Friday, August 11, 2017

Why You Should Use Flipgrid to Amplify Student Voice

I just spent an amazing day at Flipgrid Headquarters here in Minneapolis, MN. It started with a Flipgrid "Summer Camp" for Ambassadors, where we toured the facility (including the rooftop), played around with the app to try out some ideas to use with students, and even got a sneak peek at new features before last night's launch.

Flipgrid is a video response tool for amplifying student voice. Teachers create an account (either a Flipgrid One free account, or the paid subscription which allows for a much more interactive experience...highly recommended), and then set up grids (classes) and topics (questions). It's so easy, and allows teachers (as administrators) to turn different features off and on, and make videos visible as necessary. According to the many thousands of educators who use it, and the 5,000,000 students who've amplified their voices so far, it's taking the world by storm.

Did I mention that it was created by innovators here at the University of Minnesota? :)

Flipgrid has been part of my classroom and my instruction for the past 3-4 years. First, with my 5th graders, and later with my 6th grade English students. They recorded themselves visually demonstrating WordMasters vocabulary. They used it to act out Lego representations of scenes from their stories. They recorded themselves sharing the growth of plants in their terrariums. They recorded interviews between them and characters from their choice books. They recorded stories they made up for creative writing. They recorded reflections of their work in collaborative Social Studies groups. They recorded persuasive speeches.

Many recorded at school, while others chose to record at home. Either was fine. The most important part was that they practiced their speaking skills. Because I taught them HOW to speak effectively FIRST. Even though we assign speaking opportunities and hand them a camera or other recording device, we fail our students if we don't first teach them how to communicate. How to use their voice to convey their meaning and ideas. I've used Erik Palmer's book Well Spoken (and his other books and resources) to do just that. Check out his website here. You'll thank me later. :)

Don't forget to teach them how to speak effectively. Teach them about PVLEGS (Poise, Voice, Life, Eye Contact, Gestures and Speed) BEFORE getting them in front of the camera. One of the best things you can do for your students.

Along with recording, we watched each others' Flipgrid videos. We enjoyed hearing different perspectives and celebrating which of the PVLEGS each of them could do well. Not every video was viewed. Not every video needs to be viewed by peers. As the administrator of the grids and topics, I can decide which ones to make visible. Sometimes I highlighted a specific speaking skill, sometimes I highlighted videos for their creativity, while other times (with student permission), I highlighted videos from those who were nervous to speak in front of the class-giving this alternative.

My goal was always to teach and model effective speaking skills, give students this tool and time to practice (meaning record and re-record until they were proud of their video), and then to share their voice.

Now, I'm done talking about me and my own experiences with Flipgrid as it has evolved into what it is today. This last section is about what's new and why you should run, not walk, to join the Flipgrid community.

  • We now have custom feedback rubrics, which include speaking skills.
  • We now have the ability to add topic attachments as links.
  • We can add an icon (spark) to a response to create a new topic, making the student the teacher.
  • Along with uploading YouTube and Vimeo, we can access the camera roll for photos as topics.
  • There is now a place for us to add our grid's purpose.
  • The new position of Head of Educator Innovation @savvy_educator is rolling out new ideas for connecting with the larger Twitter community: #FlipgridSpark, #FlipgridAppsmash, #FlipgridRockstar, #TopicThursday, #FlipgridFridays, and #FlipgridTips
  • We now have unique Flipgrid emojis to highlight videos for great ideas (lightbulb emoji), videos that go deep (thinking emoji), videos that blow us away (rocket emoji) and one that needs no explanation: the mic drop emoji.
  • We now have an enhanced QR code reader built right in for ease of accessing grids.
  • We have hashtags to link students, topics, content, ideas, skills, or whatever we choose.
  • We have fun "props" to add to student selfies to help tell their story or enhance their image. *As an aside, I love that they won't add Snapchat filters because authenticity of student's spoken voice is too important to alter. Thanks for that one. I agree.
  • We have "stickies", which are like post-it notes, that the students can add to their screen before recording to help guide them and offer added support.
  • We have, where students (along with celebrities) can share their voices for global goals.
  • We have Flipgrid Explorers, continuing each month. The next one is Jason Osborne, a paleontologist, launching on September 18th. What an amazing opportunity to connect in this way with experts out in the real world. 
  • And......we have the ability to send private video links to parents and family members, which can then be saved or linked to others, at the family members' discretion.


All this, because Flipgrid is the kind of company that listens to each and every member of its community. From what I gathered from Co-founder Charlie Miller last night, the process goes something like this:

Flipgrid Educator: "Here's what we need for our students. Can you do this?"
Flipgrid Team: "That's a great idea. can we do this? Let's find a way."
Next day (or week) Flipgrid Team: "Thanks for asking. Here's what we created so you can do this. Can't wait to hear about it."
Flipgrid Educator: "Wow, that was fast...and amazing! Take a look at how this helped amplify student voice. Thanks!"
All Flipgrid Users: "Thanks, Flipgrid!!!" 

I can't wait to see all of the amazing ways educators and students continue to use this amazing resource in the coming year. And, according to Charlie, I imagine there will be even more powerful ways that students will connect, share and grow in the next launch in 2018.


  1. I really want to use more tech! I'm such an old lady, and I've been a "traditional" teacher for a long time. FlipGrid looks easy to use (which is good for me) and I'd like to try it to do book talks in the library this year. We'll see how much I grow. LOL

  2. Such a great post! I'm sold--OK, I was already a fan of Flipgrid, but your explanation of the changes is a very powerful argument for all teachers to give Flipgrid a try. The #1 new thing to try this year, for all of you who haven't used Flipgrid yet. Oh, and thanks for the shout-out and for noting that teaching speaking skills first makes Flipgrid way more powerful.