Flipped Conference 2013 – FlipCon13

This week I had the opportunity and privilege to go to Stillwater, Minnesota for the 2013 Flipped Conference, aka FlipCon13. It was particularly exciting for me because I would have the opportunity to meet so many of the people that I had been chatting with every Monday night on Twitter (#flipclass).

Sure enough, I was able to meet Jon Bergmann, Aaron Sams, Brian Bennett, Cheryl Morris, Andrew Thomasson, Katie Lanier, David Fouch, Aiesha Stover, and others – in person! It was strange because, in my mind, they were like celebrities, well-known innovators in the education world. But when I met them, they were just regular people, warm and welcoming, eager to talk with others about their experiences. The people at this conference were unlike the people I’ve met at any other conference for this very reason.

Then I went to the workshops. Two words: MIND…BLOWN. So many innovations in the flipped classroom have taken place, and I am excited to try all of them! Here are some of the highlights:

Keynote address: Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams – The duo that are credited as the pioneers of the flipped classroom discussed how they are using their own philosophy of reflecting on what they’ve done in order to continually become better. Jon and Aaron traced their history together from what they referred to as “Flipped Classroom 101” to today, where the focus is on individualized instruction, differentiation, autonomy, and alternative assessment.

Jon and Aaron stated that there is an entire spectrum of flipped classroom models, and the goal is to take one step at a time to get from where you are to where you want to be on that spectrum. They closed with the comment that our emphasis should not be on content, the interconnectedness of content, curiosity, and relationships.

Demystifying Flipped Learning for Parents: Katie Lanier – The focus of this workshop was something that I had never really given much thought – explaining the flipped classroom model to parents. Most parents are unfamiliar with the concept, and if they learn about it from an unreliable source, it may be oversimplified and incorrectly explained. Katie explained that some parents consider it “not teaching.”

Our job as teachers is to approach parents and communicate that we know what we’re doing, we all want the students to succeed, and that instruction is still occurring in class. We need to communicate early in order to get their support, letting them know what will be different and how it can be better than traditional models. We also need to communicate throughout the year to keep them informed as to how the learners are responding positively to the change.

Katie emphasized that the mode, style, and tone of all communications are important, making it available, personal, and positive.

The Collaborative Flip: Andrew Thomasson and Cheryl Morris – This is a pair of phenomenal teachers that have been flipping their classroom collaboratively despite living in two different states in two different time zones.

Their story is a fascinating one. They met a year ago at FlipCon12. They had both heard of the flipped classroom model before and decided to collaboratively flip their English classes, focusing on the reading and writing process. Over the year they had 2 new school sites, 9 new preps, 450 new students, and 2 lives out of school. They somehow also have the time to moderate Monday night Twitter chats using the hashtag #flipclass. The thing that made it work was the agreement that they would plan together as much as possible, but they were friends first. In keeping with the apparent theme of the conference, the work was important, but the relationship is always more important.

Peer Instruction: Troy Faulkner and Rob Warneke – This is a pair of high school math teachers in Minnesota. The idea of their classroom combines the flipped classroom model with Erik Mazur’s idea of peer conversations. The idea is to watch the video the night before, and then start the next day’s class with a conceptual question (usually multiple choice) and allow the students to vote on the correct answer. Without revealing the correct answer you have students discuss their answer choices with each other in small groups, particularly if the students chose different answers. Then the students are given an opportunity to vote again to see if anyone changed his or her answer. The idea is that students can often explain things to each other better than we can. Not only does this encourage student communication and collaboration, but it also clears up common misconception without the teacher simply telling the student that they are wrong.

Tony and Rob stressed that the questions should be conceptual, without a lot of calculation, so that the fundamentals are clearly understood by students.

They then showed the results of the change in instruction. The number of students who scored 80% or above in their classes rose more than 10% across the board, while failure rates dropped from 13% down to 6%.

Redesigning Schools: Brian Bennett – This was by far the most mind-blowing workshop I attended. Brian spoke about three areas of redesign that are necessary in schools today: the physical layout, the use of technology, and the flexibility of the curriculum. Firstly, we need to make our classrooms more student-focused, allowing for peer conversation and collaboration, and the ability for different learning activities to be occurring all at once. Secondly, we need to use technology more intentionally. Technology should not just be used because it is available and new; rather, it should be used when it is the most effective, if not the only, way to learn a specific concept. Finally, we need to get away from teacher-directed lesson plans and design our units of curriculum based on the curiosity of the learners, by asking them what they want to know, and letting that guide the day-to-day discussions and activities. Brian emphasized that we need to form relationships with the learners before we get into the content, so that there is mutual appreciation and mutual responsibility.

Keynote Address: Dr. Ramsey Musallam – Dr. Musallam began with a video of Audri, a young student, who created a Rube Goldberg machine. While watching the video, two things were obvious: Audri was inspired, and he had the required knowledge to accomplish the task. The discussion then focused on how people get inspired, and what makes them curious. Dr. Musallam stated that the intentional withholding of information is what fosters curiosity. We feel a need to solve a problem. So, as teachers, we need to create situations where learners are challenged to solve a problem without all of the necessary information. Teachers should be listening to the resulting conversations and used them to drive what information should be given in the videos that will be watched later by the learners. This allows any “aha” moments to occur in the classroom. Dr. Musallam concluded by encouraging us to be constantly thinking about what we can do better, and to share those thoughts with others.

From start to finish, this was an amazing conference, and the presenters were brilliant and inspiring! I can’t wait to start the new year in a whole new way!

Thank you to all of the sponsors, presenters, and volunteers for allowing an event like this to happen and improve learning all across the country.

About blueshirtkhakipants

IB Math Teacher, Pianist, Canadian, Husband, Father of Two

Posted on June 21, 2013, in Flipped Classroom. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Thank you for posting your experiences in these sessions. I attended some of the same ones virtually. The thing I appreciate the most about my initial attempts at flipping is the time that it frees up in class. My focus has always been on the hands on aspects of teaching science, but that pressure to cover content is always there. Flipping reduces that somewhat. The unexpected bonus is when students are working on projects in class, you can get to know them without pre-fabricated “getting to know you” activities usually relegated to the beginning of school.

    Do you mind if I post a link to your blog on my “What’s Next” GDoc?

    • Absolutely! I would be honored! I had the same experience in getting to know my students better and sooner, so that the relationships were very strong throughout the year. I feel that I was closer to my students this year than ever.

  2. Kathleen Diver

    I really appreciated seeing your take on the workshops. I read Bergmann and Sams’ book last summer and follow some of the other names on twitter. I was only able to “lurk” this time around- so having your description of the program was helpful. I will be looking for the remote/archived videos of some of the presentations so at least I can learn a little more. Your post helps me to know that I want to know more!

  3. Well done recap. I could not attend virtually as I was speaking at conferences and your recap has helped me feel plugged in to what I might have missed. It’s nice to know that we aren’t alone our journeys. Thanks for helping to keep the rest of us updated!

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