Regents Chemistry teacher Martin Palermo teaches students (L-R) Tom Carroll,...

Regents Chemistry teacher Martin Palermo teaches students (L-R) Tom Carroll, Dorothy LoCorriere, Briyana Crawford, during class at William Floyd High School in Mastic Beach. (June 7, 2012) Credit: Steve Pfost

Gone are the long lectures, hand-raising, window-gazing and daydreaming about that cute kid in the front row -- and not just because it's summer.

A growing number of Long Island students are learning the bulk of their course material outside the classroom through videos. In-school instructional time is committed to reinforcing and advancing those lessons.

Educators say the practice -- called "flipping a classroom," because of the work students tackle beforehand -- has increased in popularity across the country in the last few years. Local teachers who use the concept say it has helped some of their lowest-performing students boost their marks and they plan to expand use of the method when school resumes in September.

Martin Palermo, a chemistry teacher at William Floyd High School in Mastic Beach, learned about it last year through a webinar. He started "flipping" his classroom at the beginning of this past school year, although it took some revisions to make it work.

He is so pleased with the results that he plans to continue next year."I'm not going back," he said, referring to traditional methods of teaching.

Palermo, 32, records his lessons in video format and posts them online. Students are required to view them independently using home computers or smartphones. To ensure they tuned in, they also must take notes and answer questions before returning to class.

The few who don't have Internet access can view the lessons either on DVD or on the classroom computer during off-hours.

Palermo said the practice appeals to students who need extra help because it allows them to pause or rewind a lecture, something they can't do in class. And the lessons themselves, condensed and edited, are much shorter than if they were delivered in school -- the videos range from two to 10 minutes.

"The biggest thing teachers complain about is time. I just gave myself 42 minutes," Palermo said, referring to the classtime that "flipping" allows him to devote to one-on-one and small group instruction.

Gaining popularity

Jon Bergmann, a Colorado teacher for 24 years, co-wrote a new book with colleague Aaron Sams titled "Flip Your Classroom." The pair have traveled the United States and other countries spreading the idea and recently held a conference on the topic in Chicago that was attended by more than 300 teachers. Another 300 participated remotely. Bergmann said "flipped" classes take many forms.

"The key question I ask is, 'What is the best use of your face-to-face class time?' " he said, adding that teachers often agree it's not lecturing, but hands-on problem-solving.

The idea has taken hold: An entire high school near Detroit "flipped," and some 6,500 educators participate in Bergmann's listserv on the topic.

Palermo has visited the site to chat with Bergmann and other educators.

So far, the practice is more common in math and science, subjects that are taught in a more linear manner. But it has been applied to other areas of study, including foreign language, literature and even physical education, Bergmann said.

Kudzai Nemaire, 16, one of Palermo's students, wishes more of her teachers used the method. She credits it with helping her improve her chemistry scores dramatically in a matter of months.

"When I first started, I was failing," the soft-spoken sophomore from Shirley said before school ended last month. "Now I have an 84 average. My parents love it and I love it. It allows me to go over everything at home and make sure I fully understand it."

Jillian Anderson, also 16 and from Shirley, said that by learning the material off campus she is able to avoid distractions that break her concentration. Her grades bolted from the low 70s to the high 90s.

"It's been the best thing that has happened in this class for me," the 10th-grader said. "I look forward to coming to chemistry class. I used to not like it at all."

Students who already earn high marks said they benefit because their peers are more informed and are better able to contribute to group work.

Not for everyone

Roxanna Casey, another William Floyd chemistry teacher, said her students thrived after she "flipped" her classroom. Rich Luciani, one of her 11th-grade students, was failing and saw his grades jump to the 70s.

"I feel like when I'm in class, I don't have to ask my friends every two seconds 'So what does she mean by this?' " he said.

Teachers said they employ the concept in different ways and in varying degrees. Some said it doesn't work for everyone.

Vincent Interrante, 48, a sixth-grade science teacher at Mineola Middle School, has concerns about students viewing the material after school when extracurriculars compete for their time.

"I don't use it 100 percent," he said. "I see it as a tool to enhance student engagement. I don't feel it is the be-all, end-all. Best practices don't always fit for all of the students."

William Gaudelli, an associate professor at Teachers College at Columbia University, said he believes "flipping" too closely resembles the traditional teaching model and fails to engage students. He advocates for a more inquiry-based approach, a sort of a Montessori model extended through the high school level.

"Schools ought to be a place where students learn to theorize better by asking questions and solving problems," he said. "I think ['flipping'] is a good spirited effort, but based in the same sort of recognition in the weakness in the transfer of knowledge."

Louis Celenza, a chemistry teacher at Central Islip High School, said "flipping" allows him more time to drive home lessons through in-class experiments. "Because they are watching the videos at home, I can do a lot more one-on-one with the kids," he said.

He said it allowed him to finish the course more than two weeks ahead of schedule, leaving more time to prepare students for the Regents exam.

Jennifer Maichin, 39, and Courtney Zaleski, 25, teachers at Mineola Middle School, said the method led to stellar results for their students. The duo, who co-teach several subjects, including English, history, science and math, said it makes students take responsibility for their learning.

"If you come into our classroom, we are very rarely lecturing to the entire group," Maichin said. "The kids are comfortable working on their own."

Zaleski said group work in class encourages students to learn from one another even when they have dissimilar views. "They've learned how to research and how to collaborate," she said.

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