Revising the Record on Flipped Learning Incorporated

A few months ago, I published a blog post examining The Flipped Learning Global Initiative (FLGI) and its work in developing training standards for professional development activities related to flipped classrooms. My post was in response to a March 2018 article from Inside Higher Education where FLGI was featured. At the start of my post, I wrote, “I’m probably not going to make many friends with this post.” And while it took a few months, it’s clear that I ruffled some feathers.

Last week, Errol St. Clair Smith posted a comment on my original post. St. Clair Smith is the founder and director of global development of FLGI. You can read his comments here. But I thought I’d dedicate this post to revising the record where it was necessary.

In his comment, St. Clair Smith offers three main areas where he felt I misled my readers. Let me address these in detail.

1. No one has to pay to get clarification about the evolving definition of Flipped Learning. In my original post, I describe looking for the updated and unified definition of flipped learning that was described in the original Inside Higher Education article. When I searched the FLGI website, I found training videos, books and podcasts to purchase but I couldn’t find the unified definition. In fact, that definition is still in development. It will be released in September. Which brings us to St. Clair Smith’s second point.

2.The project is being managed by a nonprofit FLGI is a for-profit entity. While FLGI offers flipped learning trainings and certification, it offers these services at a cost. Another group, The Academy of Active Learning Arts and Sciences, is actually managing the process of developing the unified flipped learning definition. Strangely, the AALAS isn’t mentioned in the original Inside Higher Education article. That might be due, in part, because the AALAS wasn’t created until May 2018. It was created by FLGI and many FLGI members serve on the AALAS leadership team. Besides being the founder and director of global development of FLGI, St. Clair Smith also serves as a member of the AALAS Board of Directors.

3. Finally, it’s always risky to attempt to define the “intentions” of others. This is in reference to the section where I write:

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.

St. Clair Smith is correct. I don’t know the intentions or motivations of FLGI members. I don’t know if FLGI’s motivation is to create a marketable brand that can be monetized and sold. I also don’t know why FLGI chose to create AALAS or why its members lead both groups. As an educator, I don’t really know the nuances of non-profit vs. for-profit organizations or the advantages of having both groups working in concert. I also don’t know how the existence of these complementary organizations serves those entities or the greater educational community. But I have reservations.

But I’ve mentioned these reservations in the past. In my post, The Branded Teacher, I write how relationships with corporations can impact teachers’ judgments and their use of technologies. But I’m not the only one who has these reservations. In that original post, I quoted a Columbia University professor who worried that teachers may be “seduced to make greater use of the technology, given these efforts by tech companies.”

I want to point out one more issue that St. Clair Smith identifies.  He writes, “I’m going to assume that your intentions are honorable, but that your journalism skills are still evolving. As a proponent of truth, transparency, and full disclosure, we trust that you will publish this correction.”

I am a proponent of truth and transparency. In December 2012, I wrote this post that clearly disclosed what influences my work. I fully disclosed that I receive no financial rewards for what I post here or for the links I provide. When I review a technology or a service, I do it because I find it valuable as an educator. I don’t receive any compensation for the products or services I review. I also have not monetized my YouTube channel or earn any money from the advertising that WordPress includes in this free version.

In response to St. Clair Smith’s concerns, however, I’ve moved two older blog posts (Why I Blog and Full Disclosure) to the front page of this blog to make my motivations and relationships clear to ALL readers. In his pursuit of honor, truth, transparency and full disclosure, I wonder whether St. Clair Smith will choose to include this same information on the FLGI and AALAS websites.


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