Flipgrid Story: Jen Saarinen

Jen Saarinen teaches math at Kickemuit Middle School in the Bristol Warren Regional School District in Rhode Island. She teaches the same group of students for two years, in both sixth and seventh grade. One of the biggest challenges she faces is getting students to speak their math thinking and to critique their peers. After seeing Jen in this Bristol Warren Regional School District video, we reached out to learn more about her Flipgrid Story.

How did you discover Flipgrid?

I was introduced to Flipgrid at a breakout session during the 2015 Digital Literacy Institute held in Providence, RI. Renee Hobbs ran the session. She highlighted her use of Flipgrid in her higher ed classes as well as K-12 teachers in Rhode Island who had used Flipgrid the school year before. I immediately started to think about how I could take Flipgrid into my math classroom.

How did you get your students on board?

I was so excited to start to use Flipgrid in my classroom! I shared that excitement and also explained that as a member of our district's Digital Learning Team, I needed to learn new things and incorporate different technology into the classroom. The students were quick to jump on board when they found out that they got to take a selfie! I also prefaced our use of the app in that if it didn't work for us, we'd find something different. Fortunately, we didn't have to find another app for our needs.

How often do you use Flipgrid?

Last year I tried to use Flipgrid at least once a month during class and once a month as a HW task to be completed. Students often recorded in partners or small groups for the "during class" assignments.

What’s an example of a topic you’ve posed on Flipgrid?

Standards for Mathematical Practices: "Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them" (SMP1), and "Construct Viable Arguments and Critique the Reasoning of Others" (SMP3).
For this topic students worked in small groups to complete and record responses to a couple of multi-step math problems that were posed to them. The initial responses were not viewable to other students until I was ready for them to work on SMP 3. At this time, I allowed all responses to be viewable and assigned students the task of critiquing the work of other groups who completed the same problems. This allowed students to look at and critique the work of students in other math classes. Students completed a paper response form that was shared with the group who recorded a response.
Teach others how to use this technology!
I assigned two homework assignments where the students had to ask/beg/convince a parent/guardian/adult to complete a math problem and then record the response on Flipgrid. Students were then asked to use the same skills practiced in the previous topic to critique the work that the parents recorded. This was an awesome experience and I was proud to have almost 90% of my parents participate! Students were able to see how math thinking varies among people, especially across different "generations" of math teaching/learning.
Memorial Day Reflection
Upon attending our first Memorial Day Presentation at our school, which included previous service members in our community, we asked our team to reflect on how their Memorial Day Celebration may differ after attending the presentation.
Staff Introductions for our Back to School 2016-2017
I pitched the idea to my Principal to have our staff introduce themselves through Flipgrid as a way to build excitement for the year ahead, a simple way for others to see how Flipgrid works, and a way for our families to learn something interesting about the teachers!
Student introductions to our team.
Again, a simple way for all students to familiarize themselves with the app before being asked to complete a math-related response.

How has Flipgrid impacted your students? What feedback have you heard from students (both positive and negative)?

The biggest impact is that Flipgrid has prompted student communication of math thinking by ALL students, not just the ones who raise hands during class discussion. Flipgrid allows students to hear multiple ways of problem solving and learn from each other.

How has Flipgrid influenced the way you educate?

My ability to have every child communicate (and preserve) their math thinking and see progress throughout the year, or how it is applied to different areas of math helps immensely with the way that I can continue to plan for student motivation and success in my classroom.

How do you plan on using Flipgrid moving forward?

I am psyched that Flipgrid has taken into consideration the needs/requests of educators who are using the app across the country and beyond. I am anxious to plan a lesson that will require students to respond to another's student response, especially since this feature is new this year. I am constantly thinking about creative ways that I can continue to use Flipgrid in the math classroom and beyond!

What an awesome use of Flipgrid, Jen! We're grateful for your innovative, yet practical approach to engaging students in learning mathematics.

