#FlipConAus15 Review – Day One Part One

“What is the best use of your face-to-face time ?”
– Jon Bergmann

EDIT: I forgot to add in the link for Thursday’s Storify that I put together. I learnt something new about Storify last night; it will only give you the thousand most recent Tweets. Unfortunately, this means that I missed about half of Thursday as there were well over a thousand tweets during the three days.

I know that I do not normally publish over the weekend, however there is a lot to talk about from FlipConAus, and I do not want to drag it on for too long, so here we are. In March of this year I made the choice to attend a masterclass with Jon Bergmann about Flipped Learning as part of my time at the FutureSchools conference and expo. Flipped Learning was something I was only passingly familiar with at the time, but which intrigued me. Jon mentioned as part of his closing remarks that FlipCon, which had been held in the US for several years was branching out internationally, and that he and the team would be bringing FlipConAus to Australia in October. I made the decision then, full of verve, to attend. FlipConAus was held at Saint Stephen’s College, Coomera on Friday 23rd and Saturday 24th October, with three optional full-day Pre-Conference workshops to select from, in addition to the Flipped Learning boot camp, all of which took place on Thursday 22nd October.

Given the distance that I was travelling, it seemed logical to me to attend as much as possible, and accordingly registered for a pre-conference workshop, Flipped Teaching: The Next Level with Joel Speranza (@JoelBSperanza), a secondary mathematics teacher. I am not sure, exactly, what I was expecting from the day. I have not been flipping my teaching due to a lack of infrastructure (hardware and wi-fi density), but I have been providing flipped professional development via this blog and YouTube to colleagues, so I feel like I am further along the flipped journey than a true novice, but not as far along as someone who has been flipping their own teaching.

This is a photo I took whilst on a school tour at St. Stephen's College, Coomera. It is the same layout as the space in which Joel Speranza ran his workshop.
This is a photo I took whilst on a school tour at St. Stephen’s College, Coomera. It is the same layout as the space in which Joel Speranza ran his workshop.

Re-digesting the day while I spoke with my wife on the phone at the end of Thursday, I commented something along the lines of “I feel like I got nothing, but at the same time, a lot, out of the day.” That is not meant to be disparaging of Joel or his efforts, but indicative of my (self-conceptualised) odd position on the flipped learning pathway. Looking back at my notes, which are plentiful, I can see that I learned a great deal that day. Much of it, I feel, was reinforcing a flagging confidence in my own ability to flip.

I attempted to flip my classroom, earlier in the year, beginning with in-flipping, however, I found that it was not working, and this hurt my confidence significantly, being a new teacher and on my first block of teaching I felt, to be honest, like a complete goose. The brand new, gung-ho, more excitement and passion than common sense teacher that proceeds to fall flat on his face. Looking back, I can see where I went wrong, and it was in the planning stages. So for me, I feel like one of the biggest gains out of the workshop was revived confidence and faith in flipping; and in my ability to implement flipped learning with the right infrastructure.

The first thing that Joel did  was an ice-breaker, with the usual name and location as well as what your experience with flipped learning was at that point. This was something I really appreciated, realising as we went around, that our group consisted of a broad cross-section of educators. I think I was in the running to be the youngest person there; there were educators from primary, secondary, vocational, Queensland, NSW, Victoria, South Australia, Hong Kong, and a fairly even gender split. From conversations both then and throughout the day, I noticed a common theme and it caused this realisation:

I am not alone in wanting to flip and in hitting obstacles to doing so, and not being sure how to go about overcoming them.

This alone, in my eyes, made it worth attending the workshop. I often, within my school, felt like the lone nut in this now classic video:

But no longer. Or rather, I am still the lone nut, but I am not the only lone nut. I have connections now with other lone nuts and some others who are leaders and are leading a movement, and I cannot explain how much that means to me.

