Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams, two rural Colorado public school secondary chemistry teachers, have launched something over the past five or six years that is truly significant and lasting, I believe, and this fine, short, accessible book is a great vehicle for their program. I commend the authors, and recommend the book highly.
Bergmann and Sams utilize a fine tone in the book. Throughout, they maintain their passion about serving students, of putting kids at the front of every decision and ensuring the technology choices follow the learning goals. They are open-minded, experimental, and truly innovative in all the right ways. They iterate, they experiment, they make mistakes and learn from them. They take care to offer clarity of direction, to be nuanced and open-minded, allowing for nuance and for variety. I appreciate their repeated expression to the effect that there is no “the flipped classroom,” only many flipped classrooms.
They also write with humility, acknowledging their limits and their errors. I wished at times they would tell us more– not just that they realized they had made a mistake but telling us more in detail about the difficulties they encountered. I appreciated their inclusion of the voices of other teachers and some students, but it felt a little disappointing that it was a fairly small circle of voices– the same three or four teachers, again and again.
There is a way in which this is two books in one, or two separate techniques bundled into one package. They recognize this– I am not pointing out anything they don’t acknowledge. But it makes the book just a tiny bit clumsy, with some redundancies in the second part as they explain their second technique.
The first technique is what Bergman and Sams call, to their amusement and mine, the “traditional flip.” Traditional, that is, in that it maintains the same course curriculum and syllabus, with the class moving through that syllabus altogether, but with lectures captured on video and assigned for homework, and the classroom then the time and place for study problems, labs and PBL, and teacher individual support.
The second part of the book offers two chapters on the second and current iteration of Sams and Bergmann, which they advocate as the superior of the two techniques, Flip Mastery. Here, students progress by mastery, if and when they are ready and have demonstrated that they are. Mastery as a course program has its own pros and cons separate from flipping, but surely they are correct that if you are committed to a mastery approach, flipping offers a great deal of value. I’m taking a bit of a pass here on evaluating the mastery element, and keeping my focus instead on the “traditional flip.” You can’t help but wonder whether our fine authors wouldn’t have done better to save the Flip Mastery technique for a second book.
1. The “Why You Should Flip chapter” is great: compelling and exuberant: it really covers the range, and shares some great thinking about what we can accomplish with this technique. (Also helpful are the reasons why not to flip, including “because some guys who got a book published told you to.”)
15 (!) reasons, in total, are shared. My favorites include:
“Flipping increases student-teacher interaction.”
This is the promise of “blended instruction,” which is my preference also. I don’t want to lose the power of the teacher and student, in person and inter-personally, advancing learning upon the platform of relationships and genuine connections. Lecturing during the precious time teachers and students are together seems such a loss when the lecturing can be outsourced to digital video and the classroom can become laboratory, seminar room, studio and tutorial. (more…)