Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Flipper Just Down the Road

Tom Driscoll in his classroom at Putnam High School
I am so fortunate to have a Flipped Classroom veteran just down the road from my school!  I met Tom Driscoll through the Flipped Learning Network Open House.  He has been teaching his World History classes using the Flip for three years.  I was excited to meet Tom in person for the first time at the Flipped Learning Workshop that I attended in November.  Although I didn't visit his class on the day of the Open House Event, Tom agreed to let me visit during a free morning of my exam week.

I spent the morning with Tom observing two of his World History classes.  He teaches both classes using the Flipped Mastery model.  When the students arrived, Tom spent about ten minutes addressing the whole class.  During this time, Tom communicated his goals for the day and touched base with everyone.  He assigned kids to certain areas based on their task:  some kids were watching content videos and taking notes, other kids were working on response questions for their portfolios, and some students were starting a research project on world religions (the culminating event for the unit).  The students only took about five minutes to go from this whole class introduction to individual work time.  I was impressed at how easily they moved from the whole class meeting to individual work spaces.  The kids knew where to find the videos and the google docs for their notes (he also provided hard copies of the note documents for kids who preferred pen and paper).  Tom uses a website to host all of his course content, including videos and google docs, so that the kids can easily find what they need from any computer.  I asked one student to show me how the website works, and he gave me a quick tour through the embedded videos and other resources.

As I walked around the room, it was clear that each student was working at their own pace.  One of the two classes I watched had two resource teachers helping the students.  These teachers were very enthusiastic about the flipped learning model because it is easy for them to individualize instruction.  Tom's good organization of each unit provides the students and the resource teachers a well defined progression of work, quizzes, and projects.

Tom had a free period after the second class.  We took some time to talk about his work at the school and he showed me his classroom and computer lab.  One of my big questions was access to computers for his students.  He said that the majority of the kids have a computer at home, and the rest have access to computers both in class and before or after school in the library computer lab.  The bigger problem is the out-dated technology in the school, not a problem unique to Putnam High.  The lag in technology in schools has forced teachers like Tom, who want to use instructional technology, to use their own equipment.  I heard this same story from many of the teachers I met at the Flipped Learning Workshop in Hartford.

Tom has so many good ideas for implementing the Flipped Mastery model in a history classroom.  I was excited to see another version of this student-based teaching method.  Tom is committed to the Flipped Classroom because of the many improvements he has seen in his students engagement in class and critical thinking skills.