Instructional Videos in an English Classroom

It’s all the rage, and I’m a sucker for fashion, so I’ve been making some instructional videos. I’ve made a few “flipped classroom” style videos that are basically short lectures, introducing a new concept, for example. However, that seems like a waste for my classroom, best for absent students or for those who wish to brush up on a concept down the line. However, what makes the most sense to me is to record myself writing a model essay or planning a response to a prompt in such a way that basic skills, covered repeatedly throughout the year, can be reinforced. Additionally, I’m a big believer in modeling and in exposing my thinking as I do, making explicit the internal conversation and experience as I write or do¬†something. ¬†Often, I find myself believing that experts at something must just act or react in perfect confidence, without doubt, exuding the awesome. But, in reality, I think we all question ourselves or maybe even just revise as we go, refining for a better product. By making that conversation explicit, kids learn.

Youtube is great for learning little things, likely those things that we already know something about. I’m a fly-fisherman, but when I’m doubting myself, I go check out a video on roll casting, for instance, and refresh my memory. I’ve learned knots, the disc golf jump putt, and how to behave during a Chinese tea ceremony which used to throw me off whenever I tried to buy tea in Chengdu. In all of these cases, I watched somebody do and narrate their actions in order to learn. I’m considering videos on using and citing source material, doing research, writing a poem, reading and annotating a text, and revising a piece of writing. These are actions, skills, active behaviors that may translate to video. So far, the feedback is positive, but I doubt how much students are really using these videos because the play counts are low. In fact, the only video that has taken off is my tutorial on making a podcast, which other teachers have used. Maybe if I include a cat falling off a TV or a clip from “Friday” my numbers will jump. Maybe if I do a better job of conceptualizing and producing the videos, they’ll be more popular with the kids. Yeah, I’m going with the latter.

I Flip the Classroom, Sort Of

I maintain deep and abiding distrust of the “flipped classroom” model, because I see it largely as just the same boring lectures with more time to drill, baby, drill in the standardized testing-focused classroom. However, I see the possibilities of refining and recording moments of direct instruction for students via video lectures. Since I am missing two days of my IB course this week due to an adventure day with grade 10 and an IB conference (oh, sweet irony), I decided to revisit the mini-lecture from today and record the rest of the instruction I would try to give individually or in small groups as kids worked over the next two classes via screencasting. The focus of the series is “Essay Skills,” focusing on dissecting a prompt, writing a thesis statement, and organizing an outline while revising a thesis statement.

I used Jing and put the videos together in Camtasia Studio, thanks to a free 30 day trial. I managed to complete all of the screencasting, but then found that I only had the audio for the first two pieces of three. I was aiming for around 15 minutes total in length for all three videos and that should be about right. I’ve really doubted how useful this model would be for kids in the reading and composition classroom and am interested to hear student feedback after my return. I’ve embedded the videos below and welcome any feedback.