About six months ago, I posted my thoughts on Flipgrid as part of another blog post called Flipping the Cycle of Socialization. I was less than enthusiastic about it, and a bit uncomfortable with the idea of becoming a talking head on the internet. My how times have changed!

I’ve spent the last two months as exactly that – a talking head on the internet. I’m still not a huge fan of filming myself, but I’ve come around to its necessity. I now faithfully post a video or two to Flipgrid every day of the week, in order to keep in touch and maintain connections with my students. It has been a slow process, but I’m now a fan of The Flip.

Changing My Mind

The conversion was slow to take. COETAIL gave me my first taste of it, but shortly after that, I watched the Grade 5s at my school use it in a really great way. Their unit investigated problem solving, through an engineering lens. To give students experiences with real engineers, the teachers reached out to community members, family, and friends in different engineering fields, and had them post a short bio video to Flipgrid, where they outlined how they used a design cycle and problem solving in their jobs.  

Students were then encouraged to post response videos asking them questions about themselves and their jobs. The students were so engaged by the access to real people in the field, that the teachers doubled down and created a second grid for their writing unit, and asked writers they knew to post videos about their writing process. It was met with the same enthusiasm.

At this point, I would have thought this was pretty cool, but at the end of the unit, the teachers brought the connection full circle. The student’s task was to create a carnival game out of cardboard (a la “Caine’s Arcade”) that included simple machines. They spent a few weeks designing and troubleshooting and prepared them for a carnival with our youngest students – Reception, Prep and Grade 1. 

Their final task was to create an explanation video that showed their process, and their finished product, which they posted on Flipgrid. They then sent that Grid to the engineers who had launched their unit, and were able to get real feedback from real engineers on their work. It was a very exciting experience for the students; and the engineers got a real kick out of it too!

While this probably could have been achieved in a number of ways, Flipgrid provided a fast and user-friendly way to implement the teachers’ ideas. For that reason, I became a sceptical fan.

Then 2020 happened.

Flipgrid in the Time of Corona

It wasn’t until distance learning started that Flipgrid became a big part of my life. For my grade team, Flipgrid has evolved into a tool that is integral not just to sharing work and giving feedback, but also to the social and emotional well-being of our students.

Organization

While we have maintained synchronous class meetings most days throughout our online learning journey, these have been mostly pastoral, checking in with students and answering questions, both about school work and about what is happening in the world. In order to keep our students organized, we have provided them with Daily Flipgrid bulletins. These are quick morning messages that outline the tasks for the day and where to find instructions. They are an easy way for students to “start their day” with their teacher, and immediately know what their next steps are.

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Well Being

From the very beginning, it was known that society as we know it grinding to a halt would have some significant impacts on people’s well being. We knew that there would be an increase in mental health issues. We knew that there would be an increase in domestic violence. We knew that people would struggle with isolation and a lack of social connection. 

In a Gallup poll, the number of adults in the US who felt they were “thriving” has dropped to 48.8%, the lowest point since 2008. In the first week of April, about 75% of Americans were either or completely, or mostly isolating themselves from non-family members. This was the case all over the world, and in that time of disconnect, it was important to be making connections with our students in any way we could.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels

Flipgrid provided a format that worked to make connections asynchronously between students in our class. From joke days, to introducing pets, to planning Fake-ations over our spring break when no one could leave, we have enjoyed connecting and laughing together over the Flipgrid platform.

Sharing and Feedback

In a normal school year, at least once a unit, everything grinds to a halt and students have a chance to share their learning journey with a wider audience. Sometimes it’s the grade, sometimes it’s the rest of the school, and sometimes it’s their parents. As we moved into online learning, it became apparent that this wasn’t going to be able to happen. 

Flipgrid was there, once again, to save the day. In digital learning, the products of learning are understandably easy to share in a digital format, and Flipgrid let us easily make that accessible. By sharing videos of their work, they were able to get the feedback from their teachers, parents and peers that would normally have been possible in the classroom. 

Back To Normal?

This past week, our school started the re-entry process, bringing students from each grade back in for one morning a week. From what we are told, re-entry will be a long process, and we may never get back to what was once “normal”. Through the re-entry process, Flipgrid will continue to be an important part of how my team connects with and delivers information to our students. Once we have returned to seeing our students in person on a daily basis, I don’t know what the future of Flipgrid will be in my practice. I certainly won’t be posting things for my students everyday, but this journey has made me more comfortable with a new tool, and I know it will be one that I will continue to use in the future.

Have you used any other tools to stay connected with your students in meaningful ways?