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…)

Last month I presented an Ignite session (5 minutes, 20 slides, slides advance automatically every 15 seconds!), at the first annual national meeting of edleader21, the new national professional learning community for 21st century education leaders.

My session was on a favorite (among many favorite) topics, flipping instruction such that we use online video delivery for homework and we use the classtime previously used for lecture for what was previously assigned for homework: application of learning to challenging problems.

I was honored, certainly, to have the opportunity to speak as one of 20 ignite presenters at the conference: everyone was terrific, and it would not be a poor use of your time to watch the entirety of the Ignite presentations, which you can find here.  I have included two of my favorites, focused on others of my favorite topics, creative problemsolving and 21st century assessment.  You can find them after the jump: (more). (more…)

Kudos and congratulations to the EdLeader21 team for another great day and a very successful launch to their national conferencing.   I am feeling very appreciative and delighted to have been welcomed to and included in this group, and it is an honor and a privilege to have the chance to participate alongside these impressive educators in the common cause of 21st century learning.

Thirteen thoughts, in no particular order:

1. Throughout the day there was an important emphasis on the role of the broader community in the work of planning our educational future.   Constituencies have to be engaged, and really included in the process of setting on a course of becoming a 21st century school. In Ken’s presentation on Seven Steps for Becoming a 21st Century District, he emphasized this, and it is Step number 2: it is essential, he said, to do this before steps 3-7.    He also placed limits on the role of the public: they are essential to defining the student outcomes, but let’s be clear: we develop consensus with public constituencies on the what, but not the how.   The public, he emphasized does not or should not play a role in specific curriculum or pedagogy.

The importance of the public communication also came up in a table conversation, when Bob Pearlman underscored it as a core component of a 21st century school.   The vision, the plan, the agenda should be clearly and well communicated on the websites, outward and inward facing, and school-leaders should be strong public and online communicators to their constituencies.

An example of this kind of public communication as part of community building and constituency support development was this video shared on Tuesday in the Ignite sessions and comes from the Albemarle County School District (VA) and its fine superintendent, Pam Moran (who sadly we missed seeing at the conference).

2. Interesting Resources Discovered or Highlighted. 

Happy to report on the completion of a terrific first day, the first ever in fact, of the national meeting for the new “PLC for 21st century education leaders,” EdLeader21.

The sense of camaraderie here is palpable: this is a group of 150 dedicated, passionate educators who share a vision, across nearly 30 states (at present), for ensuring their (our) students develop the 4 C’s, the skills to a high level of proficiency that are so critical, always important but more critical than ever before, of communication, critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration.   Also clear is the admiration and appreciation felt from this population for EdLeader21’s leader, Ken Kay, the founder and longtime, now former, President of P-21, the Partnership for 21st century skills.

Today’s sessions only began at 3pm, with a warm and upbeat introduction by Ken and then a set of nearly 20 “ignite” sessions by various attendees.   Ignite sessions follow a very strict format: each presenter has five minutes to make their presentation, and their presentation is built upon 20 slides which advance, automatically, every 15 seconds.   It is fast-paced and a bit breathless, and sometimes is just way too hurried to be meaningful, but it is also a great way to hear a wide variety of perspectives and gather a great amount of wisdom in a time efficient way.

A reception and dinner followed; during dessert we were asked as tables to consider what topics were missing from tomorrow’s agenda, or what we’d like to work upon in more detail, and it was great to have this opportunity, which is not at all what happens at most conferences in my experience.   Ken and the organization’s Chief Learning Officer Val Greenhill deserve good credit for the things they have done to make this feel more like a learning community of shared interests and a commitment to learning together, in contrast to a typical conference. Our organizers also offered a nice touch in the charming conversational tone of the event program, unlike anything I have seen elsewhere.

Some other thoughts on the day and on EdLeader21:

1.  Assessment is King.  No other topic had even a quarter the amount of attention that Assessment did, in my observation.  One of the key quotes in Jared Cotton’s presentation (below) spoke to this: “We value what we measure rather than measure what we value,” with the strong inference taken that we all, accordingly, need to rething what we measure to get our values more in alignment. (more…)

As readers here may have observed, in the past 12 months I have become especially interested in, and an advocate for, “reverse instruction” or the “flipped classroom.”     It is also known as “teacher vodcasting” and has other descriptions also.

