Ramesh Laungani talks about engaging students using FlipGrid on episode 257 of the Teaching in Higher Ed podcast.
Quotes from the episode
The typed discussion board doesn’t allow for discussion … there’s no back and forth per se.
Ramesh Laungani talks about engaging students using FlipGrid on episode 257 of the Teaching in Higher Ed podcast.
The typed discussion board doesn’t allow for discussion … there’s no back and forth per se.
Ramesh Laungani is an Associate Professor of Biology at Doane University in Nebraska. His scientific research focuses on the impacts of both climate change and climate change mitigation strategies on grasslands. Specifically, he and his students examine how biochar additions to grassland soil can store carbon for the long-term and how biochar affects grassland plant communities. Additionally, he has spearheaded a science communication project called the 1000 STEM Women Project, which curates a library of 90-second scientist introduction videos for use in K-12 classrooms. The overall goal of the project is to diversify the view that students have of scientists and STEM careers. He has also helped organize a number of science communication events in his community over the last few years. Lastly, his scientific background has allowed him to testify in front of the Nebraska state legislature about bills concerning climate change. Education and action on climate change is a central theme across his teaching, research, and political advocacy.
Bonni Stachowiak is the producer and host of the Teaching in Higher Ed podcast, which has been airing weekly since June of 2014. Bonni is the Director of Teaching Excellence and Digital Pedagogy at Vanguard University of Southern California. She’s also an Associate Professor of Business and Management and teaches a few times a year in an Educational Leadership doctoral program. She’s been teaching in-person, blended, and online courses throughout her entire career in higher education. Bonni and her husband, Dave, are parents to two curious kids, who regularly shape their perspectives on teaching and learning.
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Bonni [00:00:00] Today on episode number 257 of the Teaching in Higher Ed podcast Ramesh Laungani talks about how to engage students using FlipGrid.
Production Credit [00:00:13] Produced by Innovate Learning, maximizing human potential.
Bonni [00:00:22] Hello and welcome to this episode of Teaching in Higher Ed. I’m Bonni Stachowiak and this is the space where we explored the art and science of being more effective at facilitating learning. We also share ways to improve our productivity approaches so we can have more peace in our lives and be even more present for our students.
Bonni [00:00:50] Today’s guest Ramesh Laungani is an Associate Professor of Biology at Doane University in Nebraska. His scientific research focuses on the impacts of both climate change and climate change mitigation strategies on grasslands. Specifically he and his students examine how biochar additions to grassland soils can store carbon for the long term and how biochar affects grassland plants communities. During the episode we’ll be talking about a science communication project called the 1,000 STEM Women Project. You’ll hear more about that during the episode. His scientific background has also allowed him to testify in front of the Nebraska state legislature about bills concerning climate change. Education and action on climate change is a central theme across his teaching, research, and political advocacy. Ramesh, welcome to Teaching in Higher Ed.
Ramesh [00:01:50] Thanks so much. Thanks so much for having me. I’m excited to be on the podcast.
Bonni [00:01:53] I know you have many positive things to talk about and lots of ideas people can use in their classes to engage students using asynchronous discussion. We’re gonna spend just a couple minutes talking about the depressing part that is discussion is usually in most contexts not actually discussion. And so would you discuss about discussion? And how it’s broken in many contexts?
Ramesh [00:02:18] Yeah. When I think about discussion, especially my classroom- so I teach at a small liberal arts college. I’ve taught classrooms of 40 at sort of the biggest and I’ve taught classrooms of 5. And surprisingly what happens is that, whether you’re in a small class or a big class, oftentimes you have a few students that are really dominating the conversation. So a lot of quiet voices are sort of drowned out even if those quiet students have really amazing ideas. And so in my class of 40 when I’ll get them to discuss or get them to break into small groups, I’ll walk by those groups. I’ll sort of walk around the room and even as I’m circling back past the same group, I’ll hear the same two students talking in that group.
