Flipping Out with Flipgrid
April 02, 2020
What is Flipgrid?
Flipgrid is a tool that allows the exchange of short videos (30 seconds - 5 minutes) between students and teachers. This context could be extended and different members of a community (such as parents) could have access through different means of authentication. However, the heart of this technology is the ability for students to quickly and easily record short responses to prompts from teachers.
Flipgrid was acquired by Microsoft in June of 2018 and, with that, has been bolstered by the support and infrastructure only a company like Microsoft can provide.
First a bit of terminology so we're all on the same page:
- Grid -- largest level of analysis
- Topic -- one step below a grid
- Response -- an actual video recording
As it's designed, Flipgrid allows for the creation of grids which can be broad or narrow in scope. From there, a teacher creates a series of topics which are sub-components of the grid. It's within these topics that students will record responses to the teacher's prompts for each topic. Typically, when designing activities that involve Flipgrid, I like to think of each grid as a relatively general theme; each of the topics, acting as siblings, are equal to each other but are also within the greater scope of the grid.
For some classes that only engage occasionally, a grid may simply be the name of the class (e.g., Geography and Global Cultures). However, for those that choose to use the platform more aggressively, it may make more sense to create multiple grids within a class (e.g., The Spread of Islam, Types of Islands, Push and Pull Factors) that focus on particular curricular outcomes. In general, the grid should be thought of as the unifying theme of all the different topics that will be listed within it.
Topics allow for greater specificity and the ability for teachers to highlight key ideas within a larger theme. Topics are all related in the sense that they're within the scope of the grid itself but also that that they are equal to each other. Continuing with the example of a Geography class, let's say we're examining types of islands; my topics may be: Continental Islands, Volcanic Islands, and Atolls. From here, there's still an amazing amount of flexibility as to how I use this tool. We could stop at simply naming each of these topic based on their respective island-type, but we're missing a valuable opportunity for bolstering our pedagogical approach in the students' responses.
The goal of using a resource like Flipgrid, especially in a distance learning environment, is to increase student engagement. This is true in not only engaging with the material itself, but also in engaging with other students. If I were to leave my topics broad like I've listed above, my students would be lacking the direction they need to create worthwhile responses. Instead, I have an opportunity to craft each of these topics more clearly by using verbs from Bloom's to create more targeted prompts for my students. Depending on the stage in your unit the lesson plays, these can be lower- or higher-order questions. For example, instead of "Atolls" as a topic, we could use, "Explain why societies living on atolls are at a greater risk due to climate change."
Arguably, a use case like this doesn't lend itself to student-to-student responses, but we can easily include a sub-question and ask students to give an opinion: "Assess the states of New Zealand and Tuvalu: in your opinion, which of these is in greater danger due to climate change?"
This is one of my favorite uses of Flipgrid and it actually doesn't even involve student responses. I only have the opportunity to directly work with my CS students twice per week. Our time is incredibly valuable. Most lessons focus on taking a basic concept or skill and then applying it; essentially, a flipped classroom. To facilitate some foundational knowledge, I've created short videos in an "Intro" topic for our class's grid. These intros cover the basic structure and syntax of different CS concepts. For example, CSS selectors and their construction using properties and values. The added benefit of using Flipgrid this way is that my students have a ready-made supply of reference material that I can point them to whenever they're having trouble with a particular concept.
Before they come into class, they watch the video and are ready with a bit of prior knowledge that allows me to go over things in more detail and then work with them to apply that knowledge.
This is what Flipgrid was built for: student-to-student engagement. Every teacher has had days where discussions on exciting (at least, we think they're exciting) topics lead to teeth-pulling as we try to encourage some kind of dialogue between students. Whether it's because of the asynchronous nature or it's novel because they're recording responses, students really put forth extra effort when using Flipgrid for discussions. All it takes is a teacher's prompt and the result is like a lit fuse.
Distance learning has presented its own set of unique challenges. One of these challenges has been how best to assess student learning. With the ability to moderate topics, teachers can prevent an entire class from seeing an individual response. Knowing that, teachers can create topics that require students to demonstrate a skill in their recording; with the recent introduction of screen recording (still in beta), teachers can literally watch a student "show their work" as they complete a problem or demonstrate their understanding.
Setting things up
O365 and Google
For educators whose systems utilize Google or Microsoft accounts, single sign-on makes getting started a breeze. Simply use your school email address and Flipgrid will ask you to check off a few permissions. From there, you're ready to get started! If your system doesn't utilize Google or Microsoft accounts, you can quickly create an account from Flipgrid's homepage. Check out the reference section below with some great guides to get you going!