In this format, teachers who lecture record those lectures on video, perhaps with a webcam, or sometimes with a narrated powerpoint and assign video lecture-watching and note-taking for homework.    Alternatively, sometimes teachers assign for homework lectures by others, perhaps from Khan Academy or MIT Open courseware or some other other source.    In class, then, what was previously the traditional homework– students applying their learning to challenging problems– becomes the classtime activity.  Homework and class-time are thus flipped, or reversed.

The topic has been much discussed and hotly debated in certain corners of the educational blogosphere of late.

This week, Wednesday at 12noon Pacific time, 2pm Chicago time, Scott McLeod from Iowa State will host and facilitate a webinar conversation about the flipped classroom, and I am pleased to have been  invited to participate and contribute.

Information about this event is available here.

Or, check in directly to the webinar at this link:

If you are interested in learning more and observe the range of opinions about “flipping,” you can check out the following links to thoughts from the following who are all panelists in Wednesday’s webinar:

And if you wish a reminder of what I have written, let me share some of my posts in the past year on this topic:

In recent months I have written almost half a dozen posts about Khan Academy and how it can and will influence changes in the way teaching and learning happens in our school. In my NAIS recap last week, I wrote about the excitement created by Salman Khan’s TED-style talk, which was clearly for me and many, many others a major highlight of the conference.

That talk by Khan is now available: he repeated it, seemingly to my observation nearly exactly verbatim, at the TED conference, and the TED people have been kind enough to post it online, and I share it with you here.   It is a worthwhile 20 minutes, to be sure.

This is a five minute presentation I am making today as part of an NAIS 3 hour workshop, Becoming A School of the Future: The conversation continues.  The slides themselves are almost entirely image driven; my talking points for each slide are below.

Notes on slides:

Slide 2. What does reverse instruction reverse?  It reverses what is still the most conventional mode of teaching (but that it is conventional does not mean it is universal): in this mode, teachers lecture, using class-time for presenting and delivering content knowledge.

(NB: I love this particular photo of a lecturing teacher, but the teacher in question actually lectures rarely and is one of my school’s best practicioners of reverse instruction).

Slide 3. In the conventional mode, then, students having received “content delivery” in class during the school-day, work at home on their homework, applying what they have learned (or not) to the problems testing their acquired knowledge.   As they do, they are isolated in their work, potentially stymied by it, and do not have the teacher available to support or coach.

Slide 4. We have however fast-changing developments in the availability online of content delivery vehicles.   (more…)

[re-posted here from Connected Principals.]

Steven B. Johnson writes in Where Good Ideas Come From about the revolutionary power of social media such as Twitter to advance ideas and innovation in a myriad of fields, and it has been fascinating to see this concept in action in the swift spread over the past six months of the practice of flipping classrooms,  which is also known as reverse instruction or learning, and is closely related to (or often synonymous with) teacher vodcasting.

Johnson also writes that when a good idea is “ripe,” it emerges from multiple inventors and innovators simultaneously, making credit very difficult to assign (this “convergence” concept is also heavily explored in Kevin Kelly’s fascinating new book What Technology Wants).

Over the past three months,  my post on Reverse Instruction on Connected Principals has been read an average of thirty times a day, and shows no sign of slowing down.   Educators widely are experimenting with this idea and sharing their own reactions and learnings about the practice online; they are being informed and influenced by the fine work and writing  of Karl Fisch of the Fischbowl,  Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams of the Teacher Vodcasting Network, John Sowash of the Electric Educator, and many others.

This innovation is also being greatly enhanced by the buzz around Salman Khan, who will be a keynote speaker for the NAIS Annual Conference this year.   It was in thinking about Khan’s impact that I first began to learn and think through more the implications of reverse learning, and I have written about that twice before, in Khan Academy: Where Does it Fit? and Collapsing Binaries: Digital learning transformation for better learning environments.

Just today, in fact, there is a very powerful post at Singularity Hub, entitled, Yes, the Khan Academy is the Future of Education: ”The Khan Academy is the best thing that has happened to education since Socrates.”

