Saturday, December 20, 2014

How Will I Make 2015 The Best Year For My Students?

Looking ahead, here are two changes that I believe will make a positive and lasting impact on students’ learning in 2015.  

A More Thoughtful And Strategic “Flip”

After 4 years of “flipping,” the majority of my 70+ videos were created to deliver content.  Although there is certainly value in this, particularly since it helped make mastery learning possible, I must think beyond this approach to flipping.  

Moving forward, I plan on conducting a more “formative” flip.  Instead of anticipating which new content and skill videos should be front-loaded, I will first gauge students’ comprehension and skills as they progress through each unit.  Instructional videos will then be created if and when students need them.  

For example, if students are having difficulty taking and defending a position, I will create a video providing strategies and walking through exemplars.  If students have trouble grasping the root causes of the Cold War, I will create a “special topics” video explaining this issue in greater depth.  

Transforming Passions Into Actions

This is our third year of 20 Time projects and my focus this semester is to help transform students’ passions into actions.  I will push students to not only develop a project that they are intrinsically interested in, but also one that makes a positive impact on a wider community of people. This is out of most students’ (and adults’) comfort zone, but they will get so much more out of this experience if they channel their passions to help others.  Not only will they harness their creativity to innovate, but also build confidence and self-worth knowing they they made a positive impact.
There you have it, two brief thoughts on improving in the new year.  If you have any thoughts or comments on these, or if you would like to share your ideas for a better 2015, please post them in the comments section below!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Flipped Learning Chat on Education Talk Radio

Last week, I had the pleasure of discussing Flipped Learning with Larry Jacobs on an episode of his radio show Education Talk Radio.  We were also joined by Eric Moberg (one of my incredible former students at PHS) and Kathy McKnight, Director of Research at the Center for Educator Learning & Effectiveness (Pearson).

The best part of this episode is how Eric took center stage.  Not only is it evident how talented an individual Eric is, but it was also great to hear how passionate he is about education and the experiences he had in our courses at PHS.

If interested in listening to our conversation, it is linked and embedded below.

A Teacher And A Student Look At Flipped Learning 

Check Out Education Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with educationtalkradiotoo on BlogTalkRadio

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The New Immigration Debate

The recent speech by president Obama about his new executive actions on immigration provided a great opportunity to discuss and debate the issue in class this week.  Before diving into the discussion, we started by watching the speech in class, then reviewed the Newsela article "Obama's Immigration Speech, Cheered By Immigrants, Angers Congress."

Beyond having a class discussion about the merits of Obama's immigration plan, I also wanted to have the students debate whether or not the president's proposed executive actions are constitutional.  Since this issue can get incredibly complicated, I created this brief video explaining the key points for each side of the issue.

The class discussions went well and I am very proud that the students stuck to arguments and justifications based more upon facts than feelings.  I understand how emotionally charged the immigration issue can be, so having Freshman students discuss this at such a high level was just awesome.  Feel free to use this video if you think it will help your students as well!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

5 Minute Guide to Kahoot

Since last summer, several colleagues have mentioned how much their students enjoy playing "Kahoot."  We educators hear claims about this "great new app" or "awesome new website" daily, so its difficulty to discern the trend-chasing hype from resources that are actually worth-while.  After my wife Michaela (an excellent science teacher at Coventry High School) mentioned how her students love playing review games with this "new site called Kahoot," I knew it was time to check it out.

I gave it a shot a few weeks ago by creating one called "Halloween History."  It went so well, students asked when the next time they could play would be and if Kahoots could replace our existing review game.  In preparation for a recent Civics quiz, I then created this 13 Colonies Challenge.  Long story short, this is a classroom tool that seems poised to stay.

