#FlipConAdl – Reflections from Conversations

“….relationships take time, getting to know folks requires patience, and people are generally cautious – if not fearful – of Johnny come lately that is asking, rather than giving.”
– Attributed to Jeremiah Owyang, Senior Analyst at Forrester

Conferences can be a huge source of professional development, however, they can also be a great source of unofficial professional learning via the networking conversations outside the lecture theatre or the breakout room.I was fortunate to have a number of conversations with some high-caliber educators that opened my mind to some new ideas, re-excited me about some passions that had faded due to time constraints, and have caused me to rethink some ideals about education.

One of the biggest changes in my thinking is the result of a conversation I had with a few people that come from different contexts, but whose opinions I respect. I attended (six!) public schools from Kindergarten through to Year Twelve and have always maintained that I would teach in public schools as I firmly believe that every child deserves a free, high-quality education. The conversation with these two people has caused me to rethink that. I have never said that I would not teach in non-Goverment schools, just that I could not see it happening.

I was asked if it is hard to gain a permanent teaching position in NSW. I explained that of the several positions I have applied for, that there have been over one hundred applicants; that as someone in my second year of teaching I cannot compete on the experience front with teachers of ten years or more experience; that an article by Bruce McDougall of The Daily Telegraph on 12 July, 2016 stated that there are now just under fifty-thousand qualified teachers who are unable to secure permanent teaching positions; that earning Honours Class I as well as the School of Education and the Arts Faculty Medal seems to count for nothing and that the current staffing policy for NSW Department of Education (DoE) schools dictates a system whereby schools must accept a central appointment despite having qualified and able teachers on temporary contracts.

I was asked directly if I had been applying for non-Government schools, to which I replied no, and explained my desire to support public education. I was reminded of the conditions I had just listed that were making it challenging to find a permanent teaching position and that it was all well and good to want to support public education but that it would not help me get a permanent job in and of itself. He is right, of course, and although applying for teaching positions with non-Government schools does not do anything to guarantee a permanent position or some of the aforementioned challenges, it does at least open the pool of potential options.

Fair enough. I have started applying for positions at non-Government schools. Mrs. C21 remarked that she had been biting her tongue on the issue, hoping that I would recognise that a permanent position was more important at the moment, especially with a three-month-old.

Sitting in on Peter Whiting’s session and getting really excited and interested in the methodologies and the results (statistics!) of Peter’s research demonstrated for me that there is still a passion and interest for research in me. With everything that has happened this year, I have not thought about research too much other than what I read about and links to discussions of research as I peruse my Twitter timeline.

There were some other things that I wanted to include in this article, however, my brain has switched off and I think that too much time has passed since the conference; I have been far slower than normal getting these articles out.

I will likely only do one more new article for the year, a reflection piece, before signing off for the summer break. Thank you for reading this rather disjointed article and for persevering with this conference review series. If you have missed any of the articles from FlipCon Adelaide, you can find them here.

#FlipConAdl Day Two Part Five

“Our kids have digital thumbs, we shouldn’t cut them off when they enter the door.”
-Stephanie Kriewaldt

FlipCon Adelaide had thus far been a success for me on a personal and professional level. I was feeling reinvigorated for the remainder of the year with new ideas, new contacts and friends, and a revitalised drive for flipped learning and research, which I hope has come through in my previous articles from the conference. My final session at FlipCon Adelaide was with Stephanie Kriewaldt (@stephkrie) who was presenting under the title Flipping the Primary Classroom. I spoke briefly with Stephanie during the Primary discussion panel and was happy to have met another Kindergarten-Year Two (Infants) teacher who was also a flipper as I only know one other Infants flipped educators; Alfina Jackson (@GeekyAusTeacher).

I feel bad for anyone presenting in the last timeslot at any conference or event, many people will have left the event already or will leave partway through in order to catch their plane/train. Stephanie’s session in the last timeslot of the day was similarly impacted with only three delegates in total in attendance, despite their having been eight registered to attend. Stephanie introduced herself and spoke about her background, including that she has only ever worked in 1:1 contexts, which seems rather amazing to me and is currently working as an innovation and learning leader.

Stephanie showed us a short video of a Year Two classroom where flipped pedagogies were utilised as part of the rotational groupings during literacy sessions. Given that I am going to be teaching in a Stage One context next year, this gives me some hope that what I was thinking might work, does work in practice. Utilising either computers or tablets with pre-loaded videos to play a short (sixty to ninety seconds long maximum) video modeling how to form letters and numbers, how to spell words and a range of other simple yet foundational skills that need to be repeated multiple times was what I was thinking of doing next year.

