Sima Faik, Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy; Alec Shrode, Chicago Academy High School; In collaboration with Michael Tompkins and Evelyn Villagomez, Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy
Remote learning in our high school science classes, like many others, has posed many challenges and opportunities. In this blog post, we share our experiences and a strategy for supporting productive, equitable sense-making conversations in a remote learning context.
At the start of the school year in 2020, we were grappling with the following question: How could we get students to talk to each other and discuss something when so many of our students would not turn on their cameras or unmute their microphones to talk, in either the whole group video discussion or in breakout rooms? During in-person learning, we used A/B Talk, a discussion protocol with protected turns and supports for students to engage in partner discussion that deepens understanding by pushing how/why thinking. (Check out this video for more on structured A/B talk.) A/B Talk is a great way to bring student discourse into the science classroom, and for us, it was an essential lesson component for in-person learning that almost got cut for remote learning. We didn’t want to cut A/B Talk out because it was such a valuable tool in helping students express their ideas and having peers push their thinking instead of teachers. So we started throwing around ideas.
That’s when it hit us — students love to record videos of themselves in TikTok and other apps! Was there a way to get them to do the same with an A/B Talk Protocol? As we thought about how to do so, we looked for platforms that would allow students to share ideas, question, and respond to each other via video. We chose to use a platform called Flipgrid since it had these features, but there are many possibilities, including having students email short video responses back and forth.
The attached slides show how we modified our A/B Talk Protocol for use in Flipgrid. The protocol starts with all students first writing their explanations or ideas down (Step 1 of the protocol). We pre-arranged our students into pairs and created partner group rooms for each pair on Flipgrid, sharing links with them in a Google Sheet (see Slide 5 for an example). Partner group rooms were created because many students voiced concern that they did not want their videos to be made public to the class or more broadly. By providing these rooms, students were given a secure way of posting their videos and addressed their concerns. Students then went to their Flipgrid rooms, and both students recorded a video or audio of their explanation (Step 2 of the protocol). Next, students were instructed to listen to/watch their partner’s video and write down a rephrasing of what they heard/saw and a how/why follow-up question to push the partner’s thinking. Each partner was then instructed to record their rephrasing statement and follow-up question as a comment to the partner’s video (Step 3 of the protocol). Students then listened to/watched each other’s question and were given some time to write a response to the question. Then they were asked to record the answer to the question in their own comment section (Step 4 of the protocol). Finally, each student was then instructed to listen to/watch their partner’s answer and write down things they agreed with, disagreed with, or were confused by in their partner’s explanation and to share those comments with each other. Finally, students were given time to modify their explanations according to the feedback each person received from their partner.
The students loved doing the A/B Talk Protocol using Flipgrid— more so than doing it in person. Students seemed more willing to share their ideas, questions, and responses through this tool, and we saw higher rates of participation than when we used A/B Talk in person! We found it helpful to introduce the protocol and have students do it during our synchronous class meetings at first, but we were quickly able to transition to asynchronous talk to better fit with students’ schedules.