Walking the Tightrope

Stillwater Area Public Schools needed a better way to reach students, so they started flipping classes. When the district realized that they also needed a better way to connect with their teachers, they decided to flip their professional development as well. Read the story to find out how flipping their professional development affected teachers.

Stillwater's Story

Technology and Innovation Coaches encourage teachers, students to approach learning in a whole new way

Stillwater Area Public Schools needed a better way to reach students, so they started flipping classes. When the district realized that they also needed a better way to connect with their teachers, they decided to flip their professional development as well. Read the story to find out how flipping their professional development affected teachers.

Stillwater Area Public Schools is made up of 13 schools, with students ranging in age from pre-kindergarten to seniors in high school. Nestled just a few miles outside of St. Paul, Minn., Stillwater Area Public Schools are home to bright students, inspiring teachers and six amazing technology integration specialists helping the entire district keep up with the fast-paced world of education and technology.

Kristin Daniels and Wayne Feller are technology and innovation coaches for the nine elementary schools within the district. Their job is to regularly meet with teachers and support efforts to provide students with the education they need and deserve.

Flipping It All

Kristen DanielsMike Dronen is the district coordinator for educational innovation and technology. His job is to look at the overall needs of the district and insure that the technologies and tools faculty need to succeed are available.

“Our technology and innovation coaches are all former teachers,” said Mike. “So they understand pedagogy, they understand content—they understand the life and times of a modern teacher looking to find a better way to instruct, a better way to leverage their curriculum to help their kids grow and get ready for the future."

With Mike’s support, Kristin and Wayne started showing teachers how to provide students with on-demand learning materials outside of class to increase one-on-one time with students during school hours. This method is more commonly referred to as the flipped classroom model.

Kristin and Wayne flipped professional development time as well, making time for each teacher in small groups or individually. Together, they created a library of videos for teachers to watch when they needed a quick refresher on how to use a program.

When it comes time to meet one-on-one with teachers, Kristin and Wayne record quick videos while they show teachers tips or tricks. Teachers now walk away with ideas on how to use technology in their classroom and a short video to watch if they ever needed a refresher.

“What's neat about Stillwater is that as long as we're getting kids to the level we expect from them, we're able to get creative and take new approaches to their learning,” said Anna Wilcek, a sixth grade teacher at Anderson Elementary. “But teachers aren't that different from sixth graders. We need to learn new things and see new opportunities, but we don't want to sit through one generic presentation either.”

Results

Anna WilcekBoth teachers and students have found that the flipped model, while challenging, has completely changed the way they approach learning.

"Teachers in our district have said first, it was the most difficult year they had as a professional,” said Mike. “That is, learning how to flip their classroom, create videos and put them all together. But they also said something very powerful. They said it was the best year they ever had and they wouldn't go back to any other way of doing their work."

Though the process of flipping the classroom and professional development takes time and energy, it is a long-term change. Videos and materials a teacher creates one year can be reused the next, fine-tuning parts here and there depending on how the lesson goes over with students.

“Teachers are on a tightrope and we're the net below them,” said Kristin. “If they don't know we're there, they won't step out on the rope. But once they get going, they forget the net is below them and they keep going."

As the flipped model continues to grow and develop at Stillwater Area Public Schools, Kristin, Wayne, Mike and all of their colleagues have their work cut out for them. But by flipping one classroom, then six classrooms, then classrooms in all nine of their elementary schools, they are on the forefront of reshaping education as we know it today.

Flipped Professional Development Teacher Survey

Select results of an end-of-the-year survey given to teachers that tried the flipped professional development model are below. Participants were asked to compare flipped professional development with traditional professional development. Neutral responses (no preference for traditional vs. flipped) have been left out of this graph.

Stillwater Teacher Survey

Read the case study PDF

Read Kristin Daniels' guest blog about flipped professional development

Our technology and innovation coaches are all former teachers, so they understand pedagogy, they understand content—they understand the life and times of a modern teacher looking to find a better way to instruct...

- Mike Dronen,
District Coordinator for Educational Innovation and Technology
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