For students and teachers who are used to traditional classroom teaching, the integration of online learning can come with a learning curve. Instead of group projects, peer reviews, and one-on-one office hours, students and educators must problem-solve through a screen and find new ways to communicate. Teachers are tapping into online tools and resources to help increase student engagement and foster connections.
FlipGrid, a social learning app that allows teachers to create interactive grids to facilitate short video discussions, functions like a message board but also has social media-esque features, like GIFs and emojis, that resonate with adolescent girls. Teachers at The Ellis School, a private, girls’ school in Pittsburgh, are using the software to pose questions while Middle School students post video responses and a communal meeting place forms. Cultivating a shared sense of trust and community in a virtual space is key for students’ growth and comprehension, and FlipGrid provides an engaging way to do just that.
For girls who code, FlipGrid has become a central place for interaction with Ms. Lombardi and one another. Each week, Ms. Lombardi posts a "connect" question to build rapport and check in with her budding computer scientists to see how they’re doing, a "code" prompt which invites them to code and share, and a "consider" question which invites them to do an unplugged activity and explore how computers impact their everyday lives.
“The process of thinking about their response, pairing it with appropriate pictures and stickers, and recording it really helps to solidify their understanding,” shared Ms. Lombardi. “They can listen to other students' responses and reply accordingly to continue learning from each other the way they would in the classroom. This is proving especially valuable during remote learning because they can communicate on a time schedule that works for them.”
In Middle School geometry class, FlipGrid has proved to be a useful and interactive way for her students to learn new vocabulary terms. For a recent assignment, she provided every Ellis student with a geometric term and a rubric (their work had to include a definition, drawing, notation, and a real-life example) but also left room for individual creativity and interpretation.
“This tool gives each student a voice,” said Ms. Tomashewski. “So often (especially in math), I hear students wonder how they’ll use what they’re learning in the real world. This lesson showed them that math really can be found everywhere in an engaging, creative way. And as an added bonus, the FlipGrid videos they uploaded make for an awesome interactive vocabulary library for the students to learn and study from.”
A key part of learning the Spanish language is practicing speaking and listening skills, so Ms. Prepelka knew it was critical for her Middle School students to have the ability to iterate at home. She turned to FlipGrid to give her students the opportunity to “talk” to each other, leave feedback, and share their opinions as they learned about formal versus informal speaking in Spanish. She set up a project on Spanish subject pronouns where two students had to discuss one person but defend if they should speak to them informally or formally in Spanish while stating the correct pronouns.
“In lower-level language courses, students tend to be a bit more cautious about simply speaking the language, and they like to practice beforehand to avoid making mistakes,” said Ms. Prepelka. “FlipGrid gives them that ability, but it also allows me to hear their pronunciation, inflection, and growing skills. Ellis girls are so used to being able to respond and react to each other, which can be difficult with online learning, but this tool helps to close that gap.”
Curious about other tools for online teaching teachers are implementing?