Sometimes There Is No Substitute For Face-to-Face In Flipped Learning.

“Hey we should do a flipped learning conference in Chicago…how hard can it be.”

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Rogue One

I would consider myself a lone-wolf style teacher for 15 of my 18 years in teaching.  The lone-wolf style fits well with my personality, the way I was trained to be an educator, and the pattern I saw growing up in a household of two teachers.  In spite of the Danielson model, more enlightened pre-service training, and digital connectedness many teachers still operate on most days with a lone-wolf mentality.  However, I find myself more and more becoming one of those teachers promoting teaming, interchange of ideas, and interested in community.

I can’t tell you how strange this is, so much so that when I announced I was doing my first edcamp last year at Flipcon my co-worker literally had to catch his breath from laughter and surprise.  “I was just thinking about the guy I have worked with for ten years being excited about a hippie dippy edcamp.”  Nevertheless, it is the flipped learning community, the Flipped Learning Network specifically, and the two Flipcons I have attended that have changed my perspective on teaming, teaching, and community.

2016 was the final national Flipcon put on by the Flipped Learning Network (there are more regional Flipcons throughout the world, Adilade for example, and I highly recommend attending).  There is a tremendous sense of community when so many practitioners and those interested in flipped learning get together.  The #flipclass chat is great each week, as are so many other twitter chats.  The FLN Slack community is also great for communicating, but there is nothing like meeting together in person.  Attending my first flipped learning conference having not been on twitter or any other social media was strange as very good friends were meeting each other face to face for the first time.  This was a whole new world in education for me, but a world that was infinitely welcoming and encouraging.  This was the experience I was going to miss.

A New Hope

I met Kevin for the first time about 7 months ago in Allen, Texas at Flipcon16, he is very Chicago and I am very downstate. Before we left Texas he suggested a flipped learning conference in Illinois. I told him to contact me after school got started, and in September he did.

I met Gerry 18 months ago in East Lansing, Michigan at Flipcon15 where we were both presenting and helping run cameras to provide for the virtual portion of the conference. When Kevin called me, I immediately messaged Gerry, and he was on board.

Between the three of us we decided a conference on flipped and blended learning in the Chicago suburbs was a great idea and that we could do it. This was the genesis of the not-for-profit Illinois Flipped and Blended Learning Network  #ILfabn

Reality Strikes Back

The biggest issue, as it always is when building communities, is cost. Our goal for the Illinois Flipped and Blended Learning Network is simple: do a face to face conference with high quality PD at the most affordable price (under $50).  This may be absolutely silly on its face, but that is the task we have set for ourselves nonetheless.

Establishing a conference has thus far involved hal20a lot of Voxer, some Google Hangouts, a facilities tour, and a lot of phone, twitter, and email contacts. Getting a non-profit professional development conference off the ground also required a trip to the Illinois state capitol, Springfield not Chicago.  Bear in mind that the last time the state of Illinois had a state budget or funding plan of any kind was before I met Gerry in 2015, yet this is the hallway the office is in. It was also on this trip that the security guard thought it would be funny to tell me they no longer processed state paperwork in Springfield and that I would need to go to Chicago. He laughed and I humored the guy with the gun.  The fun continued when they asked me for a $25 expediting fee to process the application while I waited.  I laughed and the lady with the approval stamp did not find it humorous.

Brian Bennett, @bennettscience, Aaron Sams, @Chemicalsams, and Ken Bauer @kenbauer, were very helpful and giving with information, broad budgeting numbers, suggestions, encouragement, and help as I asked a million questions about the finer points and suggestions for putting on a conference.  There help was invaluable and the areas where our little group fails will likely be where we did not heed their wise council.

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Come to the flipside and join me… it is your destiny

The Illinois Flipped and Blended Learning Conference will take place June 15th and 16th at Huntley High School in Huntley Illinois.  We are trying to allow you to make of the conference what you, your budget, and your travel needs require. 

The conference starts midday on Thursday for only $10 with some hands-on how-to workshop style sessions for both beginning and intermediate flippers.  These long format style sessions are intended to be a type of make-and-take to get you started flipping well or to take your flip to the next level. The Thursday conference will be followed by offsite informal socializing and networking at a local establishment.

The $35 primary conference day on Friday will feature a keynote by The Innovation Teacher, Don Wettrick, author of  Pure Genius: Building a Culture of Innovation and Taking 20% Time to the Next Level. We will start the day with an early bird session for those local or onsite that want to make the most of their conference day. The rest of the day will include multiple break-out sessions with flip learning all-stars like David Prindle, David Walsh, and others.  We have even scheduled some mini session hands on learning time during the lunch break. There will be representatives from GoFormative and others to be announced soon. We are even leaving the last session open and keeping the doors open late for in-depth follow up sessions or edcamp style sessions to provide participants what they need or want.  

Whether your budget and schedule call for a one day drive in, a jam packed two day overnighter, or something in between, our one goal is providing an outstanding conference at an affordable price.

Return of the Jedi

Why blog on the FLN about ILfabn, the Flipped Learning Network is comprised of a community of flipped practitioners and we want you to be a part.  We have some great folks coming already but we are making a call for proposals from you.  We need more perspectives, presenters, and ideas to share in the Chicagoland area and the best in the business can be found here.  We are “flipped” and “blended” because so many flippers have ideas that have grown out of their flipped experiences and have expanded into so many other areas, and we want to showcase what you are doing.  We are looking for all areas and grade levels but would especially love some younger grade folks as the planners skew to the older grades.  We are also looking for representation from higher education and and those preparing pre-service teachers. We would also love perspectives from beyond the traditional classroom; curriculum coaches, tech coordinators, admins, etc.  when done well, flipped learning involves all aspects of the educational community.

Join us June 15th and 16th, at Huntley High School in Huntley Illinois for The Illinois Flipped and Blended Learning Conference.  Want a sneak peek?  Check out the location via drone footage from one of our sponsors Half Chrome Drones Click here for location drone footage!

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