#FlipConAus Review – Day Three Part Three

“The worst screencast is better than the best lesson”
– Matt Burns

Welcome back for this final article in my series looking back on my time at the first FlipConAus, my conference wrapped up, as it did for a number of people, with a double session with Matt Burns (@BurnsMatthew) speaking under the titles Flipping the K-6 Classroom and then The Flipped Classroom: K-12 Leadership. If you have missed the previous articles in this series, you can find the links to them below:

Matt spoke initially about some of the resources that he has made available to aid others in understanding flipped learning and how to implement it via his website (which also includes a link to his blog); as well as his twitter handle (which I have included at the beginning of this article).

Matt made two very important points at the beginning of his presentation. Firstly, that flipping should build stronger relationships and that what flipping is has changed in meaning over time and means different things to different people. That flipping should build stronger relationships was not, by this stage in the conference, a new idea. Hearing it reiterated, however, helps to reinforce that it is an important benefit of flipped pedagogies. It goes back to the point that was made by Jon and Aaron during their keynote the prior day

It seems, to me at least, that content, content, content is forced down our throats as if we are undergoing gavage, with the relationship and curiosity components of our profession discarded to the wayside, and hearing from so many presenters about the importance of flipping to the relationships they have been able to build with their students, over and above what they have been under traditional pedagogical model. It seems to me to be distinct that although the general discussion is about the relationships that can be built with students is the focus, relationship-building with parents and colleagues is a theme that has cropped up a few times over the course of the conference.

After this opening, Matt then took some time to speak about the research and indicated that there is a dearth of it that is contextually relevant to us as primary and secondary teachers; that much of the research focuses on tertiary education and that there is a need for a comparative study. I know that there were, at least, three research-based attendees (Marijne Slager being one with whom I connected over the course of the conference), however, the research, at this point in time, is not readily available in the primary space, and you can only extrapolate the findings from studies done at the tertiary-level so far before you begin to lose validity. That said, Clintondale High School in Detroit, USA, experimented with flipping a year group of one hundred and forty students. Academically, the results can be seen in two ways.

This set of data that Matt showed us gives an indication of the academic changes that the school saw in this cohort. You can also read about the changes on the Clintondale High School website:

“We have reduced the failure rate by 33% in English Language Arts, 31% in Mathematics, 22% in Science and 19% in Social Studies in just one semester. In addition, we have seen a dramatic reduction of 66% in our total discipline for our freshman group as well.”

One discussion point that arose from this was that when the teacher is no longer the sole gatekeeper of knowledge and students can access the knowledge any time and anywhere, then students’ target their frustration around learning across multiple sources which removes some emotional and social barriers between the teacher and student, allowing the teacher to work more closely with the student, providing the required assistance.

Matt indicated that quantitative data can be difficult to obtain, but that informal qualitative feedback is relatively easy, and shared some examples of feedback his students had provided:

Matt then spoke about flipping little things, like the spelling test, introducing new writing genres, instructions for projects, explanations of projects and rubrics, handwriting and times tables. This allows students to hear what the word should sound like, which can also benefit students with Non-English speaking Backgrounds (NESB) in developing their English. Flipping allows students to ask questions without the fear of being embarrassed, and if you put structures in place, without needing to wait for the teacher.

Matt reiterated that point that the videos should not be perfect, asking do you need the screencast perfect or by Tuesday? We are not perfect teachers in the classroom, we make mistakes and goof up, and we should be the same on the video as in the classroom. I say that with the caveat that we should fix up any conceptual or factual mistakes may confuse students. Matt also indicated that if you have the Smart Notebook software, then it has inbuilt recording and screencasting functions, which I was not aware of, and that that can be one way of making your videos.

Matt also made the point that this (flipping) is a learning curve, both for you and the students and that open communication should be sought to ensure that any issues are addressed quickly and that your classroom grows comfortable with what is expected, on both sides of the coin, from flipped learning.

Matt’s final point in this session was that the video, as an instructional tool, allows for experiencing the learning in different ways. Some students may watch the video, others may read the textbook, whilst others will work it out collaboratively.

While the majority of the room then moved on to their next session, myself and a few others stayed comfortable in our seats, or stood up and stretched, as we were staying in for Matt’s follow up presentation, around leadership in a K-12 flipped classroom context. Matt opened this up by indicating that he had a range of topics that he could speak to for this presentation, but was aware that it was the afternoon on the last day of the conference and wanted to avoid repeating what we had already heard. To get around this, he crowd-sourced the direction the topic would take by listing out the topics and asking us to vote on the ones we wanted to hear about.