Retrieved from tinyurl.com/h3m54kx on 11 December 2016

Stephanie spoke next about the SAMR model and its application in flipped learning. It would be very easy to stay with substitution and augmentation, however, we need to strive to also reach the modification and redefinition levels. Stephanie spoke about how she utilised QR code posters on the wall that linked to short videos that explained basics such as what a noun is or how to construct a paragraph as that was something that could be done once and made available via video when students needed the refresher. This process frees the teacher up to continue to be available for students who have more complex questions or needs that need her immediate focus and also gives the student some ownership of their learning. Whilst they are still using the teacher as the source of the information, they are able to access the information whenever they need without disrupting anyone else’s learning.

Stephanie also spoke about how to utilise flipped learning to engage with Parents. Sometimes a student will go home and ask the caregiver (you cannot assume it is a parent anymore) for help with some task for school and the caregiver will do their best to help. Sometimes this help is actually hindering the student because the caregiver does not have the knowledge needed or uses incorrect terminology. This happens for various reasons and Stephanie said that a simple way to combat this is to create videos that are ostensibly for the student but also show the caregiver how the concept or skill is being taught. It is not about diminishing the knowledge or skill of the caregiver, but about ensuring that they are aware of how the particular concept is taught now as it is likely to have changed since the caregiver was at school.

Stephanie spoke about using a short hook-video to capture student interest in a new topic or unit of learning. The idea of a hook to capture student interest is not a new one, however, being reminded of old ideas that work is often useful as it is easy to forget about them with the ongoing plethora of new ideas and practices that are thrown en masse at teachers. Knowing how to create and use QR codes and link shorteners is a very useful skill to have as it opens up a range of possibilities, such as the use of QR codes for refresher videos as mentioned earlier in this article. If you are not sure about either, you can find a video showing how to create QR codes here and a video for URL shorteners here.

Stephanie spoke about how she uses Explain Everything to make short videos on the fly and how it is also simple enough to use that Infants students are able to create videos using it. A flipped worksheet is still a worksheet we were told and accordingly, the homework that Stephanie sets is designed to be something that is likely going to occur anyway to reduce the stress around homework; do a chore, read a story, do something to help a friend or a family member etc. This kind of homework I could feel comfortable issuing to students, rather than the traditional style of homework, which I have written about recently. Homework needs to be achievable for the student and for us, the teacher.

Given that we were such a small group, we spent some time sharing about our specific teaching and learning contexts and sharing some ideas about moving forward with flipped learning. It was a useful time, though short, however, I think everyone in the room was happy to move on to the end of conference drinks as it had been a cognitively-draining (and refreshing at the same time) two days. Stephanie’s session was interesting and I did gain some ideas and a fresh perspective for moving into 2017 in a new context.

As always, thank you for reading. I think there will be one more article to come from FlipCon Adelaide, which will be a more general reflection on some issues as a result of various conversations I had with people outside of workshops which have significantly impacted my

#FlipConAdl Day Two Part Four

What does professional development look like? Is sitting here professional development?”
-Ken Bauer

After hearing the dates for FlipConNZ in June 2017 and FlipConAus in Sydney during October 2017, Professor Ken Bauer (@Ken_Bauer) took the stage to deliver his keynote.

Ken began by asking what professional development (PD) normally looks like and why it looks the way it does, questioning whether sitting in the theatre listening to him talk was really PD. Ken spoke about Personalised PD as written about by Jason Bretzmann (@jbretzmann) and Dave Burgess (@burgessdave), the basic premise of which is that teachers, like their students, are learners and therefore are all at different places with different needs. Jason and Dave began Patio PD, which was described to us as being teachers who get together on a patio to share practice. This sounded very similar to something that I heard about from Craig Kemp (@MrKempNZ), which is Pub PD.

The above question was posted by Ken, which is a challenging question. PD is a requirement in education. We need to ensure that we remain up to date with emerging pedagogies and technologies, however, we need to revisit the way in which PD is run. There are some good examples of useful, relevant and practical PD, however, anecdotally, I know that there are also still a large number of schools delivering PD via lecture or PD that is fun and engaging, but that will not actually change practice. As Greg Ashman (@Greg_Ashman) often comments, engagement is a poor proxy for learning

I have of course attended a large number of PD sessions at schools and there have been very few occasions where I have actively thought to myself that it was a waste of time. or completely irrelevant There have been a significant number of occasions where I have thought to myself that the PD was fun/interesting/engaging. There have, however, been few instances of PD that I can point to and say that that PD changed my practice. Ken Bauer asks whose fault is it if we (teachers) do not like PD the way that it currently is. I believe that it has to be, at least, partially our own fault.

We are required to engage with PD, especially with the implementation of the NSW Department of Education (DoE) Performance and Development Framework which requires that all teachers (amongst other staff) are required to have in place a Professional Development Plan (PDP); and with the accreditation processes required under the Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL).