Here is a quick rundown of what Kahoot is and why I like it:
  1. Kahoot is a student-response system with built-in game elements.
  2. The game elements (ex. pts awarded based upon accuracy & speed, leaderboard...) make it much more fun and engaging for students.  
  3. It is very easy to create and set up games.
  4. The gameplay is very streamlined and simple to administer in class. (minimal steps, no log-ins, clear visuals...)
  5. There is a growing collection of pre-made public Kahoots to choose from.
I have also created this quick "5 Minute Guide to Kahoot" (also embedded below) to help you set up and play in class in no time!

Monday, November 10, 2014

How To Watch Instructional Videos

I recently collaborated with social studies department members Brian Germain and Garrison Rose to create a video providing students with tips for, well, how to watch a video. It seems a bit ironic, but although most students are very experienced watching online videos, they still need some guidance when watching instructional videos.

In general, we provide students with the following four strategies: reduce distractions, take notes, pause & replay, and ask questions.  We then provide a few quick examples of each strategy in action.

You will notice that we tried to keep this video quick, upbeat, and yes a bit goofy. We also tried to use both audio and visual cues to help drive home the major points, including a quick recap at the end.  Feel free to use this video with your students or create your own version tailored to your particular students' needs.  Video linked and embedded below:

How To Watch Instructional Videos

Friday, October 17, 2014

Validity Assessment: Student Tool for Evaluating Online Content

A few weeks ago, I collaborated with social studies department members and our new library media specialist to develop a tool for students to evaluate online content on a regular basis.  Students will complete this Validity Assessment Form throughout the year whenever they rely on an online source for an assignment.  (I also incorporate this with our Current Event Day assignments)

The 5 main criteria include: Accuracy, Authority, Coverage, Timeliness and Design.  

As always, feel free to modify and use as you wish, feedback greatly appreciated! 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Revisiting "Current Events Day"

Like most (if not all) social studies teachers, I find it an essential responsibility to infuse discussion of current events into the curriculum.  As I shifted towards a flipped-mastery system a few years ago, the designated "current events day" took a back seat.  I instead attempted to incorporate these discussions into the daily warm-ups or unit assignments themselves.

After some reflection this fall, I decided that I should bring back class days that are specifically devoted to contemporary issues.  The mastery model takes a breather for this day so that all students can dive into conversations that are specifically relevant to the happenings of today's world. 

I also streamlined students' preparation for these days with this assignment (also embedded below) to help students locate, evaluate, and take positions on these issues.  Their Google Form submissions also help manage our discussion as each student's response and live link to their current event resource is easily available in the responses spreadsheet.  So whether students commented on an article, video, political cartoon, etc., it is easy to project it for the rest of the class to view as we engage in discussion.  (See Screenshot Below)

The first couple "Current Events Days" have gone very well, and this assignment format is preferable for myself, and more importantly, the students.  Although we need to work on effective debate/dialogue techniques during these discussions, students' interest, passion and enthusiasm are palpable.  I couldn't ask for a better starting point for the year....

Assignment form embedded below, feel free to modify and use as you wish.  Feedback also greatly appreciated! 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Flipping Civics

This will be a short post, but I just wanted to share that along with flipping World History, I will also be flipping Civics this year.  I actually taught American Government during my first four years in the profession, and I absolutely loved it! (My Old Websites: American Government / We The People Prep)  

I did not start flipping my class until I changed districts and taught mostly World History, so this will be the first time that I have a chance to apply the Flipped Learning approach to a civics class.

I will be collaborating throughout the year with colleague Garrison Rose (who is exceptional) as well as the scores of other educators out there who I regularly collaborate with (ex. Jason Bretzmann).

Long story short, this will be awesome and I am excited to start up a new year with students at PHS teaching a subject that I am extremely passionate about!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Stewart Parker Gamifies World Cultural Geography

I recently connected with Stewart Parker, a high school social studies teacher from Florida who is interested in the potential of gamification in education.  We engaged in a great conversation a few weeks ago about Flipped Learning, gamification, augmented reality... you name it.  It is clear how passionate he is about education and that he is doing the most to improve his instruction and the students' learning environment.

