On a Friday afternoon in mid December, when most teachers were wrapping up exams and reports and trying to leave for the weekend, when most normal people are tired and focusing on the upcoming holidays, two of your staff made time for me to share their work.
I originally heard about your school from a conversation with Pat Bassett who said that Woodward Academy was using an innovative teaching method. So I began emailing Shelley, and she introduced me to Mark and next thing I know we have a date to Skype together.
It was fascinating to meet them and learn about your programs. I wish to offer you and your school congratulations on two of your innovative initiatives:
1. Customized training of the next generation of leaders.
Mark described your Leadership Woodward program. How clever of you to prepare for your and your team’s retirements by developing in-house leaders. I like the way you opened up the application process, offered monthly training and sharing sessions, and committed to repeating this process annually. Our schools in Canada are facing similarly high rates of leadership turnover and your commitment to developing future leaders – for your school and others – is an inspiration.
2. Flip teaching.
Shelley’s role as Lead Instructional Technology Specialist is vital to innovation in the classroom and she is all over research and supporting a culture of risk-taking in 21st century teaching and learning. Again, very smart of you to ensure your school is committed to continuous improvement. She commented that “Every good thing I know I learned on twitter”, but I can see that she looks to multiple sources for new ideas; for example, she found Daniel Pinks’ flip teaching articlelast September. (She offers a great online course for educators too…next program starts in May.)
As a quick reminder, flip teaching means you watch lectures at night and do your “homework” in class during the day. The potential for the classroom is awesome – now teachers report having time to offer more individual support in class and can ensure more hands-on, creative, collaborative and active learning without having to repeat the main lessons. It was first started by Bergmann and Sams, and it is spreading quickly. (There is a Canadian teacher in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan who is reflecting openly on her flip teaching regularly).
Shelley sparked Mark’s interest, and together they began the experiment. Shelley found an easy way for teachers to load videos and for students to watch them. Mark believed flip teaching would work really well in one of his Chemistry units. He first required parents and students to watch his first video together – he immediately hooked them and now describes this as “pedagogically brilliant” and says (this quote is my favourite) that he is “learning how to teach again”. All feedback indicates that the students and parents enjoy it and found they learned better and at their own pace.
Both Shelley and Mark have done a thoughtful job at implementing this, and I wanted to promote their work at your school.
Thank you for the inspiration.
ps – my blog advisor told me to write a Dear Diary format, but as I wrote this entry to myself, I thought it seemed pointless to not share my enthusiasm with you. Congratulations again supporting leadership development and risk-taking in your school.
pps – having now focused on twitter, websites, blogs and skype, I hope to make an old fashioned in person visit to your school one day!