Is #flippedlearning a Controversy?

Recently, I attended and presented at the annual American Education Research Association Image conference, this time located in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love. But using social media, specifically Twitter, I felt anything but love.

This conference attracts a different type of audience compared to say ImageImage, and Image. Papers, that’s right, papers that are submitted as proposals and blindly peer-reviewed are based on research, not anecdotes. There is fierce competition as to whose study is better, fear of research fraud, and divisions of multiple facets of perspectives ranging from curriculum design, teacher education, educational policy, organization and leadership, LGBTQ issues, and minority studies to just name a few.  Imagine 20 some thousand researchers in some realm of education vying for recognition as the best; and then not to mention the multitude of SIGs (Special Interest Groups) that allow members to be part of sub-specialty areas of interest.

Membership within Divisions and SIGs might very well be deepening a closed minded approach to education. Are we losing, or have we already lost, the bigger picture at hand? At the very heart of our work, we must strive for what is in the best interest of the students. Don’t we? Shouldn’t we?

So you might ask yourself, why do I attend and present at this type of conference? Because I genuinely enjoy conducting research and educational theory, and then aligning findings and basic fundamentals to practice. Consider that as my way of blending my learning.

Of the three papers I submitted, two were accepted – 66% acceptance rate is pretty darn good. One such paper is based on the instructional concept of flipped learning, but supported by theory. So it’s not just anecdotal, it’s theoretical.

As many of us are so familiar with presenting at large conferences, we know that we ironically cannot depend on technology. Needless to say, the room in which I was scheduled to present my panel-based paper did not have reliable Wi-Fi, if it did in fact kick in. So afterward, I took some key points from my paper and tweeted them out, with a #flippedlearning and #aera14 attached. The basis for my research was examining the theoretically-based cognitive implications and learning outcomes when using this given instructional design in a specific content area with a specific sample of a larger population – math and undergraduate nursing students. I didn’t explore the pragmatics of the implementation of the instruction because first, that wasn’t my intention and second, I’m the one who supplied the materials to conduct as controlled of a study as possible. No malice intended.

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Perhaps I had forgotten that I was within the lion’s den or perhaps I’d become so accustomed to collaborative and team support from attendance and presentation at ed tech conferences that my own vulnerability and naiveté placed me in a peace, love, happiness state, or perhaps I really do live in a sheltered yet progressive educational part of the country. Regardless, I did not think that my few tweets would garner such negative responses. Some responses included:

  • “I read it as a dreadfully diminutive model of teaching.” BUT…

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  • “#flippedlearning is a cop out…corporate privatization technique – socialize the risk, privatize the profit” BUT…

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  • “And that’s part of the failure of #flippedlearning…reducing pedagogy to the transfer of content.” BUT…Image

Dispersed throughout such comments were two aggravating phrases:

  1. “IMO” – in my opinion
  2. “…how I define…”

Those two phrases are empty. When it comes to research, personal opinions don’t really matter (they do, but they don’t), and how someone personally defines something (unless you are a well-versed, highly published scholar in the respective area) means dirt. Subjectivism has no place. It’s all about objective presentation based on what the literature says. Personal stories like “In my classroom…” or “I do it this way…” are not generalizable facts. Comments should be supported with relevant research. And that wasn’t happening.

These negative responses came from only 3-4 people out of thousands, and lasted for a couple of days, but who knows who . Maybe it lasted longer; I don’t know because I had finally asked the tweeters to remove me from their mentions. It’s not because I wasn’t interested in reading their concerns. I wasn’t interested in reading their constant negative viewpoints without any proposed solutions to their concerns, and above all, I wasn’t interested in conversing with people who had no interest in learning about the theoretical foundations that do in fact support the cognitive implications and the learning outcomes of #flippedlearning that I initially hypothesized.

Trained as an instructional designer and educational theorist, I approach situations as methodically and rationally as I can. I thrive on learning as much information as possible before making a decision. And maybe that’s why I was taken so aback when (what I deem as) irrational comments started coming in about #flippedlearning. When someone does not know the entire presentation, don’t jump to conclusions and automatically negatively criticize 140-character snipit of a bigger whole. Ask some bigger, non-derogatory questions rather than assuming and attacking.

After the initial shock, I took some time to reflect on this trendy instructional design that is intended to help rather than hinder, to aid and facilitate rather than suppress and overwhelm. And what I began to question, “is #flippedlearning a controversy?”

  1. What about the schools that do not have technology to flip?
  2. What about the students who do not have Internet at home?
  3. What about the students who do not have technological devices outside of school, if in fact the school has such devices?

Cognitive load and learning outcomes aside, how accessible is #flippedlearning outside of Silicon Valley?

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