Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Method For Mastery

About six weeks ago, Tina Rosenberg from the New York Times contacted me regarding an article that she was writing for the "Fixes" column.  After writing an initial article about Flipped Classrooms, she was interested in how educators were evolving beyond the traditional flipped approach (i.e. video lectures for homework / homework in class.)

After contacting Flipped Learning pioneer Jon Bergmann to experience his story and viewpoints on the topic, I was referred to her by Jon to describe how I have similarly merged my flipped classroom with mastery learning.  After speaking with Tina for about 45 minutes, it was clear how passionate she was about this topic, particularly how flipping enables educators to be creative and innovate at the classroom level.  I was surprised at how interested she was not only in mastery learning, but also how we have "gamified" our World History courses at PHS.  As I mentioned to her, once you transition towards a mastery learning environment, adding game layers to the class is not as difficult as one might think.

Here is the link to the Times article, "In Flipped Classrooms, A Method For Mastery."  Overall, Tina did a great job explaining the convergence of Flipped Classrooms and mastery learning.  Any comments that you have regarding the column (or my approach in general) is of course welcome.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Diving Into Augmented Reality

Over the past few months, I have been exploring the benefits and learning opportunities made possible by emerging augmented reality (AR) technologies.  First, I had to get a better grasp regarding what "augmented reality" actually is.  Here is a helpful description:

"...augmented reality blurs the line between what's real and what's computer-generated by enhancing what we see, hear, feel and smell. On the spectrum between virtual reality.... and the real world, augmented reality is closer to the real world. Augmented reality adds graphics, sounds, haptic feedback and smell to the natural world as it exists."  Source 

My main source of information regarding augmented reality in education has been The Two Guys Show podcast on Edreach, hosted by Brad Waid and Drew Minoch.  They have also created an awesome website called Two Guys and Some iPads with incredible AR sources.

In a recent post, I demonstrated how my son has been using the colAR mix app to bring his coloring pages to life, as well as some fun I was having with Aurasma by augmenting my daughter crawling out from behind our couch.  Since then, my 2-year-old son has also loved the AR Flashcards which bring animals and dinosaurs to life as he learns his letters (and dino names of course). See image to the right.

As I began recognizing the awesome potential that AR has for learning, I committed to making a channel on Aurasma for my students. My first trial run at making an "aura" with the Aurasma Studio Account was to augment the FlippedHistoryVideos trailer onto the Flipped History logo image.  After a few initial attempts, it worked!   If you are interested in viewing the aura, follow the steps below:

Step 1

Install Aurasma onto your mobile device: iOS & Android

Step 2
Subscribe to the Flipped History Channel

Option 1

Option 2

Scan the following QR Code to the right

Once you have the Aurasma app and are following the Flipped History Channel, you should be able to view the aura below.  To do this, open Aurasma and point your device at the trigger image below.  You should then see a purple swirl appear.  Soon after (quickly if on wifi, longer if via 3/4G), the Flipped History Videos trailer should augment and play over the image. 

If you have trouble viewing the aura, just let me know and I can help you troubleshoot the issue.  This is a very new process for people, and the technology is still relatively new, so experiencing challenges along the way is part of it. Hang in there!  On the other hand, if it worked, that is awesome!  You are already on your way to making your own unique auras.   

AR in the Classroom

Since the Flipped History Aurasma Channel has been up and running, I have incorporated AR into the following two projects. 

1. AP European History students are creating auras for primary source visuals in our text.

2. World History students are creating auras as part of the world religions project and posting them on our new "Aura Wall."

As we finish up these projects, I look forward to sharing our experiences in future posts.  Until then, if you have any questions about these AR projects or are just interested in exploring the possibilities, as always, please let me know. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Level Up With Gamification

I recently had the pleasure of conducting a workshop session titled "Level Up with Gamification" alongside education rockstar and colleague Brian Germain at the Highlander Institute in Providence, RI.  

We are pleased to announce a second Gamification event for those who were unable to register for or attend last week's session.  Since opening up registration, this new event is already half full, so if interested in attending please make sure to register soon before it sells out.

Click Here to Register for "Level Up With Gamification" at Highlander Institute on December 12th (4:30-6) 

Here is an excerpt from the registration page:

Event Details

Educators around the world are tapping into the motivational power of gaming and game-design principles to increase student engagement.  In this session, Tom Driscoll and Brian Germain will share how their high school social studies courses have evolved into high-energy, live action multi-player games.  They will also explain how teachers can effectively incorporate game design concepts such as leveling, points through attrition, leaderboards, collaboration, competition, and narrative into their existing curriculum.  

Session Goals
Incorporate gaming concepts into your instructional design to create engaging and collaborative learning experiences.

