Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Meta-Principle is the 'Active' Classroom

I met an intriguing character at FlipCon Adelaide, and he challenged me to blog weekly. He said to me, as long as it is authentic, and it reflects your struggles, people want to hear.  He directed me to the most popular program on his radio network…’My Bad’ which is basically a program about high profile educators sharing their biggest mistakes.

Given that evidence, it was hard to disagree with him. So, to that end, here I am again. I’m going make a brave attempt at blogging weekly. Thanks for the encouragement Errol.

I think I can do 4 paragraphs a week.

It has been awhile hasn’t it? I write this in late November, and I can see my last post was in August.

A few things that have got in the way of my blogging include: two beautiful children (one who doesn’t sleep), one arduous but worthwhile Highly Accomplished Teacher accreditation process, being a part of a dynamic but incredibly demanding team here at Inaburra, and yes, who could forget – a university degree on the side.

The latter has been deferred…just too much going on! Must sleep.

Did I mention I have also been busy preparing my presentations for FlipCon Brisbane and FlipCon Adelaide? I should have. Perhaps you caught them.

Briefly – I presented on the viability of Flipping the K-6 Classroom and used my own Year 5 and Year 6 classrooms as a template for the struggles and success of this strategy.

In my second presentation I conducted a mini-meta analysis of some of the available literature concerning the efficacy and satisfaction rates of the Flipped

(Which in English means … do students like it and does it lead to improved results?)

You can find the data here: 

The short answer?

The flipped classroom generally leads to improved results, but students don’t always like it. Unless the strategy itself leads to an ACTIVE classroom environment students may be equally satisfied with the flipped or traditional models, or even dissatisfied with the flipped model.

The lesson?

Flip your classroom, in order to make your classroom an active classroom.

(JonBergmann would probably argue that if your classroom isn’t active, then you are not ‘flipping’.)

There’s the goal.

Or as Aaron Sams cheerfully put it -  ‘Active Learning is the Meta-Principle’.

On that note - so long Aaron. You will be missed from the FlipCon circuit. It was great hearing from you. Looking forward to reading your Doctorate.

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Flipped Classroom - A Paradigm Shift

Dear Reader,
I hope you will permit me to share an article that I wrote recently for ETS magazine.
Please find the link here.
Alternatively - read on below!
The Flipped Classroom: A Paradigm Shift
A change is here. It is not coming. It is here. It has arrived. And like the wind, teachers can feel it on their skin, and in some classrooms. The way teachers have taught for the last 100 years is undergoing a significant transformation. This article is about a paradigm shift.
Readers have almost certainly heard about the flipped classroom. It is a concept that has been in the educational sphere for at least five years now. At its most basic definition, the flipped classroom is this: the lessons are viewed at home and the homework is done in school. Hence, the standard classwork/homework pattern is ‘flipped’ or inverted. There are more sophisticated and better definitions than this, but that is for another article.
What effect does this homework/classwork shift have on the traditional paradigm of teaching? How does creating video lectures for students open up a classroom to be more engaging in homework-style activities? What sort of effect does this have on the classroom? The answer is, a significant effect.
In the flipped classroom, a paradigm that has remained unchanged for around 2,000 years is transformed in an instant. No longer is the teacher out the front, dispensing his or her wisdom and intelligence, in quantifiable packets, at a prearranged times, at a set pace and at a certain point in the unit. No longer do students have to be there, in the classroom, at that place, at that time, to receive teacher-dispensed packets of wisdom and content. The age of teaching from the front of the room, like drawing on rock with charcoal, or writing on blackboard with chalk, or scribing on an interactive whiteboard, are over. The teacher is no longer the ‘sage on the stage’. Rather, the teacher is the ‘guide by the side’. This is not a catchy phrase – it is a literal description.
The teaching content is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, when the student is ready. It is available at any place and on any device. It is available at the student’s preferred pace, and can be watched and re-watched as many times as is necessary. The content can also be fast-forwarded if the student deems it necessary. Student agency over student learning has been increased. Students are no longer passive recipients of the teachers’ intelligence or wisdom. Rather, they are active hunters for information they require in order to master or pass elements of the assessment.
For teachers who like to lecture from the front and have students hanging on their every word, it may be time to pursue a career in politics, because in schools, the soapbox has been smashed by the digital revolution and educators must move with the times.
An uncomfortable truth is this: if a teacher can be replaced by a YouTube video, perhaps he or she should be. Everyone may have noticed fewer cashiers in supermarkets lately. They have been replaced by the rising use of ‘self-service’ shopping machines. The same sort of thing is happening in education right now. Developing technology is driving a paradigm shift.
Obviously, some lessons require person-to-person interaction; discussions for example, or debates. A video cannot provide much in the way of empathy, or a sympathetic ear to a distraught student. But any lesson that is content driven can be recorded, uploaded and available permanently for students at their convenience.
Educators must change, or else a change will be foisted upon them. It is not realistic to say that teachers will not be teachers anymore. Only a trained and present teacher can effectively maximise, mediate and moderate online instruction. At this point, only teachers can guide students to different resources, or simply help their students who are stuck on a particular problem – though ‘adaptive learning’ may speak to this area in the future.
Educators must change. If they do not change, or grow, they will literally become redundant. The wind is blowing. It is time to set the sails.


