If you’ve implemented (or even heard of) the flipped classroom approach to teaching, you have Jonathan Bergmann to thank. Bergmann, along with fellow teacher Aaron Sams, pioneered the idea, and Bergmann is committed to helping other educators apply it in classrooms around the world. I had the opportunity to talk to Bergmann recently, and I learned what’s so special about the flipped classroom (hint: it doesn’t cost a thing), and how it has changed the lives of students
Can you describe how your professional achievements have advanced innovation in education?
The flipped class is a sweeping innovation which has gotten a lot of traction. It is much bigger than Aaron (Sams) or I, and hence we feel this has great potential to be a strong change agent for good in education around the world.
What has changed as a result of your efforts?
I have heard countless stories about how the flipped class is changing kids’ lives. I am gratified to hear teachers tell me how their careers are renewed and how students are engaged in their own learning and are taking responsibility for their own growth.
How can others facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through your work?
Stick with it. Keep on doing what is right for YOUR kids in your school/class. The key is that we keep our schools, first and foremost, centers of learning and engagement.
How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?
Many people think the flipped class is all about the technology. In fact, this is not correct. It is about changing the pedagogy with the aid of technology.
What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome to ensure students are receiving a quality education?
We had to provide access for all of our students six years ago. We did this by burning sets of videos onto DVD’s and having students put them in their DVD player. This solved the problem of equitable access for students. We also had to overcome some minimal resistance from parents.
This was a new idea and they were unsure. But once they learned about it, they too jumped in on it.
What is your country doing right to support education?
In my current school, and in Woodland Park, Colorado, where I started flipping my class, the administration lets teachers decide how to teach. When we came up with this crazy idea of flipping a class they allowed us to innovate and experiment. They trusted us as professionals and allowed us to do what we thought was best for our students.
What conditions must change to better support education?
One of the best things about the flipped class model is that it came from teachers and not from some sort of top-down professional development strategy. Teachers need to be brought to the table in all education reform. Too much education reform has been done TO teachers instead of BY teachers. We need more educational reform to come from the teachers in the trenches.
What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?
Clearly, I am a proponent of the flipped learning strategy. I see this as the bridge to the learner-centered, inquiry-driven, problem-based class of the future. This has the greatest chance to change education.
What educational “trend” do you think is helping students? Is there a trend that is getting in the way of learning?
I see the flipped learning model to be helping students the most. I don’t believe it will be just another trend that will go away, but a lasting technique that will help drive teaching into the 21st century.
If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?
I would get them an iPad. I have seen such “magic” happen with students who get this device. I have seen students with special needs come alive as they work with these devices.
What is your proudest professional achievement?
I have been humbled and honored to have been given a platform to speak and write
to/for educators all over. It still amazes me that people want to listen to me speak or read what I write. I have received awards, been interviewed on major media outlets, been featured here and there. But as I think through your question, I am most gratified by hearing stories from my students about what they have gone on to be/become. Good education is about relationships and connections. I feel like I have connected with my
students over these 24 years and am proudest of them.
Can you describe the teacher who most influenced you?
Mrs. Anderson, my chemistry and AP (advanced placement) chemistry teacher at Sheldon
High School in Eugene, Oregon. I was a curious kid and she really inspired me by opening the doors to science. She saw something in me, the nerdy insecure kid, and she brought out my best. In her class I wanted to just learn and learn and learn. She was also approachable yet she always challenged me to do better. She invited us into her home as we were preparing for the AP chemistry exam. No other teacher had ever done that for me. Much of who I am today came from my two years with her. Probably the greatest testament is that I have spent the past 24 yrs as a high school chemistry teacher. This is in primarily because of her.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to make a difference in education?
I believe that the most important thing in education is the relationship between the student and the teacher. Good teaching has always been about relationship. You make a difference one student and one relationship at a time. Though some people are looked up to as educational leaders, the real magic happens when students realize that their teacher is in their corner.
What is your greatest hope for the future of education?
I feel we are in a transition period. We still have vestiges of the old industrial model of education which is being slowly replaced by a dynamic student-centered, learner-driven education. I think that the flipped class is a way to help us with this transition. I am excited about the future of education. We live in such an amazing time with the explosion of information and the ready access. Because of this, my ultimate hope is that with this information explosion that ALL students everywhere will have the opportunities to a great education.
About Jonathan Bergmann
Lead Technology Facilitator, Kenilworth School District, Illinois, USA
Jonathan Bergmann has been a teacher for 24 years. Prior to his current role, Bergmann
taught science at Woodland Park High School in Woodland Park, Colorado.
In 2002 he was awarded the prestigious Presidential Award for Excellence for in Science and Math Teaching. He is a national board certified teacher in Adolescent and Young Adult Science. He has taught many staff development courses, primarily in the area of technology integration.
Bergmann also delivered the popular TED education talk, “Just How Small is an Atom?,” and co-founded a Flipped learning, a non-profit to promote the flipped classroom approach. For more on flipped learning, see Bergmann’s blog.
Birthplace: Dayton, Ohio
Current residence: Lake Forest, Illinois
Education: Bachelors from Oregon State University, 1986 (Science Education), Masters from University of Colorado at Denver, 1992 (Instructional Technology), and over 75 graduate credits past my masters degree, Nationally Board Certified in Adolescent and Young Adult Science (Chemistry)
Website I check every day: Twitter
Person who inspires me most: C.S. Lewis (author). He was a thinker and an artist who combined logic and faith.
Favorite childhood memory: My mother teaching me to read at the kitchen table
Next travel destination (work or pleasure): Northwest Indiana to compete in a triathlon
When was the last time you laughed? Telling funny stories of my childhood with my own children. I was not always the wisest of young lads and enjoyed telling them some of my childhood antics.
Favorite book: The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
Favorite music: Contemporary Christian
Your favorite quote or motto: “It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.” – Teddy Roosevelt