Ken contends that school leaders, which is not just the designated Principal and other Executive staff, need to create a bold culture that encourages personalised PD as standardised PD often results on the disengagement of everyone they were trying to engage. This process should include a continual questioning of where you are now, where you want to be next year and how we are going to get [you] there. Anecdotally, this does not happen. It seems to be that teachers are expected to drive their own PD from within a specified set of options, whether it be set programs a school is running in literacy or numeracy or from a range of set options available through the NSW DoE (or the local equivalent).

As a temporary teacher, I feel that I have an advantage in this area. I can pick and choose what PD opportunities I wish to engage with. Last year and again this year, when we were told that the Executive were beginning the process of looking at staffing numbers for the following year, I have advised my supervisor of some specific PD opportunities and dates that I am committed to in various ways. I do so as I feel that it is only fair to let them know in advance what days I will be taking off to attend these opportunities and that if they choose to offer me another temporary contract, they do so with eyes wide open vis-a-vis my plans.

Ken continued by commenting that we need to give credit to and support those who share and that we should create more than we consume. Not only that, it is also important that we model saying thank you to others for resources and ideas so that we create a culture of positive shared and creative commons in our classroom. This is one of the things I love about the EduTweetOz twitter account (@EduTweetOz) and the associated blog, that each week an Australian educator takes the reins to share ideas, experiences & questions about education across Australia. Hosts come from all areas of education and it is a thoroughly worthwhile week. The underlying concept behind EduTweetOz, however, is to share ideas and experiences. Through interacting with various hosts of the account and hosting it myself for a week, I have been able to connect with a number of educators via EduTweetOz and have been exposed to ideas and viewpoints that I otherwise may not have been without that account.

This also goes to another point that Ken made, which is that what we do has value, even we do not see it ourselves, that we need to share and put ourselves out there with what we have to offer. There are a number of ways of doing that, through sharing resources (check my website for mine), through writing blog articles containing reflections, ideas, outlining puzzles of practice you are struggling with and through engaging with online professional learning networks such as Twitter and other social media platforms. Ken reiterated the point that PD is about relationships and active learning, which by extrapolation, is also what education is about.

In 2001, Marc Prensky (@MarcPrensky) published an article titled Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants in which he wrote the following:

Today’s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach…Today’s students – K through college – represent the first generations to grow up with this new technology. They have spent their entire lives surrounded by and using computers, videogames, digital music players, video cams, cell phones, and all the other toys and tools of the digital age. Today’s average college grads have spent less than 5,000 hours of their lives reading, but over 10,000 hours playing video games (not to mention 20,000 hours watching TV). Computer games, email, the Internet, cell phones and instant messaging are integral parts of their lives. Some refer to them as the N-[for Net]-gen or D-[for digital]-gen. But the most useful designation I have found for them is Digital Natives. Our students today are all “native speakers” of the digital language of computers, video games, and the Internet. 

-Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon, 9(5). Emphasis mine.

I remember the first time I came across the notion of digital natives and digital immigrants that I was nodding my head and agreeing that yes, my generation and onwards have grown up with technology around us, but now, a bit older and perhaps a bit less naive, I think that while that may be true from a certain perspective, that in many ways, the concept of digital natives does not hold true. While my generation and those after may have grown up with technology all around, that does not equate to an ability to use the technology. I know a great number of people my age and younger who are not comfortable with technology in some contexts, who profess to not being able to use a computer beyond the basics, who do not understand how to use a search engine properly, who do not understand what Twitter/Facebook/Instagram etc is or why people use them.

Ken spoke about the work that David White (@daveowhite) has done around reframing the discussions of digital natives and immigrants that have occurred since Marc Prensky’s seminal article. David contends that individuals engage with the internet and other technologies across a continuum of modes of engagement, visitor or resident, rather than two distinct categories. For a more complete explanation, please watch the short video below.

I think that this conception of digital use is a more appropriate fit for the way in which people engage with digital technologies than the native/immigrants language or even the more recent language around the technology adoption life-cycle and the associated Rogers’ Bell Curve and removes the potential stigma of being a digital immigrant or laggard. I think that this is particularly important in the education space given that anecdotally there appears to be a negative attitude and some sense of disdain for educators not utilising technology in the same way that some teachers do. As previously noted, we should be sharing and helping, not using and showing contempt for non-users.

Ken reminded us of the quote by Will Daggett; “school is a place where students often come to watch their teachers work,” and reminded us that learning should be an active process. We need to make sure that our students are not watching us work, and that they are in fact active participants in their learning. In our current society, this does involve teaching technology skills as part of the Technologies curriculum. Ken contends that it is ok to fail but that we need to persevere and learn from our mistakes. There are a vast array of options and Ken contends that we should choose an option to manage our tools and resources appropriate for our context within the requirements of our school.

Ken’s next point was one I had heard before, but he added an interesting twist to it. He posited that student-riven blogging creates a community of learning and sharing, especially when combined with openly published assignments. I was intrigued by this and fortunately, Ken expanded the thought. He encourages students to publish their answers to questions as part of creating an open sharing culture where students then learn from each other’s answers and can expand on them. The concept is interesting and sounds akin to what I observed whilst at Glenunga International High School that morning in the French lesson, where students were required to add to or correct a translation in a GDoc.

