Creating and Using Videos to Enrich Learning
Teachers are the most important content creators and resource curators for students in their classrooms. Armed with knowledge of the individual needs, experiences, backgrounds, and interests of their learners, teachers can find and even create personalized content for the classroom. A powerful form of audiovisual content, videos provide engaging means to relay ideas, information, and skills that can be integrated into teaching and learning in physical and hybrid environments. Read on to learn simple and straightforward best practices for creating and integrating videos into content delivery, interactive student activities, and assessment.
Content instruction is an historically foundational role and responsibility of teachers. Society has largely seen teachers as disseminators of knowledge; however, the role of educators in the classroom is exponentially more complex and diverse in nature as teachers in the 21st-century classroom strive to create student-centered learning environments. During the tumultuous period of educational transition to virtual learning environments due to the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers have played vital roles as facilitators or learning and engagement in online classrooms. One invaluable tool at teachers’ disposal is instructional videos, both original videos and videos found online.
Effective instructional videos are highly visual, integrating images, illustrations, and graphics. The use of an engaging image, data-rich graph, or detailed illustration can spark students’ imaginations and help concretize conceptual ideas. Moreover, videos that lead students to develop enduring understanding use few words on the screen by focusing on one central idea or concept. Any titles, slides, or textual input should be limited to key terms, titles, names, dates, numbers, or other concise and critical information. Finally, engaging instructional videos last no more than three to five minutes. Larger concepts are chunked into smaller videos, allowing students to view a series of videos broken up by interactive tasks discussed later in this post.
I started my career in education as an elementary school Spanish teacher in a Washington, D.C. public school. In my Pre-Kindergarten Spanish classes, videos were a central component of our instructional day. Weekly Spanish classes lasted 45 minutes and were divided into a welcome activity, guided instruction, collaborative practice, and final reflection. Our welcome activity usually consisted of a brief routine of songs and chants on the carpet to activate students’ prior knowledge and ready them to learn Spanish. When teaching multiple classes each day, I was able to save time and innovate my lesson by pre-recording the welcome routine. While I took attendance and responded to student concerns as they transitioned into the classroom, a pre-recorded welcome video played on the Smartboard inviting students to sing, dance, clap, and speak in Spanish. To make learning fun, I even integrated a humorous question or call-and-response task into the video; in this way, both students and I could respond to the video thereby integrating joy and humor into instruction in Spanish. When working in asynchronously in virtual settings, students in my high school Spanish classes have been able to watch simple videos in which I introduce a language structure, set of key vocabulary, or cultural concept prior to coming to the synchronous lesson for practice and community building. Videos for content instruction in high school Spanish provided personalized opportunities for students to learn at their own pace and review videos after class.
Creating an simple instructional video starts with opening a laptop or turning on the forward-facing camera on a mobile device. Speaking videos are an excellent way to start the journey of video creation! As teachers advance in their comfortability with video development, three tools educators might try as they work to create their own instructional videos are below:
Screencastify – A tool to record a computer screen with narration
Powtoon – A tool to create simple cartoons with subtitles and/or narration
EdPuzzle – A tool to integrate questions into videos
Student achievement is directly impacted by students’ active engagement in the classroom. Students who are invested participants in the process of teaching and learning are much more likely to acquire and retain knowledge and skills. Instructional videos play an important role in student engagement by providing personalized means for students to critically analyze, respond, and reflect. A best practice to enhance student engagement is to integrate questions into videos and video assignments that guide thinking, prompt discussion, and check for understanding. Videos in the classroom should be a participatory learning experience whereby students have authentic means to respond to what they see or hear. More than fill-in-the-blank graphic organizers and quizzes, engaging questions push into higher-order thinking by asking students to reflect on specific ideas and discuss their thoughts and questions with peers. Students might be invited to respond reflectively through journaling, creatively through art, or analytically through critical evaluation of ideas or concepts.
