Empowering Every Student Voice using Flipgrid

Posted: 10th May 2021

by Alan Biles-Liddell

In 1999 Jeremy Paxman famously interviewed David Bowie on Newsnight and during the discussion Bowie commented “I think the potential of what the Internet is going to do to society, both good and bad, is unimaginable. I think we are actually on the cusp of something exhilarating and terrifying.” During our last year of remote learning and digital education these comments appeared to take on a new resonance with many a teacher-myself included-searching for the ‘exhilarating’ digital educational platforms that would help to engage and stimulate our students’ curiosity.

Step forward Flipgrid a digital platform that employs the tagline “Empower Every Voice” as its motto and it does this to some fine tune. Like all good ideas it is simple and straightforward to employ but its results can be breathtaking in allowing students to air their thoughts and ideas on a whole range of topics in a safe and secure environment. Flipgrid allows me as a teacher to create my own topics that my classes and students can respond to through recording a short video or audio clip. The access level can be kept completely private so that only I and the student can see the video or I can share it with the rest of the class for group discussion or I can share it with other students around the globe.

In an earlier blog Mr Lloyd mentioned how, “employers and universities value skills such as effective communication, collaboration, knowledge construction…’ and this is essentially what our use of Flipgrid is allowing students to achieve. In English they can discuss the central theme of a text, role of a character, record a short story they have written or reflect on the moral dilemmas entwined within the plot structure of a text. As a teacher I find this very engaging and a new and relevant way to assess the learning and understanding of my students. As the Flipgrid motto stated I found that I could “Empower Every Voice”.

However the truly ‘exhilarating’ aspect of Flipgrid is the ability it provides like-minded teachers to connect with each other and so allow, to paraphrase the BBC motto, “Nation to speak unto Nation”. Through Gridpals the English Department at Myddelton College has now made and established connections with schools in America, Russia and France and this has already lead to several successful collaborations. Most recently I created a Flipgrid to celebrate World Poetry Day and invited students from our Gridpals community to record a video sharing a poem that reflected their cultural identity and comment on why they wanted to share it. The response was awe inspiring with 95 videos submitted to date, 4097 views, 130 replies and responses and 173 hours of engagement. Topics ranged from Sufi mysticism to the value of family and community, to faith and of course what it means to be Welsh, Scottish, French, Russian, American or Mexican American. But it was the 173 hours of engagement that was truly inspiring as I and all involved in the Flipgrid could hear the thoughts and ideas of students around the world. As one of our own students put it, “ …getting to know them[students from around the world] is making my understanding of  the world a  lot more detailed.  It’s amazing how much we have in common.” Here we are breaking down barriers and misguided perceptions of each other’s cultures and allowing students from around the world from different backgrounds to speak directly to each other.

Then there is the pandemic that we have all just experienced together, which lead to one of the students from Cicero Illinois replying to one of poems posted by a Myddelton student stating, “ During this pandemic everyone has been affected one way or another and the only way we’ve been able to move forward and keep going is because we are all going through the same thing and we can help each other.”  Thanks to our use of Flipgrid and Gridpals connections we were able to take our students out of their bedrooms, their front rooms or kitchens or wherever it was they were remotely learning from and reconnect them with the world. We might have had to “Stay local” yet our students were able to share their thoughts and ideas with their peers 3,000 miles away and stay connected with the world.

As we return to some sense of normality and the classroom the links created remain and strengthen. Already we have plans afoot to have live linked lessons through Teams to Russia and America towards the end of this academic year and well into the next academic year. Indeed with our colleagues in America we are in the process of creating a unit of work reflecting on the theme of Social Justice in poetry. This will involve shared texts, discussion through Flipgrid and some live lessons together. Suddenly the curriculum enrichment at Myddelton College takes an exponential leap and our curriculum widens to embrace writers and thinkers from other cultural backgrounds-something that has sorely been missing from the curriculum at GCSE in particular since the last reform by the government.

Returning to Mr Lloyd’s earlier blog he commented upon the potential for educational reform after the pandemic, “Irrespective of whether there is the political appetite, for such reform, it is educators who control what happens in our schools and our classrooms on a day to day basis and this is where true educational transformation can begin.”  I firmly believe that this is what one aspect of that educational reform is likely to look like-schools will connect and collaborate across the globe. That is the essence of 21st Century Learning Principles and that is what we at Myddelton College are all about.

Finally though I would like to leave you with the words of Sophia Faridi, my fellow collaborator from the USA, because really I couldn’t put it better myself, “In this strange and new time for education, students and teachers have had to adjust and develop innovative ways of connecting. Flipgrid did just that and more for our students by giving them the opportunity to engage in ongoing dialogue not just with their classmates but with peers across the globe. With a little help from technology, our students were able to transform what was likely one of the most difficult moments in their lives into something wonderfully positive that helped them embrace the idea that learning and growth can continue to thrive even during the most challenging of times.”  

https://flipgrid.com/+nq6cprht   Flipgrid Mixtape of some of the activities we have been up to at Myddelton College. 

Categories: Technology News

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