Authors: Lisa Gedak & Leigh McCarthy

Designing and fostering inclusive online learning environments where all students feel supported to learn, contribute, and participate is essential and increasingly complex. There are various barriers to student participation, based on a range of personal and ‘glocal issues’ (Campbell and Schwier, 2014), and there is convincing evidence that these barriers affect a variety of students from diverse backgrounds who often do not have a voice. Some examples of these students can include English as a Second Language (ESL) students, indigenous students, LGBTQ2S students, and students of various cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds. These examples are just some of the identified demographics who face systems that are not designed to be inclusive, often resulting in missed deeper-learning opportunities (Black & Hachkowski, 2019; Eliason & Turalba, 2019; Westwood, 2015). Explored through the Hasso Plattner Institute’s design thinking process (Stanford University, 2019), we cross-compared our educational contexts and explored our direct experience teaching French as a Second Language (FSL) in the K-12 learning environment, and first-year post-secondary courses. We concluded that the problems of students engaging in intellectual risk-taking and building inclusive online communities is cross-generational, and affects many students from both learning contexts.  Additionally, we discovered common drivers of change affecting both contexts, adding to the glocal complexities of our learners’ needs; informing the need for learner-centered, inclusive digital learning environments (L. Gedak & L. McCarthy, personal communication, November 23, 2019). 

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) proposed that learning environments not only be learner-centred, but also profoundly personal (Crichton & Carter, 2017, p. 18). As we explored a solution to our common problem, these two components resonated with us, and we agreed that hearing student voices we might otherwise not hear from, would prove invaluable. We sought a tool that could foster independent opportunities to share verbal reflections with an instructor but allowed for learner agency in sharing with classmates.  The free mobile application Flipgrid (Microsoft, 2019) met this criterion, and we focussed on the video reflection component of this platform as a potential solution in our students taking intellectual risks. Johnson and Skarphol (2018) successfully used Fligrid as a platform for connected learning in secondary art classes, with one of their students describing Flipgrid as “‘all-inclusive and enjoyable because it allowed me to talk to my peers and give them honest answers about their work or receive honest opinions on mine’” (in Johnson and Skarphol, 2018, p. 31). Using Flipgrid, students can record, and re-record their responses until they are satisfied with their submission. Creating an authentic sense of inclusion in digital learning environments through short, personalized video recordings of responses will motivate students from both contexts to become more actively engaged in the digital learning environments and communities that we design. 

Flipgrid is a creative tool that can foster actively engaged students from diverse demographics, engaged in experiential learning, to enrich online learning communities. Bates (2019) explored the strengths of open educational practices, open pedagogy, and “experiential learning in which students demonstrate understanding through the act of creation” (University of Texas Arlington Libraries in Bates, 2019, para. 3). Hall, Vue, Strangman, and Meyer (2003) postulated that the intersection of differentiated instruction and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) involve a curriculum that is “enriched with multiple media so that many paths are provided to develop the talents of all learners” (p. 10). As cross-generational instructors, we know that for students of any age or demographic to verbalize their learning calls for a higher level of cognitive and metacognitive processing and self-reflection (L. Gedak & L. McCarthy, personal communication, November 23, 2019; Leutwyler, 2009; Máñez, Vidal-Abarca, Kendeou, & Martinez, 2019). Implementing Flipgrid in designing a safe space for our students from K-12 to post-secondary in online learning environments, will mitigate intellectual risk-taking and result in our students being more actively engaged in our online learning environments. 



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