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 Day 1 Session 4 Review

“The smart phones and tablets that our students have now are the most primitive technology they will ever use.”
 Ian Jukes

The fourth and final session of the day began at 4pm, after the mid-afternoon break, and saw Ian Jukes speaking under the presentation title Strategies for teaching digital learners in today’s classrooms. I was looking forward to this, as based on the title, I was expecting some strategies for engaging students who were otherwise disengaged. I found Ian’s talk to be like a whirlwind; fast and furious with lots to be aware of and take in.

Ian started off by commenting that student expectations about learning are fundamentally changing the way in which we teach. There was little elucidation as to what, exactly, he meant by this, but it seems, intuitively, to be reasonably accurate when you take a cursory look at the way in which teachers are adopting, piecemeal, various technologies and new pedagogical techniques. Ian went on to comment that children are currently maturing, physically, at an earlier age, but that neurologically, they are maturing differently to how we, or any previous generation matured due to the constant digital bombardment to which children are now subjected, and that occurs mainly outside the school context.

My generation (according to this article, as a 1983 baby, I’m the tail end of Generation X, or The Baby Bust generation) and those that came before me, were textual learners, wherein we learnt from the text,whether it be on the blackboard, the textbook or our own writing. Any images used in the text, were used to compliment and provide some additional information or context to the information in the text. Those born since 2000 have grown up in an age where they are constantly bombarded by digital and visual stimuli, whether it be advertisements on tv, the internet, electronic signboards at sporting events or in the cities. These advertisements, being designed by marketers to capture attention and deliver a short and sharp message, are highly visual, with limited text. Ian posits, and I’ve read articles elsewhere to support the claim, that this has resulted in the brains of today’s students being wired differently; where they seek the bulk of the information or learning from the visual communication, and only then look to the text to get some complementary information.

This has an impact on teaching practices, wherein teachers now need to ‘rewire’ their pedagogical techniques to account for this. A Google search using the terms Literacy crisis yields over sixty-nine million hits, with some of the excerpts seeming to echo the shift from textual to visual, but without the realisation of what has occurred. Some of these excerpts include:

  • Literacy is not just a problem in Houston where four out of 10 ninth-graders in HISD struggle with reading…
  • Britain is facing a literacy crisis which will leave nearly 1.5 million 11-year-olds unable to read properly by 2025.
  • Until the cycle of low literacy is broken, the cycle of poverty will remain unbroken. The Facts. 1 in 5 Houston adults is functionally illiterate…
  • In Houston, a city known for its brilliant doctors and energy executives, adults are waiting in line for classes that teach basic literacy skills…

What the search results tell us is that as a society, we are yet to recognise the shift in our children’s communication preference, or understand why it has occurred. Ian talked about how the digital generation find it natural to communicate visually through images, as seen with the explosion of image-driven social media such as Facebook, tumblr, flickr, and snapchat, amongst others, and that this change is what is driving the shift to visual expression, away from textual expression. From this, and I must point out that this is my inference, not what Ian said, the shift to preferencing visual communication over textual may be a partial explanation for the apparent ‘literacy crisis.’

20150129_Social-media-ambassador

This shift is also seen in the way in which the generations read. Mine, and those before me, traditionally read, and learned to read, in what is termed a z-pattern whilst the digital generation it seems are reading in what is termed an f-pattern. This has significant connotations for teachers when they are creating lesson plans and setting texts for reading etc, as the f-pattern appears to be more conducive to skimming, which Ian commented is fast “…becoming the new normal.”

Ian provided us with some strategies for leveraging this knowledge. To get students to read the full text, he said, get a real image (a real photo, not a clipart or a stock photo) and put it in the bottom right-hand corner, and rotate it so that it ‘slingshots’ the reader back to the top of the information. This is a strategy commonly utilised in advertisements, particularly for tobacco or alcohol, where they are required to put disclaimers in the advertising. These disclaimers often appear in the bottom left or right-hand corner, above or next to which is an image that ‘slingshots’ you back to the top of the ad, wherein you’ll again be exposed to the brand name, brand logo, or brand slogan.

