Flipped Classrooms Need Flipped Leadership

This is a great post I found by  RANDALL G. SAMPSON, PHD on JANUARY 10, 2013. For more information about the author go to the bottom of the article. 

Educators are deeply engaged in the dialogue about the flipped class and how it works. It is great for teachers to be so engaged and ready to try a different method to engage their students in the learning process. Just as quickly as a teacher is burning with desire to learning a new practice, school leaders can become a wet blanket / barrier because their leadership style does not support teachers’ need for innovation and change. In order for teachers to gain the confidence in their innovative Flipped Classroom approach, a school’s leadership team / administration needs to adopt the practice of Flipped Leadership, also referred to as Distributed Leadership.

Too often, organizations misdiagnose social justice issues (gender, race, ethnicity, socio-economic status) as the impediment for growing a Distributed Leadership culture. I have found that the actual boundaries in schools that deter the growth of a Distributed Leadership culture are the tasks pertaining to safety/belonging; task-oriented industriousness and self-actualization/satisfaction (Ronald F. Ferguson, Senior Lecturer in Education and Public Policy at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Harvard Kennedy School and Senior Research Associate at the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy). The culture of Distributed leadership has to be nurtured and grown over time; dynamic leaders and teachers realize that school culture is not a lock step event. In a thriving school culture there are multiple things occurring at the same time. Therefore, requiring a balance of tasks and Distributed Leadership in order to reach peak performance.

Types of Leadership Beliefs and Practices:

  1. Autocratic-Compliance: Top-Down Orders
  2. Participative-Collaboration: Team Approach: External Locus of Control
  3. Transformational Commitment-High Self-Efficacy: Internal Locus of Control

Autocratic Leaders:

For the most part, teachers and leaders can agree that top-down leadership results are a short-lived autocratic experience. These leaders are focused on assessing the checklist of goals accomplished and compliance driven. In such a situation teachers often double-down with passive aggressive behaviors; teachers are holding on until the top-down leader leaves, therefore leaving a clear void in innovative practices

Participative Leaders:

These are the leaders who seek to create a positive change in their school. Typically this person will recruit who they believe are strong teacher leaders in the building. The leaders will assign the teachers to various tasks and committees in order to accomplish school improvement goals or district wide initiatives. There is a high sense of external locus of control authorized by the principal who is micro-managing the unauthentic innovation process. At a cursory level people in the school are working together, but have not authentic engagement to create innovative practices and are compliance-oriented committals to the initiative.

Transformational Leaders:

The transformational Flipped Leadership style encourages learning to occur outside of the school and classrooms. Such dynamic leaders establish the conditions for teachers and students to try new methods and seeking innovative learning. Often time the school’s culture and innovation conditions do not reside within the expertise level of the principal or one individual. The ultimate goal is to for teachers and students to amplify their strengths by applying innovative learning to their real world experiences. Simply put, transformational leaders encourage student-learning tasks to be about the student and their world; building a strong sentiment for internal locus of control.

Leadership Pyramid.

Click on graphic to view larger size.

Distributed Leadership Boundaries: Safety/Belonging; Task-Oriented Industriousness; Self Actualization and Satisfaction

This post was written by

Randall G. Sampson, PhD

Randall G. Sampson, PhD –
Randall Sampson, PhD, ensures equity and access for students through innovative STEMLab, Fast Track, New Start models.


The biggest problem with traditional schooling by Jeff Piontek

This was written by Marion Brady, veteran teacher, administrator, curriculum designer and author.

By Marion Brady

Fairtest, Parents Across America, Save Our Schools, United Opt-Out National, and regional groups such as Fund Education Now, are fighting to stop the corporate takeover of public education. It’s a David-Goliath match.

They’re up against the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the biggest philanthropic foundations in the world, most of the mainstream media, and the highest-ranking officials in both political parties.

Goliath has money and power, and has been using it for years in a campaign to privatize public schools. Those who oppose Goliath are labeled “defenders of the status quo.” David, coming late to the fight, has neither money nor power, just a warning message and social media for getting that message out.

Believing that public schools are essential to democracy and our way of life, and concerned about how poorly the young are being equipped to deal with a complex, dangerous, unknowable future, I couldn’t be happier about David’s growing clout.

But I want to do more than just stop the destruction. “You never change things by fighting existing reality,” said Buckminster Fuller. “To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

I want to help build that new model.

Decades of teaching adolescents tell me that the single biggest problem kids face with traditional schooling is information overload. So much random, disorganized, disconnected information is dumped on them they can’t come even close to coping with it.

