Monthly Archives: January 2014

Flipping 2.0

flipping 2.0I’m curious about how we can ‘personalize’ learning: how can we help each individual learner to best develop their talents?

‘Flipped learning’ has caught my attention as one potential route, characterized by a more student-centric classroom, higher-level thinking as a goal, and good use of face-to-face interaction between students and teachers.

For this reason I recently read Flipping 2.0: Practical Strategies for Flipping Your Class, compiled by Jason Bretzmann, with authors contributing to sections on 1) Flipping in the core content areas, 2) Can anybody flip? and 3) Just for teachers.

I would like to recommend this book to teachers interested in flipping their classrooms and to other creators of educational resources looking to support personalized learning. I thought it was surprisingly accessible and there were three things I particularly appreciated about it:

1. Expert

All of the contributors have in-depth and first-hand experience of transitioning to a flipped classroom and describe that transformation clearly.  I thought the cases were helpful and real-world descriptions of the benefits and pitfalls. This is not a book of idealized concepts written by hands-off consultants but a very credible “how-to” handbook.

2. Practical

I especially liked the practical nature of the book. Amongst others, it’s a great resource for working out which technical resources might work best for teachers and students. There’s a lot of useful practical advice on creating learning materials, engaging students and dealing with challenges connected with flipped learning such as access to technology.  Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

3. Passion for teaching and learning

I love it when people are passionate about what they do. The contributors to this work share a passion for teaching and learning and that oozes through the pages. You feel throughout the book that they are striving to be great teachers and are constantly looking for ways to excel and improve in that role. Respect!

By the end of the book I personally wanted to create my own lessons and I’m not even a teacher! Apart from thinking how we could support the flipped classroom at Sanoma Learning, it also made me wonder if I could use some of these learnings in my own job. Somehow a ‘flipped board meeting’ doesn’t sound quite right :-), yet we do say that we want to spend less time going through powerpoint slides and more time on discussing and improving the strategies. Worth an experiment …

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Amazing Australia

Working mainly from Finland and Holland during the year, I was keen to find a way to see some daylight this Winter. Destination: Australia. We wouldn’t be joining the Barmy Army at the Ashes Cricket Tournament. I’m a biologist by training and love to visit places of outstanding natural beauty – there is so much fantastic and unique nature to experience in this country. I was slightly apprehensive about one aspect of the trip: venomous snakes, crocodiles, killer sharks, deadly jellyfish, stingrays, poisonous spiders and typhoons. It’s not all Kangaroo and Koala. In England it rarely gets more dangerous than the neighbour’s cat and a bit of drizzle. However, my apprehension was unfounded: not a single bite or sting.

I’ll spare you the details but wanted to share my top five highlights from the visit (in no particular order):

Whitsunday Islands

Whitehaven Beach

Whitehaven Beach

We spent a few days here including Christmas Day on Whitehaven Beach. This is the most stunning unspoiled white sand and clear sea I have ever seen. What a paradise!

We enjoyed a twilight sail on Christmas Eve and canoeing and swimming in the balmy sea that day. A super-relaxed and summery Christmas-time.

Great Barrier Reef

I had always wanted to see the Reef. We took a reef2professionally arranged trip 70 km off the Cairns shoreline and made three stops. I’ve never snorkeled or dived before and am not a strong swimmer, but it was easy and I soon got the hang of it.

reefIt’s funny to be so far from the coast yet to see the ocean bed just a few metres below. I can’t begin to describe how beautiful it is to look down into the clear blue waters and see the coral reef and multitude of colourful fish for the first time. Breathing under water was such a weird sensation. Out of this world!

Sydney

SOH1

Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge

We visited a few cities during the trip, including Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Cairns, Alice Springs and Darwin. Australia is a predominantly urban society with nearly 90% of the population living in urban areas. The quality of city life in Australia is also very high – the Economist Intelligence Unit placed four Australian cities in the top 10 worldwide in their City Liveability Index 2013 (Helsinki also scored highly at position 8).

All of the cities we visited seemed intelligently-designed and functional including lots of well-maintained open spaces.

NYE1I could imagine it would be a pleasure to live in such a city. Most places look better and feel happier when the sun is shining too :-).

We were lucky to be in Sydney on New Year’s Eve and got up early to secure a prime viewing spot of the firework display. NYE3(Thankfully Australians queue like the English and not like the Dutch – it was an impressive 17.000 person line).

It was a good spirited day in the park and what a spectacle at midnight!

Twelve Apostles

apostlesapostles2We drove part of the Great Ocean Road from Melbourne in the direction of Adelaide. There were wonderful views of the ocean and surfing along the way. The highlight was the Twelve Apostles: amazing reddish cliffs, with the rough yet clear blue seas and angry cloudy skies. It was a stormy, rugged place, quite a contrast to the rather sophisticated Melbourne we had just left. This is probably the most surprising entry on the list, but well worth the visit if you get the chance.

Uluru

uluruWe flew to Alice Springs and rented a 4WD to make the return trip to Uluru, Kata Tjuta and King’s Canyon. We saw a spectacular sunset at the Rock and got up early(ish) the next morning to make the 10,5 km walk around the base of it. The route was closed in the afternoon due to extreme conditions – it was 41 °C when we returned to the car. It was a spiritual place and the “sensitive areas” of cultural importance to the Aborigines were well-marked, explained and respected. I liked the stories about life skills being passed down through the generations and the role of the extended family in that. This is one of those places like the Taj Mahal that you should experience at different times of the day, to appreciate the changing face of her beauty.

So, those were my highlights. Probably not a very surprising list, but definitely a great experience and a brilliant way to get new energy for the challenges ahead in the New Year.

Sanoma Startup Challenge: the Future of Learning

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We recently announced the launch of a startup challenge, focusing on the future of learning. The goal of the challenge is to identify Europe’s most promising startups in K-12 education and to work with them in finding ways to help them to grow.

We’re encouraging applications from European startups that have a live product and growing customer base, but are still smaller than € 2 M in annual revenues and have been established within the last five years.

The application round is now open and will close on 1 March. Five finalists will be invited (expenses paid) to Amsterdam on 23-25 April to work with executives and experts from Sanoma Learning and SanomaVentures and to pitch their startup to The Next Web Conference audience and jury. The final winner will be announced immediately after the pitches and will receive a cash prize of € 25.000. We will also explore the options with the finalists for closer collaboration with Sanoma in supporting their growth ambitions.

Education is at the dawn of a new era, partly enabled by technology. As interim CEO of Sanoma Digital and CEO Designate of Sanoma Learning I am excited about working together with high potential startups in the edtech space and hope that we can build some successful and long-lasting relationships through this initiative!

For more information on the learning startup challenge, including the application procedure, click here.

Good luck to all applicants and I hope to see you in Amsterdam in April!