But the conference!
I "attended" the keynote after a few technical hiccups. It was delivered by my Twitter "friend" Brian Bennett (@bennettscience) and was an overview of what flipped learning should be. It's exciting to watch someone so young but also so knowledgable and passionate about what he does. It's hard not to love the flip with Brian explaining it.
I spent the day with two teachers from my site who are flipped newbies. They knew that flipped meant making videos of lectures, but that's pretty much it.
However, as we watched Brian's keynote, we realised that "flipped classrooms" aren't really new. I mean, the technology component is new. But my colleague's perception is that flipped class is constructivist and collaborative methodology from a decade ago, only with technology to make it "sexy." I explained that it was also engaging students where they live - social media and technology - and it engages with the common core to a much greater degree than the traditional classroom. Her response was basically that it's what "every teacher from a decade ago identifies as good teaching."
That may be true, but it's a paradigm that is unheard of for teachers like me, who came into the profession in the wake of NCLB and direct instruction and whole-class engagement strategies, but a de-emphasis on group work, project based learning and inquiry. I mean, none of those things featured heavily in my teacher training. I finished in 2006, and started teaching in 2004, so it's not like I'm brand new to the profession. But the constructivist/collaborative pedagogical approach is one that not many teachers my age/experience level have dealt with much, or at all.
Here's the thing: we all know that education is cyclical. But the difference now is that we're not just throwing out what is accepted (data driven whole-class instruction) and replacing it with something that went out in the last change (project based collaborative constructivist pedagogy). We're taking the best of both those worlds and creating something new using technology in a way that is entirely innovative and forward-thinking.
It may be naive of me, but I really believe that the flipped class is here to stay. Here's the primary difference between flipped classrooms and every other movement in education in the last four decades: flipped classrooms will evolve as the technology and students change. Hell, even the "creators" of the movement acknowledge that there is no "one right model" of a flipped classroom. Instead, there are tons of different models; that is because when the focus is STUDENTS and what they need to learn, it HAS to be adjusted to the students in the room.
There is no flipped classroom methodology that is one-size-fits-all because BY DEFINITION we are student-driven.
So we can't help but adapt and change rapidly. My class changes often, based on the needs of the students in the room. That's what flipped classrooms are all about. So I will stand by my prediction: Flipped classrooms are here to stay, or at least until we figure out how to make them EVEN BETTER and they evolve again into something else that's even more awesome.
I won't go into huge detail about the other sessions I attended, except to say that I'm in awe of all three presenters and their wisdom and experience.
I attended Troy Cockrum's (@tcockrum) Writing Workshop session, although my colleagues and I got so excited by some ideas we were collaborating on that I didn't get to pay 100% attention to everything he said. Looking forward to seeing it archived so I can give him my undivided attention, which he more than deserved for his innovative use of flipped classroom strategies in ELA.
After that was Andy Schwen's (@mrschwen) amazing Google Apps presentation. This guy has built a course management system that does mastery and standards-based grading through Google Docs. It is a thing of great beauty and I know as I dig deeper into it, I will only be more in awe of his tech prowess. It blows my mind. And makes me super excited about using Google Apps more fully in my classes next year.
Finally, I watched what was supposed to be Laurie Aaronson's presentation on low-SES schools and how to use flipped methodology in that context (which is my current context). But as it turned out, Brian Bennett had to pinch-hit for her at the last minute, and so he walked through a lot of his tips, tricks and technology to help better manage the flipped class. Hands down, that was the most useful session I watched.
Here are some of the ideas I Tweeted about:
1. Using a Tic-Tac-To menu for activities arranged by level on Bloom's Taxonomy. It is just amazing.
2. Using English audio and another language subtitles (or vice versa) on videos for ELLs, doing translation through Google translate. Again, great idea.
3. He said two things that really resonated with me. Roughly quoted:
"don't underestimate the compassion your students have for one another" (context: sharing technology with students who don't have access)
"I didn't become a teacher because I wanted to be comfortable" (context: the ever-changing flipped methodology and classroom needs)
I am so, so inspired and excited beyond belief to start again in the fall.
And tomorrow, I'm going to attempt to teach my June School class while watching some of the sessions, or at least keeping up on Twitter. The kids are working on projects and don't need me much at this point, so it should be mostly do-able for the keynote (which starts earlier than they show up) and one session, which falls during lunch. The others will probably be a little more difficult. That's the downside about flipped classrooms - you are rarely at your desk. :-) This is the only time that's a downside, to be fair.
So yeah, thanks to everyone who organised #FlipCon12 and who interacted with me on Twitter during the event. Special thanks to Brian Bennett for being awesome, but also for being my conduit for asking questions in the live sessions. You are an inspiration to know (even if it's only virtually), my friend.
Sidebar: if you care about my personal life (in the context of teaching), you can read what happened alongside the the #FlipCon12 viewing here.
All this was going on amidst a very dramatic day in terms of my professional career. I've been at my current school three years (but over four calendar years) and they've brought me back on a temporary contract each year sometime in the summer. Well this year, they offered me a temp contract much earlier than usual - last week actually - complete with a schedule they literally built just for me (if I was building the master schedule, I couldn't have made a more perfect schedule...seriously).
Before I knew that I had a job at SLz, I had started interviewing at Redwood High School in Marin. So long story short, Redwood did my background check yesterday (which I found out about because my principal called me at 7:45 on Monday morning to ask me what my plans were...awkward) and then called me with a job offer this afternoon.
The decision to leave SLzHS is tough - it's my home. I love my kids, I love the staff, I love the school. It's an amazing place.
But. As my former administrators said (I texted them for Professional Crisis Advice), I'm always investing in SLzUSD, but Redwood wants to invest in ME. They're offering a probationary contract on tenure track. And the salary and benefits are ridiculously good. Like really, really good. So yeah.
Sidebar over. Sorry for those of you who don't care about where I teach. :-)