One of the topics that the audience selected was hearing about some research results. It was rather interesting, that the first study Matt spoke about found that students were doing more learning, were not happy about that fact, did not enjoy flipping, but achieved better results.

I found this rather intriguing, as we are often told that higher engagement, often seemingly used as a proxy for enjoyment, leads to improved results, ergo, lower engagement (read lower enjoyment) leads to lower results. I wonder what impact the school culture around learning and mindsets would have on this particular result. It also brings to mind an article that Greg Ashman (@Greg_Ashman) recently published, Motivating students about mathsdiscussing a study which was recently published about the relationship between motivation and achievement in mathematics. Greg’s view, or rather my interpretation of Greg’s view, is that we should not be targeting our learning activities based on what we think will engage them as this is a superficial motivation which will not last under the difficulty of more complex cognitive loads. Greg posits that we should be aiming for learning activities that maximise learning, creating a feeling of mastery, as this internal sense of achievement with concepts will lead to greater engagement with the subject more organically than simple engagement with the concepts.

“Don’t misunderstand me. I am not the fun police. If you can make the learning more interesting without diluting it then go for it. It is even appropriate to take a break from time-to-time just to have some fun with your students. Not a problem. Just remember what you’re here for; to teach a subject.

You are not a clown.”
– Greg Ashman, Student Motivation

Greg Ashman’s view on motivation in science and mathematics. Retrieved from https://gregashman.wordpress.com/2015/07/19/motivation-in-science-and-mathematics/ on 13/11/2015

Matt spoke about four studies (which I erroneously referred to as a meta-study on Twitter. I should have called it a literature review) which he had read, where all the studies showed that the academic achievements were improved across all four, but with contrasting results in students satisfaction. Reading deeper into the studies, the study where students reported lower satisfaction with flipped learning had the ‘extra’ class time used poorly, with no apparent change from traditional pedagogies. This reinforces the critical nature of the use of the class time. You cannot ‘hide’ behind the teacher’s desk and let the students go about their activities, you need to be getting in amongst the students and providing the close support you may not ordinarily be able to offer due to time constraints. If you wish to read further on that, Matt has included the references on his website on this page.

Some students, Matt related, indicated that they liked having an alternate perspective from another teacher (which lends credence to curating in addition to creating your instructional videos) as all teachers have different teaching styles and slightly different ways of explaining things. This allows those students who do grasp a concept from your explanation to view an alternate explanation (which you have, of course, vetted) to gain the conceptual understanding they need.

There are some students who do not like flipped pedagogies, and this may be for a few reasons. They may have experienced bad flipping, where the teacher misused the class time, or they may be more senior students who know and understand the game of school and do not want to change how they go about doing school.

Matt finished by mentioning two adaptive learning systems (ALS) that he has come across; the AITSL Self-Assessment tool and Smart Sparrow. This is something which I thought would become more visible and mainstream in education sooner than it has, but which the 2015 NMC Horizon Report (K-12 Edition) predicts as a mid-term trend.

There was one final session, a conference closing led by Jon and Aaron, where they challenged us to consider what we would do with our learning from the conference over the ensuing five days, five weeks and five months, and to write it down. Within the ensuing week, my plan was to turn my notes into articles, which I did get done, but it has taken longer than five days. Within the ensuing five weeks, I wanted to begin planning for next year, which I have begun doing conceptually. Solid planning will need to wait for another few weeks as I am job-sharing next year and my partner needs to get her reports finished for this year before she can sit down and think about next year. Within the ensuing five months, I wanted to have planned, resourced and flipped my class in one area, and be looking to move on to another area. At this point in time, I am tossing up between mathematics and literacy. I can see great scope for using flipped pedagogies for teaching grammar and spelling, as well as many mathematical concepts.

I want to thank you for reading through this and (hopefully) the other articles in this series.FlipConAus was a fantastic and tiring experience, and it was late on Saturday night (Sunday morning) before I got to sleep as my mind was whizzing with ideas and inspiration to the point where I turned the light on around three in the morning and jotted down the outline for a research project. This process of turning my notes into articles has been useful and reinforced some ideas for next year. I want to thank Jon, Aaron, Val and Margo for their efforts in putting the conference together, as well as St Stephen’s College for opening up their school to all of us for the three days. I greatly valued my time at FlipConAus, and have every intention of attending in November next year, when it will be held at Brighton Secondary College in Adelaide.