Ramesh [00:03:06] In my smaller classrooms where I have five or six students. It’ll be the same two students that’ll be dominating the discussion of the topic at hand. And so I think one of the challenges that we face in standard discussion structures is how do we support and sort of amplify those more quiet voices? And what are the dynamics we as educators need to be aware of and cognizant of to allow for those more quiet voices to not be drowned out by the more loud outgoing individuals?
Ramesh [00:03:39] And I’m one of those loud outgoing individuals so I have to be very self reflective about when am I dominating the conversation too much? When am I hindering the ability of my students to actually trade ideas?
Bonni [00:03:52] One of the things that people think happens when we move these discussions online is that that gets completely better. But too many times we put such strict parameters around the number of replies that people have to make to discussion boards that, to me, it really just becomes- I think the phrase I’ve heard someone use is “civil engagement.” And I’m not positive that’s the correct phrase. But just this idea that I’m only doing this because you told me to. I’m not actually doing it because I’m engaged, because I’m interested in what we’re talking about here but it’s “you told me to reply to three people, so I will reply to three people and I will meet your little parameters but I’m not actually interested in what we’re talking about.”.
Ramesh [00:04:33] Right. I agree with you. And I also think that especially when we move these discussion online on to discussion boards where students are typing answers, I think we miss what I like to call backspace moments. So when students are crafting a written reply to somebody’s idea that they’ve put up on the discussion board or an answer to a prompt that you as the instructor have put up on the discussion board they’re going to try to put their best version forward. They’re going to try to put their best answer forward.
Ramesh [00:05:07] And so in the moments where they’re typing and then they backspace and sort of delete a thought and try to rearrange it. We never see those moments on a discussion board. And in fact, I think those are really the most ripe for exploration and ripe for unpacking. And so I think that’s where that civility comes in where the students just want to kind of get it done and they just want to write their three responses. And the typed discussion board doesn’t allow for discussion, it just allows for linked statements that are just physically linked by some graphical interface on the discussion board. But there’s no back and forth per say, there’s no “I liked your idea because…” And if it comes out a little flubbed we never see that. So we just see these almost pristine answers that are almost impossible to re-engage with or re-reply to.
Bonni [00:06:05] So take us forward now to a lot more promising of a vehicle for discussion and that is FlipGrid.
Ramesh [00:06:12] Yes. So I sort of mentioned earlier about this idea of backspace moments. I think the other thing that is lost in the typed medium is tone and obviously it’s hard to convey tone in text. And so FlipGrid has really for me I call it sort of my pedagogical drug of choice. It’s really altered and changed the way that I structure discussion because it allows me to expand discussion beyond the class period. So we can start a discussion and then I’ll say well let’s stop here and you guys each have to and I’ll come up with some parameter. Right. So based on today’s discussion it seems like we’re sort of still wrestling with idea X and so now what I want you to do is go back and I want you to make a short FlipGrid video where you are trying to discuss a solution to problem X where we’ve ended today. And then I’d also like my students to reply to someone else’s solution and call them out on their solution. And what’s great about FlipGrid, especially given its structure with the replies is the students replies are not just again put out into this nebulous space it’s a direct reply to somebodies idea. But since everybody can see and hear those videos and see those voices, all of the tone and all of the emphasis is really captured and so nuances can be again unpacked in a way that you wouldn’t find on a standard discussion board.
Bonni [00:07:45] One of the things that it seems like we both have in common with how we use FlipGrid is bridging from the classroom to the learning that takes place outside. But you just brought up something I have not tried yet and that is the reply function. So I’m curious from a logistical standpoint let’s say it’s a class of 40. 40 students post their initial. Do you find that they will tend to gravitate to reply to ones that have already had a reply? I mean how does that work for the second half of it? Do people feel left out if nobody replies to theirs? Or how do the logistics work there?
