Welcome to my Professional Learning blog.
My name is Matt Nicoll and I am a high school teacher in New Zealand, interested in improving the classroom experience for my students. I am open to trialing new approaches and hope to use this blog to reflect on my ideas and practices.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Rewind Me

This is just a bit of an update on something else I have been working on since ULearn12. As well as trying to make my units and/or lessons more student-centred, I have also instilled a rule that every time I teach, I must be filmed. This has three purposes:

  1. As much as I hate seeing/hearing myself on film, it is great Professional Development for me.
  2. The students who miss lessons can view the "teaching" aspect of the lesson.
  3. Any student who finds my pace too fast can review the video and pause, rewind and replay me.

Professional Development

This has been fantastic! I talk too fast, I move around too much and some of my explanations are just far too wordy/complicated. I tell a great story with enthusiasm and my notes are pretty good too. Sometimes, I make a total mess of it and have to film myself during a non-contact lesson or lunchtime. I have hated seeing myself on film and cringed all too often. However, I think my teaching is getting better; even after 14 years of teaching, I am learning a lot. What I am most proud of is that I do not explain concepts for more than 8-9 minutes usually. Add a few minutes for giving instructions, this means I get to do some real teaching for the other 35+ minutes of a lesson!

Missed Lessons

My students are busy souls. Sports, field trips and internal assessments (among other things) have "robbed" my students of time in my classroom, working with their peers and being inspired by their wonderful teacher. However, every student who misses a lesson can still "catch up" on the moments their wonderful teacher spent explaining a concept or giving words of wisdom. I am filmed and it goes on the class blog. Now, I even put it on YouTube because I'm not so scared of being criticised any more...

Rewind Me

This was the original reason I did this, but its value has only recently been recognised by my students. I recently taught about the calculations which are needed to analyse a titration. It really is as complicated as it sounds, when first introduced to it!! The first effort was actually an unmitigated disaster, so I re-filmed it on my own, then asked a student to critique it, then posted it on YouTube. While many students worked out how to do the calculations after my first explanation and by doing some examples, a few were totally lost.

Consider this: The assessment for this task requires students to have very good titration techniques and the ability to analyse the data mathematically. These are both tough skills until you have some experience and/or lots of practice. Therefore, within my classroom, I have students working on refining their experimental technique because they can do the calculations just fine, while I have others who can do the experiment but cannot do the calculations at all.
This is what I observed: Students were crowded around laptops watching my films, pausing them, attempting an exercise (or that part of the experiment), then pressing "play" again. They would repeat this process until they felt confident. My virtual self was teaching a very differentiated lesson over and over, yet my corporeal self just circulated the room critiquing experimental technique and being supportive.
I have been asked to present something about the use of technology in the classroom at an upcoming PD Day in Term Two; I have decided to share this idea at that PD Day.


  1. Matt, this was simply brilliant and I have really enjoyed learning about titration. Science baffled me at school once it got past year 9. As I am colour blind, when ever there was a discussion about changes in colour due to A being added to B I would power down and lose focus for the rest of the session (My problem, not the teachers).
    Just watching your hands take that lesson I was able to follow clearly, Wikipedia what I did not know (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mole_(unit)) and then make a meaning with past learning - then I went back to the beginning and watched it again and think that I have it :)
    Too awesome and you are leading the way with the future of secondary education.
    PS: Would love to see a photo of your rig that you set up to record your lesson.

  2. Awesome Matt. I watched the vid and it makes sense -even though I have no idea where this might be used in real life. The triangle for the equation is like a soduku puzzle isn't it? Filling in the missing bits. It would be awesome to post an example using diff amounts kids where you do part of the equation, then you ask them to pause the clip and solve the next bit - then students can hit play and see if they got the same as you. I would have loved a clip like this in the olden days when I was taking science. (I also see a drama coming - short film maybe .... saving the planet with one important calculation :) )

  3. Hi Ginny and Luke. Thank you so much for your feedback! Luke, the setup was really simple: my phone held in a clamp-stand, A3 paper and a permanent marker.