In addition to seeing her Flipgrid Story (above), check out that aforementioned Bristol Warren Regional School District video (below), where Jen discusses how Flipgrid allows her ninety-five students to learn with and from each other through explaining their problem solving and then evaluating that of their peers.

Flipgrid Story: Nicole LaFave

Nicole is a 9th and 10th grade English teacher in Fort Mill, South Carolina. One of the biggest challenges she faces is class discussion, which is often dominated by a few outgoing individuals. She turned to Flipgrid, hoping it would help her provide a voice to all her students, especially her quietest students. 

When we reached out to Nicole, she quickly and jubilantly responded “my students and I absolutely LOVE Flipgrid! It's a great way for my shy students to participate in class discussions... and for my not shy students to show off their personalities in those same discussions. I can't wait to use Flipgrid with my new group of energetic 9th grade kiddos!” We were thrilled to hear how Nicole empowers all of her students with Flipgrid, so we followed up to find out more.

In which courses do you use Flipgrid and among how many students?  

I use it in all of my 9th and 10th grade English courses. I teach all levels of students, from Inclusion to Honors classes. Depending on the course, class size ranges from 10-30 students. 

Describe when you first implemented Flipgrid into your classroom. How did you get your students on board? What discussions did you spur? 

I first used Flipgrid in March 2015. One of the wonderful things about English class is that literary discussions can go different directions in different classes on a daily basis. However, sometimes my students don't take it in the direction I'm trying to go. Instead of the teacher getting them there, however, I realized it might be more beneficial for their peers to point them in that direction. I decided to create a Flipgrid for my Honors English 2 students in which they compared the character of Cassius from Julius Caesar to a modern day real-life person or fictional character. The conversation ended up being so great that I tried it again the next week with my lower level English 1 students on a discussion about Romeo & Juliet. In the back of my mind, I thought that Flipgrid might be best for my students who were academically upper-level, but I couldn't have been more wrong!
I don't know how I got my students on board... I sort of made it mysterious in that I didn't tell them what we were doing; I just pulled them out into the hall to record their responses. When all was said and done, they were excited to see themselves and their peers on the big screen.

How often do you use Flipgrid with your students?

In the past, I've used it a few times a semester, but this year, I'm committing myself to doing some sort of Flipgrid activity every other week in class.

How do you generate topics to discuss on Flipgrid?

The topics mostly come from what we would have discussed in a Socrative Seminar setting. While these seminars are great and beneficial in a lot of ways, they often take 1-3 class periods to complete. Flipgrid has allowed me to open up more in-class time for other activities.

What’s an example of a topic you’ve sparked on Flipgrid?

The Shakespearean Insults grid has to be my favorite. This was meant to be something simple and fun and it turned into a grid that was viewed more than 3,000 times in less than a week. Students recorded the insults in private (I thought it might make them more willing to get really insulting -- we've done this live in a class before and few students are willing to really get into it). They turned out so well (some of my silent students shocked me with their sass!), that I decided to turn it into a competition of sorts where the videos with the most views/likes would receive a prize. I feel pretty convinced that every 9th grade student at my school saw the video and voted.

How do you plan on using Flipgrid this year? Do you have any new ideas?

I tried a new idea last week: I printed out 20 random questions (like "If your house was on fire and you could only save three items, what would they be?" and "If you could time travel only once, where would you go and why?"). Students selected one question and had the night to think about their answers. The next day, we recorded the questions and answers on Flipgrid.  I then shared the grid with students and parents (and we even watched it all the way through in class). While there was not necessarily any academic merit to this activity, I enjoyed getting to know a little about my students and I think they enjoyed getting to know a little about each other.
I'd like to continue using Flipgrid in the way that I have -- to spark discussion and for students to see and hear the responses of their classmates, but I'm constantly looking for new ways to use it. 

What is your favorite aspect of Flipgrid?

Just one? I love everything about Flipgrid. It gives all my students a voice. In my 9 years as an educator, I've never been able to say that about any other product.

In what ways has Flipgrid influenced the way you educate? 