Ramesh [00:08:20] Right. Right. I will say that largely where I have found the reply function to work particularly well as in my smaller classrooms, my 8 to 10 person classrooms. And what happens- so my smaller classrooms are typically my upper level science classes. So I’m a ecologist. I teach conservation biology and so we are constantly talking about messy topics that range from how do we think about- what economic policy, what political, what legislation should come out of the data based on this endangered species? So there is sort of a lot of messiness in there that allows for really robust discussion that can happen both in class and out of class. With a 40 person classroom we don’t really have- we technically have had them reply to things but you sort of hit the nail on the head that ultimately if one student is getting the vast majority of the replies, ultimately that could theoretically alienate the other students. And so when we are in those classes of 40, generally the way I use FlipGrid is as a mechanism for the quiet students voices to be heard and for those quiet student voices to be highlighted.
Ramesh [00:09:38] So in FlipGrid there is a feature where you can star and highlight certain responses to a prompt or to a topic. And oftentimes the voices that are highlighted are not those that are the loudest in class. And so that’s how I use FlipGrid in those larger settings. It’s more of a one way almost assignment delivery system to me. But because everyone can see everyone else’s responses, everybody can sort of look at the stared response and try to evaluate “well why is Sarah’s response getting a star? And how does it differ from mine?”.
Ramesh [00:10:18] We’ve tried to do the reply where a student has to reply to one of the star responses and explain why their response didn’t get a star… That didn’t work so well. And that was happening largely at the freshman level so I think one of the challenges there is you’re dealing with freshmen who may or may not be comfortable with being self-critical or may or may not be comfortable articulating what the differences are. So oftentimes those replies in the larger setting would take the form of “well they just did it better than me.” And it was hard to then have them try to unpack, well what do you mean better? So I would say the reply function has largely worked more in the smaller classes that are at the upper level. But I do love the reply feature and we’ve used it in another context to expand, to sort of knock down the walls of my classroom and connect with K12 classrooms. And I think we’re going to talk about that a little later.
Bonni [00:11:20] Yeah. And before we do, I’m just going to backup in case someone hasn’t used FlipGrid. You mentioned the prompt. So the question prompt can come in written form it can come in a video link that’s not even you, so it could be a YouTube video or or what have you. It also could be you videoing yourself in FlipGrid to pose the question- which I tend to do that the most because if I’m asking them to put themselves on video I think it’s helpful if I am on video and then I am not perfect. I know it’s hard for people to believe. So then I’m modelling for them that this more conversational style that it doesn’t have to be perfect. So it’s kind of a good thing I think to reinforce.
Bonni [00:11:59] And then we talked about the replies, the one feature I’m sure there’s many many. You mentioned the staring. There’s a couple other. You can download the videos really easy if you’re on a computer and then I will often email that student and ask them if it would be OK to show theirs in class- they don’t have to say yes but to be OK to show theirs in class. And what a nice way to get the quieter students to have more of a voice and presence in class, if they’re comfortable with me playing it.
Ramesh [00:12:25] Right.
Bonni [00:12:26] In fact, I’ve never had them say no bu certainly they could.
Ramesh [00:12:30] Absolutely.
Bonni [00:12:30] Yeah. And then the other thing that it has, which I’ve never used, is it just came out maybe six months ago or something. Is that say you have a class- so in some of your messier topics you’ve got the questions that are all posed. There’s also an ideas one that could not be related to one of your prompts but just something that they want to say and I’ve never had anybody use it.
Ramesh [00:12:53] I’ve never used it myself either. But I also have not promoted it in my classroom. It’s on my to do list. You know those to do lists that just very fuller every day.
Bonni [00:13:07] Very familiar.
Ramesh [00:13:07] So it’s one of it’s on my pedagogical to do list. But yeah I thin there are a ton of features that allow for that quiet student to become more visible in the classroom. I also think one of the great things about FlipGrid is that the student doesn’t necessarily need to show their face on camera. So I’ve had a number of students that when they use FlipGrid on their cell phone, which you can buy a free app, they’ll just flip the camera and so all you hear is their audio. So I’ve had whole videos where someone is explaining a complex idea and what we see is their dog sitting on the carpet. Which is perfectly fine, right. Because I think what’s critical again is that the student’s voice is heard and that tone is captured in a way that we would never get in other settings.