I had to laugh a little at Joel’s first activity though it had merit. He asked us to brainstorm, as a group, on a piece of butchers paper, all the reasons why flipping would not / does not work. We dug into the remarks heard on a regular basis. and came up with quite a number of (supposed) reason why flipped learning does not work relatively quickly; and as quickly, were able to list a range of reasons why flipped learning can and does work.

The list of why #flippedlearning is called bad and why it's awesome. #FlipConAus #aussieEd #education

A post shared by Brendan Mitchell (@c21_teaching) on

Having ‘gotten that out of our systems,’ we moved on and went through an in-flipped lesson, about folding shirts the fast way.We went through this in the way that Joel would expect his students to progress through a lesson, with the exception that we watched the video then, rather than at home. After watching the video, he had us all go outside and explained that he asks every student in his flipped classes “what are you doing today?” as they enter the room. This question prompts cognition about the student’s learning goal for the session, making it clear to the student and to Joel, what the aim is for the session. This also builds on the relationship between Joel and each student, whereby this process is now normal for them. We then proceeded to work through the lesson, with much peer-teaching and collaboration going on.

“I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter.”
– Blaise Pascal, The Provincial Letters (Letter 16, 1657)”

Joel commented that there is no right way to make a video, but, that there are some important considerations to factor in.

  • Having your face in the video is important due to how much we communicate using our body language and to build and strengthen the relationship between you and the student (and the parent if they watch the videos with their child).
  • We should pace our video for the student that is at the top for the topic/subject/concept: “The differentiation is two buttons called pause and rewind.”
  • Try to harness the Game of Thrones effect; when you finish watching one, you want to watch another.
  • You are not perfect teaching in the classroom, do not aim to be perfect on the video. Embrace and utilise the mistakes.
  • Video making does take time….in the planning and set-up phase.
    • This rings true for me. My videos take around ten to fifteen minutes to record. The planning and setting up for each video takes around fifteen to twenty minutes.
  • Make the videos short, fast, chunked conceptually, ensure you look into the camera and embrace your mistakes.

Returning back to the length of the video for a moment, one of Jon’s tips was that they should be no more than one to one-and-a-half minutes per grade level. E.g. Year Five videos should be no longer than five to seven-and-a-half minutes, whilst year twelve videos should be no longer than twelve to eighteen minutes. Joel took this concept and explained that the first ten seconds of a video is crucial to the subsequent engagement. He indicated that if you do not capture the interest in the first ten seconds, then you likely will not capture it at all. This sounds familiar, when I consider my own YouTube watching habits, especially when considered in conjunction with the below graphic. I have included the description written in the source article (which is interesting in its own right) to explain what you are looking at.

Wistia Video Analystics Exhibit B. Retrieved from http://embed.wistia.com/deliveries/2f3e7ed99420e27f034a8da15f8bda77381ed2a5/length-matters-2.gif 1/11/15

“On to Exhibit B, where the x-axis represents the percentage of a video viewed (think of each line as the average engagement graph for a video of that length range in Wistia, one of the bars of Exhibit A over time, with each line representing the average video for that bin, with the lengths normalized), and the y-axis represents audience engagement. In this case, you could compare the engagement graph line of your own video to the appropriate line of this graph to compare yourself to the average.

A possible takeaway from this graph would be to organize the content of your videos journalistically, placing the most important, essential information first, then following with supporting details. For longer videos, notice that the dropoff at the beginning is extremely steep; it seems that most viewers decide quickly whether or not to watch, and once that decision is made, they tend to stick around until the end of the video, when they detect that the video is wrapping up and another drop off occurs.”

Jon and Joel’s advice would appear to stack up against the analytics; shorter is better.

I will stop there for this article as it is already quite lengthy, and there is still much to explore from the day. Thank you for reading, and feel free to leave any feedback or questions in the comments section below. Part Two will appear on Wednesday afternoon.

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8 thoughts on “#FlipConAus15 Review – Day One Part One

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