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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Book Excerpt: Video Q/A: A Magical Time

Aaron Sams and I are writing a book about the flipped classroom. We are going to share a few of our ideas here and see what folks think. It is still in the draft mode, but here is a passage where we talk about how we check if students have watched the videos. Though we didn't know it when we started it has quickly become one of our most rewarding teacher moments. Please share your feedback.

When we check whether or not they have watched a video, one requirement is they ask us interesting questions. This especially works in our freshmen course of Earth and Space Science. For credit, we tell each student they must ask us an interesting question from the video. The question must be related to the video and must be a question for which they do not know the answer. These interactions with the students are some of the richest times we experience in our classrooms. Students either ask questions individually, or in small groups. Every student must ask at least one question per video. Often during these question and answer times, students ask us questions we don’t know the answer to and thus we work on finding the answer. Also the questions students ask often tell us what we have not taught clearly, or in some cases their questions tell us they are misunderstaning a key point. This then give us time to clarify and clean up their misunderstandings. These interactions are truly one of the magical moments we experinece every day with our students.

Every student must ask at least one question about each video. This is especially valualble for students who do not generally interact with their teachers. In the sit and get model, often just a few students will be the ones asking questions. Those students are more outgoing and confident. The more quiet, introspective students often have the same questions, but rarely voice those in the traditional model. In the flipped-mastery model ALL students MUST ask these questions. We have received more and better questions in our courses than we ever did in a traditional model and the discussions have been richer and frankly more rewarding as a teacher. We have found students are really very curious, and in this non-threatning format, all students can demonstrate their curiosity and learn.

Another thing we have noticed druing these question and answer times is how our quiet students come out of their shells a bit. Sadly, some of our students rarely have adults listen to them. Their parents are too busy, their teachers are talking to them, and thus the only people who will listen to them are their peers. These conversational times has opened up our chance to get to know our students on a more personal level which has paid dividends in helping troubled teens through difficult times.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Not All Instructional Vodcasts are Created Equal

I got an interesting question from Deb Wolf, mastery coordinator in the Sioux Falls School District today and it is something that Aaron and I have ruminated on for quite some time. It turns out that there are varying qualities of instructional video podcasts. Since lots of teachers are making these, she asked for a rubric by which we could assess the quality of an instructional video podcast. Aaron and I are in the process of finding a publisher for a book about flipping the classroom and as we made our outline, we decided to devote a chapter to this very topic. So here are what we think are keys to making a quality vodcast.

1. Keep it short. We are teaching the youtube generation and they want things in bite-sized pieces. If you are teaching the quadric formula, just do the quadratic formula. Don’t try and add anything else.

2. Animate your voice. When you are doing these videos you are most likely using some sort of presentation software (powerpoint, prezi, keynote, smart notebook, etc). The only thing you have besides your slides is your pen and your voice. Change the inflection of your voice. This keeps kids engaged. We don’t want to kill kids with videos. Make them exciting.

3. Better yet: Do the vodcast with another teacher. There is something powerful about having two people having a discussion instead of one teacher talking at you. Our students have told us they prefer it when Aaron and I have a conversation. They learn more too. Usually one of us takes on the role of the student learning the material and asks questions while the other is the expert.

4. Add humor: Aaron and I usually have some sort of a running joke in some of our vodcasts. We usually do this for the first two minutes of each vodcast. Students either love these or not. Since they know they will be the first two minutes, those who like our weird sense of humor tune in and those who don’t just fast forward. This leads me to the next rule

5. Don’t waste kid’s time: I have watched vodcasts where teachers talk about their favorite football team for five minutes. Since students are watching this on their own time, this discussion wastes their time. Keep to your topic.

6. Add annotations: Think of your screen as a whiteboard with cool pictures. Use annotation equipment to add pen markups. We use a Wacom bamboo tablet, but there are so many other ways to annotate the video. Other options are interactive white boards (Smartboards, Promethian Boards, etc), wireless tablets, or tablet PC’s.

7. Add video clips: Aaron and I insert videos of us and or kids doing cool experiments in class. This takes more time, but it allows students to see the science in action. We bring a video camera with us wherever we go and try and think of a way to make a good video. When we were in Washington DC at a recent conference we shot some video in front of the Hope Diamond. We used that video to explain the chemistry of diamonds. When I was in Peru this summer my son took some video of me explaining the geology of the Andes Mountains. You can also insert other clips from places such as youtube. And in a similar vein…

8. Picture in Picture: Since we started using Camtasia Studio it has a nice picture in picture feature. We have a webcam in the bottom of our presentation. We wondered if this was distracting and so we asked our students. They told us that they were better able to relate to our us as people when they saw the videos.

9. Add Callouts and Zooms: In Camtasia Studio we a fair amount of post-editing. In that editing process we can add callouts that are usually text boxes that highlight key concepts. Again we asked our students if these were distracting. They told us no: it helped them highlight key concepts. Also in the editing process we can add zooms. This zooms to the important part of our screen. For example when we do a mathematical problem we zoom into the screen of our onscreen calculator. This shows students how to use their graphing calculator.

10. Keep it copyright friendly: Since many of these will be posted online make sure that you follow all appropriate copyright laws.

We put together a sampling of some of our podcasts. Maybe this will give you an idea of what we think goes into the making of a good instructional video podcast.

Find more videos like this on Teacher Vodcasting Network