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“Technology gives the quietest student a voice”- Jerry Blumengarten

Today's special Flipgrid blog post comes from Paul Watkins. Currently Leader of Digital Learning at Microsoft Showcase School Ysgol Bae Baglan, Port Talbot, Wales. Paul is, at present, the only UK based Flipgrid Ambassador. He is also a Skype Master Teacher Mentor, MIE and Surface Master Trainer and MIEExpert. In addition to this Paul currently sits on the Welsh Government’s National Digital Learning Council.

Monday 18th June 2018 was a day that educators listened with excitement to the announcement from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella that Flipgrid had joined the Microsoft family and in doing so was now going to be made available to all teachers for free.  As a Teacher who had been using Flipgrid prior to this announcement, I was filled with excitement, purely from thinking about how many colleagues would be able to use it and in doing so their Pupils would benefit hugely.  In the motion picture Dead Poets Society, inspirational teacher, John Keating, played by the late Robin Williams challenged his students to “Strive to find your own voice, because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all”.  Now all teachers have the means by which to provide a platform for all students to discover their voices, no matter how loud or quiet they are, and in doing so show the pupils that what they have to say matters - and that journey of discovery can start now!  So, how are pupils benefitting from Flipgrid being used in the classroom, but also can teachers benefit from it too? 

You don’t have to look far on social media (simply search for #flipgridfever) to see teachers from across the world making unbelievable use of Flipgrid in their classrooms.  Through all year groups and across all subject areas, teachers are showing creativity in its uses, but more than that, we are seeing confident learners developing, pupils speaking up for the first time, no longer worried about what others may think about what they have to say.  We are seeing pupils using it to develop their reading skills while others are using it as the perfect platform to develop oracy in their foreign language classes.  Many pupils struggle with exam questions where extended writing is required (the type of question that would normally begin with ‘Discuss’ or ‘Explain’ and would be worth 4 or more marks).  Whilst many pupils will often struggle with formulating their answer on paper, being able to talk about it first helps them to grow in confidence. Now, when we ask a question to the class, it provides an opportunity for every child to answer it, for their thoughts, views and opinions to be heard!  It also allows peers to respond, along with the teacher, suggesting how their answer could be improved further or to further discussions.  All they need is access to the internet, a camera and a mic. In a recent department review a year 8 pupil stated when being interviewed by a member of SLT

“Using Flipgrid has helped me to become more confident in speaking out loud.  I am now not afraid to put my hand up when a question is asked.” 

Transition from year 6 to year 7 can be hard time for many.  A nervous and scary.  At Ysgol Bae Baglan we are using Flipgrid in a project managed by year 8 peer support pupils to answer questions about moving into year 7 from pupils in our feeder cluster schools.  This was presented at the National Digital Learning Event in June and it’s been encouraging to see the number of schools who are now looking to adopt this project themselves – pupils supporting pupils. 

But teachers can support teachers too.  We have established a Flipgrid for teachers from across Wales to engage with each other, sharing ideas, practices and supporting though offering help and advice. Though in its early days its been so encouraging to see the teachers sharing how they are using Flipgrid in their classrooms Flipgrid becoming free couldn’t have come at a more exciting time for teachers in Wales with the strong current focus on digital learning and competency. 

US Politician Madeleine Albright said,

“It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent”. 

Through introducing Flipgrid into your classrooms and schools you are providing a digital tool that will have lifelong impact through developing their analogue voices – that’s life changing! 

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“Technology gives the quietest student a voice”- Jerry Blumengarten


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