Ramesh [00:14:02] And the other thing that we often do- like I’m a biology teacher, so we will have our students explain complex biological processes on a whiteboard while they’re sort of narrating. And so if there is that sort of camera shy anxiety, students will then I think feel a little more comfortable just having their hand show up in the frame pointing at well how does the cell carry out cell respiration rather than them having to be on camera.
Bonni [00:14:31] Are you ready to talk about this other exciting stuff that you do to take FlipGrid even beyond a single class to engaging K through 12 students?
Ramesh [00:14:39] Absolutely. So I really understood the power FlipGrid when I started doing this in my classroom. One of my big pushes for FlipGrid with my students and this is sort of a little bit of a lie but I sort of tell them I say “after college many to most of you will never have to write another paper again but you are going to be ambassadors of science who are going to have conversations with your future patients, with your family members with your kids, with your kid’s teachers and so you have to learn how to clearly articulate yourself orally. And that’s why I have you do so many FlipGrids.” And in graduate school, when I was getting my doctorate I was part of a program that placed science and math graduate students into K12 classrooms and this was some of the best science communication training that I’ve ever received largely because seventh graders don’t care about being nice to you. And so if you’re uninteresting, if your science is uninteresting, if the way you’re communicating your science is uninteresting, they’ll let you know.
Ramesh [00:15:53] And so what I did was my students in my college level classroom we read a lot of scientific research papers and I have them present those papers in class and on FlipGrid for a college audience, so they’re using a lot of technical jargon terms. And that’s fine because that’s the audience they’re going for. But ultimately if they’re going to be successful science ambassadors they have to be able to explain that science in the absence of all of that jargon. And so what I did I sort of reflected on my own science communication learning like what were the most powerful moments for me? And I said really was explaining my science as an ecologist to the seventh graders down the street. And so what I did was I put a call out over Twitter to other teachers that use FlipGrid and I said “Hey does anyone want to learn about vertebrate anatomy?” So I tried this with a vertebrate anatomy class. And we were reading scientific research papers about giraffes, and sharks, and snakes, and all of these things and I just tried it and I had a couple of teachers respond. I had a teacher in Florida respond and a local teacher here in Nebraska respond. And I told my students “all right, try to explain this research paper that you just read that you just explained for me, try to explain that same research paper for a seventh grade classroom.” And it was amazing watching my students sort of wrestle and struggle with “Well what are the most critical pieces of this study? What are the details that are most important to communicate? What are the details that are less important to communicate? What details can I kind of ignore and gloss over versus what is a piece of information that I have to now interpret differently?” Like I told them you can show the students graphs, but a seventh grader might not be able to understand the graph from the paper. So maybe you have to redraw it. Maybe you have to explain it differently.
Ramesh [00:17:47] And what was great was it exposed the K12 classroom students to ideas and research they probably would have never gotten a chance to be exposed to under normal curricular circumstances. Using FlipGrid was great because the K12 teacher could use those videos when it fit their classroom. That’s to me the asynchronous part of FlipGrid that’s so powerful. Whereas if I were to let’s say Skype or Zoom into a classroom we really have to “well what’s your schedule? And what’s my schedule? And what time? And what time zone are you in?” And oftentimes those things don’t match up. Whereas my students here could make a science communication video about a research paper, post it on to FlipGrid and then whenever the K12 teacher feels like they can fit it into their classroom, those videos are there as a resource.
