It’s year two of teaching a purely online section of AP Calculus AB for me. Last year, I focused a lot of energy on finding ways for the class to collaboratively work through problems – both orally (using Google Hangouts) and through written chat (using Slack). This year, I wanted to add in more private communication opportunities between me and the student. Last year, my main way of communicating one-on-one with students was through Slack, which meant typed text or handwritten feedback. Sometimes, I would include a video response to a question but students never sent me video messages.
One thing I wanted to work on this year was to allow more differentiation in our private communication. Video can be powerful… and sometimes it is more effective to talk things out than to type it. As well, things can get lost in translation when typing, especially when it comes to being able to read emotions and other cues that might show up when you see a person versus when they send written communication.
So one thing I am trying this year is to set up a private Flipgrid channel between me and each student. I’ll explain how I’ve set this up later in the post. But to start, for each student, I have set up two private topics for them:
1: Questions Flipgrid
This is a private video discussion board between the student and me. Because sometimes it is easier to talk out a question than to type it. The student is instructed to add a video response to this Flipgrid anytime they want to ask a question or discuss an issue. Again, this is a private communication channel between me and the student so they can talk honestly about questions or concerns.
2: Reflections Flipgrid
This is another private video discussion board between the student and me. Students are instructed to use this space to talk about things they’re doing well, areas they are working to improve, problems they’ve identified, and general reflections. I also ask that they take a moment to talk about their growth in this class (how they’ve improved, new connections they’ve made, etc). I think it’s important to remind them to take note of something they are proud of because it is easy to get swept away in thinking about all the many ways they could be improving. Building in moments for reflection on a consistent basis is a big goal of mine this year. I will certainly be writing more on this topic in the future; but for now, I just mention that Flipgrid is one tool that I will be using.
To set things up, I created a separate grid for each student. The reason I did this was that I wanted this to be a private communication between the student and me. The only way to make things private in Flipgrid is to password protect the grid. Password protection is a grid-level setting (not a topic-level setting), so I needed to create a grid for each student.
Within each grid, I set up two topics.
- Questions Grid
- Reflections Grid
We have only just started our school year over here, so for now, I have formally built in assignments where students are required to post to these grids. This idea is a new one for me, so I look forward to seeing how it all pans out. Flipgrid provides a simple way for students to send me a video without having to upload any files. And the way that Flipgrid is set up, it will be a natural dialogue between me and the student. I hope that the Reflections Flipgrid is a successful idea because this will be a great way for students to document progress throughout the year. Again, because we are doing this all in one Flipgrid, all videos will naturally be organized in one place. Come March and April, when we hit AP Prep mode, it should be interesting for students to go back and watch some of their September and October videos. But that seems like such a far way off for now!