Leverage instructional technologies to effectively develop and implement gamification strategies in your class.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Students Pay Tribute to 150th Anniversary of Gettysburg Address

Over the past two days, PHS students have been putting together an excellent tribute to the 150th Anniversary of the Gettysburg address.  Colleague Brian Germain came across a tribute video by Ken Burns and thought that it would be great to have our students create their own.

Well, that is exactly what the students did.  Here is the video that the students filmed and put together in just the past  two days.  They are awesome! (Click Here to View on the PHS YouTube Channel)

Monday, November 18, 2013

Managing Mastery: "Swiping In"

When transitioning to a mastery learning environment, one of the first challenges facing the teacher can be summed up by this important question:

How can I gauge who needs the most help and when they need will need it? 

One strategy that I have implemented (which I largely credit colleague Brian Germain for) is a daily classroom routine called "Swiping In."

In general, students enter the class and immediately go up to the Smartboard (see screenshot to the right). All student names are in the far right column titled "absent."  They must then "swipe" their name over to the appropriate column.

These self-explanatory columns are "I Need Assistance Immediately,"  "I Might Need Assistance Soon," and "I'm In The Zone And Need Independence."

This simple strategy enables Brian and I to get a quick visual representation of who in the class we should visit first as they are in most need of guidance (as well as who is absent).

Here is a brief video that I put together demonstrating how students "swipe" into class.   (View on YouTube)

As we have recently implemented this strategy, it is a bit too early to comment in certainty on its' effectiveness.  The initial results, however, are very positive and I look forward to improving this aspect of our flipped-mastery classes.

As always, if you have any questions about this strategy, post comments below or feel free to contact me directly (@Mr_Driscoll /

COMPLETE Flipped-Mastery Article Series

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Managing Mastery: Goal Setting, Progress Monitoring & Reflection

In a previous post about managing mastery learning, I discussed the importance of establishing structure.  This is essential at both the unit level (preview here of my recently "gamified" units) as well as the daily class routine.

In this post, I will discuss in further detail the Daily Learning Journal assignment and provide students' perspectives on this strategy. In general, I created this assignment to serve three purposes that are vital for effective implementation of mastery learning.

1. Progress Monitoring

After completing the daily warm-up, students must monitor their progress by recording how many objectives they have mastered thus far in the unit.  Their ability to see that number rise (ex. monday was 2/12 objectives, friday was 5/12 objectives) provides feedback that they are learning these skills and helps motivate those who like to visually see progress over time.  It also helps me recognize which students are progressing at a faster rate, and which will need more help on a daily basis.

 2. Goal Setting

Students are expected to choose which objective they will work towards mastering each day.  This helps them focus on the task at hand while also providing me with insight regarding how I can best help them during class time.

3. Reflecting

At the end of each period (with roughly 5 minutes remaining), students will determine how much effort they put into the day's class (0-10 scale) as well as briefly describe what they have achieved.  I stress "achieved" since that should be the goal each day, not just slowly plugging away at the same assignment to take up class time.

Here is a video that I put together last year of students explaining the Daily Learning Journals in their own words.  (Click here to view on YouTube)

In the next post about managing mastery, I will discuss the new strategy of "Swiping In" to class using the interactive white board.  (The student's love this...)

COMPLETE Flipped-Mastery Article Series

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Upcoming Flipped Learning Workshop in Hartford, CT (November 9th)

There will be an "unconference" style Flipped Learning Workshop in Hartford, CT hosted by CREC on November 9th.  Josiah Hills, Educational Technology Specialist for CREC, has done a great job advancing meaningful technology integration across the region by putting together these workshops as well as hosting the Educational Technology Conversations podcast with co-host Rob Stellar. ( I have recently added this to my podcast lineup during the commute.)

Below is information directly from the official workshop flier for those interested in attending:


Find out more about the flipped classroom and what it really means. 
Attendees will have opportunities to learn about, plan for and actually make flipped lessons. The day’s activities will include a mix of interactive presentations and “un-conference” style participant facilitated work sessions. Topics will include: 
  • Developing and/or finding video instruction 
  • Using Learning Management tools to host and share content 
  • Using digital tools to assess understanding 
  • Putting recaptured class time to good use with performance assessments 
  • Whatever you bring to the table! 
If you’re thinking about implementing a flip in your classroom, then this is the workshop for you. 

Special Guest Speaker: Tom Driscoll 
As a social studies teacher and technology coach, Tom has implemented Flipped Learning and led professional development workshops on the topic for the past three years. Tom recently completed the Computing in Education M.A. program through Teachers College at Columbia University and has authored contributing chapters for three books on instructional technology, including a chapter in Jon Bergman and Aaron Sam's highly anticipated follow-up to "Flip Your Class: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day." (Expected Early 2014) 

Date Saturday, November 9th 9:00 – 3:00 
Cost: $100 (lunch included) 

Josiah Hills 

Location CREC Central 111 Charter Oak Ave. Hartford, CT 06106