Five Questions for Flipped Learning Network’s Kari Arfstrom

This article originally appeared on the EDCompass Blog on 2/4/13.  Click here for the original URL.

The Flipped Learning Network™ is a non-profit organization that was founded in 2012 by Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams, the pioneers of flipped learning and co-authors of Flip Your Classroom: Teach Every Student in Every Class Every Day (bestselling book of the year for publisher ISTE). We recently spoke with Kari Arfstrom, executive director of the Flipped Learning Network, to answer five questions about FLN and this learning model. Here’s what Kari shared with us.

By Kari Arfstrom

1. What kick-started the Flipped Learning Network?

The mission of the Flipped Learning Network is to provide educators with the knowledge, skills, and resources to successfully implement flipped learning in their classrooms. The goals of the organization are:

  • To provide professional learning opportunities on Flipped Learning
  • To conduct, collaborate and disseminate relevant research on Flipped Learning
  • To act as the clearinghouse for distributing best and promising practices for current and future “flipped” educators.

A year ago there was no FLN  but we had a Ning, an online community of practice, and an annual conference.  The Ning had roughly 2,500 members and the annual summer event was held in Jon and Aaron’s former high school gymnasium, because they had outgrown the library.  They hired me to write the strategic plan, file incorporation papers, and amp up the outreach and training.

Today, we have over 11,000 active members on our Ning and planning for 500 attendees for the sixth annual Flipped Conference with hundreds more attending virtually.

We have trained close to a thousand teachers with our exclusive one-day workshops, and will reach untold others with our new blended learning course coming this spring called the Foundations of Flipped Learning.

2. How do you define flipped learning?

The flipped classroom uses modern technology to create a sustainable, reproducible, and manageable environment for student-centered learning. Students can watch the short recorded lectures as many times as they wish to grasp the content, and then come to class ready to jump into the lesson, answer questions, work on collaborative projects, and explore the content further. With the transfer of foundational knowledge (such as a traditional lecture) outside of class time, students are asked to take ownership of their own learning. Educators are able to personalize each class, incorporate higher order skills (picture Bloom’s Taxonomy – the pyramid we all learned about in grad school), and increase time spent with each student. Teachers are embracing Flipped Learning in elementary and secondary schools for all disciplines, as well as in higher education. There is no right or wrong “flipped” method, only a desire for student-centered classrooms that are a bit chaotic!

3. What is the research saying?

The FLN commissioned a survey last summer (2012) with ClassroomWindow and of the nearly 500 educators who responded to our request, we found that 85% of flipped teachers had more than 7 years of experience and have been using the model for less than two years. Yet in that short period of time, 88% indicated they had improved job satisfaction with over half of them saying it had significantly improved!  Teachers also reported that 80% of the students have improved attitudes towards this mode of learning. And standardized test scores were up 67%.

Later this winter, the FLN will be releasing a literature review with a meta-analysis of the current research. This first-of-its-kind report will set the bar for all research to come. We are working with numerous Master’s and doctoral candidates around the world who are writing on this very issue so more research is being produced monthly.

4. What types of resources are accessible on your site for flipped educators?

Virtual and in-person events promoted on the network are a great place to start. First, be sure to attend FlipCon13 June 17-19, 2013 in Stillwater, MN, a short drive from St Paul. Experienced and beginning flipped educators will gather for this one-of-a-kind event to converse, share, network, and further explore flipped learning. Dozens of sessions will be held specifically for educators in elementary, secondary and higher education on all subjects.  We also have one-day training workshops in Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania and California over the next few months. We are adding more so check the calendar for other sites.

Next, attend one of our Many Faces of Flipped Learning webinar series either virtually or live. These subject-specific online events are geared towards teachers of English, math, world languages, science, administrators and PD, history/social studies, and elementary grades.  There is even one for flipped PE, home ec, art, film, and deaf and hard of hearing students.  You can flip any class!

Listen to one of the many Flipped Learning podcasts hosted by Troy Cockrum. His myriad interviews with rock star educators are required listening for beginning and advanced flippers. Of course, join the Ning, then pick which forums to join, discussions to respond to, or post your own questions and videos. Spend a few minutes poking around the FLN website, it’s not too overwhelming, and see what other resources we offer!

5. What type of technology do flipped educators need to get started?

Luckily, most teachers already have what it takes to do this. That is one of the key reasons that Flipped Learning has taken off so quickly. There is no new technology to learn or too expensive to buy. Many teachers have a computer, a SMART Board, desks that can be re-arranged, and a place to safely and securely store their videos online. The one piece of equipment that may need to be purchased is the lecture capture software and even that is inexpensive, included with some products or even free—depending on how sophisticated you want or need to be with your editing! I’ve also heard that world language teachers need a better than average microphone.

Let me share one great story about your product. I know two teachers in Minnesota who started flipped their classrooms by taking turns delivering the daily lecture standing in front of their SMART Board, as they usually did, while the other literally pointed the camera and recorded it. The next day, they would walk around the classroom while they showed the video and work one-on-one with students as they took notes or did the project. Something as seemingly as simple as that made a big difference in ensuring that students were understanding what was being said. This solved the problem for students who didn’t have Internet access at home, allowed more time for student interactions with their teachers, and freed up more time for higher-order skills since the lectures were shorter when delivered in this fashion.

FLN executive director, Kari M Arfstrom, Ph.D., is the founder and principal of Arfstrom Consulting with two decades of experience with K-12 education membership organizations (CoSN, NYLC, AESA and AASA). Prior to that, she worked for the U. S. House of Representatives and is a licensed language arts teacher in Minnesota. She is a current board member for the Rural School and Community Trust and a former board member for the National Coalition for Technology in Education and Training (NCTET), the Education and Libraries Network Coalition (EdLiNC), and the Organizations Concerned about Rural Education (OCRE). Dr. Arfstrom has a degree and licensure in secondary education from Augsburg College and is a former language arts teacher in Minnesota. Her Master’s degree is in Library and Information Science from the Catholic University in Washington, DC. Her Ph.D., from George Mason University in Fairfax, VA, is in Educational Leadership and Policy.


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