Today, the 48-year-old helps teachers around the world “flip” their classrooms. Last week, he was at Harvard Law School talking about the virtues of flipping. A book he and Sams wrote, “Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day,” is coming out in June, and Bergmann is planning the fifth annual conference on Flipped Learning this summer. He and Sams also are launching a nonprofit organization to train teachers in the concept. He is now the lead technology facilitator for the Joseph Sears School in Kenilworth, Ill.
Here are excerpts of conversations I had with Bergmann on the phone and by e-mail:
Q. What exactly is a flipped classroom?
In the simplest form, basically, it’s this: What’s normally done in class, the direct instruction piece, the lecture, is done now at home with videos. And in class, you, the teacher, help students as they do what they would normally do at home.
So it’s homework in school and lesson at home?
When you are stuck in the old model, kids would go home and do one of three things. If they didn’t understand what they were supposed to have learned in school, they gave up, called a friend or cheated. In the flipped classroom, the teacher is there to help with the instruction piece, the learning, while the lecture is done at home.
Tell me about the videos.
Aaron Sams and I decided to start making videos that we could give kids to take home so they wouldn’t have to spend so much time after school getting help. Our assistant superintendent knew we were doing this with the videos — we called them vodcasts — and he told us, “My daughter is at college and loves podcasts. She said, ‘I don’t have to go to class anymore.’ ” So we had an aha moment. What is the value of class time?
The access issue is big. How did you do it?
We had about 160 kids taking chemistry class, and 30 had no [computer] access. We burned DVDs, handed them out and said, “Push play.” We also burned them onto flash drives. A lot of kids had computers but no Internet access.
So what was the next iteration?
The second iteration was the “flipped mastery” model. We realized that the kids had improved on the tests we gave them. The kids were better by one standard deviation, which is a lot. We were like, “Wow.” Then we realized we were still unsatisfied with our interactions with kids. We wanted to make it better.