I’m Not There Yet … But I’m Not Where I Was.
Reflecting on a year of growth after FlipCon 16
Summer is ending
I have to admit it to myself, summer is almost over. I’m putting finishing touches on a Google training unit as my school prepares to roll out 1:1 with Chromebooks. I have to re-record my introduction video to send to parents and students prior to school that introduces them to me and my flipped learning format. I am going to have to darken the door of my classroom and break the summer moratorium on my school desk. It seems like a natural time to reflect on my journey and map out a path.
FlipCon was an opportunity
Three and a half years ago I started my flipped classroom journey over Christmas and spent a great deal of time reinventing the wheel. Not that it was an all bad path because all the decisions I made in the process both good and bad were mine to own. Last year as a lark I presented at Flipcon to help defray the cost of my attendance. What I found was a very tightly knit but welcoming family of educators with passion and unity of purpose. I learned a lot and was challenged and stretched as an educator while being shown a perspective on learning and teaching that has over the past few years reinvigorated my teaching and creativity in the profession.
I’m not there yet
As I write this, I am in my hotel room before flying home from Flipcon 16 and reflection seems to be more productive than the book I am reading. I didn’t fully realize a goal or two that I had set for myself this year. It was a fact that had to reluctantly confess to a mentor when he asked me about it this week, but in the same breath I begged for half credit as I had made some big strides and they formed my basis for my presenting duties at the conference. My pleading resulted in an encouraging challenge to keep moving forward.
In reflecting this week, I realized that I’m not there yet, wherever “there” is, but I also had to admit that I had moved a long way from where I was. I focused my Flipcon presentations and contributions to the conference toward those just starting out or looking to go on the journey. It was summed up well by a veteran flipper who said “We are all only experts in our experiences”. Helping others eager to get started is invigorating and reminds us where we have been on our journey. Preparing for the conference I spent a lot of time curating my work and the work of my students from the past year and I was a little surprised at the progress my students and I had made together. I can firmly say that I have moved through flipped classroom to flipped learning and can see a path to flipped mastery.
I just looked back at a post I wrote defending the flipped classroom, or flip 101, as a justifiable to place to stop and stay a while on the flipped journey, and I still stand by that. I was surprised that I wrote that only five months ago. http://bit.ly/FLNguestblogFeb16 However, in the months since, I have continued to grow personally, some of my colleagues have sought me out to follow my lead in there own way, it was announced I am getting a new principal, the district decided to go 1:1, it was decided to resurrect an initative that will be good for students, and some other changes in the climate in my building. All of these things have provided opportunities to address at least some the challenges to moving my classroom, students, and myself ahead.
One of those opportunities is to introduce every student and teacher to flipped learning, infact bypassing the flipped classroom temporarily, through the Google training materials I have had the opportunity to collaborate with my colleagues to produce. Every student in the high school and to a great degree every teacher will be trained in Google Apps but will also be trained to model actively facilitated but differentiated learning. The opportunity for broad implementation, if only for a four week unit, has been provided by the changing situation, but the ingenuity of the solution has little to do with me but rather the power of well done flipped learning. The journey for me now is a dead sprint to run the race both swift and well.
This year’s conference
I did get a glimpse of the flipped road ahead at the conference this year. I learned a lot about flipped mastery and even some gamification from the usual suspects and some others I met this week who provided a great example on their home turf. I found that flipped mastery lies not far down the road from where I am, it’s like passing the sign or billboard along the highway that gives you hope that it won’t be long. On the other hand, I received some very bad news about the tough conditions on the road ahead to the assessment end of mastery learning from a guy that specializes in it.
It was still a very welcoming family, but much like every family, or group of friends, or communities there were familiar faces and faces that were missing. It’s not unlike the holiday dinner that has a few cousins that couldn’t make it, it makes them no less a part of the family but the absence is noticeable. Just like families grow and take on new responsibilities, for so many present and not, flipped learning has provided amazing growth to those on the journey for a while and it has lead to new responsibilities and new opportunities. A few months ago there was some great discussion about what is “flipped” on the weekly twitter chat and opinions among the informed varied. What was common to all of the definitions was whatever the present or future of flipped was, the point of entry and initial steps were very common. Flipped mastery to more pure mastery included flipping as the gateway. Branching off into edtech, online learning, and the like came off the trunk of flipping the learning process. Radical rethinking of professional development, new applications of formative assessment methods and tools, and so many other areas that are not strictly flipped have at least threads of flipped methods changing attitudes about what space is appropriate for what activity, the value of student and teacher choice in their methods of learning, and how to measure all of it. It is a reminder that the road leads different places for different folks and allows some to stay close to home, some to grow into larger areas, and quite literally takes others around the globe.
Seeing beyond the hill
I find an interesting juxtaposition in the fact that just as flipped learning grows white hot in ever enlarging educations circles for some who have become masters of the craft there remains a desire to see beyond the next hill. I hit me this week in another conversation with a master flipper sharing with me frustration for where to move her class, her students, and herself next. The implication was not abandoning flipping but questions where the path was leading her next and if it centered around flipping or refocused her on something new. I suppose it is nothing new and is really the most predictable thing in the world. Innovators must innovate and innovation will always have its roots in the source materials but will evolve in new and different directions. Those that adopt early will readily incorporate the best practices as they are distilled. The middle majority may come later to the party but still need the same mentoring and guidance in practice if quality, integrity, and effectiveness is to be maintained.
The organization models the mantra
I admit a measure of disappointment when I heard that Flipcon 16 will be the last national conference, at least for a while. This was only my second conference and it was an entirely different experience while being an equally invigorating experience. and I am more disappointed that it is the last now that it is over. However, just as the focus of efforts and responsibilities of some flippers has developed into new missions, the Flipped Learning Network has announced that there mission is shifting and likewise is not away from flipping but simply away from a focus on a national conference. This also should really be the most obvious thing in the context of the flipping discussion as flipped learning has always been based on putting the right learning activities in the right space. Flipped learning decentralizes control of the learning and puts it in the hands of the learners. The Flipped Learning Network is moving in a direction that decentralizes the experts and focuses on the experiences of the practitioners on a local or regional level. Does flipped learning professional development require attendance at a single location or can those needs be met by a central hub of communication among community members? It is really just trying to find the right activity for the right space and providing the necessary supports for learning. For those of us that are flipped practitioners this should sound familiar. For those new to flipping The shift in the Flipped Learning Network is a model that is true to its core and the passion of the folks that pioneered, innovated, adopted and grew the family.
Not where I was
Just like our classrooms require student ownership for successful learning, the flipped community will need to own the responsibility for continued learning among our peers to respect the foundations that have been so well laid. Upon reflections I find less disappointment as this is not a eulogy for a conference but a call to action for a community that is ever expanding in scope, geography, inclusion, and most importantly, opportunity for learning. I have no idea where the journey leads for flipped learning as pedagogy or for flipped learning as a community and family, but it’s not there yet it’s simply not where it was. As I reflect personally, I end my week having a pretty good feeling about where I am headed in the immediate future with flipping, but I still don’t know where “there” is and I am certain I am in a much better place than I was.