Jon Bergmann says he and colleague Aaron Sams first began to film his lessons for students who would miss classes while taking part in sport and other extra-curricular activities, which is a common occurrence in US schools.
“Then one day the curriculum director came down and she said, ‘I just love that you’re doing this, this is really great,’ and she then told us this story, she said ‘my daughter is attending a university, and one of her professors is also recording his lectures.
She loves it because,’ (and this is the key statement) ‘she doesn’t have to go to class anymore,’” Bergmann recalls, laughing.
This was the moment that Bergmann and Sams looked at each other and wondered at the possibilities.
What could teachers do with class time if they no longer needed to spend time on ‘chalk and talk’?
Well, according to Bergmann, class time can become much more productive.
“Flipped learning can solve some of the biggest problems in the world of education,” he says.
“It can solve discipline issues.
“There’s a story of a school in the States that’s flipped itself and their discipline issues have gone down 66 per cent … the same school, their graduation rate, they used to get 80 per cent, it’s 92 per cent now.”
For each school that’s seen success, there are more around the world jumping on board. “It’s a monster global movement,” Bergmann says.
“I mean, [in] the country of Iceland, 20 to 25 per cent of all their teachers have flipped, and we’re seeing huge adoption certainly, in the US.”
According to Bergmann, 17 per cent of secondary maths and science teachers in his home country have flipped their classrooms, and elementary school teachers are beginning to try it out, too.
“There’s an entire state in Argentina on a five year plan to flip,” he adds.
“The state has [more than] a million … people … so that’ll be the largest instance of flipped in the world, when they get it done.”
Bergmann is no stranger to Australia and New Zealand either, where he says the flipped movement is also taking hold.
“It’s a big movement in Australia, and New Zealand and there’s whole flipped schools in Australia.
“Brighton Secondary School in Adelaide have done some amazing work,” he says, recalling one example.
For educators who are toying with the idea of flipping their classrooms, or their entire school, Bergmann has a list of common mistakes which are best to avoid.
The first, he says, is that teachers have a tendency to make their videos too long.
He recommends one minute per year, according to the age of the student.
So, no longer than eight minutes for an eight-year-old, and never exceeding 15 minutes, even for high school students.
It’s also important for teachers to make the videos themselves, to make them interactive, and teach students how to watch them effectively.
“It’s not just passively watching the video, it has to be active, you have to answer questions,” he says.
“…you’ve got to teach the students how to interact with the videos, and, what I mean by that is you’ve got to teach them basically how you want them to take notes.”
He also says some teachers add, rather than replace.
That is, they assign the flipped video in addition to the regular homework assignment, rather than doing the homework in class.
“Now it has to replace the stuff that they were going to do at home, that’s the whole point of flipped classrooms, you’re flipping something,” he emphasises.
“The biggest mistake I see people make actually,” Bergmann adds, “is they lecture when students don’t watch.
“I mean, there are going to be some kids who don’t watch, so what are you going to do?
“If you go ahead and re-lecture, you’ve just ruined the whole program. Game over.”
Bergmann also says it’s important to share your videos in a simple, user-friendly format, and minimise the amount of ‘clicks’ taken to reach the content.
“The next [mistake] is that teachers are not active in the classroom,” he adds.
“It’s really important that the teachers are moving around and helping kids, you can’t sit at your desk.
“If you’re wearing an activity tracker, you’re going to have more steps on it than you ever have had before in your classroom.
"That must be part of the game. If you’re sitting behind your desk that’s bad.”
Don’t give up too early, Bergmann urges, if teachers stick with the model it will work.
It’s also important, he says, to plan for students who have an incomplete understanding after watching the video.
“So, you can’t expect students to have mastered the content in watching the flipped video … what happens if they watch it but don’t get it, you’ve got to have some kind of a remediation plan.”
Bergmann says it’s important to get key stakeholders, such as parents, on board with what you’re doing.
And finally, “you’ve got to make class meaningful, purposeful, awesome”.
“Flipped is not about the video, it’s about what you do in class, and if you haven’t really re-envisioned what happens during the class time, game over.”
Bergmann will be appearing at FlipCon 2017 in New Zealand in June, and continues to take his model to teachers around the world.
“I’m speaking in Rome on Friday,” he says.
“Everywhere in the world we’ve got flipped groups popping up, it’s taking the education world by storm.”
According to the flipped learning fanatic, teachers who can flip will soon be well ahead of the game.
“So there’s a need for flipped trained teachers. Because now there are principals who are saying ‘I want someone who can flip their class’, they’re hiring because they can flip,” he says.
“We need trainers, we need tech coaches. “Whenever I see a school that’s been flipped, there’s almost always a principal who’s said ‘we’re going to make this happen’, and they have brought on board somebody who is a flipped coordinator or something like that, and they’ve got tech coaches...”
“We also need researchers, so, there’s this whole new job category that we need people trained on and ready to go as this expands globally.”
EducationHQ are media partners with FlipCon NZ 2017. Jon Bergmann will be delivering a keynote presentation at the conference, which runs in Wellington from June 23 - 24.