I then asked him to provide me with a brief synopsis of his plan to gamify his flipped courses.  In his reply, I realized that he is not only adding some game elements, but creating a rich narrative that provides context and relevance to the course!  Here is his response:


     I'm excited about the potential gamification will add to my World Cultural Geography classroom.  I plan to create a game that allows the students to travel throughout the world while learning about various cultures and helping solve geographic issues throughout the world.  They will work to stop deforestation in South America or desertification in Africa. They will help cities in Asia deal with issues of monsoon rains or typhoons.  

     For the past few years, I have found the students engagement in the course dwindle. I wanted to find a way to get them excited about geography and various cultures around the world.  I am concerned if the students will find the game interesting enough to sustain it all year long.  I find high school students can be cynical about anything that changes the status quo. For this to be successful, the game needs to be interesting and engaging. That's what scares me the most trying to reimagine my classroom in a new way. I do, however, believe that gamification can bring a positive change in my class.

     I am excited about the potential gamification has for the students in my class and school!

- Stewart

If interested in connecting with Stewart, he can be found on Twitter @ParkersGeocats.  I highly suggest adding him to your PLN as he is a great resource and yet another passionate educator doing his best for kids!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Augmented Reality in Education: Session Resources

Below is the slide deck from last Spring's "Augmented Reality in Education" session. (I just remembered to share this out... oops.)  Here is the outline:

What is Augmented Reality?
Hardware & Software Needs
AR App Spotlight (9 Apps)
AR Integration Ideas
How to Create AR (With Aurasma)

AR Presentation Link (Embedded below)

If you have any questions about Augmented Reality or run into any trouble trying to create it, as always just let me know!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

ISTE & FlipCon (In Pictures)

Instead of attempting to summarize my incredible trips to Flipcon and ISTE, here is a collection of images from these events that I think exemplify the best part of these conferences: experiences and relationships.  

FlipCon 14 (Mars, PA)

Welcome to Mars!
The residents of Mars, PA hosted a great event for us that included local food, a car show, a miniature train, and of course, the Mars space ship.

Opening Keynote


Flipping Social Studies Event

"Level Up with Gamification & Game Based Learning" Featured Session

Flipping 2.0 Panel Discussion

A Night at the Carnegie Science Center
Yes, that is Aaron Sams and David Fouch standing in for the "14."

Watching "Back to the Moon" in the Planetarium

"Flipped Learning: Gateway to Student Engagement" Book Signing

Flipping With Hip Hughes
Yup, that is David Fouch featured in this video created during Keith Hughes' awesome session.

Closing Keynote

Mastery Learning Cycles
True, these are not pictures, but this session was incredible.  Here are a few screenshots from Hassan Wilson's presentation.  Check out his Flipcon recap post here

ISTE2014 (Atlanta, GA)

Meeting FlipCon Crew Upon Arrival

The Blogger's Cafe

Meeting Karl, Enough Said

ISTE Young Educators Network

Testing Out The New Anatomy 4D App in Blogger's Cafe

Playing With Sphero in Blogger's Cafe

Team Highlander


As the cliche' goes, that was just the tip of the iceberg.  I had the opportunity to meet and have incredible conversations with countless other educators throughout both conferences.  Although learning online through social media is valuable, I had underestimated the power of face-to-face conversations at events such as these.  

Whether it is an informal meet-up with 5-10 educators, or it is the ISTE conference with thousands, I urge everyone to reach out beyond the social media platform and strengthen relationships by attending live events when possible.  Of course, it is not always feasible due to cost, family commitments, etc.  I just suggest doing so when you can and making the most out of every opportunity you have!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Learning at Flipcon14 & ISTE

Next week I have the incredible opportunity to attend and present at #FlipCon14, the 7th annual Flipped Learning Conference hosted this year in Mars, PA.  Below is my "fixed" schedule, but I am just as (if not more) excited to engage with incredible educators from around the world throughout each day.  It will be exciting to meet so many of the colleagues and friends in my PLN in person for the first time.

