Q&A: Superintendent Greg Green on How Flipped Learning Transformed His High School

Clintondale High School in Michigan is a pioneer in flipped learning. It's an urban school district of Clinton Township near Detroit with 400 students.

Frustrated with high failure rates and discipline problems, then-Principal Greg Green worked with teachers to implement flipped learning at the high school. The school piloted the method in 2010 with its freshman class. Quickly, failure rates dropped, as did discipline problems. In less than two years, the entire school was flipped.

Today, Green is superintendent at Clintondale Community Schools, which oversees seven schools including Clintondale High. Most of the district use elements of flipped learning, he said.

How did you become interested in flipped learning?

We recognized when we first started that the concept just made a lot of sense. Before we started flipped learning, we were spending most of our day lecturing students, and very little time actually doing work. A lot of times (students) weren't finishing their homework at home. We thought, what if we had more time in the classroom to work with the students?

Then we thought about the types of tools we needed to do this. We worked with an area company, TechSmith, to get what we needed. They had tools - messaging, voice and screen recording and editing. They had tested these tools and shared what they learned with us.

That first class outperformed our expectations. Our failure rates dropped dramatically, in some cases 20-25 points. Math scores went up 10 points. We said this makes so much sense, and we've found an easy way to do this.

How long did it take you to institute flipped learning throughout the high school?

It was a year and a half. Normally it can take five years, but it didn't take us that long to implement. The staff was really on board.

Why were you able to do this so quickly?

That's the secret sauce isn't it? Really, it was about the conversation. It was about each teacher's personal teaching journey. We talked about how (flipped learning) can make (the teaching process) more efficient for them.

What were the academic results of flipped learning in your school?

We had a reduction in discipline reports of 300%. We had a reduction in failure by 33%. Attendance in that first class went up to 92%, ahead of the state average. And college attendance is at 81%.

How did students react to the change to flipped learning?

We had a pep assembly announcing flipped learning, and the students gave us a standing ovation. Finally someone is listening! They want to use their gadgets for learning. ... We are an economically depressed area, and we have more challenges than some schools. But flipped learning can help reduce teacher workload and helped them spend more time in the classroom getting work done.

Here's the deal, a lot of people focus on the teacher-led model. Before flipped learning, teachers were spending 80 percent on lecture and 20 percent on classwork. We have flipped that model. Now about 20 percent of the classroom time is spent in lecture, and the rest of the time is spent working.

Then came the idea of space. We changed the classrooms to have different spaces for learning. There is a space for lecture, a space for group work and communication, and an area where students can work independently.

Since you are in an economically depressed area, how are students consuming content at home? Videos? Book work?

They do all of it. They use books as a reference, they sometimes do project work. We like students to take control of their own learning. We began by holding their hands, and then eventually we wanted them to hold our hands (through the process).

So we use textbooks, we bought some software. We were $5 million in debt, so we had to use existing equipment and existing support. We were not in good shape. We are an urban school with no money.

About 82% of our students have access to some sort of technology. A laptop or a computer or a tablet. We have after-school access, or in-class access. For others, we supply the technology.

So how did you get everyone on board?

It was really about the art of the conversation. It's like in sales, we sold the benefits and not the characteristics for everyone. You sell the benefits, so each conversation is a little bit different. What's in it for the teachers, for the students, for a superintendent?

What mistakes did you make early on, and what did you learn from them?

We learned to use technology that is simple. You can't roll out technology that teachers and students aren't ready for yet. Don't introduce the flip by introducing the technology, but by introducing the process.

What advice would you give to schools thinking about started flipped learning at their school?

With any method of learning, you have to decide what is going work best. You are probably coming to this because the current learning methods are not as successful as you want them to be.

Don't start your focus on technology, but what the flip can actually do for your school. Look into the research and practices first. The most important part of flipping the classroom is not technology, but spending more time with students doing work.

Bio:

Greg Green, Superintendent
Online Blended International Learning Pioneer, Speaker and School Practitioner

Greg has received international acclaim and has been at the center of the flipped classroom and blended technology school movement. His flipped school approach has been highlighted and featured not only by CNN but also the following national and international media outlets: CBS Evening News, New York Times, USA Today, Huffington Post, TED, Forbes Magazine, Fast Company Magazine, Globe and Mail, UpWorthy, PBS News, NPR, Scholastic, Nations Well, School Administrator and District Administration Magazine. He has been recognized as an international thought leader around online, blended and flipped learning movements. In 2012, Greg received the Distinguished Education Alumni Award from Saginaw Valley State University for his unparalleled work within education. Greg is also a well known speaker and author. He is a blended learning advisor to the following: United States Oak Ridge National Laboratory, TED, MediaCore, Gooru Learning, Harvard Mazur Group, Pearson Learning, TechSmith Corporation and Steelcase Corporation. He was recently nominated by the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals Group for the United States Digital Principal of the Year Award and was named to the Top 20 Educators to Watch List and by Converge Magazine's Top 50 Innovative Educator's List. In 2015, he was named one of the 67 most influential educators in the world by Noodle and CNN. Greg is also the author of a book called "A Flipped School." Greg is also a pioneer in international school satellite partnerships and online international programming.

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