Part of Ken’s process is having students, at the end of the year, create a video for his students in the next year with their tips for being in Ken’s class. This includes understanding Ken himself, but also working in the classroom with the pedagogies that Ken utilises, which is a great idea. It gives students a chance to give feedback about Ken and the way he teaches and gives them the mantle of an expert for a while. Ken also spoke about how he has removed grading and deadlines from his class, which some students struggled with due to the difference to what they are used to in the game of school. Ken said that he encouraged students to learn the content rather than memorise for the test. This would necessitate a change in pedagogy and increased support as students adjust how they are able to demonstrate their understanding (one potential way may be using this form of non-questioning).

Ken was a passionate speaker and strong on the belief that knowledge should be shared, but also credited where borrowed, reminding the audience that learning is often messy, particularly in flipped learning. I was fortunate enough to have a chance to speak with Ken in more depth over dinner that evening, however, given the length of this article already, I will hold off on that. There is one more article to come, covering the final session which was led by Stephanie Kriewaldt (@stephkrie).

As always, thank you for reading. If you have missed any articles in this series from FlipCon Adelaide, please click here to view the full list.

#FlipConAdl 2016 Day Two Part Three

“I have words, not sure how wise they are”
-Ken Bauer

After our visit to Glenunga International High School (GIHS) (which you can read about here and here) was completed, we returned to Brighton Secondary School (BSS) for lunch, after which we engaged in a debrief session. We were given the dates for upcoming events, including FlipCon New Zealand in June and FlipCon Sydney in October. Following that, Jon Bergmann and Ken Bauer took to the stage with microphones each to start the school tour debrief by sharing some of their own observations and reflections about their tour of BSS. There were some microphones spread around the room for delegates to share their observations and reflections on their of either GIHS or BSS.

Jon spoke about how he saw students who owned their learning, but not learning to pass a test, although that is part of the process, but to own their learning for learning’s sake.Ken spoke about how he could see that teachers are sharing resources, ideas, and skills, which I personally think is a great thing. I absolutely believe in the dissemination of ideas, resources, and knowledge in order to contribute and help the teaching profession grow.

The value and potential power of flipped feedback was a recurring theme across a number of the delegates who shared their thoughts and ideas.Danny Avalos (@danny_avalos66) spoke about the fact that the concrete skills and knowledge we teach are all available on YouTube which means we need to redefine what our purpose as teachers is. Danny indicated that he felt that it was what we do in our classrooms to engage and take our students deeper that makes the difference to them.

Delegates were also reminded of the Flipped Learning Certification course which is now being offered over at FLGlobal.org and for which delegates were offered a discount code. I have taken advantage of that and signed up to complete the course and will be doing so during the summer break. We were also challenged to create some action items to take away and actually put what we had learned into practise, which for me, was about engaging with my colleagues for next year around implementing flipped learning strategies. I would also, after getting excited about research from hearing Peter Whiting’s presentation, like to engage with some action research on flipped learning and its impacts on literacy development in infants students, but I need to sit down and have a conversation about that with my supervisor and job-share partner for next year about their interest and thoughts on engaging with that.

Ken Bauer (@ken_bauer) delivered his keynote next, and to give him due credit and to be able to write about it properly, I will review his presentation in the next article. I do not think I will be able to get it out tomorrow (Friday), as this evening is our school musical, a celebration of the school’s sixtieth anniversary. Each Stage was asssigned two decades and asked to prepare a maximum ten-minute performance for the decade and everyone has been working incredibly hard. I am very proud of my students and am excited to see them on stage this evening.

As always, thank you for reading and please leave any comments or feedback you may have. If you have missed any of the other articles in this series you can find them here.

#FlipConAdl Review Day Two Part Two

“Students shouldn’t come to school to watch the teachers work”
-John Hattie. Interview with BBC4’s The Educators

Day Two of FlipCon Adelaide was all about the school tour and lesson observations. Visiting Glenunga International High School (GIHS) was something I was looking forward to and the opening addresses, which I wrote about here,  were very interesting and gave a clear message of pedagogy and relationships as the key to flipped learning and improved student learning outcomes. After those addresses, however, was the all-important morning tea (the strawberries were spectacularly good) where we would have an opportunity to speak to the various staff members present as well as the Prefects before being taken to observe some lessons.

It was interesting watching the way in which the Prefects engaged the groups of delegates with such confidence and poise. The two Prefects whom I and some others were speaking to were very comfortable speaking about the way the school had changed and were comfortable sharing their lessons. One of the Prefects myself and a few others were speaking with was completing the International Baccalaureate Diploma program whilst the other was completing the South Australian Certificate of Education. Additionally, one of the students had only been at GIHS for about eighteen months and so was able to speak to the differences between his prior, more traditional school and GIHS.

As I have written about previously, when questioned, both students acknowledged that in terms of homework as opposed to how much studying and revision they do, that there is less homework than there used to be, prior to flipped learning. When asked about the late start no Wednesdays, their faces lit up and you could see that they liked the idea. Both of them said they tend to use it sometimes for extra study and revision in preparation for exams or for some extra sleep depending on what they have going on.

It became apparent very early in our tour of GIHS that there is a strong and vibrant student interest group community. The sign in Kendall Wong’s photo above is only one example of the many that we saw during our tour. The number and diversity of student clubs that we saw signs or posters for was phenomenal, especially for me where we had Interact, school band and a chess club in high school, as well as sporting teams, and that was all. It is a testament to the diversity of the student body and the school’s own culture that a number of them were based on social justice issues or charitable causes.

The first that our group visited was a Year Eight French class. The teacher was just getting things started when we arrived and to his credit, he did not miss a beat, merely welcomed us and continued on. It was a small class of approximately twenty students and their task was well constructed and demonstrated some quality pedagogy. The students had been tasked with watching their flipped content and were applying that new learning. In groups of four, students were tasked with reading a short comic strip which was written in French and translating it into English. Rather than being a worksheet, however, the teacher had shared a link via GClass to the students and they were all working within a GDoc to translate.

They were given a few minutes to translate their initially assigned panel from the comic and then they had to move on to the next panel in the rotation and either add to or correct the translation that had been provided by the previous student. Watching the task occur in real time on the main screen at the front of the room was both funny, with the various coloured cursors flashing madly everywhere as students worked to translate their comic strip panel, and exciting, seeing this sort of pedagogy applied in a subject I would not normally teach.I appreciated, at this point, not observing a primary class or a subject or content which I would teach as it freed me to really focus on what was happening within the classroom rather than on the content and skills which were being covered. This was, of course, the point of being arbitrarily assigned to groups.

There was a group of three boys sitting just in front of me that I could see switching back and forth between the GDoc and Google Translate. I wanted to find out more about how they used GClass as an LMS and about how the were completing the task. They were quite happy to answer some questions and show me their GClass stream. Typically, it seems like it was used to push out content or links to content, set questions and facilitate the delivery and collection of assignments. As they were explaining things in response to my questions, the message came through once again, unprompted, pedagogy and relationships are key and that was something which I feel spoke strongly about the buy-in from the school community to the philosophy and approach that GIHS was taking.

I did observe during that lesson one student who was sitting in the front row on the other side of the room to myself and was slouching in his seat, with his feet up on the chair next to him using his phone below the desk. The teacher could clearly see that the student was using it, there was no deliberate act of trying to hide that the phone was being used. I queried our Prefect on the school’s mobile phone policy and there was a wry grin in response. The school has a strong policy of student ownership of their learning and student responsibility for their choices and owning their own distractions. Students are mostly free to use their phones as long as they are completing the required tasks in a timely fashion. Our

Students are mostly free to use their phones as long as they are completing the required tasks in a timely fashion. Our Prefect related that when she was in the process of applying for jobs earlier that year, that her phone had rung (silently) in class with the phone number of one of where she had applied recently on the caller ID. With a very brief explanation of the situation, she was allowed to take the call outside and then return to class. This works without negatively impacting hers or her peers learning due to flipped learning. In a traditional classroom context, there is a likelihood that to step outside would have meant that she would miss some explicit instruction about the concept being covered and would thus be behind the proverbial eight ball when she returned. In a flipped class, however, she was not listening to explicit teaching instruction as that had been completed via the flipped content prior to entering the classroom and therefore was able to stop what she was doing and resume it when she re-entered the classroom.

Placing responsibility for the learning back onto the student is a great move which, when properly supported by teaching students how to manage their time, take high-quality notes, how to study and revise efficiently. As we moved through the school for the next lesson observation, we were taken through one of the school’s media arts workshops where we saw an Apple Macintosh computer! My grandfather taught me how to use a computer on one of those and I remember being blown away by how cool it was and some of the games that it could support.

When we arrived at GIHS and entered their Performing Arts Centre (PAC), the room contained a stage and chair that reminded me of the fold down chairs you see at many cinemas which were stepped to create a minor theatre effect. When we returned to the space to observe a drama lesson in action, the room had completely changed. You can see in the photo above that the whole chairs had retracted back into a single block which was a very efficient use of the space. Outside the PAC, there were a number of posters from shows that had, presumably, been run by drama students at GIHS. When I asked one of our Prefects about it, she confirmed that tickets to the shows are sold to the community and that all proceeds are donated to charity. Having the students perform their shows in front of paying audiences and then donating the proceeds to charities is a great way of building community relationships, contributing to worthy causes and also providing the students some genuine theatre experience.