Tuesday, 1:00 -2:00pm (Room 94) 
I'll be joining Tim Downing and Dan Harrold in this session to discuss our experiences with gamification and game-based learning in the classroom.  We will also hold a 20 minute panel discussion with both on-site and virtual attendees. 

FLIPPING 2.0 BOOK PANEL (Concurrent Session B)
Tuesday, 2:00 -3:00pm (Room 94) 
Following the Gamification Session,  I will be joining Jason Bretzmann and the Flipping 2.0 Panel to share our experiences and provide insight regarding the next levels of Flipped Learning.  

Wednesday, 11:00am -12:00pm (Room 94) 
I'll be joining a panel discussion with Jon Bergmann, Aaron Sams and the other contributing authors of Flipped Learning: Gateway to Student Engagement.    

If you are attending and would like to catch up at some point, please feel free to reach out so we can make it happen!

I am honored and excited to be joining the incredible team at the Highlander Institute for this year's ISTE conference.  Some members of this rockstar crew include Shawn Rubin, Dana Borrelli-Murray, Roshni Mirchandani, Eric Burash, Stephanie Castilla, and Cathy Sanford.

I will also have a chance to meet up with some awesome members of my PLN such as Karl Lindgren-Streicher (it's crazy that we have never met in-person), George Phillip, and Kate Baker.  I'll also get to catch up with the Kate Reilly and the team at E-Line Media (Historia Beta).

I was told that I should definitely attend student poster sessions and the "Bloggers' Cafe."  Therefore, if interested in catching up while at ISTE, you will probably find me in one of these spots!

Hope to see many of you in Atlanta!

Monday, June 16, 2014

20 Time Year in Review

This was the second year implementing 20 Time Projects here at PHS, and based upon some of the challenges we faced the first time around, many changes were made to this year's journey.  I credit incredible educators such as Karl Lindgren-Streicher, Kevin Brookhouser and Kate Petty for sharing great ideas and providing inspiration to keep pushing forward with this concept.

Here's a rundown of this year's 20 Time Project at PHS:

Introducing 20 Time  (September)

I introduced the project with this 20 Time Presentation that provides some background regarding creativity, motivation, and concept of "20 Time." This year I also provided students with 20 Time Guidelines to give them a better sense of the expectations and timeline for the project.

This year's project also had two basic requirements:

1.  Your project provides a solution to an existing problem.

2.  Your solution benefits a particular community or people.
*** In other words, your project will help/affect more than just yourself.

Brainstorming Sessions  (September - October)

Last year, students had a particularly difficult time getting started.  I therefore decided to help students think about different topics and interests with this Brainstorming form.  It not only helped them organize their thoughts, but also provided me with some insight regarding the direction that they were heading.

Maintaining Focus  (October - November)

Once most students had settled upon an idea and began working on their proposals, I realized that many were not making the most of class time.  To help them stay on task and monitor their progress, students began writing weekly reflections.  This simply asked students to record what they had accomplished that week as well as what steps needed to be taken before the next 20 Time day.

Project Proposals (December)

Before diving too deep into the projects, I had students develop an in-depth Project Proposal document.  This required students to discuss their passion, needs and opportunities, audience, timeline, final product, and equipment needs.

Students also had to develop a pitch video.  They started by completing this "1 Minute Pitch" video form.  Their responses were then written out into a brief script.  Before they recorded, I also showed students a few Kickstarter videos so that they would understand the concept of "pitching" an idea.

I feel that these two assignments helped students hone their ideas and create a road map for moving forward with the project. Creating the pitch videos also helped drive home the point that this project is not just about themselves, but some larger community of their choosing.

Connecting With Experts (January - February)

As part of the project, I urged students to reach out to experts in the field related to their topic.  In this Interview Proposal form, students had to indicate two people that they would like to interview. Students also had to include a brief description of how each person's experience, expertise, and insights would assist their project.  I then helped the students connect with each person via email, phone call, or GHO.