Ramesh [00:18:40] And now those seventh graders actually replied with some really great questions and some really great responses. And there were a number of seventh grade students who said “yeah I’m now super interested in this topic.” And to me that’s the- we’ve won the game right? When a seventh grader says “wow I’m really interested in why a giraffes blood pressure is a how a giraffe when it bends down to drink water how it doesn’t blow its brains out because it’s got such high blood pressure.” So I had the seventh grader students asking questions about the genetics and evolution of Jaws in sharks and mice, it was really amazing. And like I said, for my students, it showed me how deeply they understood the material because if they edited their videos the right way, if they sort of I mean edited if they chose the information in the appropriate way and explained it really well now I could see that they deeply engaged with the paper with the research.
Bonni [00:19:40] Many times on the podcast before, the phrase “the banking model of education” has come up and this is from Paulo Freire and he talked about just being this fount of knowledge and we just pour this into their heads and then they regurgitate it. I don’t know if he used the word “regurgitate” that may be you might. But the thing is that what I just said may not sound like such a bad deal to some educators where they see their role as “let me just pour out my wisdom” they may just think “well what is wrong with that?” Even if you didn’t want to say that our students have much more capacity than just a regurgitater of information, even if you don’t want to buy into that premise, you don’t actually know that they have comprehended what you are teaching until you have them break it down to something like a seventh grader. That’s one of the really compelling things. I used to have regularly, I still do on my exams, write this explanation like you’re talking to an 8 year old.
Ramesh [00:20:47] Right.
Bonni [00:20:47] And if you can’t do that, you don’t really understand it yet. And that’s where you really can uncover some more opportunities for learning when you do break it down that we have them do that too. You can really help them truly have that deeper learning experience.
Ramesh [00:21:02] Absolutely and I also reinforce with my students especially around these ideas of science communication, I really hammer home this idea of because when I present this idea to them about explaining these research papers to seventh grade classrooms or fifth grade classrooms invariably someone just by chance says “oh so we’re dumbing it down.” And I say “No no no we’re not dumbing it down” because what that implies is that like you said, it implies some hierarchical intelligence model. That I’m this person and I’m going to pour information to my audience and they’re not smart enough to get it.
Ramesh [00:21:39] And I try to tell my students I say, “what you’re doing is you’re trying to explain the key pieces of information that are going to allow them to not only understand what the research was but it’s going to allow them to ask the next question. That’s going to allow them to be curious.” And so I think shifting that mindset from “Oh yeah I’m just dumbing this down” to “no, I’m just changing the vocabulary with which I explain these ideas” is a really really important piece of this. So I think with scientific jargon- I tell my students this- that scientific jargon is really just verbal efficiency. I can come up with some- like the word photosynthesis, that’s really a much faster way of saying sunlight is turned into sugar by a plant. Let’s call it photosynthesis because it’s much easier to say. But if I just say “sunlight is turned into sugar.” We can understand that. And that’s not me calling you dumb. That’s just saying I’m just going to use different words. And so that’s I think is an important especially at the you know sort of explaining like you said to an eighth grader I think it’s important to sort of get rid of that dumbing down mindset.
Ramesh [00:22:57] Sometimes two people might use analogies. I’m going way out of my league here but I’m pretty sure cognitive psychologists don’t like when we use the analogy of the brain as a muscle because I think that I’m remembering that right, speaking of using my own brain as a muscle. So if they were to use an analogy, you could see if it was an appropriate one or if perhaps it represented some kind of a lack of understanding of how whatever mechanism it was that we were trying to describe or whatever process.
Ramesh [00:23:28] Right. Right. And to me, that’s where doing this process of explaining science to these seventh graders allows not only the K12 science classroom to gain something novel, it becomes a way for me to really I don’t want to say assess but at least get a sense of how deeply my students understand this material.
Bonni [00:23:51] Yeah there’s one more context you have to share with us today about how you’re using FlipGrid and this is really how to help have more people engaged in STEM and specifically women and how to communicate our science. So would you share about that last aspect of FlipGrid we’re going to talk about today?