K-12 Flipped Classroom Coach at Inaburra School
Matt Burns is a Primary Teacher, HSIE Coordinator, Flipped Classroom Coordinator at Inaburra School, a Christian, co-educational, K-12, independent school in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire.
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Saturday, January 16, 2016

FlipCon Australia 2015

Jon, myself and Aaron...

Hello fellow flippers,
Last year I was honored to be a presenter at two significant conferences.

The first was the Australian Institute of independent schools conference – WILL IT BLEND.

This was a conference that brought together what was current in educational technology in 2015.

My contribution to this conference was two separate presentations. Both concerned with flipping the classroom. I co-presented with Ryan Gill of Masada College, who brought his expertise at flipping the classroom in a secondary context to our group presentation.

Our presentation went well. On day one we had 15 or so people in the room - whereas on day two we had 45. People were interested in what we had to share and had spread the word. I look forward to presenting again at this conference this year.

As a presenter, I was able to view other presentations. I was most struck by the Makey Makey presentation and device. This little device really does hold some concrete use for achieving science and technology outcomes in our classrooms in a thoroughly engaging manner.

I was also invited to attend the first FlipCon Australia conference. I presented two workshops at this conference.

1)Flipping the Primary Classroom
2)Flipping the Classroom: K to 12 Leadership

Both presentations received positive feedback from the attendees, the second in particular. In this second presentation I focused on my research of the literature concerning the efficacy of the flip classroom approach and student satisfaction rates in a K – 12 context.

I also was part of an interview panel for primary teachers.

At this conference I was able to work directly under John Bergman and Aaron Sams, the two leaders in the flip classroom educational movement.

These two men were as inspiring in real life as they are in their book - and I hope to work with them more.

There were a couple of key thoughts that arose from this conference.

Aaron Sams was brilliant in his observation that at some point in the future the flip classroom will entirely fade away. We will not even refer to it. In fact the flip classroom will become as ubiquitous as pencils. It will just be a part of the educational culture that we are in.

Futher to this, the observations from Sams and Bergman regarding the inexorable flow on effect from flipping your classroom classroom are worth noting.

When one is able to provide content 100% flipped manner, one can then look at your assessments as well and seek to provide those in a flipped manner – and ultimately when one has mastered this one can then extend this differentiation to modifying the assessment in such a way that the key elements of the topic are still being assessed but are been assessed in such a way that suits the learner.

For example a student who labors with chemistry but is highly interested in metalwork - can be assessed (as much as is reasonable) on his chemical understanding of the metalwork.

Or a student who loves his soccer, but labors with physics, can be assessed on his astrophysical understanding of what is happening with regards to angles and forces to a soccer ball in extended game of soccer.

This has given this some thought to how I would also mean like to assess in my own classroom - and of course is concerned with principles of UDL.

Further to this I have been challenged to up the engagement quality of some of my screen card presentations. I must thank Jeremy LeCormu for this.

Whilst I still hold that a satisfactory screen cast is perhaps better than the best live teacher lesson… I have been inspired to increase the engagement level of my own screen casting technique. I think that Jeremy does this very well, and I have sought to emulate his style here.

It is my aim to shortly begin research on the efficacy of the flipped classroom in a primary context. Currently there is an international dearth of any such research available in a primary or secondary level (particularly the former).

 I hope to begin this under and collaborating with the University of Wollongong, using my own class and some objective testing results that I have collected along the way. This will take the form of a comparative study.

If you would like me to share in flipping the classroom with you, or your staff, I would be very happy to do so. Contact details are available on this site,  or below.

Google: mattburnsflipyourclassroom
T: @BurnsMatthew
M: 0411 824 123
E: mattburns1976@gmail.com

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Worst Screencast Is Better Than The Best Lesson.

What a deliberately inflammatory statement!


But I think you can understand the sentiment.

The worst screencast is always available. It can be paused, re-wound, and fast forwarded. It can be re-watched over and over.

