If you’ve never attended a FlipCon, you may have missed your chance.
The seminal conference for the flipped learning movement, known formally as the Annual Flipped Learning Conference, is entering its ninth and final year as an in-person event, owing — somewhat fittingly — to dramatic shifts in online learning and communication, similar to the ones that birthed the movement in the first place.
FlipCon’s swan song, which starts on July 19 in suburban Dallas, is hardly the end of the movement or of the Flipped Learning Network, the group that has organized the event since 2012. “The conference has peaked,” explained Brian Bennett, an educator and chairman of the board for the Flipped Learning Network. “Annual conference attendance has dropped. But there’s still a lot of interest, especially international interest, in flipping.”
The loss of the national conference, Bennett said, will give the board more time and resources to focus on things like creating online communities, promoting independently-organized regional events, curating online resources related to flipped learning, and developing a roster of prominent bloggers, like Aaron Sams, who was one of the founders of the flipped learning movement along with Jon Bergmann back in 2007. (A separate series of FlipCons, licensed from Bergmann, lives on internationally in places such as the U.K. and Australia.)
Ultimately, Bennett and the board hope to relinquish some of their top-down control to members and educators, positioning FLN as a community-led hub for continuous professional development around flipped learning. It’s a broad goal, but if executed correctly, the shift could prove useful for both novice and advanced practitioners. According to Bennett, there’s going to be more of an emphasis on connecting local educators with each other for meetups, edcamps, or visits to established flipped classrooms.
Recently, FlipCon has struggled to find its footing at a time when online networks like Twitter and free, barely-planned unconferences have become more essential (and affordable) for connecting educators and driving professional learning than national conferences, with fees and travel costs that can run thousands of dollars.
FlipCon, for its part, can hardly be accused of inertia in the face of change. Over the years it’s tried some novel, even gimmicky, approaches, from live streaming to flipping sessions to this year’s brainstorm: baking an edcamp-like unconference into the main event, which regional conferences, such as CUE, have tried with mixed success.
“People are looking for more continual day-to-day stuff rather than looking at the three days where they can get everything,” Bennett said of educators’ professional learning preferences. “I think moving to the networks/online communities model allows for more on-demand learning, and we’re saying you can do these things anywhere.”
Even Bennett, who’s attended every FlipCon since 2009 and will miss seeing old friends every year, admits that the annual conference model was, if anything, holding some educators back.
“The internet has grown in the last 5-10 years in ways people really couldn’t imagine,” he said. “By saying we can offer these kinds of learning experiences outside of the conference atmosphere, we’re really trying to empower people to pick up flipped learning anywhere, instead of saying, ‘In June, I’m going to start.’ We’re trying to push that time-frame forward for people.”
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