A wonderful opportunity in Washington D.C. makes for a humbling reminder that flipped learning at its best and most powerful when it is a community.
I live in flyover country, Moweaqua Illinois may be the penultimate example of flyover country. Don’t get me wrong, I love my town of 1900 (counting generously), but situated 1/3 of the way from east coast to west coast and almost exactly halfway between Chicago’s outer rings and St. Louis, most people are passing through or passing overhead. What my small town life has taught me is how to recognize a true community, and flipped learning is a community.
A month or so ago the Flipped Learning Network (FLN) was contacted about speaking to about 30 guests of the U. S. State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program. As an FLN board member with the scheduling and logistical availability to attend, I was given the opportunity to represent the FLN in Washington D.C. The program and schedules of the program guests was handled by the Meridian International Center, a well established partner of the State Department whose purpose is:
” (to) prepare U.S. and international leaders to meet global challenges and opportunities. Our suite of programs delivers the approach and environment for leaders to understand global issues and cultures, exchange ideas, collaborate on solutions, and build valuable relationships.” http://www.meridian.org
The goals of this particular program was:
Overview of the landscape of e-learning and digital education in the U.S.,
Meridian felt flipped learning was a great fit for their goals and would be of great interest to their guests. The guests included governmental ministry officials, entrepreneurs, educators, and education innovators. The nearly 30 countries represented was a broad cross section of not only geography but of cultures, economies, and educational systems. Speaking to each in a meaningful and relevant way was daunting.
As regular readers and viewers of this blog and flippedlearning.org are familiar with, I have been focusing on the four pillars of F-L-I-P in a video training series that is being released on flippedlearning.org, and also on the website for the Illinois Flipped & Blended Learning Network. The four pillars are also the basis for an online learning conference the Flipped Learning Network is hosting in March (you hear it here first)!!! Assuming that flipped learning would be new or relatively new to the Meridian guests, I focused my presentation on the basics of F-L-I-P as represented by the four pillars. I also fortuitously chose to focus on stories of my experience. While I was certain my experience in the classroom would not be the same as the classroom experiences of the guests, something that always speaks across differences is passion, as passion is something every person can hear, recognize, and identify with.
I say “fortuitously” because I am not smart enough, or clever enough, to guess what would engage people from across the globe, but sharing stories of the classroom was the key to common ground. While most of my experience formally presenting has been to american educators, it became quickly evident that sharing commonalities of student, really human, behavior was the key to powerful conversations. The guests I was speaking to were very much interested in flipped learning, but what was truly engaging was sharing experiences as educators or students. Once the guests understood the passion I had for student success and flipped learning as a means and framework for learning, we had all the common ground we needed. The two hours flew by in a flash, we laughed, we questioned, and we shared. What we had was a flash of community.
During my talk, I freely mentioned the Flipped Learning Network, the Flipped Learning Global Initiative, my role regionally in Illinois Flipped & Blended, #flipclass, and other avenues of resources, communication, and community in our corner of the education world. I was not in Washington D.C. to sell a product or a group. I felt compelled to share a community that has changed my teaching in powerful ways, so much so I hopped on a plane in flyover country to share with people from around the world, not because I am a powerful speaker, but because I have a passionate message from a vital community of educators.
I mentioned in the sub-heading for this article that this experience was humbling, and while each of the guests was bright, accomplished, and talented, the most humbling example of passion for a community was a gentleman who was using what we consider an early learning toy to help our toddlers get ahead, as a tool to teach many who cannot attend school how to communicate in english as a way to change their lives. Passion speaks across distances. Passion can speak from flyover country. Passion can speak from Africa. Passion can speak from Asia, Europe, South and Central America. Passion can speak from your corner of the world as well. What passion needs is a community from which to draw resources, to provide feedback, to encourage, and to pass along the passion of one to the ears of many. I know what community looks like, and flipped learning drew a community early, grew that community to be many, and needs to speak as a community more than ever as the ideas we have a passion for reach more of the masses in order that flipped learning in its many forms remains a powerful tool for students.