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Where Were You When…?

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Where Were You When…?
AP Psychology students in Ms. Kowalew’s class use Flipgrid to foster authentic engagement in studying “flashbulb memories”
by Stacey Roshan, Director of Innovation and Educational Technology
Flashbulb project AP Psychology

Each year in AP Psychology, students complete a “Flashbulb Memory” project as part of their Cognitive Psychology unit. A flashbulb memory is a detailed and vivid recollection of a significant or emotional event. For this project, students interview family and faculty members to learn more about the lasting nature of “flashbulb memories.” Some shared memories of public traumas (such as 9/11 and the Challenger explosion) and some shared deeply personal memories (birth stories, house fires, marriage proposals, and family deaths).

In a typical year, students do these interviews in person on campus or at home. As a teacher, I always look forward to this project; it creates a wonderful buzz around campus with deeply personal stories being shared and told. This year, of course, plans needed to be adjusted for hybrid and remote learning.

AP Psychology teacher Kristin Kowalew re-imagined this project so that all students, regardless of whether they are learning in class or at home, could have the same opportunity to conduct these interviews. In restructuring the activity, she was careful to preserve the very human element of this project — the storytelling — while allowing the interview process to happen without a location restraint. Students used Flipgrid to record their interviews so that their video (or audio) recording could be viewed on the class grid.

Flashbulb memory project flipgrid

D Block Flashbulb Memory Interviews

In past years, students would take notes during the interviews they conducted and then write up a paper analyzing the “flashbulb memory.” This year, with Flipgrid, students were able to be fully present and focus on listening during the interview since they could review the recording and analyze it after.

Flipgrid elevated the experience and outcome of this project. 

Some of the benefits of using Flipgrid were that:

  • Students and their interviewee were able to record in a comfortable space
  • Students and their interviewee chose to record audio only if desired
  • The interviews were recorded for the full class to experience
  • Students could fully immerse themselves into listening to their interviewee without taking notes; because the interview was recorded, students were able to replay the interview later to analyze and reflect

The objectives of this project were for the student to:

  • Interview a person in the community about a personal flashbulb memory
  • Provide a video interview log of their memory recall
  • Analyze their level of recall and their emotional reactions to the event
  • Identify the factors influencing our recall of highly impactful and emotional events

In the written analysis, students answered questions such as: 

  • What is flashbulb memory? Why do we have flashbulb memories? What happens in our brains when these memories are formed? 
  • How accurate are flashbulb memories? What should we remember when people recall flashbulb memories? Be sure to use the flashbulb memories you gathered as examples. 
  • What other observations/reflection can you share based on your experience interviewing your subject about flashbulb memories?

Additionally, students contributed to a discussion board to share a response to a classmate’s work. This allowed for peer-to-peer learning and sharing.

In a time when remote learning makes it difficult to foster authentic engagement and relationships, this project provided an opportunity:

  • For students, family members, and teachers to deepen their relationships (as evidenced by student reflection in written analysis and through the discussion board reflection), 
  • To engage in dialogue and share memories that are integral to our human experience; 
  • To connect and reflect on the past while we live in a time that undoubtedly is allowing students to make their own flashbulb memories, be it from living through the pandemic, politically charged and polarized times, or ongoing racial unrest

Here are clips from several of the interviews, capturing a wide range of events and emotions:


Stacey Roshan

Stacey Roshan is Director of Innovation & Educational Technology at Bullis School and author of Tech with Heart: Leveraging Technology to Empower Student Voice, Ease Anxiety, & Create Compassionate Classrooms. She is passionate about bringing innovative tools into the classroom to create a safe learning environment for all students to find their voice and build confidence. Her work has been featured in USA Today, The Washington Post, CNN, and PBS Newshour. She has also been named Teacher of the Future by NAIS. In addition to teaching high school students to love and understand math, Stacey works closely with faculty to design tech-infused lessons aimed at providing the optimal learning environment for all students.

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