And on the 7th day – we flipped!

Day 7 the new cohort

De Uithof, Utrecht

Every year all the Dutch university teacher training institutions get together (Nijmegen, Utrecht Amsterdam x2, Leiden and Groningen) with all the teacher trainers and teacher trainees for the MFL subjects and Dutch. This year it was Utrecht’s turn to organise it.


The hall emptied for the plenary

Students and lecturers started dripping in at around 9.30 and at 10 o’clock the opening plenary took place. With all of us in one lecture room I could have a look around and see how many of my students had actually made the (relatively short) journey to Utrecht. About three quarters of my new February cohort was present and less than half of the September cohort. Although Monday is our standard university day, it seems my September students see this as a non-compulsory day and choose to use their time to work on other things (perhaps on their research projects?). The February students are still finding their feet and have not yet figured out what they can get away with and what not – basically the essays they have to write are compulsory but the classes are not, so we can’t oblige them to turn up anywhere. It’s basically up to us to show them how much they’ll miss if they don’t turn up.

student flats

And there you have it, the ‘moot point’….. we regularly have students not showing up for classes and yet they still manage to hand in adequate essays and get their masters (MEd.). They see the need for turning up at their placement schools but not at the university. I, as a novice believer in “the flipped class”, have a bit of a problem here. I have absolutely no issues with letting students receive input at home (in fact, I’m all for it) but still try to make sure my workshops are interactive with lots of examples and questions and group work (thus hoping to add value to the idea of turning up in person), and yet, apparently, some people really don’t need me in order to pass their exams (and our university is not yet online, so my students only occasionally see a brainshark of mine as a ‘replacement’ for/addition to physical presence in class).

Does this mean I have no added value?

I’m very curious as to how other teacher training institutions deal with these issues.

Anyway, back to the national tt day. We had an opening lecture from a bloke who has written a few books on the origins of literary figures. It appears he was a columnist and literary critic. He clearly knew his stuff but I have to admit to only having one ear on him as the other side of my brain was planning ahead and, therefore, distracted (who said women can multi-task?). It would have been handy if someone had recorded/streamed his talk so that I could watch it now from the comfort of my sofa – hmm, so a ‘flipped‘ idea can sometimes be handy for a lack of concentration, inadequate focus, repetition of huge amounts of material/input ……

Chic! - lecturers lunch in the sunny car park!

After the plenary session the first round of workshops kicked off. My colleague, Janneke (from the Free University of Amsterdam) and I had entitled our workshop “the flipping literature class” and wanted to demonstrate the ideas of the flipped classroom and some ‘new’ ways of dealing with literature with the help of ICT. After the predictable teething problems (tiny room, 25 students, 14 computers, no headphones, no log in code, no beamer, no open-able windows – and who said I was high maintenance?) we eventually kicked off and managed to get things started. The students then also had a bash at creating various bits and bobs and seemed to have a great time playing with go-animate, voicethread and soundcloud. Brainshark was one that was put on a back burner to be studied in more depth at home.

shark - spotted but not ready for you yet

Our aim was to let students see what can be done. We wanted to show them that by providing input (in whatever form) at home you could use the scarce and valuable class time to work collaboratively with your pupils and help personalise their learning. The homework is then done in the classroom with the support of peers and the teacher. It seems like an ideal situation for certain aspects of school such as literature or TBL. The students seemed to see it mainly as an aid to motivation. I hope they’ll go home and mull it over some more and see that there is potential for a lot more in terms of ‘content’.

I would love to know everyone’s opinions. Please take a look at the site we made and the handout from today’s workshop. With any luck some of the students may even upload the various sound files they made today.


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