The following interview was conducted with Ken Ehrmann, 5th Grade teacher in Pennridge School District, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Ken is known for his work “flipping the classroom” and hosts a YouTube Channel dedicated to the flipped classroom. Ken often trains teachers on elements of the flipped classroom, using his expertise to guide them as they embark on their own efforts to change the classroom environment for students.
Ken submitted a quick introduction video to himself and his classroom.
When a person hears the term flipped classroom, what might come to mind is the teacher asking students to watch videos or respond to articles as homework assignments; would you agree with the accuracy of this perception?
Yes, that is a very basic description of a flipped classroom. However, it is too concise. If you were to define a direct instruction classroom saying “a teacher that presents to the students and student write notes” would only define one type of classroom. Direct instruction classrooms can involve students acting, students using manipulatives, kinesthetic instructions, etc.
A flipped classroom can be so much more than just watching videos, reading articles and responding.
How would you describe your flipped classroom?
I would describe my flipped classroom as a room where students feel empowered, engaged, and involved on a daily basis. My students feel empowered to learn in the comfort of their own pace. They feel engaged in the lesson more than they ever were during whole class instruction. They are engaged in more team and independent tasks. They are involved in hands on learning each day they come to class.
Thinking back to your pre-flipped classroom, what are the major ways that your classroom has evolved?
The biggest way my class has evolved is allowing for more small group instruction, remediation, and enrichment. The students are “working” 90% of the time they are here, where before it may have ranged from 30% – 60% where instruction took a bulk of class. They are applying the concepts they learn versus listening to concepts.
Are there milder (less-apparent or less-radical) changes to the classroom that are, ultimately, as important?
One mild change that doesn’t occur often, but is great when we do it, is discovery learning. There are opportunities where students can figure out new concepts in math. I have always done this type of instruction. In the past we had 10 minutes of introduction, 20 minutes of exploring, 20 minutes of reviewing and seeing the new skill.
Now, we have 10 minutes of introduction and 40 minutes of exploring. When they go home, they see the lesson to confirm what they discovered or see the pieces they were missing. I had so many more students discover it on their own, and overall everyone more enthusiastic to see the new skill.
What tenets are important for teachers who are learning how to flip to keep in the forefront of their thoughts?
When we teach traditionally we don’t speak with perfect grammar, we can stutter sentences at times, and overall do an imperfect job but still deliver the content successfully. Flipping is the same. Your videos are not Oscar winning performances, your screencasts don’t have to flow perfectly. Know what your goal is and deliver it. It is hard as a teacher, but DON’T be a perfectionist.
Mistakes are okay, things may go wrong, and it is okay. I have actually sent home a division lesson for my class, successfully taught the process but got the wrong answer! My students asked about it, they were right, and we started class by figuring out “how do you check division?”
Must someone fully flip?
Absolutely not! Unless you have a lot of personal time to dedicate to a fully flipped program I would recommend against it. Start at an appropriate pace for you. One lesson per month, per unit, per week, whatever works for you.
We live in a busy world. Students are kept busy at night with goals of physical activity, social growth, jobs or volunteerism, etc. Does flipping add a time constraint to their already hectic evening schedules?
Flipped classroom homework eases the anxiousness of time for your homework. When you send home a worksheet students don’t know how long it will take, how well they will do, and if they need parental help.
When you send home a video the students move their mouse to the bottom of the video, see the total time and know they are done then. They may add more time by rewinding and pausing, but not much.
Additionally, you should try to keep your lessons between 2-8 minutes. I would highly recommend never going over 10. If your lessons are consistently long students will stop doing the homework.
What are your favorite aspects of the flipped classroom?
The flexibility and time. I still come upon a new reason I love it, but it is all based on flexibility and additional time. Extra time for discovery learning, extra time for small group learning, extra time for projects, extra time for great discussion.
Flipping your classroom literally give you more time.
What are your students’ favorite aspects of the flipped classroom?
I turned to my students for this one. I asked them, “write a word, phrase, or sentence about being a student in a flipped classroom.” Here is what I got:
One student: It’s not my way of learning.
A majority of students had responses including: I love it, I think it is awesome!, I love being able to pause, rewind, and rewatch!
One student: “I think it is about responsibility”
Ken will be presenting on Monday 2/22/16 at the Pete&C Conference in Hershey, PA
To contact Ken for any Professional Development needs, follow any of these routes: