Another dot in the blogosphere?

I reached out to #edsg after learning that a contact of mine was thinking of organizing a flipcon (conference on flipped classrooms/learning).

I prepared a quick survey because I believe in making data-informed decisions and not just gut feel or good intent. Thankfully 43 generous folks participated.

Here are some answers summarized in visual form. Click on the image below for a larger version.


Almost three-quarters of the respondents said they would attend a flipcon, but most were not willing to pay much for it.

My guess is that most teachers do not realize how much it costs to fly in and host speakers, rent a venue, and cater for the event. Most teachers here also do not have to pay for their professional development if their school principal gives approval to attend the event and make claims. This might sound harsh, but this is a reality that many teachers are not aware of and a privilege that they have that many teachers elsewhere do not.

I was pleasantly surprised that almost two-thirds of the respondents said they would rather attend a hybrid conference. This would be an excellent way to model flipping and to design for better interaction during the conference.

Sadly, two thirds would rather attend to learn instead of sharing. This might be because they have not flipped, are not confident about sharing, or fear the impact of sharing.

If fear is what is stopping them from sharing, we have a bigger problem than to flip or not to flip. Part of the value system of flipping is the sharing of ideas and resources openly to keep this ground-up movement going forward.

I would also like to reply to some comments and questions raised in response to the open ended question.

While a lot of us are certainly keen to share, to present at an event typically makes us put in a lot of time and effort. So perhaps to reduce the kind of stress, it can be an unconference where the theme is to share about struggles, so it needn’t be too formal and stressful. Just a thought… =D

I agree. I even mooted the idea that if the flipcon does not happen that we band together and organize our own unconference!

I would like to know about the failures. Often conferences only focus on the spectacle of the successes without highlighting the initial failures.

Again, I agree. That is why I phrased one of the questions: Would you be keen on sharing your flipping journey/struggles at the event?

How much time the pre-conference would take. [sic]

I am not sure what a pre-conference is.

Perhaps the respondent was thinking about the watching of presenter’s videos in a hybrid conference and then attending the face-to-face component. If this is the case, then my answer would be: As long as you wish because you watch what you want and interact with whom you wish.

After all, self-directed and independent learning is one of the desired outcomes of flipping.

Follow-up classroom activities after flipped content.

I must correct a misconception here. Far too many teachers think that flipping is only about what happens outside the classroom or focus their energies on that.

Flipping is about improving the quality of what happens inside the classroom. What happens in the classroom are not follow-ups; they are core to the process.

Question 4 should include an additional option “Perhaps in near future”

Question 4 was “Would you be keen on sharing your flipping journey/struggles at the event?” In order to gauge how many people would speak and share, this was a Yes/No question.

Perhaps in the near future is 1) non-committal, 2) does not actually help answer the question (would you share at the event), and 3) gives no clear indication of when.

CAN THE COST BE LOWERED? IM NOT WILLING TO PAY AT ALL :( is it applicable to all subjects?
Sigh. I do not want to get snarky so I am not going to say anything other than pointing out what I wrote about paying for the event.

I will reply to the question about academic subjects. Flipping is content neutral and can be applied even to meetings and conferences.

Oh, and watch the all CAPS. That means you are SHOUTING.

Have a nice day.

It would be awesome. Flipped learning is something that’s essential in education today and teachers need a platform to learn from one another.

Thank you. This is the kind of attitude and energy we need.

Video source

I like the Mental Floss series and was happy to watch Elliot Morgan guest present this episode. But I thought that they made a mistake with at least one job.

The number 10 job was lectors who read information to factory workers.

We still have that today. They are lecturers delivering information to students in a factory process called schooling.

I did not have the heart to answer this question in the #asiaED slow chat. As much as I like to create cognitive dissonance, I know that some teachers will take offense to what I have to say. My response is also longer than 140 characters.

When I ask teachers why they take my courses or workshops on game-based learning, flipped learning, or ICT-enabled change management, some invariably answer “I want to know how to engage my students!”

It is the wrong question for teachers to ask and seek answers to. I hinted strongly at this when I answered the first #asiaED question (why is student engagement so important?).

I think the question should be: How can we maximize student learning?

The question might sound broad, but it is the central purpose of teaching. Engagement is just one aspect of maximizing learning, and one that teachers often mishandle.

Engagement often becomes the end instead of the means. When this happens, teachers might try to be cool, focus on entertaining or distracting, or forget why a strategy and tool were employed in the first place.

Focusing on engagement without a larger purpose or alignment to objectives and assessment is a mistake because teachers will try to feed the part of the brain that is greedy and seeks instant gratification. If teachers cannot keep up, engagement becomes a toggle that can be just as easily switched off as it can be switched on.

Teachers sometimes do not see themselves making this mistake. The students, while in the moment, are unlikely to see it because they are otherwise “engaged”. But if both parties ask “What did we really learn?” and come up empty or provide unconvincing answers, then the problem is likely the emphasis of engagement over learning.

Engagement Is not just about fun or letting learners loose. But it is very tempting for teachers to do this because of what they see in the faces of their students when they do this.

Learning is hard, but it does not have to be painful all the time. It can and should be fun, especially when you want to leverage on the natural instinct to play. Learning should also be driven by curiosity and questions because that is another set of attributes we have been endowed with.

But the strategy and tool use should not be merely to engage. The class should not play a game because it is engaging. There should not be a free and open discussion just because it is engaging.

An educator should design for meaningful learning instead, i.e., help learners to

  • associate meaning
  • find meaning
  • negotiate meaning, and
  • create meaning.

As much as possible, an educator should bring the real world into the classroom for every concept and lesson so that learners associate these with their lives now or near future. There should also be a clear alignment to objectives and assessment.

Sometimes the real world application must be delayed. In these situations, learners should be pushed to find meaning. This is like trying to justify the importance of a concept or lesson.

Whether the authenticity of a lesson is quickly associated or gradually found, all learners should be allowed to negotiate meaning. Given that each learner is at a different starting point, the overall strategy could be to provide opportunities for flexible learning. Only then do the tools to enable this sort of learning come into focus.

Side note: Promoting flexible learning is easier now given the variety of tools and resources learners have access to. Theoretically. Schools often limit kids to standardized textbooks and pencils. Outside of school, kids have access to computing devices, knowledgeable individuals, a supportive community, etc.

Negotiation is a messy process and teachers need to model and guide students in their thinking. A possible old school analogy is a shepherd guiding his sheep in a general direction.

Negotiation is somewhat ephemeral, so learners should be required to show evidence of learning by creating. The purpose of creating is to externalize the thoughts and feelings of learners so that their peers and instructor can help them along.

All this is difficult and this is what makes lessons truly engaging.

For some teachers, students looking excited is a sign of engagement. I can relate. But I also try to create the conditions of the furrowed brow, a heated argument, projects that fail forward, and deep reflection. My learners are truly engaged when they struggle meaningfully.

Large systems trying to change are like the Titanic trying to avoid icebergs. It is hard to change direction especially when trouble is spotted at the last minute.

As a servant-leader of a large system until recently, I am fully aware of what this means and how people react in their bid to control or to survive.

After leaving that system, I am still seeing mistakes of Titanic proportions in various places. Here are two quick stories.

deal or no deal by fudj, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  fudj 

I could have been at a conference overseas today to share my experiences with a thirsty audience. But I chose not to go on principle.

I was invited to present at this conference. To sweeten the deal, the organizers sent an information brief that stated how airfare, accommodation, and an honorarium would be provided.

I suggested how I might contribute and a representative expressed interest and said she would check with the higher ups. In the meantime, I sought clarification about how they would pay for the trip.

After some to-ing and fro-ing, the representative told me that what I offered to share was valuable, but I had to pay for the airfare. I declined because that was not the original deal.

The representative from the organization could have been empowered to rectify a mistake or to make decisions that would have benefitted the organization. Instead they chose to save some money.

This is like crew of the Titanic detecting trouble in the water and realizing that communications were garbled. But they stuck with policy or what they thought was policy.

On Saturday, I received a message informing me that I was needed as a consultant on an urgent report. What the organization needed were my network of contacts and information (data, readings, evidence) that I might have collected over the last few years.

I also found out that the report was due on Wednesday, so I made myself available on Tuesday to help. I asked that paperwork to bring me in as a consultant be done by Monday.

Better late than never, right? Wrong. Their answer was never. I did not get a call on Monday, and when Tuesday rolled around, I had to initiate a message only to be told that there was no time to bring me in.

In this case, a component of the system reacted to an event too slowly. This is like crew on the Titanic detecting icebergs very late.

One might ask if the crew had an active sensing system so they could see icebergs far ahead. This makes for good strategy given how ocean liners cannot turn on a dime.

Failing that and being confronted with the inevitable crashing into the iceberg, the situation then entered “panic stations” mode. People go on instincts, but such instincts are not always good especially if they have been culturally shaped by an organization bred on maintaining the status quo.

One person had the sense to ask someone with the time, calm, and clarity of vision to help. I have a feeling that an administrative process and/or person said not to take it.

Why do systems take so long to change?

Its people are not set up to actively sense changes nor empowered to implement decisions. To do this requires individuals to think systemically.