Ramesh [00:24:08] Yeah. So it’s something called the 1,000 STEM Women Project. And this actually came out of an interaction I had through FlipGrid with a K12, with a sixth grade classroom in Rhode Island. So just by chance via Twitter I happened to connect with a science classroom in Rhode Island and the teacher asked “can you just- I’m trying to humanize scientists so can you make a FlipGrid video where you are explaining what type of scientist you are? And two interesting facts that the students might not assume about you?” So I did that. And then because I was at the time sort of discovering FlipGrid I got in touch with the teacher and I said “Why don’t I put up a weekly sort of FlipGrid prompt for your students that is sort of open ended. And then the students can reply.”
Ramesh [00:24:55] So I did this. I would put up these these broad ecology open ended questions like how many plants does an ecosystem need to be quote on quote healthy? And so the students would reply. And by the end of that semester I said well you’ve learned a lot about ecology. What are some other types of scientists you want to learn about? And the sixth graders replied with chemist and marine biologist and astrophysicist and meteorologist. And while that was great, what I noticed was most of who they were naming were scientists that you see on television. And so I’m a plant ecologist, but specifically I’m a plant ecosystem ecologist which means I know a lot about a very small part of the world. And so when I talk to my other scientists colleagues, we are hyper sub-disciplinary and that’s something that I don’t think K12 classrooms really see. You’re either a biologist or a chemist or a physicist. It’s these broad categories. And so what I wanted to do is create a space where students could see or engage with all these various sub-disciplines of science. And there’s whole sets of literature on particularly a lot of the challenges that female scientists face and the challenges that K12 female students face that sort of you have what’s called oftentimes the leaky pipeline where where female students don’t engage more deeply in science majors. And I’m by no means am I a professional in that literature but I know those issues exist.
Ramesh [00:26:31] And so I wanted to provide a space where role models, where female science role models could be seen and viewed and heard and K12 students could learn about new fields of science that go that dig down deeper than biologists, physicists, or chemists. And so I made this project called the 1,000 STEM Women Project via FlipGrid where scientists submit a 90 second introduction saying I’m a whatever but they have to be really specific. So they can’t just say “I’m a chemist,” they have to say “I’m an analytical chemist.” They can’t say “I’m a biologist,” they have to say “I’m a Marine geologist.”.
Ramesh [00:27:07] And so the student the K12 students learn about all these different fields of science that maybe they didn’t realize existed. And by giving them that more nuanced view, by exposing these more nuanced sub-disciplines, I think it provides the K12 students sort of an intellectual toehold. Like “oh I didn’t realize that was a thing.” That’s really the goal. I want the K12 students to say “I didn’t realize that was a thing you could do.” And from a scientist’s perspective, it forces the scientists to say well can you sum up what you do in 90 seconds? For a seventh grade classroom? That becomes training for the scientist. So how do you explain your science without using a bunch of scientific jargon that may cause a seventh grader or another K12 classroom to disengage? So it becomes I think training for the scientist. And it also my hope is that it is providing an avenue for K12 students to see a more diverse set of scientific disciplines.
Bonni [00:28:05] We’re about to get to the recommendations segment but it did at dawn on me that you and I are both so passionate about FlipGrid and are having such wonderful experiences using it. But something really cool happened, oh gosh about a year ago or so where Microsoft acquired FlipGrid and so now the thing I used to pay I don’t even know what I paid $60 a year or something for FlipGrid and now those pro features are available to all educators. And one change that did happen with that is that it used to be that you could have any sort of a log in but now it does need to be either a Google login that you use or your Microsoft Office 365 login that you use. So it’s a little bit of a barrier, but I haven’t found it to be too much of a barrier because every institution I know of is either an Office 365 shop or a Google shop or at least the like it’s never been that someone could not get on and I teach at a couple different institutions and of course doing the podcast. So it adds a little barrier just in terms of access but to me a really small barrier and one that is really nice though that we get all of these features.
Ramesh [00:29:14] Right right. And initially I was a little hesitant or a little concerned about that but I’ve found the same thing. It’s a small barrier and really the gains for that, I think the gains in student privacy and access far outweigh the couple extra clicks that you need to engage with FlipGrid. So I was initially a little hesitant but now it’s not a problem at all.
