School News

Turning education upsidedown in Seaford


As technology offers students access to online learning anytime and anywhere, some teachers are taking advantage of its benefits by introducing a flipped classroom method of instruction. They’re finding out that their tech-savvy students not only seem more engaged in their learning, they’re likely more positioned for success because they are more motivated to learn.

The flipped classroom method takes traditional learning and turns it on its head. Instead of teachers lecturing in the classroom and assigning homework for students to complete after each lesson, students first study a topic online at home or outside the classroom and communicate with peers and teachers via online discussions. Then they apply what they’ve learned through interactive classroom activities that are guided by the teacher. The method encourages collaboration and communication, enables teachers to better gage student understanding of topics, and gives teachers the ability to reinforce in the classroom concepts students may have difficulty with.

At Seaford Manor Elementary School, fifth-grade teacher Christopher Feiler started using the flipped classroom model this year. He creates 10-minute videos of himself teaching lessons that students view online, which are followed by assignments for students to complete at home. Students can watch the videos and do the homework at their own pace and also interact with their classmates and teacher on a blog. Students can also rate the lesson, which helps improve instruction.

“Not only am I instructing the students online, but the conversations between students are fostering learning as well,” Feiler said. “They are working together and helping each other. It’s really wonderful to see.”

After completing the lessons online, his students come to class the next day where the lesson that was introduced the night before is reinforced and discussed more in depth, supplemented with hands-on activities often using the interactive whiteboard.

“Students are more engaged and motivated,” Feiler explained. “They’re always on computers so this is an exciting way for them to learn. They can use any device anywhere, anytime. It’s been great for parents, too, because they can go on the website and see what is being taught. During recent parent-teacher conferences, parents were given a demonstration and “they loved it,” he said.

Feiler also presented the model at a faculty meeting and some of the other fifth-grade teachers are starting to dabble in it as well, much to the excitement of students.

The concept has also been encouraged at Seaford Middle School. Principal Dan Smith and Assistant Principal Tom Burke conducted a faculty meeting this fall using the flipped method to illustrate how it works and sixth-grade teacher Eric Lichtwar and eighth-grade social studies teacher Michael Burns started using it in their classrooms this year. While they do not create their own videos or provide access to a student blog, their websites offering links to video clips and other resources, as well as assignments that support them, have quickly turned their classrooms around.

“In terms of differentiation, students working at different levels, the model is great because you can better gage students’ understanding of material and more easily fill in the holes,” Burns said. “If students are asked to watch a four to six minute video on Henry Ford, for example, and then are asked questions about the concept, when they come in the next day, and they’re asked to write about it, I can go around the classroom and see by their writing who is getting it and who needs some support. Then I can separate the class and give students who get it additional assignments or research so they stay engaged. Another advantage is that there’s less notes”

“There’s less standing in front of a class giving information,” Lichtwar added. “It makes for much richer and more meaningful discussions because you can go more in depth about a topic,” a feature that teachers agree aligns well with the Common Core Curriculum Standards principle of “drilling a mile down and an inch wide.”

The use of technology in the flipped classroom model also blends well with the district’s broader technology plan as all schools are expected to be wireless next year to more widely promote the use of technology — from computers to mobile devices — in the classroom. In fact, Manor School will soon use iPads in the classroom, thanks to a joint effort by the school and its PTA to purchase 30 devices. Also part of the long-range technology plan is introducing the virtual classroom, online learning across the district that promotes collaboration, communication and other 21st Century learning skills.

“It is important for our faculty to stay abreast of current effective teaching practices and pedagogy, especially as technology evolves,” said John Striffolino, assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and personnel. “The flipped classroom has a lot of potential.”

“Kids get thirsty for it (online learning), and they love answering questions and hearing each other’s comments,” Feiler added. “They really understand where we are going with it and the importance of it.”