If you want to engage in the discussion around flipped learning further, keep an eye on #ausflipchat as well as #flipconaus as both tick over reasonably regularly.

#FlipConAus Review – Day Two Part Two

“Start flipping, don’t wait.”
– Warren McMahon

After Jon and Aaron’s keynote speech, I was registered to attend a panel discussion on flipping in the Primary School context. Jon Bergmann facilitated the panel, which was made up of Warren McMahon, Matt Burns and June Wall (I have been unable to find June on Twitter). There were, according to my notes, thirteen questions over the course of the session. Some of these questions were somewhat expected, and others were rather unexpected.

The first question was about equity and access to devices and content. In-flipping (watching the video’s in class) is a great way to overcome this obstacle, however, beyond this, there are some great options. Utilising USB/flash drives, DVDs or cheap MP4 players will allow you to send the video content home with the students. Another option, which I had forgotten about at the time, and only recently re-discovered, is iTunesU. It allows you to build courses or units of work, and to either link to videos (or other content) outside of iTunesU, but you can also upload the content into a post. This means that those students who have a device, but no internet access at home (which is still sadly common in 2015) can download the content they need during the school day, ready to go when they are at home that night.

The second question is a common question; what if they fail to watch the video? It is, in my opinion, both a great and a terrible question at the same time. It  is a great question because the concept of the videos being watched at home is often the only thing that teachers and parents alike know about flipped learning, and so they see not watching the videos as ‘breaking’ the system. On the other hand, It is a terrible question because what if they (students) fail to do their homework now? In conversations with teachers who are already flipping their classrooms, they have indicated that this is rarely a problem, for a number of reasons. Initially, you gain traction from the novelty factor. Beyond that, however, students often will not only need less time to do the homework, but they will be able to do the homework as it is cognitively easier than what is currently being set as homework. The point was also made that if your videos are enticing, through being short, concise, clear, and interactive (such as I wrote about here), then students will want to engage with them.

Beyond that, if you set, and hold to, the expectation that the videos have been engaged with at home, prior to school, and that the higher order learning tasks may not be done until the required understanding has been demonstrated (Jon and Aaron have said in the past that they have used a range of methods to do this, including conceptual check lists that are ticked off after reviewing student notes, or through conversation) than students will quickly learn that they need to watch the videos. It was noted that some students will not engage with the videos outside of class irrespective of the consequences, and will only engage with them in class. When (part of) the point of flipped learning is that not all students need to be on the same page and doing the same thing, then that is ok. As long as those students are engaging with the skills and concepts, and are moving through the required learning, then their choice not to engage with the videos outside of the classroom is potentially not detrimental to themselves, or to their classmates.

Here is a short video from a secondary teacher, Katie Gumbar, about her thoughts on this very question.

Someone then asked about the investment in time to train students how to engage with learning in this new and different way, compared to the normal game of school. There were two key points to the responses to this question. Firstly, it needs to be done, you need to invest the time to teach students how to engage with flipped learning, as it is so vastly different, and many will not engage, without the training, for fear of getting it wrong. So the investment in time, initially, is significant and involves heavy scaffolding. The exact amount of time with vary from context to context. Upper secondary students fill need far less time to acclimate to this new way of learning than lower primary, but even within the same cohort, there will be differences. You need to make a professional judgement as to when your students are au fait with flipped learning.

The second point that was made was that having interactive videos will make a large difference. Tools like Educannon (which I have previously discussed) and VersoApp can add a layer of interest which helps drive engagement with the learning. I do not recall where I heard it, but someone told an anecdote about a teacher who taught a class how to engage with flipped learning by asking them to learn a card trick. A link was provided to a video tutorial (perhaps something like this), and students were asked to learn how to do the card trick. Afterwards, the teacher engaged students in a discussion about how they went about using the video to learn the trick, discussing the use of pausing and rewinding to re-watch sections of the tutorial. This had the students engaged in a metacognitive discussion, and facilitated the introduction of flipped learning to the students and showed them how it works without the need for a long explanation.

What does success look like in a flipped classroom was answered quite simply. It varies context to context, both across cohorts of students, across different subject areas, across the grade levels, but the important thing is to determine a measure of success that will be SMART for your specific context.

