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I borrow from this teaser of the return of special X-Files episodes to provide some advice on any technology-mediated pedagogy.


Video source

In the teaser video, Fox Mulder asked, “What if our work, the X-Files, everything we’ve been lead to believe in, is a lie?”

The answer he received was, “Do something about it.”

So, for example, what if what you have previously heard, experienced, or even done in flipping is a lie? Or if not a lie, then something was not quite right about it?

Do something different about it. Make a change that makes a real difference. If you are going to flip, do not just flip the instruction. Focus on the learner and enable the learning.

This is my presentation today at Educon Asia’s Higher Education Conference. The URL will be active and the presentation freely available under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License later today.

I titled the presentation Flipped Classroom No Enough in part to pay tribute to Jack Neo’s Money No Enough movies. I mean to say that it is not enough to merely flip classrooms. It is more important to flip learning.

Flipped Classroom No Enough can also be read as “Flipped classrooms. No, enough!”. Experienced practitioners and thought leaders have had enough of hearing flipped classrooms being sold without reflective thought, rigorous research, or critical practice. We are long overdue a look at flipped classrooms through a critical lens.

I will offer just three of many critiques.

I will also offer perspectives on why it is better to flip learning instead of merely flipping the classroom. In the process, I hope my audience gets a better idea of the differences between the two.

I will be participating in a higher education conference over the next two days.

I look forward to renewing ties with some people that I might only meet at such events. I also hope to make some meaningful impact in the area of flipped learning.

I will be part of a flipped classroom panel today and will offer a presentation on flipped learning tomorrow. It should be obvious that flipping has gained momentum to the extent that the conference organizers have dedicated an entire thread to flipping.

Unfortunately, they have called it a Flipped MOOC. It is not a MOOC and the event is certainly not flipped. Other than being a marketing hook, simply putting two buzzwords together does not make educational or pedagogical sense. At best it gets lots of people attending these sessions; at worst it reinforces buzzwords but does not change practice.
 

?Sometimes I think, other times I am.? by Lori Greig, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  Lori Greig 

 
So I have given myself a role in addition to panelist and speaker. It is to be a watchdog. My agenda is to chase down and bite as many misconceptions as possible. I have already spotted “best practices” and “flipped classroom” as unquestioned phrases.

My fur is bristling…

Over the last two weeks, I had the privilege of conducting two workshops for groups of motivated instructors from a local institute of higher learning.

As usual, they had a slew of questions. While I think I was able to address some of them during the workshops, there were others that were submitted to me via a Google Form that I did not get to. This is my attempt to answer those questions.

How to measure the effectiveness of flip classroom teaching & learning?

You might be tempted to say test the learners. I say let us not feed the test machine because it is fat, lazy, and greedy. Tests are not necessarily the standard for the effectiveness of flipping.

This question is also about two aspects: Teaching and learning. Teaching does not necessarily lead to learning. Ideally this is the case in the flipped classroom (which focuses on the teacher’s efforts); this is not necessarily the case in flipped learning (which focuses on the learners’ efforts).

However, to get a measure of effectiveness of both the flipped classroom and flipped, learning, you might consider:

  • increased attendance (reduced truancy);
  • increased motivation or interest in a subject;
  • more critical and creative thinking, and better attitudes.

In other words, I recommend operating outside the test box because flipping is an opportunity to do things differently.


How do we assess whether students are able to grasp the particular learning outcome from flipped classroom learning?

If you have academic outcomes that need to be addressed, you might approach this the same way as non-flipped courses. You could do this as long as those approaches do not undermine the flipping efforts.

For example, no or low stakes quizzes might be fine if you design them for formative assessment and just-in-time teaching. But if you and your students only need to prepare for a single major test, then both of you will rationalize that everything else is not important. You will then focus only on the test results.

Instead, design for formative feedback and measures of change in attitudes, behaviours, and performance. This might involve the inputs and approval of administrators and policymakers, and this is how flipping can be a strategic key element in systemic change.


If a student did not read or prepare the materials in advance (regardless of reasons), how can facilitaton be continued when the class meets

and

How to avoid re-teaching the “flipped content” when learners come back to class unprepared (not read or viewed or attempted pre-lesson activities)

and

How to motivate students to do flipped learning when they want to be spoon fed all the time?