Bonni [00:29:37] And it can be used within an LMS or it also can be used as a standalone and then there are settings you can do or how long of a response that they can make. And are they allowed to apply to each other? Are you going to let people download the videos? There’s like you said, lots of settings you can tweak to make it really fit your needs.
Ramesh [00:29:56] Right. I know I sound like I’m a big FlipGrid fanboy, but when when we learned about FlipGrid, this was before the Microsoft acquisition, but we learned about FlipGrid, we started using it 72 hours before the start of our semester. And we were in the backend on the admin side. And to me this is actually one of the biggest positives, within 72 hours we had it integrated into our class because the admin backend was so intuitive. Oftentimes a lot of the ed tech tools that are out there can be a little bit clunky on the back end and FlipGrid was so intuitive that we learned about it essentially on a Monday and we were ready to implement it on Thursday. So that was really great.
Bonni [00:30:40] Before we get to the recommendations segment, I wanted to mention that if you are a fan of this podcast you might also like the Ed Surge On Air podcast and that podcast is a weekly conversation about the future of education featuring insightful conversations with educators tech innovators and scholars hosted by Ed Surges Jeffrey Young and Sydney Johnson. And Jeff and I decided that we should start sharing a little bit on our podcasts that if you like this you might just like the other podcast. I hope you’ll take a listen to Ed Surge On Air and get even more listening about how to in that case start to navigate the future of education and think more about our own teaching and uses of technology.
Bonni [00:31:30] This is the time now we each get to give our recommendations. And I wanted to share about a somewhat new product I purchased at my work and it’s called the Meeting Owl 360 Degree Video Conference Camera. People who have been listening for a while know that speaking of being a fan girl, I’m a huge fan of Zoom, the web conference platform. In fact that’s what we are recording on as we speak. And so anything that integrates with that I’m really pretty intrigued. When I was at the Instructure Conference a couple of years ago, that’s the people who make Canvas, I attended a session by a woman who teaches her MBA programs using 360 degree cameras. And my only exposure to them had been in terms of real estate, if you want to go take a virtual tour of someone’s house, you can move your mouse around and see all the way around a room. I hadn’t really thought about it much in terms of teaching or collaboration in a work context. And well that all changed with the Meeting Owl Camera.
Bonni [00:32:30] So it looks it’s about the size of one of those smart speakers and it sits up on the desk and you can’t really tell what it is at first because the cameras are very very small little bubble thing that goes across the top. And how it integrates with Zoom is that if someone across the table from me began talking then it activates the speaker and the microphone to be able to know to listen on that side of the table and also shifts the view of the camera on Zoom to show that portion of the camera. There’s a strip across the top of Zoom where you can see the entire room and all of its 360 degree glory. But the bottom panel is adjusting constantly with who is speaking and it’s really pretty remarkable. It’s so funny, any time now I have it in a room, if somebody just passes by a conference room and they want to see what’s going on, I had a guest speaker come into my class that way from the Bay Area, it was really great to have her join us. It was very authentic. And then I had the funniest thing happened so I was using it. This does not happen to me very often. I was using it in a meeting and I finished the meeting and I went back just relaxing in my office and a guy said hey could you have me join Zoom in the next meeting? And I was like what is he talking about? And I realize I had totally forgotten I was supposed to be in a meeting, I’m already 10 minutes late.
Bonni [00:33:51] So I grabbed this thing it’s like a size you know how babies when they’re really really little you can hold them just with one hand? So you can take the baby analogy or you can take the football analogy which you could probably go at the baby more because I’m so not football. But I take it and I’m like running across campus like this. I just had such a comical vision of myself just with this because I’m telling him like “Terrelle, I’ve got you. I’ve got you.” He can’t obviously hear me because it’s not plugged in but I just have this vision like I was going to rescue him and me and get us to this meeting but it really is plug and play. So I just get to the meeting and everybody of course I interrupted on accident where they’re like “what is that? That’s so cool. How does it work?” And get everybody plugged in and it’s up and running in no time. It was really a cool experience.
