An Interview with David Walsh

Relatively new to Flipped Learning, yet already a big fan

On Thursday, December 10, 2015, I interviewed David Walsh via Zoom.

David is a Collingswood (New Jersey) High School teacher who started flipping his classes only recently but who, as a result of that flipping “now believes in the power of the flip as it pertains to educational technology, digital citizenship, mastery learning and a whole boatload of other ideas not usually found in a traditional classroom.”

Q&A
David, you’re a huge fan of flipping, right?

David not only answered this question in the affirmative, but he then also went on to describe the extent to which he spends his days trying to convince others to flip.

“For starters I try to convince my district to flip as much as possible, from staff meetings to counseling sessions. I am continually making screencasts for my students and lately I have been anxiously expanding my audience about the power of the flip. Since February of 2014 I have also presented four workshops on flipped learning, a keynote about 21st Century Education, and ran an EdCamp discussion on ways to flip a class. I have been so motivated by these presentations and workshops that I even created a blog to expand my audience even further as I continually want all educators to understand the power of the flip. My blog is entitled: Flipping Education: A Blog by Dave Walsh for Educators Interested in Flipping Learning and it can be found at http://www.flippinged.net.

Q&A
How is it that you came to be such a huge fan of flipping in such a hurry?

In response to this question, David said that the first time he ever heard the word flipping was in the spring of 2014. “Before then, I knew nothing about flipping,” he said.

In any event, after having had a fellow teacher brief him on the term, he tried (what he calls) a “beginner flip” and so liked the results that he decided to attend a one day professional development training offered by some of the other teachers in his district during the month of August, 2014. The title of the PD — Google Apps for Education.

Coming out of that training, he says, he found himself hooked and, as a result, decided to “dive into flipping head first” during the late fall/winter 2014/2015.

Then to help matters along, in the fall of 2014, he and a colleague, Dan Whalen “work together to present a keynote presentation about 21st Century Ed at “Talking Tech.”

“That collaboration” David explained, “was inspiring for me and for Dan . . . and as a result we have been each other’s motivation ever since . . . him with digital citizenship and me with flipping.”

Q&A
David, one thing I’ve noticed about “flippers” — and especially those that view themselves as huge fans of flipping — they tend to be the only ones at their schools that are flipping. Lone flippers, that’s how I would describe the more outspoken supporters of flipping. Are you by chance a lone flipper?

David also answered this question in the affirmative, but added that at his high school there are in fact also a couple of other teachers who are “experimenting” with flipping right now. But nonetheless, he too has found that at most schools there are only one or two teachers that are flipping.

Q&A
Another thing that I’ve noticed about “flippers” is that they normally don’t teach the classes that one would expect. In other words, given that flipping is a relatively new way of teaching, I wouldn’t expect honors or advancement class teachers to be the ones to flip — there’s such a great risk there, given the newness of it all — yet it seems that the overwhelming majority of teachers who are experimenting with flipping are in fact honors or advancement class teachers. By chance, are you an honors or advancement class teacher?

Sure enough, David confirmed that he’s both an honors Chemistry class teacher and an advanced placement Chemistry class teacher. He went on to say that up until this year, he has been flipping his honors Chemistry class and that next year he will also flip his advanced placement Chemistry class.

Q&A
David, another question I have for you has to with the videos that flippers assign for homework. The truth is that I’m not a huge fan of teacher produced videos, especially the ones featuring the teacher lecturing on some topic or another. I’ve seen many of these and just haven’t been impressed by the quality. My thinking — bad quality turns students off to the idea of watching the videos and turned off students means they won’t watch the videos. So my question to you is this — do you, for homework, have your students watch videos in which you are lecturing your students on one topic or another, or do you have your students watch more professionally produced videos . . . say for example like the ones produced by Tyler Dewitt.

In response to this question, David had several interesting things to say.

For starters, he acknowledged that yes, he does have his students, for homework, watch videos in which he is lecturing them on one topic or another.

He then went on to compliment Dewitt on his work, describing his videos as outstanding (one notch below the work of the Khan Academy) while describing his own videos as not of the same high quality.

But then he pointed out to me that though he has given his students a choice between watching his own videos (David’s) or watching Dewitt’s, his students time and again say that they would rather watch David’s videos.

He then closed by suggesting that it’s probably this way in general — that students, having bonded with their teacher, would rather listen to their teacher than to anyone else, regardless of the quality of the teachers’ presentation.

Q&A
In closing, is there anything that you would like to say that you haven’t yet had a chance to say.

In response to this question, David said that:

  • With flipping he doesn’t really “teach chemistry” anymore; now he “teaches kids how to learn, using chemistry as the tool to teach them this skill.”
  • On his website he has a link to social studies resources that social studies teachers could use, in the event they too were interested in flipping. “As I come across more resources,” he said, “I plan that my website will grow to support all subjects and grade level resources. For now, it’s just a beginning.”
  • He sees opportunity for flipping everywhere (whether it’s in terms of professional development, faculty meetings, back to school night, physical education classes, etc.)
  • He firmly believes that flipping is to teaching what the automobile was to personal transportation. In other words, David’s thinks that “educators should not still be riding their horses around the world trying to teach students — instead teachers should be guiding their students in driving the sports car of education.”
  • Technology makes flipping accessible for every educator.
  • For flipping to really be successful in an educational setting, there must be a change in mindset of all stakeholders.
  • Dan Whalen is a great person to follow on twitter and really influential in the digital citizenship realm!
  • David is presenting at the New Jersey Association of School Administrators “Techspo 2016. His talk will be entitled “What the Flip? A High School Chemistry Teacher’s Journey to Flipped Freedom.” http://www.njasa.net/domain/166
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