This morning kicked off with a session by Molly Schroeder who compelled the teachers to "Live in Beta". Rather than feel bound to be perfect in all areas, and experts before we try anything, she stressed how important it is for teachers (and students) to try new technologies, learning styles, and assignments early and often. Afterwards, we had the chance to meet by subject (Math/English/Social Studies..etc.) and chat about our experiences in Flipping. This was probably the most surprising aspect as I had never realized how many English Flippers were out there. Historically, Flipped Learning seems to have been designed by math/science types and requires a bit more tweaking to make work in the English classroom. Nevertheless, everyone was there and ready to go.
The afternoon included two breakout session windows. I had the chance to present in the first session with Tim Downing and Tom Driscoll on our experiences in applying gamification to our classes over the past year. It was clear that there was a lot of curiosity on this topic as Flipped Learning teachers are looking to branch beyond the "Flipped 101" model and starting to change their process more profoundly. Our presentation won't be post online for a few days, but you can check out our slide show here (bit.ly/GamifyFlipcon) and our resources here (bit.ly/GamifyResources ). It's a beta for us as well so we always appreciate feedback.
I jumped around a bit in the second session, hearing a panel discussion by some book contributors, a presentation on Standards-Based grading, and session on Active Learning Space by Lisa Palmieri who talked about her success in applying Design Thinking to her courses at Ellis School. While I doubt I'll have the chance to teach that type of course, her work has been another excellent example of where Flipped Learning goes into the next level (and great to see Pittsburgh leading the way on these topics!)
One thing that's really been different about this conference, as opposed to traditional teacher PD, an EdCamp, or even a state technology conference like PETE&C, is the common background we all share...though that's not always a good thing. Just about everyone here is knowledgable about and believes in the power of Flipped Learning, Gamification, Project-Based Learning, Mastery Grading...all that fun stuff. There's a few new to the process, but the vast majority are either active participants, or they're at least on board. This has lead to an interesting dynamic, both positively and negatively. It's great to be around so many people that believe in what you do and see its potential...but it's also a bit like preaching to the choir. Many sessions I attended had no questions asked because everyone was already on the same page! That's a testament to how far we've come, but sad to lose that spontaneity of a brutally honest debate. It's great so many people are connected and tweeting throughout the conference...but some are live-tweeting so much that they're missing the meaning as they hunt for soundbites. The "#FlipCon14" tag yields some great tools...as well as way too many "quotable quotes" we all have heard dozens of times. It's exciting to see how people have found success in applying Flipped Learning...but now what? How do refine, perfect, or merge these tools? It's valuable learning about the latest app, LMS, web-based tool, or video shell...but lots of these systems seem to be approaching uniformity. Rather than switching from app to app, what philosophies are strongest for learning...technology aside. There's so many great leaders at this conference from their respective communities...the challenge now is to see if we can lead to some new conclusions, rather than simply trying to impress one and other. It won't be an easy task: the more specialized people become, the easier it is tune out other methods as we fixate on our own solution. The FlipCon rookies seem a little too star-struck by the FlipCon vets rather than sharing their own stories, while sometimes the FlipCon vets seem too caught up in reuniting to mentor the FlipCon rookies. Speaking for myself, too often I find myself ignoring a good presentation because I think "this is great, but I already cover this just in a different way. Delete." I need to remember it's not just about what I can use personally my in classroom, but what I can share with others? It's time to use the rest of the conference to take this information back home, as well as being open to challenge each other and think critically about our own practice.
With that, it's time to check out the schedule for tomorrow's second and final day of the conference. With four breakout sessions, and a final wrap-up, there promises to be a lot more, hopefully, to learn. Until then!