once recorded, it’s saved).
  3. The technology factor – deciding what to use, and learning how to maximise its use.
  4. Training the students, their parents and the teachers on how and why flipping is beneficial.

I am incredibly glad that I opted to attend the masterclass. It was a day well spent, and I feel much more comfortable about flipping my class, when I get one. If you’ve ever thought about it, I encourage you to give it a go. Like any new ‘thing’ it will be scary and daunting and feel hard to start with, and you will most likely be ridiculed for it, but be brave. There is a whole network of people who will support you. #flipclass is an ongoing Twitter conversation, and the Flipped Learning Network contains a series of discussion forums to help you, encourage you and give you feedback.

As always, thank you for reading, and I would really like to hear from anyone who is flipping, or is thinking of flipping to hear how you are going with it, in the comments section.

In closing this series of articles reviewing my time at the FutureSchools expo and conference, I will leave you with a video, to encourage you to be a leader in your school, and a follower within the Flipped Class movement.

FutureSchools ClassTech Conference Review. Day 2 Session 4 – the Maker revolution for learning

“Nothing beautiful is forced”
– Gary Stager

Gary Stager’s presentation was one of the presentations I was particularly looking forward to, for a whole range of reasons. He was recommended to me as a ‘must follow’ on Twitter and as someone who was at the forefront of pushing for a move towards combining curriculum and practicality through doing by one of my professors in the final year of my undergraduate degree. Accordingly, I followed him on Twitter it is an interesting read. Gary is certainly not someone who is backwards about coming forwards, and can be highly dismissive of ‘education revolutions’ that are often touted, even amongst many other educators who are seen as being ‘heavyweights’ in the education world. I have not had the pleasure of a deep dialogue with Gary, and so I cannot speak to his thinking behind his dismissal of many educational theories. That said, his presentation was highly engaging, and Gary was clearly full of energy and passion. Gary did plug his book Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom, co-authored with Sylvia Libow Martinez, which I bought a copy of and which Gary kindly signed for me, and having read the first chapter, it’s a book that gets the brain excited to change the pedagogical practices used.

Gary opened by describing computers as laboratories for expression and by saying that “young people have a remarkable capacity for intensity, we need to leverage that or it manifests as boredom,” a sentiment that I think most teachers will have seen at some point over their career. Gary quoted Seymour Papert, who said “when ideas go to school, they lose their power” when saying that the maker community has had it with school. Given that kids are the ones at the centre of the maker movement, where they have genuine choice, agency and power, and are being valued and appreciated for their skills, thinking and ingenuity, this sends a strong message to educators that our pedagogical choices are stifling our students.

Paul Hamilton said in his presentation that “[y]ou don’t start the creation of a new amazing building with a tool. You start with a design. So why on earth would you start the creation of an amazing learning experience with an app?” Gary echoed this sentiment by saying that “[…]it would be irresponsible to build a pen around a student. We need to use the materials of the environment.” He elaborated on this by commenting that when the same skills are required in the physics laboratory, as are required in the arts studio, the design room and the English class, then the lines between the discipline have been obliterated. This destruction of the traditional demarcation between the scholastic disciplines is not possible if the disciplines continue to constrain their students within specific, formulaic pens.

Educational institutions have overvalued learning with our heads and undervalued learning with hands and hearts, according to Gary. To demonstrate this point, or rather, to show what can occur when the constraints are removed, Gary played us a Sylvia’s Super Awesome Maker Show video. I’ve not been able to find the specific one that Gary showed us, but the below is one of the videos on the SuperAwesomeSylvia YouTube Channel.

Sylvia’s energy and passion is indicative of those involved in the maker movement and demonstrates that programming can go from digital to analog, or soft copy to hard copy as the programming takes place in the ‘soft copy’ or digital environment and is then turned into a hard copy when the code is activated in it’s physical; construct, whether that be a robot of some description, or some other device constructed by the maker.

The quote by Gary in the above image stunned me, until I thought about the current trend of helicopter parenting, where our students’ lives are often scheduled for every minute of the day, and that often they are short-term events such as play-dates, extra-curricular classes, and often for very short amounts of time. At school, students are told to learn in discrete blocks of time, mathematics is half an hour today, spelling is fifteen minutes, science is another half an hour and so on, and there is still very little use of discipline/curriculum integration, or sustained sessions where the students have the opportunity to dive deep into a skill or concept. The isolation of the curriculum subjects from each other also makes it hard for students to learn how to transfer skills and conceptual knowledge across the disciplines into various applications, both within the academic disciplines and the real-world applications.

This is another area in which the maker-movement is seeing great success, where skills and concepts from a range of disciplines are brought together to solve problems, with students getting their hands dirty in the actual problem solving process, as the problems are real ones that they need to be solve, as opposed to contrived ones that many teachers, myself included, either make up themselves, or pull out of a textbook for the purpose of learning how to find the length of the hypotenuse or other such ‘problems.’ These are contrived problems because the answer is already known, meaning they are not real problems, they are tests to check for students ability to remember how to apply a specific formula to a specific type of question. Gary reiterated this point when he commented that “[…]students learn a lot of vocabulary without any context.”