A conference PR person needs to evaluate the reputational cost to an organization of turning a valuable asset away. An administrative staff member needs to see why an academic staff needs to outsource help. The academic staff needs to see why administrative staff need time to wade through bureaucracy.

Most systems set up their workers in horizontal silos. They are also stratified vertically in terms of leaders and followers. In their bid to be less stratified, some organizations flatten structure and combine silos. But if this is an administrative exercise and not one to enable sensing, communication, and empowerment, that system will not change.

You can grade tweets. But should you?

Trying to grade tweets is like grading a ‘live’ conversation or a transcription of one. It is very difficult to do because you have to do one or more forms of discourse analysis.

If you click here to read the responses to the original tweet, only one person so far asked WHY the teacher wanted to do this. The rest suggested half measures at best on HOW to collect and assess tweets.

If a teacher wants to grade tweets to ensure that students tweet, that is not a good enough reason. The same could be said for participating in LMS discussion forums.

Students going through the motions so that they are not penalized is not the same as learning. If you create a rubric or scoring system for tweets, then kids will learn to game the system. The point behind tweeting (e.g., summarizing, one-minute reflections, crystallizing key concepts) could be lost.

Teachers need to rethink why they want to grade discussions or tweets. After all, they do not necessarily assess group work conversations or other social interactions.

Social conversations are one way of making the processes of learning more transparent. These then lead to individually or collaboratively generated products of learning. The processes are harder to capture and evaluate; the products are not.

But there are other ways to record processes: Progress logs or reports, presentation of updates, behind-the-scenes or making-of videos, peer interviews, peer evaluations, and more. These are more timely, strategic, and more logical to manage.

Just because you can do something like grading tweets does not mean you should. You need to know why you are doing it and you must be able to justify the means to the ends.

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In what might have come across as a rant about the level of learning among teachers participating in hashtagged Twitter chats, I hinted at the pedagogy of such chats.

After mentioning what I considered a good example of a chat, I highlighted a few pedagogical principles:

There was a hook, clear conversations between people, and a resolution at the end. As an informed educator, you should be able to link each phase to one or more educational psychology principles or instructional strategies.

For example, the three phases above might be linked to activation of schema, social negotiation of meaning, and resolution of cognitive dissonance. In plain speak, they are so wow, so what/why/how, and so what is this to me.

Such chats are forms of informal professional development or informal education. That does not make them exempt from good pedagogy.

Furthermore, as tweets tend to fly by faster than most participants can process, it is important to promote learning by reflection or some form of post-processing.

Participants could summarize what they learnt or contributed in a closing tweet, write a longer form reflection in a blog, or Storify the tweets.

I am not impressed with most Storified tweets because most chat facilitators only archive the tweets as is. That is, an entire collection of hashtagged tweets is copied to Storify in reverse chronological order.

There is no consideration for how difficult such an archive is to read, there is no sense-making, and there is no curation of content.

I have tried to model one approach to Storifying tweets in the link below. (BTW, the embedded Twitter card in WordPress makes Storify appear as a nifty slide show!)

To promote deeper, more meaningful learning, participants of chats should realize that chats are not just grab-and-gos.

The best chats happen when you give, connect, and reflect. The best lessons tend to be about that too. So why should we do anything less?

Here is a quick update for what must count as a busy fortnight for someone trying to drive in the slow lane.

On Friday, I had yet another visit to the hospital and a consult with a specialist only to find out that my ordeal is not over. I have at least two more weeks of medical treatment and a procedure when the two weeks is up.

My illness has forced me to slow down and that is a good thing. Thankfully I am not in much pain and am mobile enough to meet people. And that I did.

I met the core #edsg folks for our 2nd face-to-face monthly meeting. We have something juicy in store for our online community and followers. No spoilers here. Visit our wiki for information about #edsg.

I sent out a belated email blast last week to let some contacts outside my former workplace know that I had left. The mail was over a month late as I did not feel well enough in the weeks prior. Several responded and three asked to meet over coffee.

I am glad that I met them because I had wonderful conversations with these edupreneurs. I gained insights into self-employment, shared my ideas on projects they were working on, and opened doors to possibilities.

Then I found myself involved in a possible conference for flipped learning and a consulting role for research on the same. The first was a result of a coffee talk while the other was a text message from an ex-colleague.

Meanwhile I am preparing for a talk that I will give at EduCon Asia’s 6th Higher Education Summit later this month. I will also be part of a panel on MOOCs at the event.

I am keeping myself as healthy as I can so that I can literally stand up and deliver. Do not wish me luck. I do not believe in it. If you are good, you make your own.


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