Flipgrid (@Flipgrid) is definitely the new kid on the #edtech block. It’s a video response platform that leverages students love of making short videos (see Instagram, Snapchat, Musical.ly, etc…), sharing, and liking to produce powerful learning experiences. This new tool fits perfectly with my mantra for this year that I reiterate with my teachers in every professional development session.
What type of experiences do you want students to have in your classroom?
It only took about 30 minutes of professional development with my science teachers to show them the high level of engagement they could achieve with Flipgrid. I found YouTube videos that fit their current or subsequent lesson objectives and attached them to a Flipgrid topic for each grade level (6th, 7th, and 8th) along with a question prompt. They easily accessed the topics, watched a little bit of the videos and responded with a summary of the concepts by recording themselves with their laptop webcams. Long story short, they had a blast! Some were really shy and didn’t want to be on camera . . . just like the students. Others re-recorded themselves 5 or 6 times to get it right. They all enjoyed taking their selfie photo and adding stickers to them as the cover image to their video. We laughed and playfully joked with each other as we watched some of the videos as a group. They were hooked.
Then came the actual implementation of Flipgrid with their students. Here are the 2 tales.
1. The Trailblazer
I have a ton of respect for this first-year teacher who dove in headfirst with Flipgrid. Here’s what her lesson entailed.
- Student choice in who they worked with (individual or groups of 2-3)
- A jigsaw lesson with 3 new topics — osmosis, passive transport, and diffusion. Students had very little prior knowledge of the topics.
- Students were tasked with making their video summaries, sharing them with each other, and learning the concepts by watching the videos produced by their peers.
Sounds great right? Well unfortunately, it absolutely fell flat on it’s face. We have to consider many factors when using a new tool and the most important consideration is WHY. The teacher wanted to use Flipgrid because she wanted her students to teach each other a new concept rather than lecture which is a noble goal. The next considerations are how and what. The problem is, she needed to consider her audience and the content she wanted them to learn via embedded videos within the Flipgrid topic (as I had demonstrated in their professional development session). Here’s why it didn’t work.
- Students had no prior knowledge of the topics and they were NOT simple to learn. Unless students have done several flipped lessons in which students know how to take notes from a video, they may not be able to do this on their own. Better to start with students watching a video as a class so they can learn how to listen carefully and take notes. Next, they can watch videos on their own, replay parts of them when necessary, and take notes.
- Students were not given a clear introduction to Flipgrid, including what it is, and what was expected. Even the best tools need a little salesmanship to get students excited. If the teacher isn’t excited about it, don’t expect the students to be excited. They also may need a quick explanation of the process or an example of what a finished product may look like.
- Students were not provided additional headphones for those who didn’t bring earbuds. Logistical issues can ruin the flow of a lesson quickly. Take care of them beforehand.
- Students didn’t have any structure. We like to give students freedom and choice, but sometimes this lack of structure turns into chaos based on the students’ level of self-regulation and discipline. If this is their first experience with flipped learning, they need boundaries, deadlines, and high behavioral expectations. You may want to initially pick their groups to minimize the chances of off-task behavior before letting them pick their own groups. Consider your class dynamics and classroom management skills. Also, consider asking another specialist or teacher to co-teach with you to monitor students more closely.
What happened, you ask? Students weren’t sure what to do with Flipgrid, how to take notes from the videos, or how best to produce their own instructional video. Scrambling for headphones and unsure how much time to dedicate to taking notes or producing the video, the learning environment was too loud and disorganized to produce good results. Some students spent way too much time watching the video and taking notes. Others barely watched the video and simply wanted to record with no preparation. The result was everyone at different points in their completion of their Flipgrid videos and thus few students actually completed their videos and there was no time left to watch videos from their peers.
These are the hard lessons that sometimes have to be learned before finding success. Once again, this teacher really took a risk and I applaud her for that. Although discouraged by the initial results, I know she will learn from the experience and try again. Her efforts informed the next teacher’s attempt at a Flipgrid lesson.
2. The Skeptic
Due to our old, unreliable laptops, iPads, and desktop computers in our building, this teacher didn’t want to use technology at all. But, she was excited about the easy access to Flipgrid with no student sign-in required but rather a simple link that she could write on a piece of paper and display under her document camera (which she did). Her lesson entailed:
- Students reviewing concepts they had already learned via embedded videos in a Flipgrid topic (osmosis and diffusion, active and passive cell transport, or endocytosis and exocytosis).
- Students got to choose their topic AND who they worked with (individual or groups of 2-3)
- Students were tasked with making their video summaries, sharing them with each other, and reviewing the concepts by watching the videos produced by their peers.
You may notice that there are a lot of similarities between these lessons. So what happened? It was a fantastic experience for the students and the teacher. Students created excellent videos that were creative, effectively communicated the content, and connected with their passions. Some did a skit with props. Some did rap videos. Some made diagrams or showed ones from the textbook or their notes. All of them worked hard, developed deep knowledge of their content, and had fun making and watching the videos. Here’s why it worked:
- Students were given an exciting, high-energy introduction to what Flipgrid was all about including a quick tutorial and sample videos.
- Headphones were handed out before the students started watching the videos so no additional noise distracted them from listening to the content.
- Students were held to strict time periods for each phase of the lesson
- 20 minutes to watch the videos on the topic of their choice and take notes.
- 20 minutes to get together with their group members, decide on what type of video they would create, and write a script if necessary.
- 20 minutes to go outside the classroom, find a quiet space, and create and post their videos.
- She had a specialist come help her with any technical issues and to monitor the students progress as they were spread out both inside and outside the classroom recording their videos.
- Shy students were advised to record a diagram or other item rather than their face while explaining their topic.
Students who finished early could watch the videos produced by their peers and “like” them by clicking the heart icon. Furthermore, there was time at the end of lesson to watch videos as a class on the interactive whiteboard. Students eagerly volunteered to have their videos shown on the big screen. They loved having their work seen by a bigger audience than just the teacher. Finally, they all said that they wanted to do another Flipgrid lesson in the future.
In case you are wondering, I am in no way affiliated with Flipgrid. I am merely trying to highlight the fact that any tool can be either a flop or a phenomenal lesson based on several factors that need to be considered well before the actual lesson.
I hope that you get some insight into planning a Flipgrid lesson or any other technology-infused lesson with your students. I welcome your comments below.