That some seem to do so — collect “A”s and ace standardized tests — can be misleading. They’ve learned to play the simple “Remember” game. But if the game is made more challenging, if, for example, it’s changed to “Infer” or “Hypothesize” or “Synthesize” or “Value,” scores and grades shift, sometimes even reversing the “A”s and the “F”s, the “B”s and the “D”s.

Back in the 1960s, while teaching at Florida State University, I concluded that mental organization is the key to productive, creative thought. The more I studied the matter, the more convinced I became that although the so-called “core curriculum” is an adequate organizer of school subjects, it’s a lousy organizer of general knowledge, and general knowledge is what holds daily life together.

I needed a general organizer for work I was doing with kids attending Florida State University’s on-campus K-12 school. I found it in General Systems Theory as it had developed during World War II. Adding to my confidence in the potential of systems theory for radically improving learner performance is the fact that the very young, long before words like “chemistry,” “economics,” and “geometry” mean anything to them, know how to make sense, and use systems thinking to do it.

That has to mean that they’re using a systemic mental organizer. How quickly they learn to use that organizer to navigate an incredibly complicated world says that the organizer is first rate, and should be put to use. It shouldn’t replace school subjects, but integrate and enhance them. The core subjects sometimes run parallel, overlap, or support each other (e.g. science and math, language arts and social studies) but they can’t be patched together in any coherent way to create an intellectually manageable, sense-making tool. Systems theory solves that problem. It makes all subjects part of a single, coherent, easily understood, mutually supportive sense making tool.

To me, the core’s inherent problems explain why most schooling doesn’t “take,” why kids are usually bored and disengaged, why adults remember and use so little of what they once “learned” in school at great expense, why K-12 fads and reforms come and go, eventually fading away in a sort of embarrassed silence.

The current multi-billion dollar push to put the Common Core State Standards in place, and write tests for every school subject under the sun, will follow the same path and suffer the same fate. It’s as futile as pounding sand down a rat hole. The whole Common Core circus is designed to improve the specialized studies that make up the core curriculum (and it may or rmay not do that), but what K-12 kids really need is a system for organizing GENERAL knowledge.

They HAVE such a system. But they don’t know they have it, so for educational purposes, it isn’t doing them any good. It has to be lifted into consciousness, elaborated, and put to intentional use to help them make better sense of themselves, each other, and the world. (And, of course, school subjects.)

Let me try to explain the basics of that system. It’s simple, so if it doesn’t seem so, it will be because it’s taken for granted, and we’re not used to looking closely at things we take for granted.

Making sense of something, we do the following:


(a) Locate it in space (in the next block; South Africa; on the top shelf; about six miles north of Hastings).

(b) Locate it in time (after lunch; next week; every ten minutes; October 14, 1066).

(c) Identify the actors (Tom and Huck; union members; Holocaust survivors; Norman and Saxon armies).

(d) Describe the action (took blood samples; built a raft; walked all the way home; fought a battle).

(e) Attribute cause (the road was icy; she lost her temper; too much sugar; to gain control of England).


That done, we relate the five (On October 14, 1066, Norman and Saxon armies met about six miles north of Hastings and fought a battle for control of England).

That’s it. Those five kinds of information, (a) through (e), take in and organize all knowledge—school, street, everything. Kids helped to lift them into consciousness, elaborate them in ever-greater detail, relate and make intentional use of them, get smarter quick. They have a powerful tool that helps them cope far more easily with information overload and unlock their creative potential. Once lifted into consciousness, they’ll use it for the rest of their lives.

You’re skeptical? Of course. That’s to be expected. The only people who aren’t are those who’ve helped kids understand the system, and in so doing come to understand it for themselves.

I give away a course of study designed to help teachers of adolescents and older students do that. It’s called Connections: Investigating Reality. And you can see comments from a user here.

Connections isn’t a finished product, and never should be. It needs continuous input from teachers who work with kids every day and talk to each other about what worked, what didn’t work, and how it could be improved. It needs to be piloted.

But right now, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, Mike Bloomberg, Eli Broad, Andrew Cuomo, Michelle Rhee, Jeb Bush, and others block the way. They’ve bought the corporate line, and any innovation that doesn’t fit with the Common Core Standards in some obvious way, or doesn’t lend itself to mass testing, is off limits.

So go, Fairtest, Parents Across America, Save Our Schools, United Opt-Out National, Fund Education Now. If classroom teachers, school principals, and local school boards know you’ve got their backs, if the National Resolution on High Stakes Testing gets enough signers, I might be able to get a few pilot programs in place.