Below, after a quick review of the practice, I share input and feedback about the practice from two teachers at my school and from Jason Kern, Lorri Carroll, Shelley Wright, and Chris Bigenho. (more…)

False and mistaken binaries cloud our minds far too frequently.   We look at an impending dramatic transformation, such as what is happening with technology in education, and our minds often cannot help but create binary, zero-sum pairs: more technology must mean less face-to-face communication or less active, physical learning.

Mentally, we cannot help but stipulate the contemporary status quo as the normal and the effective, and so create anxiety about how change will do damage, often not confronting how ineffective, and often how abnormal, the current status quo really is.

These thoughts are stimulated by reading two short, excellent, paired pieces in the Chronicle of Higher Education’s special issue (November 5) on Online Learning.   The two pieces, easy to overlook, near the back of the issue, deserve much more attention than they are likely to get: they set the stage and articulate the transformation that is coming brilliantly.

What they do is establish that online learning, blended into our current educational models, offer incredible opportunities to fix what isn’t working today (“YouSnooze U.” and lecture learning which under-serves the struggling and bores the accelerated) but also, even more valuably, they offer opportunities to return education to its roots, whether in the 18th century or in Socratic/Aristotleian learning, of conversational, activity based learning. (more…)

Michael Horn, Clayton Christensen, and Curtis Johnson return with a new edition of Disrupting Class, and a new whitepaper on a topic of concern to all of us, Student Motivation.   I reviewed favorably and discussed Disrupting Class about two years; it is an incredibly important book to thinking about where K-12 learning is headed, even if it is perhaps overblown and inflated in spots.

That book really influenced me in my embrace of “reverse instruction” and Khan Academy: if students increasingly can get the content knowledge delivery online, we have to think harder about how to use our classrooms in a way which offer more value than the lectures they can now get elsewhere.

This new white paper takes us further in asking us to address this same question: in an age of powerfully stimulating and engaging electronic networks, and online learning, what does school do for for kids? Instead of asking the question the normal way–  what do we provide students which we think offers them value– this paper argues we need to turn it around and ask of our students: what are they hiring us for? “Teachers and parents ‘offer education’ but many students are not buying what is being offered.” (more…)

As the internet revolution continues to build and increasingly influence everything under the sun, so too it is going to have a massive impact on teaching and learning in K-12 schools.  Educators who don’t anticipate this change and work to ride the wave will be subsumed by it, I fear.

One of my new passions on this blog is my exploration and sharing of the concept of what is increasingly being called “reverse instruction.”  I hope to serve as an ardent advocate for it (but I want to make clear I am not in any way a developer of the concept.)  I think I first heard it described at length at the NAIS Annual Conference last winter, when, if I recall correctly, a co-author of Disrupting Class, the excellent innovative educator Michael B. Horn, spoke about it.   If kids can get the lectures, can get the content delivery and skill modeling as well (or often better) by computer lecture than in person, why do we have use precious class-time for this purpose?  Why do we replicate in person what is easily available elsewhere, the content delivery/skill modeling, and then have kids apply their learning to difficult problems at home, without us there to help?

Increasingly, dramatically increasingly, education’s value-add is and will be in the coaching and troubleshooting when students are applying their learning, and in challenging students to apply their thinking to hands-on learning by doing and teaming:  so let’s have them do these things in class, not sit and listen.   We know that collaboration is a critical skill set which can’t be developed easily either on-line or at home alone– let’s have students learn it with us in our classrooms.   Let every classroom be a collaborative problem solving laboratory or studio.

Dan Pink, one my great influences ever since his A Whole New Mind, has now weighed in on this, with an article in the Daily Telegraph: Flip Thinking.    Pink is writing about the exciting innovation in this teaching style by the excellent ed/tech blogger, Karl Fisch. (more…)

[cross-posted, is I am doing more frequently, with Connected Principals]

I’m a fan.   Khan Academy‘s visibility and popularity seems to be fast-growing, especially since getting such a laudatory piece on CNN: Innovation in Education: Bill Gate’s Favorite Teacher.

By any measure [it is] the most popular educational site on the web. Khan’s playlist of 1,630 tutorials (at last count) are now seen an average of 70,000 times a day…His low-tech, conversational tutorials -only his unadorned step-by-step doodles and diagrams on an electronic blackboard — are more than merely another example of viral media. (more…)