Remote Learning Tool Fosters Classroom Connections

In today’s increasingly virtual world, people of all ages are becoming more familiar with consuming news derived from short video clips, Instagram stories, or “listicle” articles. This new way of interpreting and comprehending information has trickled down to younger demographics as they explore the digital space, and it has become even more prevalent as students and teachers explore different ways to communicate during remote learning.
Students, parents, and educators are tapping into online resources and apps to help them navigate this new normal and foster connections through a screen—and one such digital tool has been implemented with great success in our Middle School.

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. Ellis Middle School teachers are using the software to pose questions while students post video responses and a communal meeting place forms. Not only an engaging way to learn and lift up every girl’s voice, FlipGrid provides a platform for students to learn from their fellow classmates, much like they would in a typical classroom. 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. 

Middle School teachers Michele Lombardi, Jackie Prepelka, and Kristy Tomashewski have integrated the platform into their remote learning plans and are sharing how they’re using it across disciplines to provide dynamic learning experiences and engagement opportunities for Ellis girls. 

Computer Science
For Middle School 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 how the students are 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 addition to using FlipGrid for computer science and coding, Ms. Lombardi has also used it to celebrate and recognize students’ birthdays. She created a birthday board for each of her grade 6 students and has loved seeing the special messages and notes students have left each other. 

In Ms. Tomashewski’s grade 6 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 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. For instance, Olive taught the class about acute angles using her dog’s mouth as her real-world example, and Josie showcased her personality and burgeoning acting skills by delivering information on points in a British accent. 

“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 a language is practicing speaking and listening skills, so Ms. Prepelka knew it was critical for her Spanish 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 remote learning, but this tool helps to close that gap.”

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