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I love conducting workshops for organisations that embrace change and take steps to move forward. Sometimes, however, it feels like hit-and-runs as I pollinate one flower after another.
 

 
Other times I am invited to return a few times to repollinate. This might happen because I inform participants and any leaders that might be present that change efforts are multi-pronged. While there are key leverage points (like staff professional development), systemic change requires systemic effort.

At least one group took my advice to get their leaders and administrators in on the flipped learning movement. The rationale for doing this was simple: How could they support what they could not relate to?

Last Friday, I conducted a workshop that was specially arranged for leaders, managers, and administrators of the organisation. There were educators and dual-role folks, of course, but it was a rose by a different name.

Working with such a group can be challenging especially if members do not have a strong educational background. But I was pleasantly surprised by how much they took away from the session (see screen capture below of some of their takeaways).

My workshop was designed to provide flipped classroom and flipped learning experiences, deconstruct the experiences, and rise above to catch important concepts that bubbled to the surface. The leaders did not miss several important messages on change afforded by flipping:

  • Experience the change; do not just hear about it
  • Provide support or do not get in the way
  • Shape policies in terms of appraisal, student evaluation of teaching, workload, reward mechanisms
  • Build community, do not just make policy

While it is wonderful to see a few organisations take the lead, it is just as terrifying to see how many more moonwalk. They make forward motion but actually walk backward. This was cool and impressive for Michael Jackson; it is not for educational institutes.


Video source

To keep my own morale up, I will avoid the latter group like Venus Fly Traps. Here is to more flipping good flowers!

I am often asked what the differences are between the flipped classroom and flipped learning. I have mentioned a few important distinctions in my presentations and reflections. Now I share one more.

The design of the flipped classroom is likely to be place-based. Conversations tend to start with “Outside the classroom, I would like students to…” while “Inside the classroom, they should…”. There is nothing wrong with this provided the activities outside and inside the classroom are strategic, well-designed, and meaningful.

The problem with this approach might be that teachers do not really change the way they teach. For example, they could still only be delivering content outside the classroom and not building upon it inside. This approach might also limit what students do: They do only as the teacher dictates.
 

 
Flipped learning is about transferring the responsibility and ownership of learning to students. It is about motivating students to create content, to teach themselves, and to teach others. It is nurturing more independent and self-directed learners.

The creating of content and teaching is not limited to the outside or inside of the classroom. It happens in both because there are no silos of activities but a continuum of effort. Flipped learning is a realisation of the anytime-anywhere promise of technology.

Flipped learning goes against the grain of time tables, fixed curricula, academic grouping of students, and other artificial constructs of schooling. It leverages on the natural inclinations of learners when these constructs are not put in front of them. That might be why it is so much easier to flip the classroom than to flip the learning.

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.


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