Inspirational Videos

Around this time of year, many students began to hit a wall.  Some were "stuck," some were losing interest in their project, and some were unsure of where their project would ultimately end up.  That's when I began starting each class with a quick, inspirational video.  I made a point to include some TED talks since that is how each group was going to present in June.  I searched for resources (such as this Pinterest board by Terri Eichholz) to curate videos that I thought were especially creative and inspirational.  Here is a screenshot of the videos that we viewed throughout the year.

Final Presentations  (May - June)

Although I tried to stay as "hands off" here as possible regarding the content and style of their final presentation, I did offer students this guide of questions to be addressed during their talk.  A few students also created this TED Talk Tips presentation based upon the book How to Deliver a TED Talk.  For students who could not deliver their presentation live to the class, they were given the option of either creating a video or presenting before or after school.

I was pleased with the variety of projects this year and how well many students followed-through with their plans.  Here is a sampling of what they created:
  • Product design for a device that monitors the vital signs of an unborn child and streams the information to the mother's Smartphone. 
  • Relay for Life community campaign to raise awareness for the cause and increase community participation. 
  • E-Book that provides inspirational stories for teens that are going through difficult times. 
  • How-to guide for tech-savvy students interested in creating their own "home server."
Overall, this year's 20 Time Project was much more successful.  As for future iterations, I'm looking forward to reading Kevin Brookhouser's upcoming book and implementing some new strategies to increase student buy-in from the start and provide more inspiration and targeted support throughout the project.  

Friday, June 13, 2014

Complete Gamification Series

Over the past few months, I have reflected upon my experiences with gamification and provided thoughts and implementation advice through a series of 15 thematic posts.  Below is a complete list of the Gamification Series.

Theses posts have also been compiled into one simple Google Document with a Table of Contents.

Click here to access this Google Doc version of the Gamication Series.

Complete Gamification Series

Share these posts (or document) with anyone that you think is interested in the possibilities and potential of gamification in education. And, as always, feel free to reach out and connect with me if you have questions or would like to collaborate in any way. LEVEL UP!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Compete in FlipQuest2014 at FlipCon!

Are you attending FlipCon14 on-site or virtually?  If so, you should compete in FlipQuest 2014!  We have gamified the conference by creating session-related quests in 3DGamelab and will provide prizes for winners in several categories. More information from the Flipped Learning Network below:

"A dedicated group of volunteers has "gamified" FlipCon14, putting together a series of quests that virtual and in person attendees can complete in advance of or during FlipCon14.  We're calling this FlipQuest2014, and we are extremely excited about it. 

The quests include reviewing the various sessionwork assignments, and providing some "evidence" regarding the assignments.  In addition to being a fun way to prepare for the conference, FLN has assembled a number of prizes that participants in the FlipQuest2014 can win.  

Go to and follow the instructions there to register and start competing in FlipQuest2014. 

If you have any questions, please contact our FlipQuest2014 volunteers at"

Here is a video by Corey Papastathis (mastermind behind this concept) providing a more thorough overview FlipQuest14.  

If interested in FlipQuest2014, make sure to fill out this form to gain access to 3DGamelab and start competing!

See you in PA! 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Gamification Series Part 15: The Next Level

In this final post of the series, I will provide some insights regarding where I think gamification and game-based learning may lead in the not-so-distant future...

Augment Reality Integration

Throughout the year, students asked how our gamifed course could become more active, immersive, and engaging.  They also did not want to progress through missions and levels in front of a computer for long stretches of time.  This is where I think that Augmented Reality (AR) can bring gamification to a whole new level.   First, videos and images are no longer tethered to the computer as they can be "tagged" to any physical location and accessed with a mobile device.  One mission that I never developed but would like to in the future is a type of AR scavenger hunt that would lead students to different locations based upon the decisions that they made throughout the mission.  