The best lesson happens once. If you blinked - you missed it. If you were sick - or away at a Sport Carnival, or a Music lesson, or Peter-Pan production practise, or Choir group, or whatever innumerable reasons students are not in the classroom - you missed it.

Of course the comment is a bit of an exaggeration. An indecipherable screencast is probably pretty useless to anyone.

But a half-decent screencast? One that can be accessed over and over again - in innumerable ways?

I contend (that as far as content is concerned) the half-decent screencast, beats the PERFECT lesson.

(Of course you can't have a gripping class debate if everyone is watching a screencast separately. So for class debates you might really all need to be there. Unless people watch the content separately, and then debate via on online forum. And furthermore - I have seen some great discussions occur when students who are watching one of my screencasts together, pause the cast, discuss the content, sort something out, and then resume watching the cast. So...that's something to consider.)

I know I have changed 'worst' to 'half-decent'. I have no regrets. I just wanted an eye-grabbing title. I think you probably get what I am trying to say...

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Turns out my students like my videos better because I made them

(it's sports day - normally I wear a tie)

Hey there Flippers! I'm sure you can tell I’m not great at this this blogging business. It’s only been about eight months or so since my last post.  But here I am again! Let’s focus on something I have learnt.

Turns out my students like my videos better because I made them.

I know. I know. Grammatically it’s poor. But I’m going for catchy instead of correct.

If you're an educator and you've been in a cave on Mars then you probably haven't heard about the flipped classroom. But if you have wandered out of that cave then it’s probably come across your attention. 


Brief recap – the flipped classroom is where a teacher uses screen-casts (lesson videos) in order to supplement the students learning.

To that end I, there are companies out there now that are selling their specially made screen-casts to the public. Schools can purchase access to these sites and then students can download the screen casts.

My school invested in such a site this year. I’m not going to fib. It has been useful. But – guess what:

Turns out my students like my videos better because I made them.

And I’d suggest it would be the same for you.

I started using this purchased site a bit at the beginning of the year to share Maths screen casts with my students. I like in the site because it actually links the screen cast directly to relevant mathematical activities, which I still think is pretty useful.

This had been my approach with Mathletics anyway. I would make a screen cast, upload it to my website and give instructions to my students to watch it, and then to go on Mathletics and complete an associated task.

This new website did all that for me, except it wasn’t my screen cast.

And guess what:

Turns out my students like my videos better because I made them.

In three years of flipping the classroom I have not felt the students move away from me one tiny bit. But I did after using this website. I trusted my instincts and ask the children about it. Did they prefer the videos I made for them or did they prefer the videos from the purchased website. I asked them to be brutally honest. Because they are 5th graders – they were.

In fact, we completed a survey. Here is the survey link. This one is just graphs:

And here is two more. These links have plenty of comment data:

 I like to learn by a teacher that teach me and the videos heeeelp me learn to.

i like using you and videos because if i do not get the video i can speak to you i also think i like your videos more because you know what is in them

I think that the "Maths Online" videos just give a million examples plus the guy can't answer any questions you may have because he doesn't address them, where as you can in person and your don't give as many examples. Bronson

I like using the real live teacher and the videos because its keeps a balance of using one or the other. I especially like having the teacher because you can ask questions.

Well, most of my students like my videos because they are me. Some (a few) liked the professional videos. Good for them!

Which leads me to this conclusion:

I think we should use mostly our own videos, but mix it up with a few others as well.

(Also interesting to know a clear 80% of children indicated they preferred using the real live teacher and the videos in the classroom instead of just the videos or just the teacher.)

So keep mixing it up!

If you haven’t started using screen cast in your classroom could I please encourage you to? I'm a Year Five teacher and I've been doing it for three years and it is fantastic! It has improved my student results - the effects are measurable.

I have also started to consult in NSW primary and high schools with regards to flipping (or blending) the classroom. If you are interested in having me come along to speak to your staff, details can be found here:   https://sites.google.com/site/mattburnsflipyourclassroom/

cave image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/brostad/3928895269

Sunday, January 18, 2015

6 month delay...(it was worth it)

Dear flippers,

I have been busy - and so have not been blogging as much as I'd like to.

Reasons why

1. My wife and I had a baby. He is awesome - but means that blogging has taken a serious hit.

2. I started a Masters of Educational Technology at Wollongong University. A great course - fantastic research - but again - not much time for blogging.

I am aware that I had data to post re: last years flip experiment?

I hope to post that more formally shortly. For now - the results of the 'flip out' were (roughly) as follows.

Here it is:

The students performed as well Multiplication and Division (fully flipped) and they did in Addition and Subtraction (partially flipped).

But worthy of note: Multiplication and Division is typically a more difficult area of study.

