Clintondale High School to turn education on its ear

By: April Lehmbeck | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published May 27, 2011

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP — With some people arguing that American education needs an overhaul from an antiquated system that is no longer working, Clintondale High School is steering its educational program into uncharted waters to take on something innovative and exciting.

The high school is launching what they’re calling a “flipped classroom” program during the 2011-12 school year, and it’s something that it is garnering attention nationwide.

“We’re the only school in the country to do it,” Clintondale Principal Gregory Green said. “We’re the only school to even consider doing it and putting the wheels in motion.”

That doesn’t mean that other schools aren’t paying close attention to what Clintondale is doing. The district is fielding calls from people across the country who are interested and even have some schools wanting to work with the district to launch their own programs alongside Clintondale.

That would be good for students because they would then be able to team up with students in other schools across the country to do things like work together to solve a complex math problem.

“Now, we’re creating a sort of national collaboration,” Green said.

Instead of students receiving instruction in the classroom and then tackling their homework at home where they don’t have teacher assistance, the students in Clintondale High next year will watch their teachers give instruction while at their homes and do their practice work in the classroom.

The teachers have already spent the last 10 weeks working on recording lessons and gearing up for next year’s change. The school has stations set up for the teachers to work on this new program.

“Class time is spent developing critical analysis and higher-order thinking skills,” the high school states on its website, www. flippedhighschool.com. “Our faculty are not only experts in their field, but exceptional facilitators. Our faculty assess the needs of each student through personal conversations and assessment tools, then we are able to create a personalized learning experience.”

It turns the classroom from a passive learning experience to an active, project and research-based process.

That allows students to have more one-on-one time with their teachers during classroom time. It also allows for additional help like giving parents the tools they need to assist their children with school because they, too, get to watch the videos at home if they want.

“It actually quadruples the amount of time that a teacher spends with their students and also allows more one-on-one time,” Green said.

“We feel that that removes many of the obstacles that kids face when trying to learn the classroom material,” Green said.

For instance, students who are ill and have to miss class, don’t have to fall behind on their lessons because they can watch the videos and do work from their home to keep up. When the teacher is absent, the learning process also doesn’t come to a halt with this style of educating students.

Another major benefit is that it allows the teachers with the most knowledge or best classroom presentation on specific lessons to be the ones chosen to create the video for each online component. Teachers can collaborate to choose who should present each lesson.

“We have our best presenters in front of kids at all times,” Green said. “It actually works with all teachers’ strengths.”

It isn’t just a computer-based system either. Students who don’t have computers, but have cellphones with Internet access, can watch the videos using their phones, Green said.

And, possibly one of the best parts for those wanting major educational transformation with an eye on the bottom line in these tough financial times is that this is not a budget buster.

“It’s really cost effective,” Green said.

This isn’t something completely foreign to the district, as the high school has tried this approach in a classroom in a recent school year and it worked.

“We eliminated the failure rate,” Green said. “It went from 13 percent to zero, and all the kids completed their assignments.

“Now, it’s time to do the whole school,” he said.

Through this project, the district also is taking on one of the initiatives Gov. Rick Snyder is asking the public sector to do by collaborating with other entities.

“We have partnered with the TechSmith Corp.,” Green said.

“They have helped with putting together our program,” he said. “They’ve been a very important piece in this endeavor.”

TechSmith, headquartered in Michigan, is a company that offers screen capture and recording software, according to its website.

This program doesn’t just help current students and their parents either.

For those in the community who want to brush up on some of their skills, this allows the district to help educate the whole community because the videos are available to everyone who wants to learn.

While it’s a new way of doing things for many, the teachers are enthusiastic about the change in how lessons will be delivered, and the software is user friendly, as well, Green said.

“I’m really excited about it,” English teacher Robert Dameron said, adding that students will now get more help from their teachers due to the change.

Parents already get to look at their children’s current grades online, but now they can talk to their children about what they’re learning as they’re learning it.

It’s great for parents, especially when students are studying difficult concepts and the parent feels frustrated by not knowing the material enough to help.

“It gives them an opportunity to be an expert as well because they can sit and follow along,” Dameron said, adding that he would like that type of program for his own child in areas like math. “I can actually feel more helpful toward my child.”
 

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