Thursday, October 24, 2013

Flipping Social Studies

*** This article was originally posted on the CUE Blog as part of a 6-part series on Flipped Learning.  

Although Flipped Learning is most prevalent in math and science courses, adoption by educators teaching the arts and humanities is on the rise. In the three years that I have been immersed in the incredible Flipped Learning community, I have gone from one of the few social studies teachers to one of thousands. Described below is a snapshot of my evolving approach, yet it is just one particular variation of Flipped Learning. I therefore urge you to connect with the incredible educators mentioned below to learn about innovative ways that social studies teachers are experimenting with this concept.
Why not just say, “What does my class look like?” First, I stress “our” to illustrate the concept of community and each student’s value within it. Second, we do not just learn in a “classroom.” This antiquated term does not accurately reflect our blended learning environment. Stages of the learning cycle happen in various learning spaces, such as the physical classroom space, virtually in the LMS, and virtually while in the same physical space.

The physical spaces are set up based upon the type of learning that occurs in each. For example, there are designated spaces for group direct instruction, collaboration, and individual work. Our online space is the Flipped Social Studies website, which is built upon the EDUonGO LMS platform. I chose this emerging LMS since it is based upon the concept of ongoing communication and collaboration. For example, the video notation features allow viewers to ask questions and engage in a threaded discussion at different points of each embedded instructional video.


I structure my course based upon a flipped-mastery system. In general, students must demonstrate mastery of a series of objectives for each unit. Several learning tasks are provided for each objective, of which students typically have a degree of choice. Many objectives also grant students the option to develop their own learning task, as long as it clearly demonstrates mastery of the objective.

Except for the circumstances that justify large group direct instruction, students work through each unit’s objectives at their own pace. Throughout the process, I provide instruction and guidance both face to face and via instructional videos. I have created videos to serve many purposes, such as content-based lectures, modeling social studies skills, and tech tutorials.

In a typical day, we begin in a large group setting. Students engage in a warm-up activity, followed by a brief lecture, tutorial, or guided discussion.  Students then shift to their collaboration or individual work areas to engage in their learning tasks. We conclude each day with a “reflection” period during which students briefly describe their accomplishments and gauge their effort and efficiency. Click here to view a brief video capturing a typical day (recorded w/ iPhones…)

Teachers often ask me what students do if they finish a unit far ahead of their peers. To address this, I reward them with extra time to develop their interest-based “20 Time Projects.”  (Click here to view the 20-Time Intro presentation featuring a student voice-over.) I recently collaborated with Kate Petty to co-author a contributing chapter for Practical Applications in Blended Learning Environments called “Student-Driven Education With Flipped Learning and 20 Time.” Expected publication by IGI Global is December 2013, contact either Kate or I for more details if interested.


When developing each unit, only a few of the objectives included are content-based. They instead focus upon skill development. The skills selected were those from the CCSSLiteracy and Writing standards as well as the Connecticut Social Studies Curriculum Framework (my state’s adoption). Content that is necessary to provide historical context is then woven into students’ various learning tasks.

When transitioning towards a student-centered learning environment, I quickly realized how important it was to help students build their metacognitive skills and become self-regulated learners.  Since most students have never been granted this degree of autonomy in school, it was no surprise that they lacked many of the skills necessary to thrive in this environment. I therefore began actively teaching metacognition through an ongoing process of goal setting, progress monitoring, and reflection. I created a form called a “Daily Learning Journal” to help them practice these skills each day.  Click here for student perspectives of this process.


As I discuss in a chapter in Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams upcoming book, Flipped Learning has “democratized” my classroom in many ways. Through a study that I completed through an MA program at Columbia University, I realized that these results are replicated in social studies courses in other parts of the country as well. For a more complete discussion on this topic, keep an eye out for Aaron and Jon’s new book to be published by ISTE in Spring 2014.


Although our course is still rooted in flipped-mastery, I have decided to venture into the world of gamification.  I am not using games to teach, but am instead designing the entire course as a live, multiplayer game. The instructional design will include elements such as leveling, points through attrition, guilds, and an overarching story that weaves together the action. I credit Professor Lee Shlelon and Michael Matera for getting us started down this exciting new path.


Much of what I have learned has been through a reflective process with help from an incredible PLN. The awesome social studies teachers that I collaborate online with most are Karl Lindgren-StreicherDavid FouchJason Bretzmann, and Frank Franz. Karl and Jason authored chapters on social studies flipping in the recently published Flipping 2.0,while I and PHS colleague Brian Germain authored a chapter on student use of technology. There is also a free, archived eSeminar and Course for social studies teacher who are, or at least considering, flipping their classes.

Finally, view and contribute your information to this Flipped Social Studies Community document.  It includes teachers from around the world with their contact info, websites, video libraries, and more. Use this resource to connect and grow your PLN.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Managing Mastery: Structure

The most common question that I am asked when presenting at conferences and workshops goes something along these lines:

"I recognize the value of mastery learning, but how can I practically implement such a different approach from what I and the students are familiar with?"

I have written three previous posts about designing Flipped-Mastery units (Overview, Essential Questions & Learning Goals, Objectives & Learning Tasks), but I have not gone into much depth regarding classroom implementation.  

This is therefore the first in a series of posts that offer tips and suggestions for managing mastery learning based upon my experiences over the past three years. 

Topics in this series will include: Unit Structure (below), Establishing Routines, Standards Based-Grading, Pacing, Gamification & more.   If there are any other topics or questions that you would like addressed, please let me know and I will gladly include a post!


