I recently came across a site called Flipgrid, which allows teachers to set up a grid which can be shared with the students in your class, or with other classes inside the school or globally. It offers a great opportunity to give students the capability of recording themselves and sharing ideas with other students. The free account allows a teacher to set up one grid. You can delete this to set up a second. Each grid does allow for multiple topics, however. This means that you can set a topic for discussion or for feedback after a project and students can record themselves (90 seconds on a free account) and post it to the topic grid. Other students with a link to the grid can then view that contribution. You end up with a grid of speaking heads which anyone with access to the grid can view.
Students can create their video using a QR Code and mobile phone, or from a PC or laptop using a web camera. They can listen to their recording and re-record multiple times before publishing to the grid. The interface is simple to use and clean. This makes it a perfect platform on which teachers can create different kinds of projects.
I used it for a mini Poetry Slam. My students wrote a short poem and then recorded themselves performing the poem, publishing it to the grid. By sharing access with other classes you can achieve an inter-school poetry slam with absolute ease. It was highly motivating for students to be able to publish their performance in this way and to view others. It also allowed me to easily set up a panel of judges to award certificates in different categories!
This platform also allows teachers to easily flip the feedback. Many classroom tasks and assignments end with a report back, feedback session of some kind. But there is often not enough time in class to do justice to this. If students are able to record their feedback report, it can be viewed by the class before the next session and used as the basis for further work, or viewed in class to form the basis for in-class discussion. If it is being used between schools, perhaps in different time zones, many of the difficulties associated with downloading or formatting video files disappear! As a teacher, you can record a brief synopsis of what is required as the first recording in the grid.
The 90-second limitation should be seen as an asset! Brevity is usually a good thing, and enough substance can certainly be condensed into 90 seconds! Students are not limited to the number of contributions they can make either! They could use a mobile device to record a group report back or record individual contributions to a group effort as they see fit.
Because students are able to view others and listen to what they have said before they record their own and delete and restart their own recordings if necessary, the video contains some of the immediacies of a quick response with some ability to reflect on what others have said. This offers a very valuable space for both reflection and collaboration. The platform has been set up to encourage discussion and debate, to spark controversy, but it can easily be used for more traditional pedagogical aims such as exploring different points of view in History or Literature or reflecting on a Science experiment, or for a quick research summary.
Some teachers may feel that the simplicity of the interface restricts possibilities. You cannot upload files or assignments alongside the video, for example, but I believe the simplicity makes the platform more accessible and flexible.