Q & A

Exploration of innovative practices often generates healthy conversation and a chance for discussion.  This may be particularly true in education, where the primary practices of instruction have changed little for decades and many caring professionals have been left unprepared for the realities of the 21st century by outdated pre-professional and professional development programs.  This page serves as an introduction to the Driven Learning and Teaching model and addresses some of the most common questions.

What do you mean by Driven Learning and Teaching in a Flat, Flipped, Mastery-Based Classroom?

The best way to gain an initial understanding of this model is by viewing the overview video, linked here.

Is this the best model for every teacher?
Probably not.  Teachers who are interested in exploring adaptations of this model are welcome to contact Mr. Macy.  Prenksy offers recommendations for various levels of partnering in Teaching Digital Natives.  Furthermore, by providing students with a variety of experiences (lecture-based classes, project-based classes, inquiry-based/hybrid classes, etc.) within a single school environment, we work towards preparing them for college and the real world--two experiences that are truly multifaceted, dynamic, and varied.

What is a flipped classroom?  Why should it be considered?

Check out what the experts are doing and some news coverage.

Is Mr. Macy's class just a regular class that has been flipped?

No.  In order to effectively integrate multiple avenues towards literacy, choice, and autonomy over team, time, task, and technique (such autonomy motivates people, as discussed in Daniel H. Pink's Drive), the model works with a variation of the a simple flipped model.  It also includes flattening, facilitating, and utilizing mastery-based assessment.

What are the roles of the teacher and the students?
In Teaching Digital Natives: Partnering for Real Learning, Prensky offers the following teacher/student roles.  Mr. Macy believes keeping an eye on them is a wise idea.

Roles of the driven 21st-century student:



Technology user and expert

Thinker and sense maker

 World changer


Teacher’s roles as facilitator and partner:

Facilitator, coach, and guide

Goal setter and questioner

Learning designer

Context provider

Rigor provider and quality assurer

What is a vodcast?  How do I watch one?  How long are they?
A vodcast is a pre-recorded video lecture that addresses the direct instruction topics that would usually be covered in class.  Most of Mr. Macy's vodcasts are approximately ten minutes or less.  Students have reported that they enjoy being able to pause and review information in vodcasts, watch them on the go (while riding the bus to a game on a mobile device, for example), and that they can use their readily-available energy for active tasks at school while addressing the more passive note-taking when they are tired in the evening.  Some vodcasts are created by Mr. Macy, others utilize content that already exists.  Some require simple note-taking, and others require exploration by using, for example, a linked SMART Notebook file that connects to Web sites and short films.

Do I have to watch a particular vodcast each night?
In Mr. Macy's class, you generally have a choice over when to watch vodcasts.  There may be a quiz on Friday over a few vodcasts, for example, and you choose when and where to view and take notes (as long as it happens before Friday).  Throughout the experience, time management, planning, and use of a personalized calendar (all important skills for college and real life) are integral to success.

Can the teacher really check in with every student every day?  What is that value of doing this?

Yes; flipping and facilitating really do allow a teacher to check in, at least briefly, with each student during every period.  Personalized check ins allow for personalized instruction at each student's readiness level.  After essays are graded, I require each student to discuss his or her previous essay with me (it's on the checklist).  This two-minute conversation can be extremely helpful in clarifying editing marks, explaining feedback, and setting specific goals (usually related to writing standards) for the next written piece, which is usually already in the works.

What's the deal with booktalks?
A reality of public school is that classrooms hold 25-35 students at a time.  Holding a conversation with all students at once, in which everyone is involved and engaged, proves extremely challenging.  In order to increase the engagement of conversations about class reading material, this instructional model allows for booktalks with 6-8 students and a teacher.  Done well, such sessions provide fulfilling, educational, differentiated experiences for students and teachers.

