Educators ‘flip’ at session

Teachers teach teachers about flipped learning

Flipped classroom pioneers Jon Bergmann, left, and Aaron Sams pose for a picture after their keynote address. (Gazette staff photo by Avery Cropp)
Flipped classroom pioneers Jon Bergmann, left, and Aaron Sams pose for a picture after their keynote address. (Gazette staff photo by Avery Cropp)

OAK PARK HEIGHTS — Teachers and administrators from the U.S. and other nations were in the St. Croix Valley this week learning how to implement a new way of classroom teaching into their classrooms.

The sixth Annual Flipcon flipped learning conference that ran Monday through today shows teachers how to use flipped learning. Most do it with video content that students can view either in or out of class in place of a classroom lecture. After watching the video, students return to the classroom and teachers can offer in-depth answers to students’ questions.

The flipped classroom concept caters to individualized and personalized learning for students. The videos allow students to learn at their own pace. If students’ don’t understand something, they can back up the video and hear it again or re-learn some concepts giving them trouble. Then if students still have questions, they can talk with their teacher during their lesson while they do what would be classified as homework.

In essence it takes the classroom idea of kids watching a teacher work to teachers watching how kids work.

Independent School District 834 Coordinator of Educational Innovation and Technology Mike Dronen organized this year’s Flipcon13 meeting at Stillwater Area High School that had 1,000 people virtually and physically attending the conference.

“This is the sixth annual event and the people who attend are, in general, folks that want to move forward and teach their kids in new ways. This staff that attend this event are some of the most innovative staff around the country and the world,” Dronen said.

Conference participants were from more than 10 countries. Attendees also included flipped learning pioneers and keynote speakers Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams, who started the technique about six years ago at their school, Woodland Park High School in Colorado.

The two men never expected their idea to get this big.

“We were just doing what we were doing. We didn’t know that we’d be speaking to 1,000 people. We call it the sixth annual conference, but our first workshop was 20 people who asked to learn more. It’s just grown exponentially since then,” Bergmann said.

The pair started the idea by creating videos for students to watch outside of class that served as their lecture, then using their face-to-face classroom time with students more effectively by having time to answer students questions and doing less lecturing. They added that flipped learning comes in many different forms. Teachers don’t have to do a complete classroom flip, but they encouraged people to try it with one lesson or one unit to see how it works for them. They cautioned, however, that it wasn’t easy to win kids over to the idea at first.

“The biggest challenge I faced was helping students learn how to learn actively. They’re great at playing school, going in, passively listening and working just enough to get the letter grade their parents wanted from them to keep them off their backs,” Sams said. “There was a lot of push back at first and it was hard to struggle through the process, but it benefited my students in the long run.”

A session about flipped learning in a diverse classroom was presented Tuesday by a Swedish team of educators. There were various conference sessions covering a wide variety of topics over three days.

The educators from Sweden, Erica Eklof and Johanna Kristensson, work in an education resource area/agency that serves various schools in Halmstad, Sweden. They said that the flipped classroom experience could be an effective tool for language comprehension and literacy.

“In our experience, we’ve learned that students who have the hardest time in school are the ones with he largest amount of homework at home. Homework isn’t really efficient and it has little effect on the achievement. Also those students go home and don’t understand what they need to do with their homework. If you use the flipped classroom as a tool to help some of these students it could help them going forward, since they’d learn in a different way,” Eklof said.

Although the flipped classroom is just beginning in Sweden, Eklof and Kristensson said it has advantages for parents and students. Eklof said it helped her daughter with math because she could go back and review the videos and really know the concepts. Kristensson added that a flipped classroom also benefits parents trying to help their kids with homework.

“To be able to see what your kids are being taught is very helpful and makes it easier for parents to help out,” Kristensson said.

When it came to the conference, Eklof and Kristensson said it was wonderful.
“Its just great,” Kristensson said.

“Really inspirational,” Eklof added. “It gives us exactly what we need.”
“It gives us some knowledge to bring back home, share with teachers, and improve our classes,” Kristensson added.

“We came with our bosses and they’re already making plans about how to do more of this in Sweden,” Eklof said.