Reduce the urge to re-deliver content; it is the students’ responsibility to consume content outside class in a flipped classroom. If you re-deliver, you undo your efforts to flip and undermine the efforts of the students who did their part.

Instead you could:

  1. apply social pressure by not repeating the content;
  2. not punish students who had legitimate reasons for not consuming content beforehand by creating a learning station or corner for that purpose;
  3. design for flipped learning (make the learner the content creator and teacher) instead of relying on the flipped classroom model.

Flipping requires that you starve an old and irrelevant monster. Feed it and it will gain strength and take control again.


Is flipped learning suitable for Year 1 Sem 1 students (freshie)?

The flipped classroom and flipped learning is not dependent on age, ability, or aptitude. It is up to the creativity and care of the teacher who flips his or her classroom. Anyone can and should create and teach content, and that is why teachers should flip the learning.


When a group of students have prepared the content and they are presenting, how to get the other students interested in their presentation?

This is not just an issue of the flipped classroom. You cannot make anyone interested in something they have no stake in. So create that sense of ownership and give it to them. How you do this is a function of your experience, creativity, and care for your learners.


How to design flipped learning effectively if my class consists of students of diverse learning abilities/motivation?

The method I modelled was to use station-based learning. The stations were pitched at different levels and needs, but were designed with the same learning outcomes.

Another important method is projects where students learn by creating content and teaching based on where they are at and with something they can relate to.


What motivations are there for students to look at the materials outside of their official classroom hours?

If they have no stake or interest in it, frankly none. You are asking them to watch, read, or listen to your content or your interest. That is a function of teaching.

Focusing on the learner and learning is about figuring out what makes our students tick. Instead of answers, I ask some questions in return:

  • What makes them gravitate towards YouTube videos?
  • Why do they want to spend time on certain forms of social media?
  • How to they get the energy to pursue their passions?

As I survey local flipped classroom and flipped learning ventures, and work with educators involved with these efforts, I have observed at least three patterns. There are the:

  1. Lone wolves
  2. Pockets of innovators
  3. Coordinated efforts
wolf by Cloudtail, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  Cloudtail 

 
The lone wolves are the most common. They are mostly energetic and fairly informed individual who chose to work alone or do so under the circumstances. They do this because they are the peripheral innovators and/or they do not have  support.

Every organization has lone wolves and innovators, but they are not the same thing. I am referring to flippers who are both. They work faster and are willing to try and make mistakes alone.

But this asset is also their greatest liability. The run the highest risk of burnout or moving from one cool thing to do to another. They also risk being socially marginalized in their organizations if they are perceived to be aloof or too clever.

I have noticed lone wolf flipping die out within months. Most efforts are not sustainable because there is only one battery and bulb in a very dark room.
 

 
The pockets of innovators may or may not include lone wolves. They might be led by a former lone wolf. These are best represented by group of three to five teachers who share a common academic interest.

These pockets are likely to have the support of higher ups and their flipping efforts revolve around lesson planning and preparing videos for students. They might work semester to semester or have year-long plans. They deal only with their content area and for a selection of classes (rarely an entire level).
 

pockets of dolls by visagency, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  visagency 

 
Managed and supported well the pockets of innovators become coordinated efforts. The innovators might share their stories with others within their school or to a larger audience. Others buy in or are roped in by a school leader.

The flipping efforts cross academic subjects and involve entire levels of students. If ambitious enough, a coordinator of such flipping efforts might implement plans for other levels of students.

Such coordinated efforts are few. Even fewer are successful stories. Larger teams might mean more complex innovation because the small team efforts do not always scale up. A wise coordinator will realize this and manage pockets with a larger fabric.

There is a variant of coordinated efforts that could involve more than one school. This is practically non-existent as many schools here operate like Apple and Google. They do not share secrets.

This is a shame because schools do not have to be like that. Fortunately, there is an emerging level that is higher than that takes advantage of the first two categories. Educators on social media already connect on Twitter with hashtags like #flipclass or visit any of the repositories on flipping to learn from each other.

I might seem to imply that there is a better way to manage flipping efforts, but the different circumstances shape what different educators do.

