Thursday, July 4, 2013

Book Review: Flip Your Classroom- Jonathan Bergmann & Aaron Sams

A fellow teacher on the AP Chemistry Community message board recommended this book at one point last school year.  Later in the school year an administrator asked me if I would be willing to experiment with flipping a classroom and then possibly inspire other teachers in our district to do the same in the future.  I told him that I was willing to if I could be supported with some resources, which he agreed to.  I asked him almost immediately if they would purchase this book for me and he agreed to it, but in the end I decided to buy it on my own.
During the month of May, while the weather outside was good and I was feeling overwhelmed with the end of the school year (because I was out for something like 6 of our last 20 days) and the grading left to do, I did something totally irresponsible and set all of that aside and read this book.  It took me less than a weekend to read, although that admittedly was because the authors said that was their goal, and given just a few hours in a row I probably could have done it in one sitting.  But I read the book all the way through, which is very rare during the school year, except maybe Christmas break.
Outside of the AP Chemistry recommendation, I had no clue what to expect from this book.  In the forward I was excited to learn that both of the authors were chemistry teachers; I hoped to glean even more from their experiences.  I don't have it with me right now to refer back to, but what I can recall is that it is nine chapters long, which is about seven chapters too long.  The first two chapters were both introductions to what the book was about and how it was laid out.  I know the authors tried to justify what the differences and needs for both chapters were, but they were both intros.  Then there were about two chapters on why you should flip the classroom- benefits to you and to students.  I understand the need to convince some students, or to use this book to convince an unwilling or resistive administrator, but several times in the book they said that much of this was experience based or anecdotal, rather than research based.  Then about midway through the book, they finally got to the hows of flipping the classroom.  To be honest, the hows could be summed up with the sentence, "Do what works for you and your students with the technology you have access to and are comfortable with.".  From there they did have some good suggestions about how to handle limited access to technology [if anyone is interested I'll address it in a later post or the comments below] and what they use and what works for them.  Then they started describing using the flipped classroom to promote a mastery model.  Then again a chapter on resources, followed by two chapters of summary and closing.
The book wasn't bad if you know nothing about flipping, but I was saddened by the lack of content specific suggestions and specific how-to's.  For me, the helpful parts of the book could have been summarized on a couple of blog posts or one magazine or journal article.
Having said all of this negative stuff, the book did spark in me the desire to not just flip one, but all 5 or 6 of my classes next year.  More on that experiment as it progresses.

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