You say that technology humanizes and personalizes the educational experience.  What's the deal with that?  What about students with learning differences?
By flipping and flattening the classroom, the teacher becomes an accessible, personal source in the classroom.  Rather than delivering the same message to every student (every student is not at the same place, of course), the teacher is free to work with students individually and in small groups.  Face-to-face time is increased.  A month after flipping the class, I knew more about my students' passions, learning profiles, and needs (all crucial to good instruction) than I had learned in the previous six months.  The promise of differentiation can be fulfilled only when a teacher is available to meet his or her students at their unique zones of proximal development, which is truly a challenge when all students receive the exact same content every day.

Does this make things easier or harder for the teacher?  How about the students?
Teaching and learning are challenging in any system.   Teachers should be prepared to be extremely organized and ready to roll out four to six weeks of curriculum at the beginning of a unit.  The mindset, "let's see how far we get with the lecture today and then pickup there tomorrow," does not work in this system.  Students should be ready to be self-directed, engaged, and active in learning.

What student-generated products are created in the results-oriented work environment associated with this model?
In addition to the good old cornerstones like essays, presentations, and tests, students also generate videos, blogs, FedEx day items (think of it as a chance to show learning any way you want, overnight).  So far, we've blogged with students in Colombia and exchanged student-generated videos about preconceptions of the Middle East with students in Saudi Arabia.  After synthesizing Brave New World with two other texts of choice in essay format, Jake and Ethan showed what they know in a new format, seen here.  As Prensky would say, the work is not just relevant, but also real.

Can I see an example of a unit of study that uses this model?
Yes, please feel free to click around the course content for English 11 and English 12, at left.

What do students say about the experience?
Asking for feedback from students is integral to the success of any teaching model.  After completing the first go-around of this model, seniors in Mr. Macy's class provided this feedback.

How does assessment work?  What does the syllabus look like?
Please feel free to download the syllabi found in the courses at left.

I am interested in trying out some of these ideas in my classroom.  Do I need to go all-out from the start?
As discussed by Prensky in Teaching Digital Natives, teachers who are interested in exploring such a system might do best to consider the level of partnering, facilitating, and technology that is right for them.  Could you start by recording one vodcast with a colleague?  Would you consider trying one lesson during class that is inquiry-based rather than lecture-driven?  Would integrating one standards-based grading element into your program be a possible start?

Is the checklist deadline free? In other words, is this a standards-based class? 
The checklist is not deadline free; examples of unit checklists and accompanying class calendars can be found on the course pages linked at left.  Some assessment components are standards-based; comprehensive explanations are available in the course syllabi.  Class calendars are also at www.macyworldlit.blogspot.com and www.macybritlit.blogspot.com.

If the flipped class doesn't work, how easy/ difficult will it be to revert the class mid-semester?
If a teacher finds that this model (or something similar) does not work for him or her (or that students are not achieving), he or she should definitely adjust instructional practices.  I use a unit system to organize content; the end of a unit would be a good time to adjust the system, and I recommend adjusting with each unit based on feedback from students and new understandings about what works well and what does not.

Will students be informed of the nature of the class before enrollment? If so, how might this affect class size?
This is an excellent question!  Through planning ahead, students and parents may be able to learn about and sign up for such a course that is designated as "inquiry-based/hybrid" on the registration documents.  Ideally, the sign-up process would also include a link to this site so that students and parents could learn about the course ahead of time.  Impact on class size is yet to be determined.

Was this proposal for a few units or to revamp an entire course?
This system could be used for an entire course or select units.  

If many teachers were doing this, what is the overall impact on the student workload at home?  
Students taking a number of classes using this system might experience more freedom in scheduling their work around extra-curricular activities.  With more of the active, challenging work being done at school rather than at home, they might experience a boost in performance across disciplines.  If a number of teachers all assigned long vodcasts (rather than 8-12 minute mini lessons) on one night, they might be overwhelmed.