I’d love to see Connections or some other free, open source, general education teaching tool — a tool owned and operated by working classroom teachers — go head to head with Harcourt Educational Measurement, CTB McGraw-Hill, Riverside Publishing, and NCS Pearson.

Ways We Can Help Students Develop Creativity by Jeff Piontek

This was posted by Larry Ferlazzo

and I reposted it…..thanks

it is a great overview!!

Last week, I asked:

How can we help students develop their creativity?

In addition to ideas from readers, two well-known writers and researchers have contributed responses today:

Jonah Lehrer, author of “Imagine: How Creativity Works,” which has been at the top or near the top of The New York Times bestseller list the past few weeks (A portion of his response is adapted from the book).

Ashley Merryman is co-author (with Po Bronson) of the New York Times bestseller, NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children

Additional resources on this topic can be found at The Best Sources Of Advice On Helping Students Strengthen & Develop Their Creativity and at The Best Resources For Learning About The Importance Of “Grit.”

Response From Jonah Lehrer

Jonah Lehrer is a staff writer at The New Yorker and the author of three books: Imagine, How We Decide, and Proust Was a Neuroscientist. He is also a frequent contributor to WNYC’s Radiolab. He blogs at Frontal Cortex:

I think we need to begin by admitting that the typical classroom is not set up to encourage creativity. Consider a 1995 survey of several dozen elementary school teachers, conducted by psychologists at Union and Skidmofe College. When asked whether they wanted creative kids in their classroom, every teacher said yes. But when the same teachers were asked to rate their students on a variety of personality measures, the traits most closely aligned with creative thinking (such as being “freely expressive”) were also closely associated with their “least favorite” students. The researchers summarize their sad data: “Judgments for the favorite student were negatively correlated with creativity; judgments for the least favorite student were positively correlated with creativity.”

Of course, there’s a very good reason for this: nobody wants a classroom full of little Pablo Picassos. That’s a recipe for chaos, which is why we also need to teach our kids how to focus and exert self-control. But we shouldn’t be so determined to enhance these mental skills that we discourage the mental strategies that make creativity possible.

So how can we improve the situation? The first thing we should do is broaden our definition of effective classroom thinking. Although we often discourage daydreaming in students – we see the wandering mind as a wasted mind – studies show that people who daydream more score higher on tests of creativity. The same lesson also applies to students who are easily distracted. According to the latest research, these kids are significantly more likely to be eminent creative achievers in the real world. (So are students with attention deficit disorders, provided they’ve got moderately high IQ scores.) The point is that our current pedagogy is mostly designed to encourage focused cognition, teaching pupils to stare straight ahead at the blackboard and absorb information. Creativity, however, often requires a very different kind of thought process. Students need to learn how to pay attention, of course. But they also need to learn how to productively daydream.

And this is why arts education is so important. Like most skills, creativity is best learned by doing. Kids don’t learn how to be creative by sitting in lectures about the creative process, or getting history lessons on American innovation. Rather, they learn how to be creative by creating things, by flexing their own imagination.

However, I think arts education also comes with an additional benefit, which is that it gives students a rare opportunity to discover a classroom pursuit they enjoy. This might sound like a trivial objective, but I think it comes with tangible benefits. Angela Duckworth, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, has done a lot of important work documenting the connection between a character trait called grit and classroom success. (People with higher levels of grit are more willing to persevere in pursuit of a goal.) Although Duckworth is only beginning to uncover ways to enhance grit in students, she often employs a pithy maxim: “Choose easy, work hard.” When kids are young, Duckworth says, it’s important to expose them to a variety of different activities, from sculpture to dance to computer programming, if only so they might find something that seems easy. However, once students find a pursuit that feels like fun – this is a sign they’ve got a natural talent for it – then they need to constantly be reminded to work hard. They will learn how to be gritty as they develop their talent.

The importance of choosing easy shouldn’t just apply to the arts. We should endeavor to make every subject, from high school biology to pre-algebra, full of engaging activities that kids might enjoy. Instead of another chemistry lecture, try a cooking lesson; rather than explain statistics with a textbook, why not experiment with sabermetrics and a baseball draft? The problem, of course, is that such enriching exercises are constantly being threatened by budget cuts and the need to improve standardized test scores.

However, if we are serious about enhancing creativity, then we can’t just treat the classroom as a place for disseminating facts that can be regurgitated. (As Kyle Wedberg, the CEO of NOCCA, an arts academy in New Orleans once told me, “We can’t just be in the business of teaching kids the kind of stuff that they can look up on their phone.”) School has to also become a safe space for creating, a daily opportunity for kids to take what they know and apply it in new and meaningful ways. We should encourage students at all grade levels to constantly try out different forms of creativity, so that they might find one that gives them pleasure and meaning. That feeling of pleasure – the thrill of a choosing easy – is a classroom lesson they won’t soon forget.

