Biology students use FlipGrid to connect with K-12 students, enhance science communication skills
Using technology to connect with students from across the country -- and world, Doane’s biology department has adopted unique methods to enhance their student’s abilities as science communicators.
Ramesh Laungani, associate professor of Biology, began using FlipGrid, a video discussion platform for educators and students, in his comparative anatomy class in the spring. Through FlipGrid, students are able to post videos online that can be shared with students at other schools. The site is free to use for all educators and students and has millions of users in over 180 countries.
Dr. Laungani’s comparative anatomy class connected with a K-12 school in Florida and Nebraska this spring, allowing Doane students to share their research, explaining it in more layman’s terms, to K-12 students to hopefully spark their interest in the subject.
“The idea to use FlipGrid came to me when I was focused on how my students could learn to communicate complicated scientific ideas to a different audience,” Laungani said. “How do you explain genetics and DNA to a 5th grader? That is not an easy thing to do.”
Once Doane students post videos to FlipGrid, students from other classrooms (with the access code shared by Laungani) can watch the videos and reply with a video of their own. This creates a back-and-forth dialogue that makes it engaging for both parties.
Because the experiment of using FlipGrid went so well, Laungani wanted to expand the network in his climate change biology course this fall. This semester, Laungani has partnered with 10 different classrooms across seven states and one high school classroom in Germany. Through this network, Doane students are interacting with more than 400 K-12 students about climate change.
“Science communication is critical for any scientist to learn because so much of our society is dependent on science,” Laungani said. “We, as scientists, have not done the best job of explaining these topics that impact all of us to the general public so they can not only be educated, but to have that education turned into action.”
As Laungani sees it, using FlipGrid is equally beneficial for the students and educators.
In this instance, it allows Doane biology students to learn how to communicate science and complicated topics with a diverse set of audiences. Laungani's students are directed to explain their research in five minutes or less on FlipGrid to the K-12 audience, challenging them to inform students on matters that can be difficult to comprehend.
On the flip side (no pun intended), K-12 students get insight into areas of science that they normally wouldn’t get in their curriculum, while also creating a fun interaction for them to hear from college students that are interested in sharing their knowledge.
“It’s so exciting and interesting to hear back from the kids because some of them come up with great questions and some get really excited about the topic,” said Jackie Lewis ’19, a student in Laungani’s Climate Change class. “One of the students replied to my video saying she was way more excited about science now that she had watched our videos and learned about some of the different topics scientists were focusing on."
Cody Starman ’19, another student in the class, adds, “Having to communicate via FlipGrid to K-12 students has definitely made me a better science communicator. There is no better test to know if you understand something than if you were asked to explain it to someone who has no idea about the subject.”
FlipGrid is open to all educators (at a Microsoft or Google-supported school) for free. Over 80,000 new educators signed up for the network in October, with no signs of the expansion slowing down.
“It breaks down walls in education that don’t need to exist,” Laungani said. “This gets students to think about interactions they normally wouldn’t think about.”