Friday, June 30, 2017

Flipgrid and HyperDocs: Amplifying student voice in purposeful digital lesson design.

This is a collaborative post written with the incredible Sean Fahey, an amazing 6th grade teacher in Indiana. Be sure to follow him on Twitter and check out his blog at  

If you follow either one of us on Twitter, you will quickly find out that we have many things in common. Two of those being our passion for Flipgrid and HyperDocs. We are have created many HyperDocs collaboratively and share them with our PLN on Twitter. We are also both Flipgrid Ambassadors and love sharing this amazing tool with other educators. We believe that powerful digital lesson design infused with the power of amplifying student voice is truly a game changer in the classroom.
Screen Shot 2017-06-27 at 9.36.46 PM.png

Whoa. Stop the music. You don’t know about Flipgrid or HyperDocs? Well, then you have our permission to stop reading and explore any and all of the resources below.

OK now that we are all on the same page with the WHAT, let’s talk about WHY HyperDocs and WHY Flipgrid? And HOW we can use them together to amplify student voice in purposeful digital lesson design?In an episode of the Cult of Pedagogy podcast, Jennifer Gonzalez interviewed Lisa Highfill, Kelly Hilton, and Sarah Landis the creators of HyperDocs.

HIGHFILL: ...You know when a new web tool comes along, you’re all excited? Like everyone’s excited right now about Flipgrid and whatnot.
HIGHFILL: But then I want to ask them, what are you going to do with it? How are you going to build the pedagogy around that cool tool?
HIGHFILL: And where in the lesson flow would it fit in your HyperDocs? So it’s really saying, “I love flashy new tools. Now let’s think about how you can effectively use them in the classroom, and then link it into your HyperDoc that way."
Lisa makes a great point. How many times have you got caught up in all the hoopla over a new edtech tool or update? Flipgrid is THE hot new edtech tool educators are excited to use. However, as Lisa asks, “What are you going to do with it? How are you going to build the pedagogy around that cool tool?”

We need to make sure that we slow down and think about why are we including the technology we have chosen for our lessons. We shouldn’t just toss in a Flipgrid or any other edtech tool we might like just because we need or want to use technology.  Karly’s friend Nick Zefeldt, advises that when implementing educational technology we need to make sure and ask “Is it meaningful and is it manageable?”


Well, we say “Yes!” to Flipgrid being both when used correctly and we want to give some ideas how you can effectively use Flipgrid in the classroom, and then link it into your HyperDoc lessons. The reason being that great HyperDocs are created and taught with purposeful lesson design and pedagogy and Flipgrid being so versatile by allowing for video feedback and increased student voice within your digital lesson design.

While HyperDocs can take many forms (slides, maps, drawing, forms etc), we will be referring to the sections from the basic HyperDoc template for our examples. The basic HyperDoc template has seven parts that students go through as you complete the lesson. This template was created by Sarah Landis to help others get started and gives an excellent description of each part.

There are tons of ways you can incorporate Flipgrid into your HyperDocs, here are just a few ideas for getting started. Note: You can go to “file” then “make a copy” of any of these templates or examples to use with your own class.

Use Flipgrid to engage students at the beginning of a lesson by including a video, image, quote, or another inspirational hook in your topic for students to respond to.

  • Idea 💡  KWL chart gets a video REMIX. Have student respond to a topic sharing what they know. Then have them reply to themselves and classmates sharing what they want to know. After the lesson or unit have students come back to their own video and respond to themselves with what they have learned. Woo! A FlipGrid KWL


Students explore a topic through a collection of resources (articles, videos, infographics, text excerpts, etc.) in the HyperDoc.

  • Idea 💡 Bring in experts and take your students beyond the four walls of your classroom! Flipgrid hosts an amazing opportunity with their Flipgrid Explorer Series. They have done two so far and more are planned! Use the expert videos in the Explorer series for your students to learn about new and exciting animals, places and careers. HyperDocs are a perfect accompaniment to this series as you create your digital lessons around these topics and extend the learning in your own classroom.
  • Idea 💡 So Flipgrid’s explore series doesn’t fit into your curriculum? Then create your own! Teachers can do this by creating a ‘virtual field trip’. Go to a place (we’re thinking state parks, historical sites, museums, etc)  that is of value to your lessons and record short videos of the sites to bring the content to your classroom.  Add the videos to a Flipgrid for your students to explore and respond to. Even better collaborate with other teachers across your district, state or even in other countries to create an explorer series for many different classes to connect through.

Apply and Share:

Create an assignment for students to apply what they learn by using web tools to create, collaborate, and/or connect beyond the classroom.  Then collect student work to provide feedback, and/or include a section for students to share work with an authentic audience.

  • Idea 💡 Have students use storytelling web tools to apply their learning. Then appsmash with Flipgrid and get them to share with the class and beyond! Students show what they know using video or digital storytelling in a different app then upload to Flipgrid to share.
  • Idea 💡 You don’t need to appsmash. Students can simply connect with other students across the school, state, country or world! Before, during and/or after a unit have students connect with each other to share what they learned.