Bonni [00:34:40] It’s a $700 U.S. device if you just buy one but they’ll have special sometimes or if you buy multiple ones if you’re gonna do it on a campus thing. Which at most I saw there’s some $300 versions of other kinds of cameras but I’m telling you this is a really cool device, it’s got the thing figured out with the speaker and the microphone it’s really good. I think for whatever it’s worth, I thought it was worth the extra money to really get this high quality of a device. So now it’s your turn. What would you like to recommend today?
Ramesh [00:35:07] A tool that I’ve just really started messing around with, I haven’t dug into it completely is Wakelet. So it’s another ed tech tool where students can curate resources from all over the web. They can put in their own documents. They can put in tweets. They can put in videos. They can embed FlipGrid replies. And so students can build and curate their own content. And it’s almost like we probably all on our Web browsers have a list of web sites that we favorited or documents or we favorited and then and that list becomes obscenely long and unorganized. Wakelet allows you to almost curate these collections around certain topics.
Ramesh [00:35:50] And so I’m trying to figure out how to use Wakelet in my classroom to allow students to sort of build and curate their own collections around topics like climate change and science communication. And so I’m just starting out with that. But everything I’ve found so far has been great. It’s been really easy to use. So I’m excited to keep digging in even further to sort of have my students be the ones that are generating knowledge and almost building their own textbook. And because there is the ability again to embed FlipGrid videos I can have my students for example, they’ll put a source in and I’ll say well make a FlipGrid explaining why you think that source is valuable or why you think that information is good or bad depending on what type of collection, what time of Wakelet collection I want them to build. So I’ve just started out with that but I’m pretty excited about it.
Bonni [00:36:43] Oh it sounds amazing. I’m getting ready for some- it’ll be my first time I’m responsible for training our new faculty that are joining us in the fall. And I’m having so much fun thinking about ways that they can, just as you said, construct their own knowledge. It’s not an audience of people you want to try to just use the banking model of education for the week that I’ll get to be in community with them. And this would be a fun way- I’m just curious though you said it’s pretty easy learning curve for you but also for your students have they had a chance to try yet or sit still too new?
Ramesh [00:37:14] I haven’t tried it yet with my students. I have not deployed this so. So I’m going to try it in the fall semester, so who knows it could fall flat on its face. But I’ve seen a lot of again through the FlipGrid community of teachers, a number of them also work with Wakelet and I’ve heard amazing stories of things working out. So the challenge I think for me is really trying to figure out how to structure the assignments saying please curate a collection around topic X and how do I assess the quality of that curation. But assessment is always a challenge, right?
Bonni [00:37:49] Yeah.
Ramesh [00:37:49] As we all know.
Bonni [00:37:50] Well this is perfect because I’ve so enjoyed our conversation I’ve already learned so much from you but it’s gonna be hard to say goodbye. So what a perfect thing to say until we meet again you’ll have to come back and tell us how it goes.
Ramesh [00:38:01] Absolutely. Absolutely.
Bonni [00:38:03] Yeah that would be great. Well thank you so much for your time.
Ramesh [00:38:05] Thank you for having me. It was awesome.
Bonni [00:38:09] What an energizing conversation with Ramesh Laungani. Thank you so much for getting in touch and coming on the episode. Thanks to all of you for listening. One of the things that I hope goes without saying is even though he didn’t specifically recommend FlipGrid in the recommendations segment, this episode is all about getting out there and giving it a try. I hope you’ll go and visit the 1,000 Stem Women Project. Have a look at those videos. And you’re welcome to use those videos and your own teaching her or however else might be interesting for you to use them and I hope you’ll try out some FlipGrid in your teaching or in your own communities within the university. Thanks so much for listening and we’ll see you next time.
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