Upgrade your teaching (Part 1 of 5)

Hello there teachers!

I've been putting some thought into what exactly "blended learning" is and how a non-techie teacher might pull it off. Chances are you're familiar with some technology, facebook, twitter, pinterest, browsing the internet, and deliberately ignoring your email. How would you use these skills and a few more to successfully "flip" your classroom? I tend to avoid using those buzzwords, but for the sake of the Google search algorithm, I'll stick those in there. More plainly, what I'm going to talk about is, 

How do I incorporate pre-recorded lessons into my class? And once I've had students watch those on their own time, how can I use my time in the classroom more effectively?

There are two reasons WHY you should start to implement this type of instruction as soon as you can:

  1. You don't have enough time to cover everything you need to teach, so you're going to have to address your standards somehow.
  2. You need to improve your instruction so you look like a rockstar during observations. 

I hate to say it, because any good teacher will tell you sincerely that the most important reason to improve your instruction is for the benefit of the students. And that is the goal. But, for immediate and pragmatic reasons, you can't help your students if you can't help yourself. 

This is the first part in a 5 part series. I'm going to keep my anecdotal stuff to a minimum and I'm going to lay out exactly HOW you can:

  1. Record a lesson at home (pre lesson prep)
  2. Give your students access to it (classroom environment)
  3. Bring it up in class in a way that caters to lesson plan creation (instruction)
  4. Assessment (professional responsibilities)
  5. How to reflect on, and improve what you just did (post lesson prep)

Just in case you haven't noticed, I'm following the same methodology as the Danielson Framework for the same two pragmatic reasons I mentioned before. Whether you hate it or not, it makes sense when you think about it, and you're probably being evaluated based on that criteria anyway. 

Alright, lets get into it...

How do I Record a lesson at home?

  1. Use Quicktime.

    Why? Because it's free, it's easy to use, and the format you end up with is easy to send out. 

  2. Come up with ONE objective you want to address in your video and write down how long you want it to take in order to get each of your supporting points across. 


Come up with ONE objective for the video so the content is unambiguous.

  • Objective: Discuss examples of evolution (I'm a bio teacher, your objective will be different)

Write down some notes for yourself. What do you want to cover and how long will it take?

  • Notes: (To myself)
  • Show examples of animals that will inspire a conversation about evolutionary divergence. Obviously the low hanging fruit is Darwin's Finches. (less than 1 minute)
  • This video might tee up a conversation about evolutionary differences between the finches so I might scaffold a few questions about why they're different. If you don't remember how to scaffold questions, check out Costas again on my resource page.  Download it, and if you want to make this more obvious to your kids, explain it. Explaining leveled questions to my students made my job a lot easier. 

-KEEP THE VIDEO EXTREMELY SHORT. Kids use Instagram, and those videos are 3 - 15 seconds. They also use VINE and those videos are 6 SECONDS LONG. These video-based social networking programs are short FOR A REASON. If a kid doesn't get their attention grabbed in under 15 seconds, they're going to tune the rest out. So please, do yourself a favor, you're not making a Khan video, you're just trying to supplement your lesson... keep it brief.

Alright, here's my example. It literally took me two minutes to record and link in this blog post...

Recording Pointers:

Make your video as low resolution as you can, this way it will load faster on kids phones, since that's what they're probably watching your video on. 480p is fine. You don't need a 1080p picture of birds, or whatever you're showing them. Also, keep the video as close to a minute as possible. Again, attention spans are low these days for children of all ages. 

How did I make the video?

  1. Download Quicktime, and start a new screen recording
    If you don't know how to use Quicktime, watch this video
  2. When you're done recording hit esc and press stop. 
    It's not obvious how to save the video, you have to close the recording window and it will prompt you to save. This is dumb, but after you do it once, you'll get it. 
  3. Go to youtube and create an account if you don't have one already
  4. upload is a box on the top bar
    If you don't know how to upload a video to Youtube, watch THIS video (which is on Youtube)
  5. Upload the video and tweet, facebook, edmodo, whatever service you're using to get your content out. I prefer twitter, only because it's extremely straightforward and students can share it amongst their followers easier. (I'll go more into this in the next part of the blog series)

You're done! You recorded a short video, you uploaded it, and shared it. Just a fun fact, if you ever want to record a short video on your phone, share it to you tube, and tweet it from there... that's always an option. It's seriously something I did when I was teaching all the time. Sometimes I would even use a short phone video as an anticipatory set. I would direct students with a short link for the first 5 minutes of class just to get the conversation going while I take attendance. But, it's always a better idea to have the video up at least 24 hours ahead of time for lesson planning. You can even reference these videos while you're writing the lesson plan and then record them later. Do them all in one swoop, since you have the plans in front of you anyway.

Most importantly, keep all of this stuff... go back to your new youtube account next year and you won't have to re-record most of this again. Scalability is the name of the game and not having to record content more than once is a great thing. Keep it in mind when you're trying to decide what to record, make it count.

Alright, next time I'm going to talk about how to concretely share these videos. Chances are you already know how to do this, but again I have a format for these Upgrade your teaching blog posts. Eventually they'll be a set you can send to your teacher buddies, or share with PLC's or whatever. Just credit me at some point please, I've got a reputation to uphold. 

Follow me on Twitter or something...