First, try to present the unit structure to students as early in the process as possible.  I actually provide students with an "objectives" grid that maps everything out for them.   For example, last year I provided students with a hard copy of each unit document such as this World War II objectives grid.  This year, they are storing digital copies of these by accessing the view-only document and making a copy of it into their Google Drive. 

Students are expected to have this document (whether hard copy or digital) easily accessible to them at all times throughout the unit.  This enables them to actively monitor their progress by entering their scores and checking off all of the objectives that they had mastered thus far.

It is also important to structure each day so that there are clear expectations.  For instance, a typical day in our flipped-mastery class is structured like this:

Students Greeted at the Door (4 Minute Passing Period)

Students Pick up a Daily Learning Journal Sheet - Now called Mission Progress (1 Minute)

Students "Swipe In" on the SMART Board - More on This in a Later Post  (1 Minute)

Students Engage in the Warm-Up Prompt (3-4 Minutes)

Students Monitor Unit Progress  (1 Minute)

Students Set a Daily Goal (1 Minute)

Teacher Leads Class Discussion and/or Large Group Direct Instruction Based Upon the Warmup (5-10 Minutes)

Students Work Individually/Collaboratively to Master the Unit Objectives While Teacher Helps Any and Everyone Who Needs It  (30-35 Minutes)

Students Reflect Upon Their Learning (3-5 Minutes)


Here is a quick video that I created early last year that demonstrates much of this structure in action. (Click Here to View on YouTube)


The next post will focus on developing routines for students to make the most out of each day in your mastery-style course.  We will also get a chance hear from several students themselves who engaged in Flipped-Mastery on a daily basis.

As mentioned above, please provide suggestions for future posts based upon your questions and interests! Twitter @Mr_Driscoll or

COMPLETE Flipped-Mastery Article Series

Saturday, October 12, 2013

RI Conferences Recap

Wow, what a week it has been in RI!  I was fortunate to attend and present at two incredible events held right here in the Ocean State.  Below I provide a brief recap of yesterday's Flipped Learning Workshop as well as last Saturday's RIDE Innovation Powered by Technology Conference.

Flipped Learning Workshop
Photo Courtesy of Jon Bergmann

The Northern Rhode Island Collaborative (NRIC) hosted a Flipped Learning Workshop in Lincoln, RI that was attended by about 70 innovative educators and administrators from the region.  Flipped Learning pioneer Jon Bergmann started things off with a great keynote laying out the basic history and elements of Flipped Learning.  I then served as part of the Educator Panel along with Director of Instructional Technology Shawn Rubin (Highlander Institute) and Elementary Teacher Charlie Laurent (Rocky Hill School).  The spirited Q & A session covered topics such as flipped-mastery implementation, administrator support, and professional development models.

After lunch, I led a breakout session on Secondary Flipping (Click Here for Presentation File) that described my journey through Flipped Learning as well as future directions.  New aspects to my presentation included commentary on 20 Time, Gamification, and the potential of Augmented Reality in education.

I was then able to participate in an unconference-style session based upon Flipped-Mastery.  It is always great to have high-minded discussions with passionate educators about our practice and ways that we can improve.

RIDE Innovation Powered By Technology Conference

My PHS colleague Brian Germain did an excellent job recapping this event, so for some incredible and inspiring commentary, click here to view his post on The Lyceum blog.

In an afternoon session, I conducted a Flipped Learning Workshop that I feel was well received by those in attendance (it seemed like more than the room was meant to occupy. Note to organizers for next year: find a bigger space for the Flipped Learning workshop session.)

I made the point at both events that it is important to connect with educators in your local region along with the incredible opportunities to learn and connect with educators throughout the world.  I said this because although it is great to have a worldwide PLN, I feel that you can have a greater impact in the local community by forming a coalition of like-minded leaders willing to push for change in your region.

These conferences helped me start developing such a coalition here in Southern New England, and I am as excited as ever to be in many ways leading the charge in innovation and positive change in our local education communities.   I look forward to the journey ahead!...

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

RI Flipped Learning Workshop 10/11

This post is just a quick reminder that there will be a Flipped Learning Workshop keynoted by pioneer Jon Bergmann this Friday in Lincoln, RI.  Click here to register for this awesome event.

I have the pleasure of serving on the Educator Panel as well as conducting an afternoon session title "Secondary Flipping."  Click here to view the presentation file for this session. 

I hope to see many of you at the event!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Fun with Augmented Reality

colAR Mix

Over the summer, I came across this amazing post by Erin Klein that introduced me to the colAR app. In short, this incredible app turns a coloring book page into an interactive augmented realty experience! I immediately downloaded it and had my son Blake give it a try.  Needless to say, my 2-year-old now wishes every coloring book would come to life like this one!  Here is a quick video of my son Blake (with assistance from my wife Michaela) using the colAR app to augment his favorite coloring pages.

(View on YouTube)


I was also introduced to the Aurasma augmented reality app this summer at the Games in Education Symposium in NY.  Unfortunately, I was presenting during the Aurasma session, so I did not really get a chance to experiment with the app at this conference.

About a week ago, I started listening to the new Edreach podcast called the Two Guys Show with Brad Waid and Drew Minock.  They referenced Aurasma on several occasions as one of the go-to augmented reality apps out there, so I decided to play around with it a bit in school.  I then decided that it could be fun to create an aura of my daughter Lydia poking her head out from behind a couch and seeing how my son Blake would react.  Well, here is the video and I think he found it awesome.  It is clear, however, that Dad thinks this is much cooler than either of them, and Liddy is already realizing how nuts her Dad is.  Here is the video:

(View on YouTube)

I can't wait to explore AR further this year, particularly that ways that I can incorporate it into our gamified flipped-mastery courses. More to come soon!