Observing the drama lesson was intriguing. The dozen or so students arrived and went straight into practice. The teacher spoke to use very briefly to explain the context of what was happening and indicated that the students had been asked to read a short script and learn some associated movements and that they were running an exercise on group space and interactions in a group space where they needed to use the space in such a way as to complete particular movements at certain times in specified ways. I enjoy theatre, but have only been in school productions as a student and one production of Oliver with the Tamworth Musical Society when I was in Year Seven, and so I was not entirely sure what I was seeing, even with the brief explanation from the teacher.

Each of the groups convened back together at this point and we were back onto the mini-buses to go back to Brighton Secondary School. The trip to GIHS was very interesting and demonstrated how flipped learning can occur in a range of contexts. I am excited about continuing my flipped learning journey into 2017 in a new context. I was very impressed with the fact that the driving message from everyone at GIHS that I spoke to, both staff and students, was focused on pedagogy and relationships. Even the students that I spoke to in the French class, were talking about pedagogy and relationships, even if they were not using the specific language thereof. It was a fascinating insight into the way in which a change in culture can permeate a school community in a short period of time. I want to thank the GIHS staff and students for opening up their school to us and providing us with the opportunity to hear and observe the way they have embraced flipped culture.

#FlipConAdl Review Day Two Part One

Day one of FlipCon Adelaide was fantastic and you can find the articles for day one at the links in the brackets (part one, part two, part three, part four, part five) and you can also find the Storify of the tweets from day one here. Peter Whiting (@Mr_van_w) and his colleague Bill Tink (@BillTink) recorded their own reflections as a podcast which is available here and is a great reflection on the day overall from some different perspectives.

Day two promised to be a great day. Part of FlipCon Adelaide was a school tour. Delegates were offered a choice, a few weeks out, of touring the host school, Brighton Secondary School (BSS) or of touring Glenunga International High School (GIHS). Having heard Jeremy LeCornu (@MrLeCornu) speak on multiple occasions (for example, here and here) as well as Olivia O’Neill speak (here) I felt that I would be better served by and would learn more from touring a school of which I knew nothing and therefore had no preconceptions about what I would see or hear.

The initial statistics we were provided were impressive in my mind. Years Eight to Twelve and just fewer than two thousand students representing seventy-four nationalities on the one campus blew my mind, in addition to running the International Baccalaureate Diploma program as well as the South Australian Certificate of Education as parallel courses. Upon arrival at GIHS, we were greeted by the incoming Prefects as well as some of the school Executive staff. In their Performing Arts Centre, we heard a welcome address from Harry Postema, who also introduced the other speakers who would be following him, including Principal Wendy Johnson, Deputy Principal Jeremy Cogan, Innovative Pedagogies Leader Cindy Bunder and incoming Prefects Indigo and Layla.

Part of the tour would be about viewing flipped classes in action, both a technical or academic class and a hands-on or practical class. We were advised that delegates were arbitrarily divided up into the four groups for the school tours, with each group viewing different classes. There was no consideration of our own teaching contexts or faculty background as it was about seeing the flipped pedagogy in action rather than the content.

Wendy Johnson, GIHS Principal and Flipped Learning International Ambassador, was introduced next, and she spoke about the importance of pedagogy for flipped learning. The role of Innovative Pedagogies Leader at GIHS was focused on helping teachers change their pedagogy to make the best use of the reclaimed class time as a result of flipping their classes. This was facilitated by making a decision to start classes later on Wednesday mornings and make the morning a time for staff professional development and collaboration on developing pedagogies that would assist in taking the school from good to great.

As a primary teacher, we are continually reminded that the first two hours of our school day are the critical learning times when students are at their freshest cognitively and therefore this is where literacy and numeracy teaching is to take place (which makes me question the value assigned to the other key learning areas by policy makers). It is for this same reason that the decision was made to move staff professional development to the morning. Teachers typically feel the same as students in the afternoon; tired and worn out and so the retention of learning and the cognitive engagement is lowered and therefore the value of that time is reduced.

I was curious about the late start and what impact it had on the students and the opportunity to ask came during the morning tea break. The Prefects remained with us and quite confidently and willingly engaged the delegates in conversation and so I asked them about what they used that time for and whether those two hours were added back into the timetable somewhere else with late classes. We were told that they were not added back in and that what they were used for varied, as would be expected student to student. The two Prefects we were speaking with said that typically they would use it to either catch up on sleep or would get up at their normal time and use it to complete homework individual space tasks or study for exams.

Returning to Wendy’s address, she advised that they made a conscious decision to invest time and money in professional development on technology use and on pedagogical practice. The then-current model of professional development and learning was not working as teachers would draw on their own experience to form their pedagogical framework or paradigm and then listen to what was being said and take they already know or what they wanted to know. Changing that mentality was a significant challenge.

