I’m probably not going to make many friends with this post. I know that. Last fall, when I wrote about The Branded Teacher, some colleagues in the educational technology community were unhappy. In the post, I raised my concerns about how some educators lose their objectivity when they become affiliated with technologies, applications, and websites. The promise of perks, stipends and special titles can cloud teachers’ judgment and influence their instructional decision-making. The branding of teachers is a worrisome trend.
An article published today in Inside Higher Education (IHE) raised some additional concerns. It appears that a group of flipped learning researchers and professional developers have created a for-profit organization called the Flipped Learning Global Initiative. The FLGI group is working to establish standards for flipped classrooms and for training related to flipped classrooms. At first glance, the group is impressive. The FLGI includes such notable flipped learning pioneers as Eric Mazur and Jonathan Bergmann, which help to build some credibility for the organization. It’s only when I dug a little deeper in the FLGI website that I started to wonder about the group’s overall goal. FLGI’s stated mission is:
“to coordinate, orchestrate and scale the key elements required to successfully expand flipped learning internationally. FLGI’s primary focus is building bridges between the silos of robust flipped learning activity occurring worldwide.”
This all sounds pretty inviting and inspiring. The group is coordinating. And orchestrating. And building bridges.
As I moved from page to page across the FLGI website, I looked specifically for something that the IHE article offered as a goal for the organization. FLGI seeks to define flipped learning in a coherent way to increase communication, cross-pollination and collaboration. Traditionally, flipping meant that students watched videos before attending class and then educators would have students apply the pre-class content in some active, interactive way. From the IHE article, it seems that FLGI was promoting an updated definition.
But I couldn’t find this unified flipped learning definition anywhere on the FLGI website. At least not for free. To read about “Flipped Learning 3.0,” I could buy the book or pay for training or purchase a podcast. If I was really motivated, I could pay the $99 a year for Flipped Learning 3.0 Level I Certification or $129 a year for Level II Certification. While the site lists many international educators who were certified by FLGI, I decided to pass. But I found something that could lead me to the underlying principles of their definition of Flipped Learning 3.0. On a page labeled The Manifesto, FLGI identifies three critical elements for flipped learning environments. They include:
- immediately transform classrooms into active learning spaces
- encourage students to own their learning
- lay the foundation to nurture self-directed, life-long learners
So, that’s flipping 3.0. Active learning. Motivation. Self-regulation.
Before anybody infers that I don’t think these are important, let me diverge a bit. A few years ago, my doctor recommended that I lose some weight. With my family’s medical history, my doctor felt that by losing ten or fifteen pounds, I would reduce my risk for heart disease, diabetes and stroke. When I inquired about different diets he would suggest, he said, “While there are a bunch of fads out there, the trick to losing weight has been known for generations. Eat less. Exercise more. It’s that easy.” He didn’t recommend that I get a nutritionist. Or tell me to get a personal trainer. He also didn’t suggest some fancy new diet. His weight loss suggestion was simple and didn’t cost me a cent. And I ended up losing over 30 pounds.
Returning to the Flipped Learning 3.0 definition that I’ve inferred from the FLGI website. We’ve known for a long time that active learning works. It’s also well documented that students need to be motivated to learn and to self-direct their own learning. I know that some educators can struggle with how to implement these concepts in their educational environments and content areas and that professional development can help close these gaps. But that’s not the real motivation behind the Flipped Learning Global Initiative. It’s not just about advancing education or improving student learning. By packaging these practices together under a single catchy title, FLGI members have created a marketable brand that can be monetized and sold.
I’ll just stick with calling it “evidence-based teaching.”