I am just now returning from five amazing days sharing with and learning from Swedish educators. My wife, Kris, was able to come along on this trip and we thoroughly enjoyed our time. Not only were we able to see a new part of the world, but we were able to experience the people and culture of Sweden in a way that few can in such a short amount of time. Our hosts were the staff from InfoMentor, a company that is bringing about educational change in Europe. They both shared their country with us, and more importantly, they shared their lives with us. Mats, their co-CEO, took an entire day out of his busy schedule to drive us around to see many amazing sights. We made new friends and it was hard to say goodbye.
On Tuesday (October 8th) InfoMentor hosted a one-day Flipped Class workshop at what was one of the most picturesque places in which I have ever had the privilege of sharing. It was an old brewery with views across the water at Old Stockholm which has been transformed into a conference center. One hundred and sixty educators came primarily from the Stockholm area, but many traveled great distances to come and learn about the flipped class.
Though I was the main presenter, InfoMentor brought in three Swedish flipped class pioneers who are changing education from the ground up. Karin Brånebäck (@braneback) is a primary (elementary) teacher who has been flipping her class for two years and who also started a Swedish Flipped Class Facebook page which has over 5000 members. David Andersson (@dvdndrssn) is a secondary Math teacher who has done dramatic things with his students. And last, but not least, is Leif Blomqvist, (@LeifHBlomqvist) a woodworking teacher who brought the house down with his dry wit and fun demeanor. Each of these educators are leaders in their country. They have much to offer the rest of the flipped learning community and I want to highlight one of them.
Though I could talk about each of the Swedish pioneers, I want to share a bit of what I learned from Leif. When I first met Leif, my impressions were of a reserved man who was a bit shy. I was able to sit with Leif at dinner the night before the conference and when I asked him about what he was doing in his classroom, he became a new person. His passion for teaching, and more importantly for his students was starkly evident. He couldn’t wait to tell me about what he was doing with his students. He teaches youngsters woodworking and has found flipped learning the way to reach his diverse students who are mostly immigrants to Sweden. Before he flipped his class, many students showed up late to class and were insecure about their ability to build things. Many live in apartments and don’t have ready access to tools to practice with, which contributed to their insecurities. His students constantly relied upon him for everything. Today his students arrive early and come in during lunch and free time to work on projects. They are self-directed and more confident in their learning. Leif has built into them a self-reliance which has freed him up to really challenge his students to do the best work possible. To my knowledge, Leif is one of the first woodworking teachers in the world to flip his classes, so in many respects he is one of the true pioneers of flipped industrial arts. I encourage you to visit his YouTube page and watch a couple of his videos. Though I didn’t understand a word in the videos, I was engaged and amused as I watched them. I think Leif might have a spot someday on TV as the Swedish Woodworking star.
Another take-away I had from this conference I’ve heard before, but is now resonating more and more with me. Each of these Swedish Pioneers expressed how they just had to get started. They needed to make the first step. For them the first step was to flip one lesson. They were uncertain if it would work. Their hardest step was the first one. Once they flipped the first lesson, they gained confidence and then continued. But the end result is that their classrooms have been transformed into amazing learning spaces in which students are engaged and take ownership for their own learning.
So how about you? Are you going to take that first step? Could you flip one lesson? I encourage you to do what my new friends did, and take the first step.
One of Leif’s Videos