As you would perhaps expect there was some strong resistance to this change in focus on professional development but that traction won over the period of a few years and that they now have a pedagogical framework that all staff members are committed to. They utilised the mandated Teaching for Effective Learning framework as a starting point and the final GIHS Pedagogical Framework evolved from there. The clear focus from each speaker was on pedagogical improvement for students’ benefit and it was coming through not just in the words that were being said, but in how they were being said and the way that the Prefects held themselves and spoke.

We were told that the capture of learning cycle documentation (lesson plans, programs, assessment schedules etc.) was revamped to make it more a more valuable process rather than merely the satisfying of policy. I do not have notes on what that revamp looked like which leads me to believe we were not told the specifics of that. Given my current career status as an early career teacher, any guidance on making the development of learning cycle documentation more beneficial and useful is welcome.

The above statement is an interesting one and requires some unpacking. The first inference is that if you only have pockets of excellence than by deductive reasoning you must have large amounts of stagnant and / or stale teachers and pedagogies; a sad indictment on a beleaguered teaching profession. It would seem intuitive that teaching, as with any other profession or sector contains a continuum of practitioners of varying qualities and abilities. I do not know if I agree with the surface implications of the statement, however, I can understand the position that the statement is made from.

We also heard about how it was critical for the success of the change in focus that parents understood the goals and to that end, the school hosted an information night showing a unit taught using traditional pedagogies and then using contemporary pedagogies, including flipped learning. They were expecting around fifty parents, however, ended up with two hundred and fifty. Part of the education process for the parents and the students alike was that the change to flipped learning, improved pedagogies, and improved learning outcomes would not be instantaneous.

For a change of pace, we heard from two of the incoming school Prefects, Indigo and Layla. One of the key messages that came through in their address was that the change to contemporary pedagogies was not about teachers providing all of the answers to students, but that it was about the teachers guiding students to understand what questions to ask.

The message in here is one of trust and strong relationships. Students are used to playing the game of school and of being given the answers when they are unable to work it out themselves. This focus on relationships between teachers and peers is also building trust that the teachers want to work with the students for the students’ benefit.

The vision for the pedagogical framework moving forward into 2017 is that any teacher can walk into any lesson and see the required characteristics and that if that is not the case, then a conversation about why not needs to occur. It is a tough stance; however, given the process that the school has gone through to reach this point, it seems fair. The impact of this framework is especially critical given that teachers need to plan for effective use of the group space with flipped learning to ensure that students are engaging more deeply and using higher level cognitive skills and processes than in traditional classrooms.

We next heard about the flipped content or learning objects (LOs) and the delegates heard, once again, that getting hung up on the quality of the LO is not useful. The LO prepared by the students’ own teacher is the best option, and having high-level production values does not make or break the quality of the instruction imparted in the video. This assertion, which I have heard from numerous flipped educators as do you want it perfect or on Tuesday? is supported by research, such as that conducted by Peter Whiting which I wrote about here.

A key factor in this is knowing the content and the learning goal for the LO that is being developed to enable it to be created quickly, with minimum fuss and with no post-production, a practice that Joel Speranza (@JoelBSperanza) promotes and which can be seen in the below video.

Flipping does not happen every lesson, however, deep thinking and deep learning can [happen every lesson] was the message we heard next, as Cindy Bunder took the podium. Flipped classes should be more active, both mentally and physically with a focus on the Four Cs. She posited that the individual learning space should take no longer than ten minutes maximum, and should not be meaningless homework.

I asked two prefects during the morning tea break about this and was told that on average they were both completing roughly three hours of homework most nights. This was across all of their courses and they included their general revision and studying load in this time. On further probing, they both indicated that they felt that the actual homework component of their nightly workload was less than prior to flipped learning, however, that the time spent on a specific course varied depending on the context of what was being covered and how much time was spent engaging by pausing, re-watching, and taking notes from the LO.

It was interesting to hear that with flipped learning in place teachers now feel that they have time to teach key skills that are not part of the explicit curriculum such as note taking, time management, critical thinking and how to use individual time and group time to gain the maximum benefit for their learning. Direct instruction is still important within flipped learning; however, it needs to be appropriate and minimal.

At that, the opening addresses concluded and it was time for morning tea, pockets of delegates peppering GIHS Prefects with questions formed. I will leave off here and discuss the conversations I had with the Prefects and some other students as we completed the tour and our lesson observations. Thank you for reading, as always, and I would appreciate any feedback on this article. The clear message that came through from all of the speakers was that flipped learning is about and has resulted in improved pedagogies and relationships.