AR is already making its way into the gaming world.  At last summer's GIE symposium, I was introduced to the new Google project called Ingress.  The attempt here seems to be the development of a gaming environment that, like many of our courses, is blended between both the physical and online world.  The only different here is that at many locations, those two world converge via augmented reality.  

Gamified Learning Management Systems

I have already mentioned a few platforms (ClassBadges, 3DGameLab, ClassDojo, Classcraft) that are doing a great job developing online tools and environments to help, or developed specifically for, gamified courses. This is the tip of the iceberg.  As more educators recognize the potential for gamification and game-based learning, the demand for a robust, easy to use online platform will rise. It is also apparent that the companies mentioned above are working closely with educators in the field to create the best product possible for students in K-12 settings.  I'm looking forward to great things to come on this front! 

Game-Based Curriculum / Gamified Schools

Believe it or not, this actually already exists.  Quest to Learn is a public middle and high school in New York City that "uses the underlying design principles of games to create highly immersive, game-like learning experiences.” (Source)

I also believe that the rise in mastery learning and proficiency-based graduation competencies opens the door for this type of innovative approach.  If schools begin to move away from "seat time" requirements and instead focus on students' ability to demonstrate competency in specific skills, a self or flex-paced gamified curriculum could serve as an effective type of learning environment.   

*** That concludes the gamification series.  I hope that my reflections from this year at PHS will serve as guidance and/or inspiration for many of you interested in the promise and potential for gamification and game-based learning in the field of education. If you have any questions, comments, advice, or would simply like to connect and chat, please get in touch!  @Mr_Driscoll / 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Gamification Series Part 14: Results

When reflecting upon whether gamification "worked" this year, I had to revisit the major reason why I ventured into this in the first place.  It all boils down to this brief explanation:

Problem =  Lack of Motivation & Engagement
Proposed Solution =  Gamification

Although this is admittedly oversimplified, it at least provides a frame of reference when evaluating this year's gamified course. 


How did I measure whether gamification improved motivation and engagement? Simple, I asked the students.  Here are some results from a Google Form survey the students recently completed:

67% were more motivated to learn in a gamified learning environment.

88% were more engaged in class on a daily basis. 

Beyond motivation and engagement, they also reported the following: 

70%  learned more effectively in a gamified course.

79%  enjoyed the competition associated with gamification.



Motivation & Engagement

As was evident in the survey, there was definitely improved motivation and classroom engagement for most students. This was typically the case for students who self-identified as "gamers," but many students who are not your traditional gamer enjoyed the course as well. These were typically students who were not as caught up in the narrative but instead with the competition and camaraderie that accompanied the gamified learning environment. 

Students Assume Role of Teachers / Coaches

I also recognized a new dynamic when it came to students working on group projects and assignments. The competition created a type of positive peer pressure to make sure others in the group succeeded. It also created opportunities for group leaders to assume the role of "teacher" as they often times coached their teammates through a particularly difficult part of the course. 



As described in the post on management, I did develop a system for managing the gamified learning environment by piecing together several different resources and strategies. This was, however, not ideal. In the future, I will consider adopting a more robust tool or platform to conduct the digital portion of the course. (Ex. 3DGamelab, Class Dojo)  

Narrative & Avatars

I also had a difficult time "selling" the idea of the narrative (storyline) and avatars. First, I do not think that I effectively wove the existing curriculum into the storyline effectively enough. I also did not make enough use of the avatars. Moving forward, I will make sure that each mission is tied more directly to the narrative, while creating differentiated tasks for students who are in different avatar classes. This will hopefully create more buy-in from those who were more reluctant to dive into this concept. 

More Games & Competitions

Many students enjoyed when we learned and competed with actual games throughout the course. For instance, we had a few competitions with Geoguessr to learn geography that were a big hit with students. Although this course applied "gamification" as opposed to "game-based learning," there can still be a place for leveraging existing games effectively. Back when I taught American Government, I thought that the iCivics games were great, and so did my students. I will certainly add in more games and competitions to each scenario for next year.