Flipgrid—A New Way to View Online Content

teaching with technology

Flipgrid (https://info.flipgrid.com) is a new collaboration system that’s drawing quite a bit of interest in education circles as of late. Flipgrid provides an alternative way of displaying content from the traditional LMS discussion forum. An LMS forum is linear, with each posting falling below the prior one in a tree. Flipgrid displays postings in a grid pattern on a single page. Moreover, Flipgrid is designed for video posts, whereas the LMS forum is designed for text postings. Finally, the presentation is closer to what students are used to seeing on a webpage, with different elements arranged together in an appealing design. The LMS creates a very artificial presentation that is foreign to most viewers as it isolates each contribution from the other in an open and close view.

The presentation format and video content provide a wide range of opportunities for hosting collaboration in a class:

Presentations: Individual or group research projects and presentations have an important place in education. Not only do they teach collaboration skills, but online presentations teach collaboration at a distance. I have seen some instructors ask students to create PowerPoint presentations that they submit as assignments, which makes little sense as PowerPoint is designed to accompany a live presentation. Instead, students can film themselves speaking while using the PowerPoint of other presentation software as their visuals. After posting these to Flipgrid, other students can attach comments as either text or their own webcam videos.

Student bios: Most online faculty know to start each class with some sort of icebreaker to get students comfortable with one another. A simple bio is a good option. But instead of a text description, students can film a webcam or cell phone video of themselves talking about their past and interests. The face and voice humanizes them to one another, and will likely make discussion and other forms of collaboration go better in the class. The instructor can set up a page for students to post the bios, with the instructor starting with a bio of his or her own.

Student explanations/applications: Traditional learning assessments are done through tests with multiple choice questions, text essays, problem sets, or the like. A good alternate assessment is to ask the student to explain a process. For instance, each student can be given a math question and be required to solve it by drawing on a tablet or touch monitor, or typing on a screen, while providing a narration of the steps for solving the problem. This makes thinking visible to the instructor, who can see where students are going astray, and will better harden the information into the student’s memory by forcing them to verbalize the often semi-conscious information that guides their work.

Students can also apply what they have studied to their surroundings. For instance, students in a marketing class might be required to make a video filmed with their cell phones of different examples of marketing techniques used in class. Online foreign language classes can require students to read texts in the language, and a history course could require students to make a video about a historical event in their area. Once again, the visually appealing layout will help foster interest in the works and discussion.

Instructor resources: There are many ways in which instructors have valuable knowledge for students that they do not share. Video tutorials are excellent for sharing this knowledge. A physics instructor can talk students through the process that he or she uses to analyze and solve a problem. Instructors requiring students to read academic work can explain how the instructor reads academic work, including what they look for and how they take notes. Tutorials on online course functions—including how to post videos to Flipgrid—are also particularly valuable, and save students lost time and points from technology struggles.

Another use of Flipgrid is for the instructor to post video introductions to each module. While these can be recorded and loaded in the course content before the class begins, Flipgrid allows instructors to make and post these videos as the class is running. In this way, the instructor can refer to current events or past class discussions to set the context for the coming week. These time-based discussions draw the student’s interest more than generic openings.

Finally, the instructor and students can post videos on current controversies related to course topics. In my medical ethics courses, students can post news stories involving cases that are related to the topics that we cover. The site can also be used to post interviews with outside experts, or practitioners in the view.

Take a look at this tutorial on how to set up Flipgrid for your own teaching:

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