How long do you expect it will take you to create one vodcast?   Is Camtasia software needed? Could Jing Pro (15.99/year) be used?  
With practice, a teacher who already has curriculum built (PowerPoint, SMART Notebook, etc.) could probably create a solid vodcast in 20 minutes plus the actual recording time.  As with most teaching models, the time is spent in building the curriculum is significant.  When the teacher works as a facilitator, he or she spends extensive time researching texts, experiences, ancillary texts, and resources that will become part of the learning experience.  Great time is also spent on feedback and evaluation of work.  Camtasia seems to be the gold standard, and I have not tried Jing Pro.

Are there any other resources available that have prebuilt lessons for kids to view?
Effective teachers would do well to find and utilize pre-existing resources, such as those at www.exchange.smarttech.com and www.khanacademy.org.  

What is literacy?
Good question.  Some people believe being literate means being able to effectively interpret and use all contemporary media forms.

Does Jeffco have any online courses or modules that could be utilized rather than reinventing the wheel? 
Jeffco offers and excellent Virtual Academy that provides online education.  Working in a hybrid environment (rather than completely online/distance learning) is inherently different for teachers and students.  I recommend teachers examine pre-existing models and create systems that make their teaching most effective.

Why are 10 computers needed? 
Effective implementation requires multiple computers in the classroom on a daily basis because students are constantly writing, researching, watching vodcasts, creating multiple intelligences pieces, and collaborating through technology.

Does this model mesh with the concept-based curriculum recommended by Jeffco?
Inquiry-based learning fits well with examination of overarching understandings.  The unit-based structure of this system fits well with literary genre study and guiding questions.

What are the potential drawbacks?
Some students flourish in an answer-based lecture environment, and they might be surprised or discouraged when faced with learning that requires active participation.  Teachers may be weary of a system that relinquishes their role as the "sage on stage," unsure about using technology, or hesitant to change old ways.  Parents may realize that the classroom does not look like it did when they were in school and wonder why.  

Does the real world look like it did when most parents were in school?

Are you interested in feedback?
Yes!  Absolutely!  This model is, by nature, collaborative.  Feedback and conversation are crucial.  Please use the Collaboration Station link to contin
ue the conversation.

Mr. Macy proposed using this model to the EHS administration in the spring of 2011.  What did that proposal include?


The Driven Learning and Teaching in a Flatter Classroom educational mindset and unit model seek to increase learning, achievement, and engagement through differentiated, self-paced, mastery-assessed, student-owned work in a results-oriented work environment (R.O.W.E.) in the 21st-century English classroom.  A shift in thinking is needed because traditional educational models see the teacher as the “sage on the stage” or one-point disseminator of information; this system is obsolete and creates educational experiences and discussions of texts that engage a small percentage of the class and leave others behind.

Traditional elements of an English curriculum remain, including a focus text, writing and grammar instruction, drafting, vocabulary work, and multiple means of assessment.  Innovative tools include prevodcasting of mini lessons and assignment explanations (new to me, this involves creating short videos of what would have been lectures that will be viewed and noted by students before they ask a thoughtful question of the teacher for each vodcast), blogging, technology, Multiple Intelligences, video-based projects, books of choice that are read in the classroom, and self-paced work that allows students multiple levels of autonomy.  By “flipping” the classroom so that direct instruction occurs primarily outside of class time (through prevodcasting), the teacher becomes available as a facilitator and coach in a “flatter” classroom in which all parties are on equal ground.  Standards-based assessment components ensure that learning and marked progress occur.  Students become self-directed, masterful learners who know how to learn, schedule and monitor their work, and advocate for themselves.  They are better prepared for the unknown careers and (often results-oriented) workplaces of the future.







Autonomy (Team, Time, Task, Technique)

·         Team: Who are you working with?  Are you working solo?

·         Time:  Flexible schedule and ordering of tasks

·         Task: Options within assignments; choice of what to do and when

·         Technique:  Choose how you would like to show mastery and learning

·         FedEx Day (overnight delivery of product of choice; standards-based and task-based assessment components)



·         Standards-based assessment components

·         Students must present learning goals, going beyond “I want to get an A”



·         Authentic assessment through mastery-based learning

·         Learning shared with others: peers, teachers, and the world community



·         SMART Board generally serves as a work station for students in the classroom, rather than a teacher-centered presentation tool

·         Vodcasting

·         Blogging

·         Multiple Intelligences and video-based products generated by students

·         Variety of tech- and Web-based tools and experiences

















Unit Components

·         English unit consisting of working with a text, vocabulary, grammar, and specified writing skills.

