Oroville teacher talks about 'flipping' his classroom

OROVILLE – Tam Hutchinson was asked to speak to the Oroville School Board about the Running Start students under his care at the board’s Monday, April 28 meeting.

Running Start is a program that allows students to take college level classes while still in high school, giving them college credits that can be used when they move on to a traditional two or four year college. Hutchinson, a history teacher, teaches Western Civilization and U.S. History to these students.

“Not having been in college myself for a few years, I was surprised to find pretty much everything online,” said Hutchinson, who created two websites with separate email accounts for his classes.

He said that students send and receive assignments via email – something that is becoming more common in colleges. Before coming to Oroville he taught computers, but that was some time ago, he said. Hutchinson said he had been working with two mentors and that one did not take any assignment except through email.

“I’ve been flipping my classroom. Instead of me standing up there for 15 minutes and lecturing, instead they watch videos, look at Powerpoints… then when they come to class they ask me questions,” h said.

School Board Chairman Rocky DeVon asked the teacher if that was working well.

“I think it is… it is something new for me,” Hutchinson said.

The teacher showed the board a website on European Imperialism “The Scramble for Africa” as one of the sites his class had been using. The site has video clips and audio excerpts – each student is expected to look at the material and write notes.

“That’s the part they don’t like… they have to write a lot,” he said.

The notes are then emailed to the teacher at the end of the lesson.

“When you talk to students whose teachers were using the traditional method of teaching you hear that when they are lecturing you can’t stop and rewind… with a flipped classroom you are able to watch and listen until you understand the material,” said School Director DeVon.

Hutchinson also showed the board that there is an eight video series on YouTube about the Spanish-American War that he is using for his classroom. He also told the board that his two mentor teachers were in the district and were really impressed with the Oroville students.

“I’m a real proponent of community college for some of our kids,” he said.

“It’s a new world, it’s good our kids are seeing some of this before they get to college,” said Oroville High School Principal Kristin Sarmiento.

DeVon asked if there were things the district needed to do differently to work better for the Running Start program.

Hutchinson said that only with some of the iPads, which do not always work with all of the online programs.

“We’re working with Ed (Naillon) and hopefully we will be getting those things worked out,” said Sarmiento.

The teacher said that anyone could get to his website and that it was open to anyone with a gmail account.

“The north county, we’re the only ones doing college in high school right now. We might get to a time where we want to act as presenters (of courses),” said Sarmiento.

The board also heard presentations from second grade teachers Amy Harris and Pat Smith, as well as from the new Oroville Education Association president Lynn Johnson.

Among the consent agenda items they approved was the hiring on John Ragsdale as Sixth Grade camp director and Julie Schildgen and Cynthia Poynter as assistant directors. They also approved an overnight trip request for the senior class to Silverwood and Triple Play.

There were several donations made by the Oroville Booster Club, including baseball warm ups, bats for softball, registration for FBLA State and weighted basketballs for the basketball team.