Response From Ashley Merryman

With Po Bronson, Ashley Merryman is the author of the New York Times bestseller, NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children, which is being translated into 16 languages. Having written for Time, Newsweek, New York, and many others, Merryman and Bronson have won nine national awards for their reporting on the science of human development. She has appeared on countless television and radio shows (including Charlie Rose and Anderson Cooper 360), and has lectured around the nation, from Yale University to Pop Tech:

As Po Bronson and I first reported in Newsweek’s “The Creativity Crisis,” there is evidence of a decline in creativity in the United States – particularly for children. According to professor Kyung Hee Kim, kids have fewer creative responses than they had 20 years ago. Their ideas are less original and have less detail. Young children’s ability to elaborate has plummeted 37% since 1998. (I think of that whenever I ask a child what he did that day. All too often, the response is: “Stuff.”)

The good news is that creativity can be developed: it is a skill that can be taught.

And not just in arts programs. The arts do help kids develop creative self-efficacy – they learn they can turn an idea into something tangible. But the arts don’t own creativity.

Because at its core, creativity is about having a new idea put into action. Another way to think of creativity is that it means solving problems in a unique way. Thus teaching creativity can be thought of as teaching children to problem-solve. Not according to a set formula, but by applying knowledge they have in a new way.

At Akron, Ohio’s National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF) School, sixth graders received a letter from a college professor: she asked if the children would help with data collection for a wetlands project. The children figured out what they’d need to know to help her: that lead to studying wetlands and factors affecting the environment. They learned to take measurements and then studied cell development. They worked on how best to display data in oral and written presentations. In other words, they mastered all the required material . . . and never once asked, “Why do I have to learn this?”

There are commercial curricula to help implement programs like these (such as Problem Based Learning and Creative Problem Solving. In the summer, there’s the NIHF “Camp Invention”). However, developing kids’ creativity doesn’t require such large efforts.

Try a simple instruction such as: “Think of something only you would think of. Not your friends, or your family. Just you.” In experimental settings, that doubled the number of creative responses.

Rather than giving kids an explanation for an event or fact (e.g. why is Sacramento the capitol of California?), Dr. Mark Runco suggests students come up with a list of possible answers, and then figure out which is the best/makes the most sense. In this way, kids stretch their imaginations, then learn to evaluate their own ideas.

Learning about foreign cultures and languages increases creativity: in one experiment, just one 45-minute slideshow on China increased creativity scores for two-weeks. Exposing children to a new culture helps them realize there is more than one way to approach a given situation, and to search for new solutions.

And simplest of all – we can develop children’s creativity simply by encouraging it in the classroom. Respond to a child’s off-beat comment rather than ignore it. If they’ve arrived at an answer in an usual way, ask them to explain how they got there.

Kids who say their teachers listen to their ideas have higher creative self-efficacy; they have higher grades and higher aspirations for college.

Studies have found that teachers who are supportive of students’ creativity in their classes have students who are higher in creativity.

Responses From Readers

Margaret Haviland
in an instructional leader and U.S. and World History teacher at at Westtown School in Pennsylvania. She wrote about creativity and teacher professional development recently at the Voices from the Learning Revolution blog:

Teachers need to model creative thinking and the creative process. I have an instructional leadership role in my school and I think it’s part of the work of folks with jobs like mine to encourage and nurture creativity within our faculties. Not every art or music teacher needs to exhibit in a show or perform in an orchestra. Not every science teacher needs to pursue scientific research nor does every English teacher need to be a published author. But all teachers should be transparently sharing with their students their own creative efforts, whether it’s rethinking an approach to teaching, solving a problem with the class, talking about their engagement with an issue beyond school, or sharing their own craft or hobby.

For instance, I have a colleague who has a number of our students working with her to crochet roses (the symbol associated with Cystic Fibrosis) as an ongoing fund raiser. Much about the creative process and imaginative thinking emerges as they share this experience.

David Zulkoskey:

Know your students and by this I mean really know your students. What is in and what is not. Celebrate the accomplishments of others. Create a positive environment that is fun, polite, energetic, safe, nonthreatening, supportive and respectful. Take an interest in your students as a professional teacher – you are not their buddy but rather a compassionate caring person…. Make mistakes, laugh at yourself, and use humour in your teaching. Drama is about life so live it – be healthy, invite kids into knowing about you. You want kids to take risks, well take risks yourself. Find the stories that make life interesting.

