Inspiration for Leaders

Enjoy this news and reflection blog brought to you from the LHRIC Technology Leadership Institute!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

TLI - Technology Kickoff Highlights Flipped Learning, Web Tools for Educators

School district administrators and educators walked away from the LHRIC's TLI Technology Kickoff Dec. 4 with a deeper knowledge of flipped learning and an eagerness to try out some new web tools that promise to make teaching and learning more valuable for all.

Brandon Lutz speaks at the TLI Technology Kickoff Dec. 4

The daylong event, held at the Edith Macy Conference Center in Briarcliff Manor, featured Aaron Sams of the Flipped Learning Network and Brandon Lutz, a technology integration specialist for the School District of Philadelphia. Both speakers were available later in the afternoon to give more detailed talks to smaller groups looking for guidance and direction on how such ideas could be implemented in their schools.

Transition to Student-Centered Learning
A few years ago, Mr. Sams started experimenting with video as a conduit to learning, creating videos or "vodcasts" that students could view at home and then discuss in class the following day.

The flipped learning model, which was first coined by author and journalist Dan Pink, relies heavily on the use of Internet technology to leverage the learning so that instructors can interact with students instead of lecturing them.

Referring to the lecture-style teaching that has been prominent for over 100 years, Mr. Sams said, "There's got to be a better way than standing in front of a classroom and droning on about something. We know this is not the best way to teach, and we've known that for years, but it is still what we're doing."

While the flipped learning concept is gaining traction, Mr. Sams said there are still some "growing pains." Admitting that it can be a "painful process to transition," Mr. Sams conceded that many educators want to get on board, but have no idea how to do it. "This is a different way to approach teaching without losing the stuff of learning," he reassured them.

Taking the direct instruction model out of the group learning space and shifting it into the individual learning space is better for students, Mr. Sams contends. As a chemistry teacher, he would often ask his students to review his instructional videos on their iPods, encouraging them to discuss their findings with each other, but then shifting his focus to students who needed more one-on-one instruction.

Flipping "Bloom's Taxonomy"
Flipped learning can also be applied to a slightly different version of "Bloom's Taxonomy," the learning model created in 1956 by educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom, where students go from remembering and understanding information to creating something out of it.

When using a top to bottom inverted approach, as many flipped learning experts suggest teachers do, students can access the more creative aspects of learning and then tap down to the "understanding" component if need be.

Teachers, he said, are often so dependent on delivering content that they forget how important it is to encourage the practical hands-on aspects of learning. "When students want to learn how to do something, they go to YouTube," said Mr. Sams, referring to their proclivity for learning by seeing.

Using what he described as a "flipped mastery approach," Mr. Sams understands that students will access the necessary content when they need it, but he is more interested in giving them the chance to first "practice, apply, assess and then remediate."

"The kids who don't get it, they are the ones who get all my attention in class; that kind of approach is not going to happen when you stand in front of a class and lecture."

Mr. Sams said such strategies make for more independent learners and the differentiation in teaching gives students options that he believes are more valuable.

To learn more about the flipped learning concept, Mr. Sams encouraged participants to enroll in conferences, sign up for free webinars and visit The Flipped Learning Network's website at

Inspirational Web Tools
As a technology specialist for the Philadelphia Schools, Mr. Lutz likes to make teachers and other staff comfortable when it comes to using technology. "I believe in anytime, anywhere access to learning," said Mr. Lutz, referring to the slew of resources he shares with educators.

Those resources have been put together by Mr. Lutz into a fast-paced presentation titled, "60in60: 60 Web Tools in 60 Minutes," which Mr. Lutz shared during the afternoon kickoff session.

In it, Mr. Lutz offers fresh, timely resources that teachers can use to enhance learning in their classrooms. Some of them include the following:

Edmodo: This has a Facebook-like interface and is being widely used by educators. This safe environment is excellent for sharing between teachers and students.
Gooru Learning: Contains a slew of resources for students, including a lot of math/science-based material.
Kid Zui: This is a kid-friendly web browser, otherwise known as "the Internet for kids." It contains lot of games and age-appropriate videos for children.
iBooks Author: Lets users create their own virtual interactive textbooks with ease.
Math Train: Students can make math videos and podcast them to the world.
PresentMe: Presenters who can't appear live at a presentation can put an image of themselves or some other graphic in a split frame screen and use a webcam and microphone to record.
Prezi: Mr. Lutz uses this application, which is similar to PowerPoint, for all of his presentations. No software is needed.
Side Vibe: This site allows students to create web quests. Students can get involved in online discussions and other activities and it will still keep them focused.

To keep up-to-date on the latest tools available for educators, Lutz said he subscribes to a variety of social media sites. He points out, though, that teachers should not feel overwhelmed by the amount of tools available on the Internet.

"Web tools come and go," said Mr. Lutz. "However, it's important to create your own plan, create relationships, listen and try one tool at a time."

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