·         Start and end dates specified for unit; work turned in throughout unit on individual, student-determined schedules.  Work for previous unit accepted up to two weeks after unit end (OR, maybe, until the end of the semester…still thinking on that one).  Class time must be used for current or future unit materials, not for catch-up work.

·         Students begin unit by working with teacher and peers to create personal calendars and work schedules.

·         Recommended reading schedule provided by teacher and dictated (in part) by scheduled booktalks

·         Vodcasting.  Mini-lessons for unit (background info, skill-based sessions, grammar, and writing skills) pre-recorded and available to students as they choose.  Time generally not spent on direct instruction during class.  Vodcasts can be viewed online, saved on students’ thumb drives, or burned on DVDs.

·         Booktalks. Small-group discussion sessions with teacher in which every student (rather than just a few in the class) is truly engaged.  Offered on scheduled dates and participated in by choice (specified number of booktalks required for each unit).  Students sign up for booktalks ahead of time; limited to ten students per session.  By preparing discussion questions for each booktalk, the teacher can accurately asses and interact with each student.

·         Written piece.  Five paragraph essay or similar; multiple options offered for each text.  Four-part drafting process (student chooses personal timeline) and standards-based assessment rubric used for all papers.

·         Multiple Intelligences and/or Technology piece.  Many options offered (see ideas in FedEx Day program, below).

·         Unit Test.  Background info, reading details, analysis, etc.

·         Pop quiz.  Coincides with recommended reading schedule to keep the students reading.

·         Blog entry.  TEXTY or other format.

·         Class time spent with brief check-in and status of the class followed by students working on tasks of choice and teacher functioning as facilitator.

·         Teacher seeks to converse with every student every day.  Mid-unit check-in is part of formal process.

·         Literary Journal activities (http://sc.jeffco.k12.co.us/education/components/scrapbook/default.php?sectiondetailid=260560&) accompany class texts.

·         Vocabulary test; happens on a certain date and all students complete at once.

·         FedEx Day

·         Classroom arranged in identifiable work areas: SMART Board station, reading corner, group areas, “dinner table” for booktalks, computer/laptop stations

·         Class calendar (online, Google calendar) includes weekly notes and recommended benchmarks


Example Unit Checklist

Student carries sheet and checks off or assesses tasks with teacher as they are created.  The following unit items might occur over a three to five week period.

Student            Teacher

_____              _____              Personal calendar


_____              _____              Mid-unit check-in with teacher


_____              _____              Student-teacher discussion about written piece from previous unit


_____              _____              Internet research; completed and shared with at least one peer


_____              _____              (TITLE) Vodcast: view, take notes, ask a compelling question


_____              _____              (TITLE) Vodcast: view, take notes, ask a compelling question


_____              _____              (TITLE) Vodcast: view, take notes, ask a compelling question


_____              _____              (TITLE) Vodcast: view, take notes, ask a compelling question


___/10             ___/10             Booktalk #1 (2 thoughtful and text-based contributions,

2 thoughtful questions)

___/10             ___/10             Booktalk #2 (2 thoughtful and text-based contributions, 

2 thoughtful questions)

___/10             ___/10             Booktalk #3 (2 thoughtful and text-based contributions, 

2 thoughtful questions)

___/10             ___/10             Pop quiz (date undisclosed; may cover reading up to and including

that day’s booktalk)