Paddy McCabe suggests we help students develop their creativity…

…when pupils are active in planning,when their strengths and interests are central, and when we reflectively use technology
Thanks to Jonah and Ashley for sharing their responses and to readers who left comments!

Please feel free to leave a comment sharing your reactions to this question and the ideas shared here.

Consider contributing a question to be answered in a future post. You can send one to me at lferlazzo@epe.org.When you send it in, let me know if I can use your real name if it’s selected or if you’d prefer remaining anonymous and have a pseudonym in mind.

Anyone whose question is selected for this weekly column can choose one free book from a selection of twelve published by Eye On Education.

This is the last column I’ll be writing this school year and will start answering new questions in the late summer/early fall. In the meantime, however, I’ll be posting “collections” bringing links together from previous posts on common topics (classroom management, student motivation, etc.)

And, of course, I’ll be preparing future posts, so keep those questions coming!

You can also contact me on Twitter at @Larryferlazzo.

10 Ways to Spot a Great Video Game by Jeff Piontek

Not sure I agree with this article as I believe programs and sites like Creative Academies (http://www.creativeacademies.com/) is a much better site. It was designed by a game developer but the difference being that the kids design, develop and publish their own games….check it out.

What your kids look for in a snack might be different than what you look for as a parent. While they focus on taste, you focus on nutrition. Same goes for games. Glitzy, big-name games can be enticing, just like junk food. Some are flashy and addictive but do little to feed kids’ curiosity or help them develop.

But truly great video games can help your kids grow in ways you never thought possible — just like delicious, healthful food. So how can you avoid the sugar-cereal equivalents in the game world? Read these 10 tips to find out.

Great video games:

Draw your kids in. Great games transport kids to another place. You know the signs. Brows furrowed. Thumbs zooming. Yes, you may have to set limits for games that suck time at the expense of other activities. But it’s a good sign when games put kids in a state of “flow.” Games that draw kids in require concentration or imagination and present challenges just beyond their comfort zone. Plus, they’re fun. For example:

  • Super Scribblenauts (age 10+) lets kids’ imaginations run wild as they solve puzzles by writing new objects into a scene. Any word they spell is transformed into a digital creation that then appears within the game world.
  • Professor Layton and the Last Specter (age 12+) is a fascinating mystery that unfolds piece by piece. Kids learn critical thinking and puzzle-solving skills as they complete a wide variety of brainteasers.

Put kids in the driver’s seat. Having choices can make kids feel powerful. Kids who get to decide which path to take or how to spend their virtual money often feel responsible for their fate in a game. In turn, they feel motivated. Games with lots of choices and opportunities for exploration can help kids feel ownership over the experience. For example:

  • ItzaZoo (age 4-7) is a magical experience in which kids see their own art come alive as part of the storyline. Kids can learn skills for reading comprehension and problem solving as they add free-form artwork to colorful, kid-themed landscapes.
  • Gamestar Mechanic (age 8+) provides kids with the digital tools they need to create their own video games. While the limited design software keeps kids’ creations pretty basic, the games they make are real and playable. Kids get to feel true ownership over their work.

Suit your child’s age and interest. Some games are so easy to beat that kids quickly lose interest. Others are so difficult that kids get frustrated. Use your kid’s interests and hobbies as a jumping-off point for selecting games. For example:

  • Art Academy (age 8+) feels like what you’d expect from a beginners’ course at a real-world art school. Kids can pick up in-depth knowledge and expert tips about shading, perspective, color mixing, and more through 10 incredibly detailed lessons.
  • Learn Chess (age 8+) is instructional chess software that covers pretty much every teachable aspect. Kids need a lot of patience and a long attention span, but they can learn a lot if they do. Two players can compete against one another wirelessly, too.

Challenge kids to experiment. The beauty of most games is that you can try again. And again. And again. Running out of time or lives isn’t so bad when you know you have another chance. A willingness to try out several options — and even fail sometimes — is a skill that will serve kids well down the line. For example:

  • I Spy Castle (age 6-10) has seek-and-find puzzles that can be real stumpers. Faced with all types of challenging hidden-object puzzles, kids find patterns and create paths — sharpening their observation skills and practicing logical thinking.
  • LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 (age 10+) challenges kids to work out the rules of new systems in order to survive. Kids who enter this magical world must use a keen sense of observation and logic to figure their way out of the story-based predicaments.