#FlipConAdl Review Day One Part Five

“We put finished works up, but how often do we put up work / learning in progress to model that learning is an ongoing process?”
Ryan Gill

After listening to Peter Whiting (@Mr_van_W) speak about his action research (which I wrote about here), I settled in to hear Ryan Gill (@ryanagill) speak about Delving Deeper – developing critical and creative thinking in flipped classrooms. I was curious about what I would here in this for two reasons. Firstly, I had not been in the room for part one, but the twitter conversations I had seen looked very interesting

The other reason I was interested was that critical and creative thinking are two characteristics which are firmly embedded in the Australian Curriculum and are spoken about by some as being twenty-first century skills, which gives me the impression these people are being either facetious and acknowledging that there is in fact nothing new about them whatsoever, or they are utilising them as buzzwords (click here for buzzword bingo…great for your next staff meeting) and are ignoring, again, the fact that these characteristics or skills have in fact been around for millennia.

Ryan began by discussing his journey through Visible Thinking and Cultures of Thinking and providing an overview as to what they are and how they are related to his flipped class journey, which has been ongoing with Year Eleven and Year Twelve courses for the last four years at Masada College. What Ryan was telling us about Cultures of Thinking and the handouts he provided us with looked and sounded very similar to what I heard from some presenters during the Teaching for Thinking forum I attended last year (read those articles here) and that

Cultures of Thinking originates from Project Zero at Harvard Graduate School of Education and makes explicit a range of thinking routines that fit into different contexts and have a different thinking move appropriate for that routine. The routine chosen is contextual, with pedagogy being the driving tool behind the routine chosen. Ryan made it clear that many of the thinking routines are already being used by teachers, however, they do not necessarily think of them as routines but as a strategy for student engagement. Cultures of thinking makes explicit the thinking that teachers are asking students to do, enabling teachers to explicitly teach students’ strategies to think more deeply about their learning. An example that Ryan provided was to use a thinking strategy such Zoom In rather than asking the class a few questions. As he reminded the group, no thinking means no learning is going on…are your students actually thinking or are they getting through the stuff?

Ryan next spoke about cultural forces which impact and define our classroom and which are important for our students’ growth as thinkers and learners. Ryan said that rich and deep thinking often requires slowing right down and allowing time for the thinking to occur at deeper than surface levels, which is something we do not often do as educators. I have tried to encourage my students this year to not make a guess straight away or to call out when they think they know an answer to a question but to take at least five seconds to stop and think about it and I have to admit that I have not been particularly successful in breaking some of the thinking habits of my students; they still throw their hands straight in the air, even when explicitly told that it is thinking time or brainstorming time. Ryan showed us a video of Debbie O’Hara speaking about using the explanation game as a way of teaching students to think more deeply and more critically.

Retrieved from tinyurl.com/grskxln on 4 December 2016.

As a follow on from the video, Ryan asked us to think about the cultural forces that we observed in the video and to consider how they impacted upon the students’ learning. It was a rich discussion with a range of ideas and thoughts. Ryan acknowledged that we all operate within our own context and that every context has constraints handed down and enforced from those hierarchically above us. Within those constraints, however, we should work to create the culture that we want in our class.

The level to which we should allow our students to muddle or struggle with concepts as part of their learning was raised. Ryan spoke about it being an important part of the learning process and that the discovery or Eureka moment is a powerful factor for further learning, engagement and retention of learning. Furthermore, allowing kids to remain in the muddle can foster curiosity, resilience, and creativity. Helping students to remain in a safe muddle, a place of cognitive dissonance (links) can depend largely on the questions and the language that is used within class discussions, a concept which Jennie Magiera (@MsMagiera) raised during her Masterclass at the FutureSchools Conference this year (read part one here).

Ryan spoke to us about The Putin Principle, though I do not remember the context and asked us to consider the above image, and explain who we thought was correct using a thinking routine called claim, support, question. It was an interesting process and the range of ideas about the veracity of any one position espoused in the Slugville Election was intriguing, and Ryan played the devil’s advocate will a significant amount of delight, challenging the ideas presented by various delegates. The process reminded me of The Obi-Wan Principle:


Ryan used this exercise to point out that our own biases and points of view can unconsciously influence our students’ ideas and points of view. Additionally, he added, our language can either encourage or discourage our students and that we need to be aware of our words and our meaning.

Ryan closed by using a zoom out exercise, showing us a small part of an image to start with and asking us to consider what we can observe and what impressions that gives us of what and where the image is. As he showed us each level of the image, we spent a few minutes discussing as a group our observations and ideas on what we could see and what factors influenced our assumptions about our observations. It was a very interesting process and a clever way of closing out, using one of the thinking routines we had been discussing.

I thoroughly enjoyed Ryan’s session and would have liked to have been able to be in two places at once so that I could listen to Part One whilst I was also in listening to Peter Whiting. If you are interested in learning more about cultures of thinking, I have included links to various resources throughout this article. Additionally, you can get involved with the cultures of thinking chat on twitter using #cotchat or looking up Project Zero. Thank you for reading and I would appreciate any feedback you may have on this article. If you have missed the previous articles in the series, you can find the first article here.