Leadership · Curriculum · Lifelong Learning

This did NOT go as planned–But is it still On the Grid?

I’ve read so many posts about perfectly planned, extremely well-executed learning experiences that produced expected–and occasionally beyond–results. But I’m taking my friend Starr Sackstein‘s advice, here. Striving for authenticity, I’m also blogging about experiences that did NOT go well, too.

Hurricane season officially spans June-November, and in North Carolina, these massive low pressure systems are always on our radar. They produce precipitation, which may cause flooding–The number one hurricane cause for damages and fatalities.

Challenge: Design and test a model to protect houses from hurricane flooding. This hands-on learning experience was aligned with specific curriculum objectives and based on current events. We would especially encompass North Carolina fourth grade science essential standard and objective 4E23: “Give examples of how the surface of the earth changes due to slow processes such as erosion and weathering, and rapid processes such as landslides, volcanic eruptions, and earthquakes.”

We were so excited to use Flipgrid (for the first time) to record, publish, and share our learning:

Having served as a fifth grade math/science classroom teacher for nearly fourteen years before becoming a STEM Specialist, I thought I knew exactly how this experience would flow. I thought students would gravitate towards a deeper understanding of landform-changing processes like weathering, erosion, and deposition, AND be able to showcase their final draft products.

I could not have been MORE wrong.

Meander with me through our unexpected twists and turns.

1-Showcase Portfolio vs Learning Portfolio

In George Couros‘ blog: 7 Important Questions Before Implementing Digital Portfolios, his first question is thought-provoking:

Is this a learning portfolio, showcase portfolio, or combination of both? – Does this show the student’s progression over time (learning), or just the best stuff (showcase)…”

Although posting one Flipgrid topic in one grid may not necessarily be portfolio-intended, the thinking was the same. This was our very first time publishing with Flipgrid, AND we were only a few weeks into the school year. As the facilitating educator and Flipgrid administrator and moderator, should I let go of perfection and approve student posts, even if they’re not THE final draft? Personally, I’ve had a hard time doing that myself. But the answer is YES. Now, I’m committed to posting the learning process, and getting out of the way to let it happen.

Check out our first drafts–Even the students begged for more time to make their publications perfect before posting. But how cool would it be to post another topic in the same grid later in the year to see growth in learning and progression in publishing skills over time?

Truth: They really WERE learning–Just not how I learned in elementary school.

Yet still–for many educators–it’s hard to give up that control; that quest for perfection; that need to showcase ONLY final drafts on display.

2-Mastering Content vs Learning Content

I thought students would be fascinated by the science concepts–I don’t know, say… like I was I guess? I thought they would embrace content words like hugging a teddy bear, and apply them like experienced professionals. I thought this creative, yet canned lesson-in-a-forty-five-minute-box would be JUST about mastering specific curriculum standards and objectives.

But students didn’t care about citing curriculum objectives; exacting hands-on, earth science processes; or reciting content words loosed of personal connections. At least not directly. Not at first glance.


They were super excited to record and BE recorded. They cared MORE about their learning because THEY were in control, and they were featured. They weren’t just kinda participating or potentially engaging in a lesson, they were owning their learning experience.

3-Hard Skills vs Soft Skills

I still have no idea how the experts are defining hard skills or soft skills. I’m intrigued by this Soft Skills List–People Skills. What I DO know? There was nothing soft about:

  • problem-solving
  • confronting a challenge;
  • design thinking;
  • applying deep content words in a hands-on learning context;
  • working thru 4 Cs: communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity;
  • feeling the sand, sediments, and water between our fingers; and
  • publishing group learning products for the entire world to view.

The very grains of our learning foundation, in the order of: learners first, learning second, and then tools and resources hasn’t eroded by any means. Yet, Flipgrid enhanced our experience by providing a platform for learners to be creative communicators.

When students knew their one video would be on a global grid of videos with their whole class, their focus changed. It wasn’t about the teacher. It wasn’t about a grade. It was about them and their learning–In preparation for their peer feedback.

I LOVE the ISTE Student Standards. And ISTE says it best in Student Standard 6d:

As Creative Communicators, Students: “publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for their intended audience.” One of my favorite ISTE Student Standards, I cited #isteSS6d at the 4:07 mark here.

What are your thoughts? Comment here!

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