Let kids create. Imagine kids designing new levels for existing games. Picture creator communities in which kids comment constructively and provide feedback. Many games offer media creation as a key part of the experience. Opportunities to make something new within a game signal to kids that their original work has value. For example:

  • LittleBigPlanet (age 8+) lets kids design their own zany platform puzzles as they explore eight wonderful worlds full of Rube-Goldberg-type contraptions and scenery. Its community celebrates invention as players share the levels they’ve crafted with others.
  • Minecraft (age 13+) is a refreshingly open-ended mining and construction game that encourages kids to build imaginative block structures. Kids can learn creative thinking, geometry, and a bit of geology as they sculpt creations in this 3-D space.

Add a social element. There’s nothing wrong with a game of solitaire. But as kids get older, games in which the characters (or even real people) socialize and work together can help kids flourish. Skills like teamwork and communication are the cornerstone of today’s workforce. And having social outlets online can help prep kids for the future. For example:

  • Herotopia (age 7-10) allows kids to become superheroes who work together to outfox bullies. They can also learn geography and practice good global citizenship, earning points for doing good deeds.
  • Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure (age 10+) makes partner problem-solving fun. Kids can investigate problems and figure out solutions, either alone or as a team. They observe clues that may be useful later in the game and figure out how items work together to be helpful.

Complement school. Some kids view video games as an escape from school. Maybe they have trouble sitting still in class but can focus on a video game. Or perhaps a game’s material and format feel more relevant to their lives. Whatever the reason, video games can help teach work and life skills. For example:

  • Dora’s Cooking Club (age 4-7) helps kids see math in cooking. They can learn arithmetic basics as they help Dora and her family in put together a series of recipes.
  • My Amusement Park (DS) (age 6-10) puts kids in the role of a business owner. They learn how to budget money while building and running their own virtual theme park.

“Tell” instead of “show.” Playing great games is like being sucked into a book that you can’t put down. A distressed prince needs rescue. The world is coming to an end. Try to avoid games that spoon-feed answers to kids through quizzing alone or rote memorization and seek out ones with strong storylines. For example:

  • Botanicula (age 10+) begins with tiny creatures that encounter a spider-like monster intent on gobbling up their big, beautiful tree home. The five heroic creatures band together to journey up and down the tree, foiling its parasitic invaders.
  • Sid Meier’s Civilization V (age 11+) helps kids gain lasting knowledge about world history by playing the role of an empowered ruler. Players learn about significant developments in human history and how they led to even greater discoveries.

Have style. Looks aren’t everything, of course. But games with a strong and unified look and feel are really appealing. It’s not just that these games are beautiful — it’s that their style serves a higher purpose of drawing players into a unique world. For example:

  • Flower (age 7+) lets players control flower petals floating on a breeze as they travel over and restore color to grey fields. The experience of hovering over the countryside surrounded by flickering dabs of color is truly unique.
  • Journey (age 10+) presents an unstructured experience of beauty and originality. Players start in the middle of a desert filled with majestic, sand-covered ruins. They slide over dunes and float on both wind and magical energy.

Go beyond repetition. Games in which kids just go through the same motions over and over are okay in moderation. But more variety is nicer. Consider games that mix elements of strategy, action, adventure, role-playing, building, and more. For example:

  • Boom Blox (age 7+) offers nearly 400 levels of puzzles, with the object of destroying block structures. Each puzzle can be played over and over again, so that kids can try different ways to solve it.
  • Portal 2 (age 10+) presents problems for kids to solve through a process of investigation and prediction. To do so, kids must apply real-world understanding to physics-based conundrums.

Article about Flipped Learning by Jeff Piontek

Assumption: The Khan Academy is the flagship model of a flipped classroom.

The popularity of the Khan Academy might have come about because of Sal Khan’s TED talk, resulting in significant press coverage, or when it received funding from the Gates Foundation, but whatever the reason, the Khan Academy did vault the idea of the flipped classroom into the media spotlight starting in 2011. The media often grab on to new, flashy ideas, and as a result, video use in schools has been given quite a bit of attention. The Khan Academy is one of many powerful supplemental sites for video content resources. But a true flipped classroom is created by classroom teachers working within their school community to give the learning back to their students.

Resulting misconception: Students spend class time working through online modules.

While computer-based modules can help facilitate learning, a flipped classroom does not rely exclusively on any one single tool. Even though thenational media, such as 60 Minutes, and schools themselves such as charter or blended schools like Carpe Diem show clips of students glued to computers in rows of cubicles completing learning modules, not every teacher using the flipped techniques does so. In fact, mechanized online modules are the exception rather than the rule in a flipped classroom. Rows of desks and chairs play no role in our classrooms, just as drill-and-kill modules do not.