When working with candidates in the TEACH-NOW Teacher Preparation Certificate Program, Moreland University’s flagship online teacher certification preparation program, I had the opportunity to dive into the idea of a restorative-justice approach to managing the learning environment. The teachers in my cohort were keen to unpack the underlying challenges facing students that may cause them to behave inappropriately in the classroom; moreover, they sought to leverage Social-Emotional Learning to respond mindfully to students who need redirection through mediation and agreement. Candidates in our virtual classroom discussion were beginning to understand that students’ foundational needs for safety and security, love and belonging, and self-esteem impact the way students engage and behave in the classroom! As our weekly live virtual class ended, it was obvious that the conversation was unfinished. Using Flipgrid, I quickly recorded a video with a discussion question to extend our in-class conversation. Candidates responded to my discussion question and to one another throughout the week in Flipgrid’s interactive video discussion platform, leading to a profound and interactive learning experience that increased their performance on subsequent tasks in their TEACH-NOW coursework.
In addition to Flipgrid, two other resources to increase student engagement through video are VoiceThread and Wakelet. While VoiceThread invites students to create narrated slide decks and media presentations on which others can leave video and audio comments, Wakelet is a comprehensive digital posterboard on which participants can post videos and invite others to respond and comment.
A final thought on videos to enhance teaching and learning relates to student evaluation. Much like any other creative tool for expression, videos provide students with the opportunity to create a personalized expression of their thoughts, ideas, knowledge, or skills. As mobile devices with integrated cameras and free video editing software become readily available around the world, teachers can develop evaluative tasks wherein students demonstrate their knowledge and ability through video. For teachers and students who do not have access, there are several crowdsourcing and fundraising organizations available to raise money for purchasing devices for the classroom. (See below an example of how I fundraised to purchase iPads for my ESL classroom!)
When developing video-based student assessments, there are several considerations to ensure the evaluation is both an insightful source of data to teachers and a meaningful experience for students. When designing video tasks for student assessment, educators must first be careful to craft compelling questions that spark student interest and motivation. Integrate students’ interests and experiences directly into the video task! Secondly, students must have a measure of creative freedom as they develop their final products. While it is critical that they effectively demonstrate the target knowledge or skills to be measured through video assessment, students must also have opportunities to express themselves in personalized, creative, and joyful ways. Thirdly and finally, educators can create highly engaging and effective video assignments and evaluations by prompting collaboration. One suggestion here is to avoid tasks in which all students must demonstrate the same knowledge or skills in the same way, instead creating cooperative video tasks whereby each individual student must contribute something unique and personalized in the construction of the video task. In this way, teachers can obtain an accurate evaluation of each student’s ability.
In my ESL classroom, I served students with limited access to resources and technology which impacted our ability to use videos in the classroom. By successfully raising $1,500 through GoFundMe, I purchased iPads for use in the classroom! Students were invited to work in teams to teach the rest of our class how to prepare and cook a traditional meal from their cultural heritage. Students each took an individual role in writing a script, preparing materials, and recording their segment of the video compilation that was combined to make a short cooking show. As a tool for evaluation, this video assessment allowed me to measure students’ ability to use commands, connecting words, and domain-specific terms about the kitchen in English. Importantly, each student shared something personally meaningful about their family traditions, leading to opportunities for family engagement and intercultural exchanges in the classroom.
Tools that teachers might use to integrate video assessment into the classroom immediately are Animoto, Prezi, and Google Classroom. Animoto and Prezi are platforms that allow creators to combine words, images, music, and other audiovisual elements into easy-to-edit videos. Google Classroom provides a simple solution for video assignment creation and submission. Teachers might assign students to create a video as part of a final assessment; then, students upload videos directly to Google Classroom where teachers then evaluate and provide feedback. This is particularly useful for teachers and students using classroom iPads, Chromebooks, or other personalized devices that have Google Classroom apps integrated directly.
Take these strategies, resources, and tools into your lesson and curriculum planning as you seek to mindfully integrate video into teaching and learning! To learn more about cutting-edge educational technology and best practices in designing and implementing learning experiences to ensure that every student learns, check out the TEACH-NOW Teacher Preparation Certificate Program offered by Moreland University.
Joseph A. Pearson, M.S.Ed.
Professional Development Officer, Moreland University