And furthermore - qualitatively, the students FAR preferred the flipped method.

So did I. FAR more time could be spent assisting individuals and groups of students with problem-solving or other learning challenges.

In fact, I have taken the flipped learning model and applied it to as much of my classroom as I possibly can - including Science, HSIE and English.

I aim to go into more detail about this shortly. For now - please remember  - if you want to talk flipping I am at mattburns1976@gmail.com or can be reached at @BurnsMatthew on twitter.

I have also started to consult in NSW primary and high schools with regards to flipping (or blending) the classroom. If you are interested in having me come along to speak to your staff, details can be found here:   https://sites.google.com/site/mattburnsflipyourclassroom/

Keep flipping!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

the smartest kids in the world and how they got that way

ALERT! The following post is NOT about flipping my primary classroom. 

It IS about some of the highest PISA test scoring students on the planet, and arguably, how they got that way. 

If you are only interested in flipping (or blending) the classroom, perhaps you should skip this post?

But...if you are interested in what makes kids 'smart' (define smart please) perhaps you would like to read on...

The Smartest Kids In the World
and how they got that way

Dear colleagues,

I enjoyed reading the text ‘The Smartest Kids in the World’ over the holiday break.

It primarily deals with the sudden jump in academic results for three international locations – Finland, South Korea and Poland.

Students in these locations have been sitting the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) tests from when they were first established as members of OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) - since the year 2000. They have scored consistently in the high range. Meanwhile, the US and Australia have gone backwards.

The author (Amanda Ripley) simply asks the question – How did these high-performing students get 'that way'?

The answer, as far as the author is concerned, is broken down into one simple word:


The authors’ thesis runs as follows - US (and Australian) testing just isn’t hard enough (in mainstream schools). The students are simply not pushed and nor are teachers rising to the challenge. In the three high performing countries listed above, the testing is extremely rigorous - and the students and teachers consistently rise to the challenge, but not always in healthy ways.

One US state (Maine) decided to implement a more rigorous testing programme for its students. However, on the eve of the assessments, it appeared as if more than half the senior year cohort would fail. So they deferred the tests, afraid of looking bad. Then they deferred them again. Then they just shelved them. Now, nobody talks about them anymore. Until, of course, this book was published!

In the US, students are denied the chance to fail at school. They simply fail in the real world instead.

    A powerful story was related by the author about a high performing maths teacher who was moved into a low performing school. He awarded an ‘F’ to a student who had previously consistently achieved ‘C’s or ‘B’s. Her parents were outraged, and she was very upset and confused as she was a lovely quiet girl who had always tried hard.
“Why did you give me an ‘F’?’ she asked the teacher.
‘I didn't give you an ‘F’. You earned it’’ was his reply.

This young lady ended up creating a study group, doubling her study efforts, and at the end of the year she achieved a ‘C’ grade – a genuine ‘C’ grade. In tears she thanked her teacher for awarding her the grade. He simply replied… ‘I didn’t give you a ‘C’. ’You earned it’.

This story gave me pause for thought. How honest are we with our students? Do we sugar coat the truth (or outright withhold it) because we think that they can't handle it? And if we do this… are we really helping them? Perhaps it would be better for them to fail now, instead of later.

It seems that improved student results are largely up to teachers, and the system the teachers come from and work under. No real surprises there. In Australia we have known for some time that the biggest factor impacting on student results in a classroom (apart from the sizeable demographic factor) is teacher quality (Teachers Make a Difference – John Hattie 2003).

The message from Amanda Ripley’s book is that it is the rigour with which teachers teach (and the high expectations they have of their students) that is the key factor.

Finland was a key high-performing country included in the author’s study. Some educationalists have criticised the Finnish results, feeling that because of the largely mono-cultural and mono-racial nature of Finland, teaching and testing must be much simpler - and this would likely translate into better scores.

In order to investigate this theory, the author travelled to small outlying schools on the very edge of Finland dedicated to educating the children of the very small amount of refugees that do enter this country. These students were taught under the same educational model as the rest of the population, and the improvement rate of these students was identical.

Refugees from worn-torn countries living in Finland are achieving at higher rates than the standard US student.

Here’s a key comment from the text, from a passionate teacher who works directly with these refugee students: ‘I can’t know their backstory. If I do I will feel sorry for them and I won’t be hard enough on them.’

Let’s just reflect on that for a moment.

The message here: rigour - and high expectations.

The author also takes a good crack at the American (Australian?) cult of self-esteem…by which she means the very popular idea that the most important thing in school is that students feel good about themselves. She notes that in all the high achieving countries there is no such emphasis on students feeling good about themselves. The emphasis, in these schools, is on achievement; whether you are correct, or incorrect, and why. Students fail, and fail regularly. Mostly, after a while, they stop failing.

