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“There can be infinite uses of the computer and of new age technology, but if teachers themselves are not able to bring it into the classroom and make it work, then it fails.” - Nancy Kassebaum

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Inside the Flipped Classroom

Posted by District Webmaster in Success Stories  |  Post a comment

Students at Byron High School (MN) are participating in a "flipped" classroom approach that is transforming education at their school.

By 5:01 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon, Byron High School (MN) math teacher Troy Faulkner has already received five e-mails from his students: "Where's tomorrow's video lesson? We are waiting!" With their laptops, tablets, or smartphones--whatever is convenient--Faulkner's students are waiting to log on to Moodle and watch a YouTube video of him solving quadratic equations. In the classroom the next day, Faulkner will work with students as they demonstrate how well they understand the concepts laid out in the lecture the night before. 

Welcome to a "flipped classroom" at Byron High School--where the lectures are homework, and problem solving with the teacher is class time.  

A Cinderella Story 
According to Superintendent Wendy Shannon, nobody in the Byron Public Schools district set out to flip their classrooms, but necessity became the mother of invention. The district, in suburban Rochester, was due for a math textbook revision. Teachers already knew the old math texts were poor matches for the state's new math standards, and that a curriculum update was needed. But they faced a huge problem.

"With two failed operating levy referendum issues and a bad economy, we'd already had to cut $1.2 million from Byron's school budget," Shannon says. "We literally had no money for new textbooks."

The teachers came up with a radical idea: They'd create their own math curriculum. Byron High Principal Michael Duffy questioned each teacher privately to make sure they really were up for such an ambitious task. Satisfied that they were, he gave them his blessing.

All Byron High School teachers have participated in professional learning communities since 2008, with each department meeting for at least an hour each week, so the math department already was comfortable working as a team. So, starting in January 2010, the math team got together every Monday at 6:45 a.m., tearing apart the math curriculum and rebuilding it from scratch. 

Middle school math teacher Jeremy Baumbach, who taught an advanced math class to eighth graders, joined the team to assure that his students would have a seamless transition into their high school coursework. The pressure was on: They'd committed to a textbook-free high school math curriculum by the time school started in fall 2010.  

DIY Curriculum Formation 
Initially, the teachers thought they could simply pull material from the web, linking to online lessons they found from other math teachers around the country. But it soon became clear that this wasn't going to give them what they needed. 

According to Faulkner, "We looked at the state standards and areas where there were cracks in our kids' mathematical foundations. Take rational equations. Students should have them down pat by the time they are juniors, but this was something that lots of kids stumbled on in tests. Why not introduce the concept earlier, starting in algebra, again in more depth in geometry, and on through upper-level math classes? It just made sense." 

Shannon gave the teachers her full support. In the spring of 2010, the team applied for and won a $5,000 grant from the local Byron Fund for Excellence in Education. It provided small stipends for teachers to continue to work together in the summer and paid for the purchase of Kuta, a software program that supports a common framework for generating worksheets.   

Unable to afford an expensive course management system, they turned to Moodle, a free online learning management system. The district's director of information and learning technology, Jennifer Hegna, helped the teachers create a Moodle course for each class, embedding lessons, homework, quizzes, and answer sheets in each course site.

Read the entire article HERE.

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