The impact on teacher time as a result of flipping generated a significant amount of discussion. The initial investment is significant and unavoidable, however it is also transformational, and the long-term gains outweigh the initial lost time. The comment was made by someone that implementing flipped learning, initially, is like being a first-year teacher all over again. Do not flip because you think it will save you time, it will certainly not do that, not initially. The time benefit is in the classroom where instead of doing lower-order thinking teaching, you are able to engage with students, either one-on-one or in small groups to drive deeper learning, thus building stronger relationships and developing your understanding of how students learn. This is something that should be part of our professional knowledge; flipped learning allows us to develop that knowledge more authentically, and more deeply.

The additional point made about the impact on teacher time was in relation to re-using videos that you have developed. All panellists agreed that you absolutely can and should re-use videos (though I would personally recommend re-watching just to double check that it is the video you want) in order to save time, however, there is a very important factor to remember, in this regard, when it comes to creating your videos.

You may create sequences or playlists of videos in a specific order for specific concepts, however, avoiding numbering the videos allows you to drop any video into the students’ learning at any point in the particular unit of learning.

How do you flip all the KLAs in a primary context was answered succinctly, one brick at a time. Jon made the observation that in primary classes which he and Aaron have visited, there seems to be a tendency for primary teachers to flip mathematics in the first instance. I can certainly understand that tendency, as my first exposure to flipped learning was in a Year Five and Six class, where mathematics was being in-flipped, and it seems, to my mind, to be naturally suited to being flipped. That said, having spoken to a number of teachers from across primary and secondary over the course of FlipConAus, I can certainly see scope for flipping other areas, including EnglishCreative Arts, the Parent-Teacher night, or Physical Education.

Why should teachers record their own videos was the subject of a long discussion, however, the key point is that you are the students’ teacher, not Khan Academy, or any other resource; it is you.

Not only will it build relationships with students, and those parents engaging with their child’s learning by helping them at home, but it also ensure that the concept is taught the way that you want it taught.

How critical reflection is embedded within flipped learning is something that I only took one note for, flipping allows for it to happen naturally, which reading that note a few weeks after the fact, is not particularly clear. Thinking it through, however, I believe that embedding critical reflection is a part of teaching students how to engage with the learning in this context. Part of your expectation could be a metacognitive discussion in class or through a writing task of some type (class blog, in learning journals etc.)

When someone asked whether flipping removed grouping structures, such as maths groups or reading groups, the answer was, essentially, no. Traditional grouping structure can be, and often are still utilised, however the way they are utilised may change as students may be at various points along the learning continuum any given concept.

One person or a whole school can work was the response when someone asked if flipping needs to be implemented across the board to be successful. The caveat is that flipping works best when it is implemented from the bottom up, and spreads through the school organically as teachers see what is happening, see the benefits to students and take it into their own classroom. It is also highly beneficial to have someone with whom you can collaborate your flipping who is in a similar context to yourself. Whether this is a teacher in your own school, or someone on the other side of the country teaching the same grade or subject as you is not particularly relevant. It is the ability to discuss barriers, wins and new techniques and ideas with someone who is in a similar context that matters.

How do you engage parents? was a topic of interest for many, and the biggest suggestion from the panel was communication and education around what flipped learning is about, how it works and why you are implementing it, beginning with flipping the parent-teacher night. Sending home a video introducing yourself and going through the basics that you would cover in person allows the parents to engage with your ideas and come to the evening with questions as they will have had time to think about and process what you have said.

In a job-share context (where two teachers share the load of one class with one teaching three days and the other teaching two days), where one teacher wants to flip and the other does not, communication before the year begins and during the year is absolutely critical. If the teaching load is split down subject or concept lines, with one teacher being responsible for the arts; or dividing mathematics up by concept area, then it will be relatively simple to implement flipped learning. If any other arrangement is made vis-a-vis splitting the teaching load, then it will be significantly more difficult.

In closing, all panellists were asked to offer one practical piece of advice to the audience. Warren advised everyone not to wait to start flipping, but to just do it. Matt backed this up with the caveat of doing it one brick at a time. June also reiterated Warren’s advice but cautioned the audience to identify the learning scaffolds needed and ensure they are available or in place beforehand, and Jon closed out the session by advising to flip with someone in some way if it is at all possible.

Thank you for reading through this rather lengthy article. I found the panel session very worthwhile. There was also a secondary panel that took place at the same time, and if someone has written a review on that, please send me a link so that I can include it here, with credit to the author (you can find the twitter discussion around it in the day’s Storify). My next article is likely to appear tomorrow, and will include a review of sessions from Warren McMahon, Katie Jackson and Crystal Caton.

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