The only thing I can say with certainty is that most focus on flipping their classrooms instead of flipping the learning. The latter is better [1] [2] because it nurtures the truly independent learner, changes pedagogy, and leverages on technology powerfully and meaningfully.

I shared this resource recently.

I agree with the three main critiques of flipping: 1) Too much focus on videos, 2) no change or conversations on pedagogy, and 3) sacrificing personal time for curriculum time. I have said the same things in my workshops, seminars (samples), and videos.

But I take issue with the critique being on flipped learning. The problems are really about the superficial shifts and potential harm done in flipped classrooms.

What is the difference between the two?

There are several, but here is the most important. The flipped classroom focuses on what the teacher can do; flipped learning focuses on the learner and the processes of learning. In flipped learning, the focus is not teacher-created videos, and tired and old pedagogy. It is certainly not about creating curriculum time at the expense of learners’ rest, family, entertainment, or social time.

When you flip learning, you nurture more self-directed and independent learners. You do this by giving ownership of the problem-seeking and the problem-solving to learners. You show them how to design outcomes, find resources, and evaluate themselves. You flip the learning by getting them to create content and to teach with it.

While this is not an argument about semantics (“classroom” vs “learning”), words hold powerful meaning in themselves and should not be interpreted or used flippantly. More importantly, the implementation of a flipped classroom is very different from the experiences generated by flipping who the content creator and teacher are.

This is my reflection on the second seminar I conducted on flipping, 3 Mistakes, 3 Dimensions, 3 Wisdoms of Flipped Learning, almost two weeks ago.

I tweeted a few snapshots of the event.

I always wish that I could step out of myself and take more photos and videos of the sessions. Reflections like these might be a way stepping out of myself.

I have also toyed with the idea of using Periscope.tv to ‘live’ stream my sessions. However, I do not think this is fair to the organizations that pay for my services. I might try to wriggle it in should I have a free session that I can share more openly.

This second seminar left me with a greater-than-usual buzz. I could feel the energy before, during, and after the event.

It helped that the event was attended by folks who had an interest and some experience in flipping their classrooms or attempting to flip learning. There were a few who were nominated to attend, but that is par for course.

It makes a big difference when people want to be there or have a stake in the topic. I have been part of events where I cannot change the organizer’s plan of making people sit through a session they have little idea of or desire for.
 

Buzzed by dburka, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License   by  dburka 

 
After my session was over, I decided to decompress at a coffee place on campus. I spent about an hour responding to the queries and comments on the online platforms I used. I also used a new strategy of collating responses in an online community space in my bid to encourage on-going conversations.

While I was doing this, two faculty members who attended my talk asked if they could discuss some ideas and concerns with me. We covered quite a bit of ground and they were appreciative of the insights I provided.

But I was more thankful that they bothered to take time off their schedules to pursue what was important to them. It indicated that the topic mattered.

So this is what I have been reflecting on for a while: It is not enough to focus on content. It must be shared or experienced in context. Manage these two elements well and you might create a connection with your audience.

This is the final part of the FAQ on flipping that originated from two seminars I conducted this month. I shared part 1 and part 2 previously.

There are more questions and answers, but it is not meaningful to share all of them here because they are specific to content and context.

These questions were submitted to me via a Google Form before a seminar. Once again, I am simply pasting the answers I provided in our SG Flippers Google+ space. My replies are short partly because I might have addressed the questions during the seminar. Short answers also tend to be incomplete, so that might spark thought and discussion.
 

time by spapax, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License   by  spapax 

 
Question: On the average (from your experience), how much time does a student spend on going through the materials before coming to class?

My answer: As little as possible. Even less if they are already hard-pressed for time and if the out-of-class materials are busy work, not what they are passionate about, or otherwise not meaningful to them.

Design so that they have a clear stake in the the process and product.
 

38/365: Homework by cplong11, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  cplong11 

 
Questions:
1. how to ensure that students do their “homework”- ie. readings?
2. when should be good moments for flipping?”

I addressed Q1 during the seminar with two ideas. I reiterate the second: Question the assumptions you have that homework helps. Focus on the different ways they learn.