Gary continued along this train of thought, saying that not only do schools have a “sacred obligation” to introduce students to things they have not seen before, but that as teachers, we cannot teach twenty-first century learners if we have not learned anything this century. Unfortunately there are still a lot of teachers who have not gotten on the twenty-first century train, and still require all learning to be done on paper and written by hand. Whilst there is certainly still a place for paper and handwriting, there is more and more, no reason why much of what we do with students and their output, cannot be submitted digitally, whether it be via e-mail, Google Docs, video submission, or one of the plethora of digital submission options.

I’ll leave you today with two powerful comments that Gary left us with, to close out the ClassTech conference stream of FutureSchools Expo 2015.

“Every time you have to engage in an educational transaction, ask if there is more they can do and less you can do to give your students more agency.”

“Those of us who know better, should do better. If we won’t stand between them and the madness, then who will?”

My next article (perhaps the next two or three, depending on how much I write from my notes) will be a review of the Masterclass I attended, lead by flipped learning pioneer, Jon Bergmann.

As always, thank you for reading, and please leave a comment. I would love to hear from anyone who has successfully incorporated a makerspace into their pedagogy, or their school, and how you went about doing so, the hurdles you overcame and the opposition you faced, and how you won the naysayers over.

FutureSchools ClassTech Conference Review. Day 2 Session 3 – Stories and Robotics

After an excellent lunch with some debriefing about the round table sessions with some new friends, it was time return to the ClassTech conference stream for session three of the day, with Cathie Howe and Dr. Nerida McCredie presenting under the title Transmedia storytelling for education. It was a title that left me perplexed, as the concept of transmedia was not one I’d heard often, and never in conjunction with literacy or storytelling. They defined transmedia as being “the systematic unfolding of elements across a story world, with multiple elements in multiple platforms.” and gave Star Wars Uncut as one example of where transmedia has occurred, and listed some research papers that had informed their own project (two of these are included at the end of this article).
Cathie and Dr. McCredie elaborated on this by speaking about a project they ran called Weaving a Storyworld Web (WSWW), which was based around three principles of transmedia storytelling:

  1. Extends the world of the story, making it richer and deeper than the story alone,
  2. Includes and makes use of media components to enrich the storyworld, and
  3. Opportunity for readers to become players in and contributors to the story.

This can occur through students mining a story point to uncover a hidden gem, such as creating a list of Cinderella’s chores; through partnering with the author to expand and explore the storyworld, wherein students become ‘co-authors’ to explore and add to the storyscape  by adding to the storyworld, either before, during or after the story setting, such as adding what happened in the world of Harry Potter after the final book, or telling us about the lives of Harry Potter’s families; or by dreaming which involves students re-imagining, re-examining or recreating the story in a new way, such as re-imagining Little Red Riding Hood as a science-fiction story, or if Peter Pan’s nemesis, Captain Hook, was a woman.

This process involves significant analysis of the story, prior to the mining, partnering or dreaming stage to determine story points across themes of either character, plot or location, to ensure a thorough understanding of the storyworld, and those story points are then the triggers for learning. Story points act as anchors on discussions, and the creation of the story web, where possible should be a physical act.

Transmedia, it seems, aims to put the reader into multiple sets of shoes as they play the part of reader, viewer and co-creators through the production of transmedia artefact as part of the process.

I’m ambivalent on the practicality or effectiveness of the concept of transmedia in as far as the process of weaving a story world is something that many teachers do as part of any literature study, but not necessarily with the physical web creation, or in quite the same format as has been described here.

short-circuit-image-3

The second presenter for this session was Susan Bowler, under the title of Robotics in the Classroom, a topic I had heard much praise for, but with which I had no experience, and only limited curiosity. For some reason when I think of robotics in any context, I get one of two images in my head, that of Short Circuit, from the 1986 movie of the same name, or ‘Arnie’ as the Terminator.

I’m not sure why that is, but there you have it. It seems that Robotics in the classroom can be as expensive as you want to make it, but it can also be done on a shoestring budget, with prices starting, at this point in time, for around USD$30 for Arduino and Raspberry Pi all the way up to the top end, which is apparently the Lego MindStorms.

Robotics can serve a wide range of cross-curricular purposes, encompassing science, technology, engineering, mathematics, design, and software design and development. Robotics appeals to students as they represent an open-ended challenge, and can be as simple or as complex as the users skill level, starting with such simple programming needs as back and forth movement, all the way up to multiple sensors and other complexities.

Two online resources were mentioned as being particularly useful: the Lego Education website and Damien Kee’s website. Other sites of interest include the RoboCup Junior website which also contains a document with a draft unit of work in scope and sequence format, StemCentric, and the Dr Graeme site. Additionally, Robogals is an organisation that focuses on increasing the rate at which females become involved with science and technology, and are able to do school visits to drive robotics interest among the girls of a school.

I didn’t find this session as interesting as I had some other sessions, but the foci were on two areas that I’ve not had any dealings with, nor feel any particular interest towards.

My next article will focus on the final session of the ClassTech conference stream, a presentation by world-renowned Makerspace proponent, Gary Stager.

As always, thank you for reading, and please leave a comment. I’m especially interested to hear from those who have utilised robotics or WSWW in their school, and how it played out for you.

Journal article references from the Transmedia storytelling for education presentation.

  1. Jenkins, Harry (2010), Transmedia Storytelling and Entertainment: An annotated syllabus, Continuum, 24, 6. (paywall access)
  2. Miller, C. H. (2004). Digital storytelling: A creator’s guide to interactive entertainment. Taylor & Francis.