In none of the high achieving countries are students awarded marks for effort. They are awarded marks for results. The author contrasts this with the practice of some US high schools in which up to 60 percent of the grade is derived from an ‘effort’ score!

Again (and this is worth repeating) - students in higher performing countries tend to fail more often in school – so as not to fail later on in life.

The author took some time to note the total lack of effect on a student’s results made by ‘bake-sale mums’. Helping out around the school, running programs, or painting murals was shown to have no positive affect whatsoever on a student’s results, and in some cases, led to a negative effect. The US is full of parents just like this. It would seem that Mums and Dads who help out around the school are not necessarily helping their child to achieve.

Rather (and unsurprisingly) it was the parents who read with and discussed texts critically with students in the family home who generated higher-achieving students. It was the family  that read together, or modelled reading to their children, that consistently scored more highly on standardised tests.

Though this is not the author’s main point - it is worth raising. In most of these high performing countries teachers are of a high status; that is, it is not easy to be a teacher and the profession is honoured. A number of rigorous assessments take place before a candidate is even considered for teacher’s college, and whilst teachers are by no means considered wealthy citizens, they are very well-paid. South Korea is the exception, in which the bulk of the teaching is done at night by highly-paid tutors. In this case it is the tutors that are revered.

Of the countries studied, the author does not offer South Korea as an aspirational model. In fact she refers to it as ‘the pressure cooker’. The amount of pressure placed on students to perform in this country has led to some fairly grim events. Poland and Finland are suggested as much superior alternatives.

That said, one of my favourite chapters in the book was titled the ‘Four-Million Dollar Teacher’. The author asks...where would you go in a tutor-driven educational free market economy like South Korea to find the ‘best’ teacher? She concludes that it would be the most popular tutor in Korea - the tutor that as many parents as possible try to access because he delivers real results.

That’s this guy - Kim Ki-Hoon, the world’s most highly paid after-school tutor. The chapter made me think more carefully about performance-based pay for teachers - the risks and rewards. In this sort of system, teachers who do a better job might get paid more, but of course you run the very real risk of creating a test-driven educational economy.

The book relies heavily on the results of the PISA tests. These tests were designed by Dr. Andreas Schleicher, a German statistician and researcher in the field of education. In 1994 he became project manager at the Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI) of the OECD in Paris. He began to develop the PISA study there in 1995 and with the help of fellow researchers globally, the PISA tests are what they are today. Though the PISA tests are subject to some criticism, as all tests are, I can only agree with the author when she says,’ The PISA tests aren’t perfect. But they are the best we’ve got’.

The tests themselves are very concerned with critical thinking in the areas of Maths, English (or your first language equivalent) and Science. The questions mostly require long written answers, and there are numerous correct answers. The tests are difficult to mark, and take many hours of arduous human assessment.

There are no robots marking these exams.

As yet the PISA tests do not measure collaborative skills, but at the time of writing, Dr. Andreas Schleicher was working on ways to amend and improve the tests to incorporate this component.

I feel I must mention this final point, because it struck me so soundly. Amanda Ripley quotes a study on effective praise (praise which leads to actual growth and development) which identifies 3 key factors that are essential to praise that works:

a) it is genuine
b) it is specific
c) it is rare

In fact, praise that is none of the above has the opposite effect. Students, it seems, are not easily fooled. They can recognise our false praise.

Is this what you learnt at university? Because I sure didn’t. Should we really be making ourselves give out 6 merit awards a week? Or perhaps the Principal's awards should really mean something.

So what does this mean for my classroom?

This year I intend to teach a little harder, and a little meaner. It doesn’t mean I won’t smile at the students. It just means that the bar for success has gone up. We have already gone some way down this path at Inaburra, in making the ‘C’ a standard pass grade, and an ‘A’ and ‘B’ increasingly rare.

As mentioned, I am now thinking much harder about who gets merit certificates, and why.

I am promoting reading and viewing texts (print and visual) at home more vigorously than ever with the parent body. It seems clear that it is those students whose families dissect texts, as opposed to offering simple praise for a book read, who consistently score more highly. Let’s also try to catch Dad reading a book.

Thanks for taking the time to share my thoughts. I hope that you have had a few new ones of your own along the way.


image taken from: http://www.amandaripley.com/books/the-smartest-kids-in-the-world

I have also started to consult in NSW primary and high schools with regards to flipping (or blending) the classroom. If you are interested in having me come along to speak to your staff, details can be found here:   https://sites.google.com/site/mattburnsflipyourclassroom/