Give students an opportunity for digital reflection on their learning journey using Flipgrid to guide students through their learning progression and set new goals.
  • Idea 💡 Have students reflect back on the lesson or unit and share what they have learned. This is a powerful way for students to be thoughtful about their learning process.

This quote from Matt Miller reminds us that we must be intentional in our teaching and integration of technology no matter what tools we decide to use in our lessons. “The bottom line is that pedagogy must drive technology. The mindset that fuels digital learning is good teaching trumps good tools.”

Adobe Spark.jpg

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Getting Started with Scratch and Makey Makey

Makey Makey, an invention kit that turns anything (that conducts electricity of course) into a touchpad and Scratch, a FREE visual programming language developed by MIT, are the perfect combination for bringing computer programming and hands-on project making together. At my school, we have found that by teaching the kids how Makey Makey works along with guided lessons in Scratch the kids are putting them together and getting some pretty amazing results.

So how do you set your students up for success as you incorporate computer programming AND making into your lessons? Well, this is definitely a work in progress we found and created some resources we are using to teach computer programming with Scratch and make it hands-on with Makey Makey.

What if I don't know anything about Makey Makey or Scratch???

Guess what?? That's OK! You can learn along WITH your students! That's what we am doing and WOW they sure are teaching us a lot. It's a bit uncomfortable for us teachers at first but it's worth it. If we waited to be the expert in all tech tools before we used it with our students our kids would sure be waiting a while. So check out the resources below and jump in and get creating with your kiddos!

Introducing Makey Makey

Makey Makey is a HUGE favorite at Sun Terrace. This little kit is quite popular with our elementary school kiddos who greatly enjoy playing Flappy Bird with their Play-Doh or banana controller.

To guide the students as they explore HOW Makey Makey works I taught a unit on electricity and circuits to our 3-5th graders (you can easily adapt for K-2). Using this "Getting Creative with Makey Makey" HyperDoc, originally created by Cathie Gillner, students explored electricity and how circuits work to discover which materials conduct electricity and which are insulators. The hands-on component of Makey Makey made the engagement level skyrocket and students began using their science vocabulary with one another as they created their models and built their controllers.

If you look at the HyperDoc you can see that the majority of programs the students are working with are created in Scratch. The kids LOVED playing games with their Makey Makey controller. Also, many of the awesome projects that Makey Makey has on their site either have a program already created in scratch for the students to use or they ask students to remix an existing project. While we found that some students can easily remix a project given the directions on the site most of us (including me) need some experience in coding with Scratch in order to successfully write a program that will work with Makey Makey.

Getting Started with Scratch

At Sun Terrace we code all year. Students use in their classrooms, they use Blockly to code the Dash robots, an unplugged favorite game is Robot Turtles and of course, we go big during the Hour of Code in December. But we knew we needed to do more so this spring we began taking it to the next level with a more focused approach to teaching computer science.

To teach the students computer programming with Scratch our Technology committee decided on using the Creative Computing Curriculum Guide from Harvard Graduate School of Education as a starting point. It's a BIG hit with the kids and once the kids get rolling with programming the possibilities for using Scratch across the curriculum are pretty much endless. The guide is very easy to follow and if you are ok with learning with your class and quite possibly ending up having them teach you then you can definitely get started with this guide.

We created challenge cards with additional directions and links to the handouts for each activity to gamifying the curriculum and to make as it easy to implement as possible for our teachers to use with our classes. This makes it simple for students to go back to previous lessons and review what they missed or may have forgotten.

To gamify the curriculum we used Alice Keeler's Gamify Your PD: Badges and Level Up template and created a Scratch Ninja Badge spreadsheet. Each lesson (with a few modifications) has a badge. Students earn stars as they work toward their Scratch belts. We made a copy of the badge spreadsheet for each student and assigned in Google Classroom so they could keep track of their achievements. So far they are loving it! All of the lesson cards are linked in the template too for easy access to lesson resources.

Click on the link below to get make a copy of the badge template with links to the lesson cards too! So far only units 0-2 have been badged and gamified so check back after the summer when I should have them all done 👍  The idea to make Scratch Ninja badges came from Lisa Guardino a wonderful computer science teacher mentor of mine who used the belt system with her kids when teaching Scratch, thanks Lisa!

Scratch Ninja Badges Template
Once our students were rocking and rolling with coding they could easily make the jump to using Makey Makey to control their Scratch programs. NOW comes the fun part and the possibilities for incorporating these projects into math, science, social studies, and ELA are endless. We are already starting and have lots of resources to share but that's another blog post 😉

So that's how we are got started combining computer programming with making at Sun Terrace Elementary. We are just beginning to dive into all of the ways we can get students exploring, discovering, thinking and creating with Scratch and Makey Makey but are as excited as the students are to see where this takes us. What have you tried? Have tips, ideas, resources for beginners? Please add them to the comments below!