School districts take advantage online of local, national talent

Nathan on EducationBoth national and local talent is being used to help Little Falls and other Minnesota students and families learn from online videos. That’s good news for students and a compliment to teachers who continue seeking new ways to help students learn.

Julie Cook, a Milaca math teacher, is, according to principal Troy Anderson, “Doing the flipped method of teaching with her intermediate algebra classes. The students watch the instruction via the video clip outside of class. The students then have more work time with the expert during class time.

Cook said, “I have had positive reactions from most of my students. They like this method because they can watch the videos multiple times if needed, and they are able to ask questions and work through the problems in class where I am able to help them. Of course, as with all new things, I had a few students that struggled with the change, but after a few weeks most of them are now telling me how much they enjoy it. Their scores have also shown the benefits of this approach.”

Little Falls Superintendent Curt Tryggestad wrote, “We do have teachers who are flipping the classroom. Most are trying to podcast some pieces of their classroom. The content is going onto our Moodle server as a part of the Moodle course. The Moodle server is available to students from home that are enrolled in the course.”

Tryggestad said, “One of our fifth grade classrooms at Lindbergh Elementary is creating virtual weekly newsletters for parents. You can access an example at We have had excellent feedback on this process and see it spreading to other classrooms.”

“We have made the commitment that not having Internet at home should not be an obstacle to our content being accessed outside of school,” said Tryggestad. “While students that have Internet access at home can go to the teacher’s Moodle site and get the information needed, those without can download that same information on their personal device at school for use when outside the building. We believe this approach lessens the divide between those with and those without home Internet.”

Vern Capelle of Upsala said, “We currently do not have any original videos created by our staff. … All current online videos incorporated into instruction are from other sources.”

Casey Mahon, manager of communications for Elk River wrote, “We are using video more strategically to share school and district stories, as well as news. We just finished a video that explains our strategic planning process, which we shared with all parents who have e-mails on file (10,000+). Video can be a more interesting way to communicate stories, news, features, etc.

“The district also created a video showing how Parker Elementary teachers used a “flash mob” to increase student interest in reading:

Jeffrey McGonigal, Anoka-Hennepin’s associate superintendent for high schools pointed me to HippoCampus, which has hundreds of free videos that educators, families and students can use.

This is part of the Minnesota Learning Campus Web site, a project of the Minnesota Department of Education, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System, and the University of Minnesota.

I saw enormous creativity among the 30 districts and schools I contacted. Here’s hoping that we’ll see more sharing among districts.

Joe Nathan, formerly a Minnesota public school teacher, directs the Center for School Change at Macalester College. Reactions are welcome via e-mail at [email protected].