Resulting misconception: A flipped class results in a one-size-fits-all education.

On the contrary, a well-run flipped classroom can help a teacher individually address the needs of each student. Differentiation is key, because each student has an opportunity for one-on-one attention nearly every day from his or her classroom teacher. We meet face to face with our students and converse about the lesson, as well as life. We guide students to the counselor if needed, but we listen, don’t judge, and expect our students to master the subject. The proof is in increased formative and summative assessment scores, but more importantly with our students telling us they “get it!”

Resulting misconception: The role of the teacher becomes diminished.

Actually, the teacher’s role is amplified as the responsibility of the teacher and the learner is reversed. Educators now have a different relationship with each student that will in turn meet their needs more completely. If a teacher is only supervising students who are using computerized learning modules, then yes, theoretically, one teacher could probably supervise dozens, if not hundreds, of students at a time. But if the role of the flipped classroom teacher is to interact and meet the unique learning needs of each and every student in every class every day, then the need for qualified, caring, professional educators increases. Although video can be leveraged to deliver direct instruction, it does not, and cannot, replace the teacher as the facilitator of learning.

Assumption: A flipped classroom centers around the videos.

Teachers are still responsible for making decisions about which tools will best meet the needs of their students. For some teachers utilizing the flipped class technique, a video meets that need. For others, video is not a part of that overall strategy. Neither approach is superior to the other, and the decision must be made with the overall learning climate and learning objectives in mind.

Resulting misconception: All flipped classrooms use video as a “front-loading” instructional tool.

Looking at instruction through Bloom’s Taxonomy, an educator can take one of two approaches to teaching: start with either Lower Order thinking (and work up the pyramid) or Higher Order thinking (and then work down), often referred to as bottom-up (front-loading) or top-down teaching. If teachers use instructional video in a bottom-up (or front-loading) approach, then the teacher will lead the instructional cycle with a video and build the remaining learning activities off of the video lesson. Meanwhile, many teachers use video for extension, application, or even skill assessment (also known as higher-order thinking skills). A top-down approach places an instructional video (or any other resource) in the middle of the learning cycle as found in an inquiry-based classroom or a problem based learning (PBL) class. There is no right or wrong answer on how or when a flipped educator incorporates video, as long as it’s the right tool.

Misconceptions about Flipped Learning by Jeff Piontek

Resulting misconception: Flipped learning is a distinct pedagogy or methodology.

The flipped classroom is an ideology, not a methodology. We do not think of it as a “method” (a step-by-step prescribed process), but one of many techniques in the arsenal. Flipped classroom teachers vary in grade levels and subject matter. So, a chemistry teacher in a suburban city in Indiana and a chemistry teacher in a small rural town in Colorado might both be flipped teachers, but their techniques could be on opposite ends of a teaching spectrum because their students’ needs are different. A student who excels in a flipped class might have a self-directed schedule with little intervention or direction from the teacher, while a student who struggles will get more direction and one-on-one instruction. We have seen both types of students succeed in the same class with a different approach that meets their personal learning styles.

Conclusion: Don’t be fooled by oversimplifications

The generic term “flipped classroom” might be a bit misleading, and there could be some baggage associated with it, but that is no reason to write it off as a useless educational model. It is being utilized to help meet the individual learning needs of students. Before embracing or rejecting this technique, or any other educational tool, consider carefully how practitioners are actually using it. Do not be fooled or confused by the media hype, oversimplifications, or misinformation.

Ultimately, flipped learning is not about flipping the “when and where” instruction is delivered, although that is part of it. It’s about flipping the attention away from the teacher and toward the learner; it is about eliminating large-group direct instruction and meeting the individual learning needs of each student. Flipping a class is about reevaluating what is done in class and leveraging educational tools to enhance the learning experience.

Flipped Learning and Flipped Classrooms by Jeff Piontek

A flipped classroom is all about watching videos at home and then doing worksheets in class, right? Wrong!

Consider carefully the assumptions and sources behind this oversimplified description. Is this the definition promoted by practitioners of flipped classrooms, or sound bites gleaned from short news articles? Would a professional educator more likely rely entirely upon video to teach students, or leverage video, when appropriate, and incorporate other educational tools as needed for successful student learning?

Many assumptions and misconceptions around the flipped class concept are circulating in educational and popular media. This article will address, and hopefully put to rest, some of the confusion and draw a conclusion on why flipped learning is a sound educational technique.

Assumption: Videos have to be assigned as homework.