This can be seen in the advertisement below, where the brand name is in the middle of the image with the disclaimer, consisting of two words (live responsibly) is in small font in the bottom left-hand corner. A much larger block of text, in a large-size font sits in the right hand corner, to which the western-eye, (being that we read left to right) eye is naturally drawn, above which the rippling water catches and draws the eye in, taking you back to the image in the centre. I suspect that in those countries where reading is done right to left, that the contents of the bottom corners would be switched.

alcoho46

Ian then spoke about the benefits of using serif fonts, as the small embellishments on serif fonts are an unconscious prompt to continue reading, and then spoke about social media being to this generation what cigarettes were to his generation; a social tool that garnered you a level of acceptance by being seen to partake.

Ian also talked about the criticism that is often leveled against the digital generation around their need for instant gratification (as has been discussed in any number of locations on the internet such as here, here, here and here) and said that that claim is essentially nonsensical. I was a bit surprised by his casual dismissal of this, however, when he explained what he meant, it made perfect sense, as I’ve felt the same way when playing computer games.

Ian stated that gamers’ are required to make a decision every half to one second and are punished or rewarded for those choices every seven to ten seconds. Anecdotally, as a gamer on various platforms and of a range of different genres, this sounds about right. This is the immediacy of reward and punishment – the instant gratification/punishment system. But note that there is also a significant amount of choice involved.The drop in gaming platform prices has resulted in many children owning their own gaming platform, whether it be console, PC, or mobile device. Many of these games offer instant gratification or rewards for doing certain things, and you gain trophies/points/upgrades and feedback about the achievement along the way. Gaming is certainly a vehicle for instant gratification. I currently own an Xbox 360 and love seeing the little icon pop up when I hit an ‘achievement’ in a game. Additionally, as someone who plays Bioware’s Star Wars: The Old Republic, I love the instant nature of, again, seeing the icon pop up that I’ve hit an achievement, or leveled up – instant gratification.

Gaming also encourages delayed gratification and effort. One of the games I engage with is EA Sports FIFA, a football/soccer game. To win the various trophies and competitions within a football/soccer season takes a significant investment of time and effort, to not only play the individual matches, but to make choices about manage the team. It also requires constant decisions-making, for which I am instantly punished or rewarded (do I pass the ball this way or that, shoot or not shoot at goal, passes intercepted, or completed, shots made or saved etc). Playing Star Wars: The Old Republic also requires a massive investment in time and effort to work my way around the various worlds, complete individual missions, solve puzzles, find objects, and collaborate with other players to take on large-scale missions and high-level enemies.

All of this results in, over time, me gaining access to the highest level abilities, armour, weapons and missions. It provides delayed gratification, and finally getting to the highest level, or defeating a certain enemy that you’ve been struggling against over a period of time, and have attempted to defeat multiple times as you increase your abilities provides a huge sense of satisfaction, at finally after all this time and the choices made around tactics/weapons/abilities etc finally pay off.

So whilst yes, gaming does provide instant gratification, it also encourages effort and delayed gratification (amongst a range of other benefits, a topic which itself has been the source of much discussion. You can read one paper for gaming here) and as such digital learners are capable of, and display, delayed reward acceptance. The other aspect of gaming that is vastly different to current education systems is the feedback. Feedback in gaming is an ongoing affair, with continual feedback coming from the game as a result of choices that you make as a player. Currently, in education systems, feedback might consist of a tick, a stamp and/or a sticker in the student’s workbook, maybe a comment, maybe even a few sentences, and then the half-yearly and end of year school reports. It has been my experience, both as a student, and yes, I’ll own up to being guilty of this, as a teacher, that feedback is not often ongoing in a genuine and constructive manner, unless it is negative. A two-way dialogue is rarely engaged in, it seems.

Ian closed his presentation with a few final thoughts that tied everything together. He pointed out that students, outside of the school environment, are largely engaged and in charge of their own learning. Students then have to come to school where they have no control of influence over their learning, and that often when they ask, quite genuinely, “why do I need to know this?” the answer is “because it’s on the test,” which only serves to further disengage them. Ian pointed out that “…digital learners are highly developed critical thinking, social people and are driven learners, it is just that they are these things in ways different to that which is currently recognised and accepted,” which alludes back to his point about the need to ‘rewire’ our pedagogical techniques and teaching practices..

Ian’s final thought was a question, which struck me as being quite a meaningful, insightful challenge to the conference delegates: “If we keep trying to force students to do what we want them to do do, when it does not work, who has the learning problem?”

I’ll stop here, as this has been a much longer article than I anticipated. My next article will be around the first session of Day two of the FutureSchools ClassTech conference.

As always, thank you for reading, and please, leave a comment with your thoughts on the article.