The flipped classroom is one of the most game changing revolutions in teaching and learning. It turns the traditional classroom upside down, transforming teachers from the disseminators of information to the facilitators of learning. Bolstered by innovations in education technology like screencasting, lecture capture and video, the flipped learning movement continues to gain traction in the education sphere. It was also the subject of many sessions at ISTE 2013. Flipped classroom pioneer and ISTE presenter, John Bergmann took some time out of his busy conference schedule to sit down and talk about the flipped learning movement and to share his tips for success.
TD: How did the flipped learning movement start?
JB: I started in 2007 with Aaron Sams. We were a couple of high school science teachers who wanted to do what was right for our kids and we had this crazy idea. What if we stopped delivering direct instruction and lecture in class and we made videos and posted it online and kids watched that at home and when they got to class they did the stuff they used to do at home? So that’s the flip. It was kind of a crazy decision what we did and it has grown a lot since then. We were just two teachers. I was in room 314 and Aaron was in room 315 and now it’s become this worldwide movement with thousands and thousands of teachers.
TD: What are the advantages of a flipped classroom verses a traditional classroom?
JB: In a flipped classroom, probably the most important thing is that you can talk to every kid. There’s something about moving the teacher from the front of the room to the side of the room that really changes the dynamic. It becomes a student-centered place instead of teacher-centered. The teacher is now amongst their kids, helping their kids and that allows so much more interaction. Kids take ownership of their learning and that’s another huge benefit—just getting the individualized help that they need.
Jon Bergmann talks about lessons learned during his first year flipping the classroom
TD: What are some of the concerns that have been raised about the flipped classroom?
JB: Number one they talk about the digital divide. There are kids who do not have [Internet] access and if you’re requiring kids to watch videos outside of school on computers, using the Internet, then they may not have the Internet. We had that problem. We were in little, rural Woodland Park, Colorado. We had 25 percent of our kids without the Internet at home and this was in 2007, so this is what we did. We bought flash drives, put the videos on flash drives, which they [students] could take home and put on their computers. Some kids didn’t have Internet or a computer at home so we put them on DVD’s. They put it in their TV and pressed play. There are other ways you can do it now. A lot of kids have smartphones or you can put it on an iPod. There are ways to move media now that weren’t necessarily there when we started this.
When people think of these videos they think of these long lectures. We actually encourage the teachers to make very shot videos. Here’s my rule of thumb. It should be one and a half minutes per grade level. I’ve been working with some fourth grade teachers in the last few years and their videos are four to six minutes long. I was a high school science teacher. I taught 10th graders so our videos were 10 to 15 minutes long.
TD: How do you make an effective video?
JB: Tip number one is keep it short. Number two, find somebody to work with. It really adds to have that second person on camera or on voice if you will. The third one is realize you’re talking to kids. Add humor, be silly, be your own self. That’s really important to just bring your own personality to the table. A technical thing that people often forget is that audio is very important. If audio is not very good then people won’t really understand you. You’ve got to have quality microphones.
I really encourage the teachers to make the videos. You can go out and you can find Kahn Academy videos or go on YouTube and, yeah, that’ll work, but teaching has always been and will always be about relationships. The relationship between the teachers and the students and the fact that you make these videos will enhance that. There’s more buy in. It’s more meaningful for the kids.
TD: What is the biggest misconception about the flipped classroom?
The biggest misconception about the flipped classroom is that you just watch a video at home and do something else in class. Most teachers start there, but once teachers find that they have this additional time in class they can do so much more. They begin to expand and do things like project-based learning. We talk about going from the flipped classroom to flipped learning where the deeper pedagogies happen.