I'm an English teacher, so I make my students write. Lots. Because of this, I'm always aware of their literary thoughts. But some of my most brilliant students over the years have been the quiet ones. I used to beg them to contribute to class discussions to no avail. I even got to a point of desperation where some of our class discussions were graded (this was not a proud moment as a teacher, I'll admit). With Flipgrid, I no longer have to worry about my quiet students. They can simply take an iPad in the hall or record in the privacy of their own home and VOILA! -- they are instantly a part of the discussion.

Your students are fortunate to have you, Nicole! Your story is inspiring and we’re thrilled to have you in our Flipgrid family. We look forward to hearing about your continued success and promotion of student voice!

The Need for Social Learning in the Workplace

Technological advancements are constantly changing the way we work. Teams are increasingly spread across time zones. They conduct their daily business without regular face-to-face interaction with peers. As a result, many organizations are finding it challenging to maintain and expand genuine communication and community among employees.

In her eLearning Industry article, “Why Your Workplace Needs Social and Collaborative Learning Technologies," Kali Blunt references a study conducted by the Association for Talent Development. “In high-performance organizations, employees share knowledge with their colleagues at a rate four times greater than that of workers in lower-performing firms. That communication is supported by rewarding workers for learning, providing tools and resources for creating and sharing learning content, and making knowledge sharing a performance expectation at all organizational levels.” 

Becoming a high-performance organization, Blunt notes, is primarily accomplished through social, interactive learning, which benefits the organization by:

  • connecting employees across space and time
  • growing a central, readily-accessible repository of learning content
  • balancing the formality of engagement
  • building community

Paramount to building a high performing workplace, she explains, is sharing. “Sharing is at the heart of learning. The people we work with are best supported when engaged in a community where profiles, teams, groups, forums, and activity streams can be harnessed through the power of social platform communities.”

Blunt's sentiment and call for active, social learning reflects the value of Flipgrid. Our primary objective is to foster community and collective learning in classrooms and corporations around the world while maintaining simplicity and ease of use. We overwhelmingly echo Blunt’s conclusion that “in the long run, we want people to feel connected, informed, and supported in the workplace. And that’s exactly what social and collaborative learning technologies can do through enterprise social networks.” 

Learning Out Loud - The Importance of Active, Engaged Video Discussion

California State University Teaching and Learning Innovations Specialist, Dr. Michelle Pacansky-Brock stresses the importance of active, engaged learning in her article “Learning Out Loud: Making Online Courses Meaningful and Accessible.”

Through her own research, Pacansky-Brock has discovered that students perform better when discussing content verbally. Specifically, she found “83 percent of students (n=82) reported an increased retention of information when expressing ideas through spoken language; 95 percent of students (n=82) reported that listening to peers led to an increased ability to reach the learning objectives; and 86 percent (n=109) agreed that learning out loud made them feel connected to their peers.”

To achieve these results, especially in an online course where face-to-face interaction is traditionally minimal or nonexistent, Pacansky-Brock recommends recorded video discussion. She states, “an asynchronous, multimodal learning environment that invites students to verbally converse with one another has been shown to improve the social and emotional elements of learning.” The power of video is valuable both in online courses and in traditional, face-to-face courses. In both cases, a continuous dialogue can extend beyond the space and time of a class period. Moreover, with the ability to rehearse their response, students can confidently showcase their addition to the discussion.

Pacansky-Brock also discusses the special attention multimodal learning environments require for learners with disabilities. She highlights, "accessibility is not simply a box to check ... [and] educational technology companies must ... value accessibility as a priority and actively listen to understand the needs of their clients." Flipgrid is constantly working to implement educator input and analyze accessibility recommendations and requirements.  Stay tuned for some big updates on accessibility!

We want everyone to join the discussion on Flipgrid because peer-to-peer, social learning is not just more effective, it’s also more enjoyable. As Pacansky-Brock concludes, “in short, voice and video conversations can take online learning from mandate to memorable.”

Boost your students’ learning and retention by welcoming them aboard Flipgrid.