___/10             ___/10             Blog entry


___/10             ___/10             Read the book


___/60                        ___/60                        Task-based score total for this unit


___/20             ___/20             Vocabulary test

_____              _____              Written piece complete (see Writing Rubric for scores); three

drafts are checked off and D3 edited by peers with checklist

___/10             ___/10             Multiple Intelligences/Technology piece

                                                            Standard addressed:_____________________

___/10             ___/10             FedEx Day

                                                            Standard addressed:_____________________

___/50             ___/50             Unit Test (all items above to be completed before Unit

Test score is entered)

_____              _____              Work shared with peers, teacher, and others in formal and

informal ways



Daily Working Options (Status of the Class; Results Oriented Workplace)

Class begins with five minutes of reading in a book of choice; the book (different for each student) should be challenging, interesting, and registered on the class blog.  The teacher begins class with status of the class, which involves a quick discussion of the calendar (if needed) and very brief check-ins with students or groups of students about what they will be doing that day.  Work ensues, with students and groups moving to various work spaces to continue work on the task(s) of their choice.

·         Stations and computers readily available

·         Quiet reading

·         Video viewing (vodcasts and similar)

·         Booktalk (if available and previously scheduled)

·         Test/quiz

·         Writing (drafting/typing/discussing with peer)

·         Peer editing

·         Library (research)

·         _____________

·         _____________























Goals and Measurement

The Driven Learning and Teaching in a Flat, Flipped, Mastery Based Classroom educational mindset and unit model seek to increase learning, achievement, and engagement through differentiated, self-paced, mastery-assessed, student-owned work in a results-oriented work environment (R.O.W.E.) in the 21st-century English classroom.  Indicators of effectiveness include student surveys, testing results, and the powerful, purposeful products created by students on a regular basis.  Effectiveness of my role as a supportive coach for colleagues will be based on feedback from peers, formal evaluations by administrators, and evidence of progress towards these principles in the whole-school pedagogy.




Resources Requested

Applying these concepts to my instructional practices will require physical resources:

·         Full-time access to a high-powered laptop computer with camera and microphone.  A MacBook Pro would be ideal; I would be happy to consider all effective options.

·         Camtasia software.

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·         A classroom with 10 or more computers and/or laptops and a SMART Board.  The n-computer option, which involves a single computer that simultaneously powers three or four monitors, may be one to explore.

·         A classroom with cell phone service and a strong wireless signal would be extremely helpful (these elements are not in place in my current classroom).


With physical resources in place, I will be able to work within my current workload assignment to apply these ideas in my classes.  Additionally, I would like to work collaboratively with interested colleagues in a supportive role.  I envision myself providing support and guidance for teachers in flipping, generating videos, SMART tools, and creating work opportunities for students to show learning using new digital media.  I also look forward to learning from colleagues by working together!  Providing effective leadership in this area would require decreasing my current assignment by one class period such that I would teach four sections of English and one Study Hall.  Ideally, a collaborative planning period between myself and interested teachers would occur during seventh period, when we would be able to focus on desired tasks without worrying about wrapping up odds and ends for upcoming classes.


Food for Thought

·         Google provides a search on anything to anyone sitting at a computer.  Google texting provides a search on anything to anyone holding a phone.  Google Mobile App provides a voice search on anything to anyone speaking into a smart phone.  Google Goggles provides a search on anything to anyone pointing a smart phone with a camera at an object.   So, what is the role of school and learning in a world where knowledge is literally at our fingertips at all times?

·         What does it mean to be literate in the 21st century?

·         “Literacy means being able to consume and produce the media forms of the day.” – Jason Ohler

·         “There is a profound gap between the knowledge and skills most students learn in school and the knowledge and skills they need in typical 21st century communities and workplaces.” – The Partnership for 21st Century Skills

·         “Students [should] use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others.” – ISTE National Educational Technology Standards for Students

·         “Students should interact, collaborate, and publish with peers, experts, or others employing a variety of digital environments and media.” – ISTE National Educational Technology Standards for Students

“Because technology has increased the intensity and complexity of literate environments, the twenty-first century demands that a literate person possess a wide range of abilities and competencies, many literacies.” – NCTE Definition of 21st Century Li