Although video is often used by teachers who flip their class, it is not a prerequisite, and by no means must a video be assigned as homework each night. As with everything else, the use of a particular learning tool (teacher-made videos, hands-on experiments, online simulations, supplementary text, or current news articles) needs to be carefully evaluated and implemented by the teacher to accomplish the learning objective.

Resulting misconception: Videos are just recorded lectures.

Yes, in a flipped class a short video (usually 8 to 12 minutes in length) may be a recorded lecture, but educators are using video as a medium to pose questionsgenerate conversations, provide instructions for projects or experiments, assist with remediation, create lessons that can be used during a student’s absencegive example problems and solutions, and clarify misconceptions. Teachers are also encouraging students to create videos to foster greater peer-to-peer learning practices.

Resulting misconception: Homework is bad; therefore a flipped class is bad.

Flipped class practitioners create a learning environment in which student work can be completed in class. This requires a change in the way a class (or school) is structured. Flipped classrooms may look more like “learning centers” where students are working on different tasks at the same time. Our classrooms are quite chaotic: small groups gather at the corner tables, a one-on-one conversation up front, experiments at the stations, and yet others writing in their research journals.  On a larger scale, an entire schoolcould be restructured to reflect the value that unstructured and “unprogrammed” time has on student learning and well being. Providing students with time during class to complete their school work also reflects a respect for students’ time and life outside of school. Because the class time is no longer the teacher’s to control, time in school is now focused on student progress rather than teacher-determined timelines.

Resulting misconception: Students must have internet access at home.

If a teacher chooses to assign a short video as homework, equitable access to the video must be ensured. For those students who do not have access at home, teachers are giving flash drives to students who have computers at home, but no internet access; burning DVDs for students with no computers, but DVD players; and providing additional access to computers either in class or before, during, or after the school day. Equity is a very important (and a legal) consideration, but creating equitable access to instructional tools is not an insurmountable hurdle. The issue surround equity can be solved with a little creativity and pooling of resources.


Presentation at Alaska Society of Technology Education–Using Web 2.0 Tools to Meet the Needs of the 21st Century Learner

Presentation Details:
Title: Venturing into the Clouds: Using Web 2.0 Tools to Meet the Needs of the 21st Century Learner
Time: 8:30 AM AST
Duration: 00:58:53
Description: The Future of Cloud Computing: Innovation, Service, Sustainability, Performance and how it Affects Educational Outcomes for our Students. Economic uncertainty and competetive pressures are fundamentally raising performance demands n all aspects of education. From students and teachers to parents and administrators, the pressure to succeed has never been greater.

Success hinges on developing talent to focus on innovation and growth n the global economy. Businesses are now basing their trust and focus on cloud technologies because they offer freedom, reduced cost, and sustainability, whereas education has not. This keynote intends to show advantages of simplification and standardization to support utilizing the cloud to its fullest potential in an educational setting.


Presentation at the Australian Society of Digital Librarians

Jeff Piontek, Hawaii Technology Academy

Abstract: Today’s world is constantly on the move and changing at such a profound speed that it’s hard to believe that what the eyes see as reality is already history. This keynote will introduce and closely examine the significance of several global exponential trends and challenge your assumptions about the world we live in and its future. Current technology trends are affecting our personal and professional lives, our youth and elderly, our learning institutions, the nature of teaching and learning and our definition of intelligence itself. This keynote will be a compelling glimpse into the bold, exciting and dynamic future that awaits us all!

Jeff Piontek is an author, keynote speaker and teacher (most importantly). He has worked with many at-risk school districts nationally as a consultant on affecting educational change and reform. Jeff started out as a Science teacher in the South Bronx, NYC and worked his way up to the Director of Instructional and Informational Technology in NYC.

Jeff’s book; “Blogs Wikis and Podcasts, Oh My! Electronic Media in the Classroom” has been well received by the education community and is in its second printing.

He has received many accolades including the latest from Governor Linda Lingle for Innovation in the economy for his STEM education work nationally. Jeff sits on the National Governor’s Association STEM committee as well as the State of Hawaii Economic Development Workforce Committee, which he was appointed to by the Governor.

Jeff has embarked on a new venture at Hawaii Technology Academy and the school has performed at the top of the public schools in Hawaii in its first year and doubled to 500 students in its second year. The school now has 1,000 students and over 2,000 applicants this past year.

The school was just designated as one of the 40 more innovative schools in the US in a recent study published by Innosight Institute (Michael Horn, author of Disrupting Class — innosightinstitute.org/blended_learning_models/

Jeff’s most recent presentations can be found on slideshare at slideshare.net/jeff.piontek