This post has a podcast episode that talks about the content below, but it isn’t a word-for-word reading of this post, so please give a listen! I’ll be sharing my thoughts about media creation for teachers now at home and working to teach their students online or remote as a result of the social distancing measures being employed by schools across the globe.
If you have questions or comments, please leave them using the comment box at the bottom!
Students and Faculty Sent Home For Social Distancing?
Everyday this week, I saw more posts and news articles announcing yet another K12 district or University was moving to remote or online learning in order to mitigate the spread of the Corona virus/COVID19. For the past few weeks, I’ve seen countless posts on social media and online communities about what software/platforms were available for use — both people asking what others were using, and companies stepping up to offer their solutions at no cost to schools for the remainder of the year.
It occurred to me while helping my son with a chemistry assignment that required him to make a stop motion video that there I wasn’t seeing a lot of questions or posts about content creation. I’m uncertain if that’s because teachers are now all experts in creating content and disseminating information online for the purpose of teaching and learning, or if everyone just hasn’t run into that brick wall yet. My suspicion is the latter. Generally speaking, teachers are experts in pedagogical approaches that rely on in-person groups of students and/or one-on-one work with a student. That doesn’t mean that the transition to online learning will be easy, however.
I wanted to start to share some initial thoughts on this topic. First, while it isn’t necessarily the end-all be-all pedagogical method, at times, probably every teacher delivers instruction from the front of the room, lecture style. She might support that lecture with slides or simply a whiteboard or chalkboard. So, let’s address this modality first. Not because it’s necessarily the best, but it is common, and no matter how innovative and technology-rich your classroom, I think everyone still uses this method — perhaps more than you might even realize. That’s not a bad thing, just my sense of what really is.
I see three basic approaches to creating digital content for basic lecture-style delivery. First, there’s the simple way. Take your laptop, tablet, or phone, and point it at yourself, and record. If you need a whiteboard, then set one up or do this in your classroom if you still have access. Don’t over think it. Just do what you would do if your students were sitting in the room with you, and just deliver. Make sure your camera can see you and the whiteboard. Take the extra couple minutes to figure out the lighting so that the whiteboard isn’t one glaring reflection on the camera! Otherwise, this doesn’t need to be a Hollywood production!
If you mess up, don’t worry. Just stop for a couple seconds, and then start again from where you made the mistake. The pause makes it easier to find in post-production so you can delete it. Or, just don’t bother, your kids won’t really care. You do it all the time in-person, and you probably don’t even realize it.
Second, if you are providing instruction that usually includes some slides like Apple Keynote, Microsoft Powerpoint, or Google slides, then use the method above and just pretend that you have the slides. It’s really very easy to take that video and add your slides later. You’ll want to balance how much time in your video you show a slide versus you lecturing. Videos that are too slide heavy can be hard to watch. Think about the last webinar you attended that was an hour long, and the only time you saw the speakers were photos of them during the introduction. Did you really make it to the end? Seeing the speaker actually talking and gesturing really helps. Look into the camera as much as you can!
Third, if you really have too much time on your hands, or you think it would be valuable to have the content for reuse in the future, then you can create polished visual presentations with fancy slides and appropriate animations. But, really most of the time, if it’s a hard topic to visualize or conceptualize, chances are, someone has already made that video, and you just need to find it! Nonetheless, below is a video that explains how I made a video that provided visualizations of the derivation of pi and how the formulas for circumference and area were derived. The actual video that I made to celebrate Pi Day is also available here.
For most of you, I think some combination of the first two methods is going to be the best bet. Consider this, from a SAMR perspective, even making video of yourself demonstrating how to solve an equation or compute the average airspeed of a swallow in front of a whiteboard, devoid of any slides or animations, is arguably Augmentation. Unlike you doing this in class, students can watch this repeatedly if needed, and on their schedules. As a former middle school math teacher, I can remember the countless times that hard-working students would come to me in the morning and say, “Mr. Mao, I got stuck on my homework. When you went over it in class, it made perfect sense, but when I got home, I realized I must have missed a step in my notes, because I couldn’t figure it out.” Sound familiar? If so, consider that a simple recording can likely solve that issue. That’s why Khan Academy is so popular.
Take that video and support it with an online forum of some sort (like a google group, a discussion module in your LMS, Edmodo, etc.), and now your students can engage with you and each other anytime, anywhere.