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.