Q2 is very subjective, i.e., it depends on your experience with the content. But here is what I have found to work across many academic subjects. To flip learning (not the classroom), the greyer the content, the better for flipping. Answers are not so black and white; opinions and suggestions matter.
 

 
Addendum: Two instructors caught up with me while I was decompressing at a coffee place after my second seminar. One thing we chatted about was backchannelling as a small way to flip lectures. Here are some things I have written about this topic:

I continue what I started yesterday by sharing some of my answers to questions raised before, during, and after my August seminars on flipping.

Today I focus on quick Q&A in a TodaysMeet backchannel. The questions and answers are SMS-length because that an affordance of the platform.
 

 

Is there a need to prepare students for this kind of pedagogy for this approach to work? If so how?
1:35pm, Fri, Aug 14, 2015 by ***
To ***: To summarize the answer I gave ‐ Yes, prepare them technologically and pedagogically for the approach. Anticipate their issues.
2:37pm, Fri, Aug 14, 2015 by Ashley

Can the process of learning be objectively assessed?
1:34pm, Fri, Aug 14, 2015 by **
To **: Clear-cut content might be objectively assessed, but visible thinking is subjective. Well-designed rubrics might help keep focus.
2:39pm, Fri, Aug 14, 2015 by Ashley

How to manage workload of students when they create content?
1:27pm, Fri, Aug 14, 2015 by *******
To ******* on workload. 1) Give them ownership (help them make it theirs). If they’re passionate about it, they’ll invest the energy.
2:58pm, Fri, Aug 14, 2015 by Ashley
To ******* on workload. 2) Help them manage the load with metacognition: How to plan, change plans, manage tasks, etc.
2:59pm, Fri, Aug 14, 2015 by Ashley

Students may not “believe” what the fellow students teach them. How to settle this?
1:28pm, Fri, Aug 14, 2015 by *******
To *******: Consolidate learning with strategies like whole class discussions or forum‐based critiques. Make good ideas rise to the top.
2:40pm, Fri, Aug 14, 2015 by Ashley

How to get paid if learners may learn better without teachers
1:11pm, Fri, Aug 14, 2015 by *******
To *******: By reinventing yourselves. Be mentors, models, facilitators, meddlers in the middle.
11:05am, Sat, Aug 15, 2015 by Ashley

different students have different pace of learning, can this be done efficiently on effectively for the relatively “slower” learner?
1:36pm, Fri, Aug 14, 2015 by *******
To *******: By providing variety & choice in & outside class.
11:05am, Sat, Aug 15, 2015 by Ashley

Stay tuned to Part 3 tomorrow.

I fielded questions on the flipped classroom and flipped learning during my last two seminars. I collected the questions with Google Forms, Padlet, and TodaysMeet.

I answered all the questions in the SG Flippers Community space in Google+. But I thought I should share some of the questions here on a more open platform.

One question was about the age or developmental appropriateness of flipping.
 

iPads arrive in 4th grade... by timlauer, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License   by  timlauer 

 
Question: Are Primary school students ready for flipped learning? Doesn’t it require a certain level of maturity and self-motivation?

My brief answer: The video I featured was done by Primary school students. They created and taught, which are more complex skills than passive consumption.

Maturity and self-motivation are not prerequisites to flipping; they are end results or desired outcomes. See an elaboration to a similar question I answered earlier.

More thoughts: I have encountered higher education instructors thinking that flipping is better suited for younger learners and teachers of young students assuming that flipping is better for older learners. If the question is not asked out of honest curiosity, I might be tempted to say that the question is a manifestation of an instructor’s or a teacher’s deflective mindset. My question is: What are you running away from?
 

 
Question: How do we get our “please-serve-me-on-a-platter” students ready for flipped learning?

My brief answer: With several concurrent and supporting strategies. Here are five broad ideas.

  1. Resist the urge and ease of serving. Ask more Qs than providing immediate As.
  2. Establish this as an expectation for both you and your learners. Stick to it.
  3. At strategic intervals, remind your learners (and other stakeholders if necessary) the rationales for getting them to think more actively and do more meaningfully.
  4. Design authentic work and assignments. These rarely have clear answers or are easily served.
  5. Work with other like-minded folk so that your efforts are not isolated.

This series continues tomorrow.


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