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.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Filming: Take Two

For over a year, I have been filming my teaching and keeping blogs for my classes. This journey started after hearing Kevin Honeycutt speak (and going to one of his workshops) at ULearn12. It took me a few months to get a routine that works for how I teach and to complement how I like to run my classroom/lessons, but it has now become part of my modus operandi. This post is really just an overview of other posts, tying it all together neatly.
The Rationale
There were a few reasons why I chose to film my teaching, and none of them were "to become a YouTube sensations". Just as well, because I certainly am not that!
1. Professional Development
Do you ever notice that you teach a bit differently in front of peers, particularly when they are there to offer feedback on your practice? I know that I do. Added to that, my students have always tended to be far too polite (?) to critique my teaching, even via anonymous online surveys.
Filming my own teaching has allowed me to identify and try to address shortcomings in the way I explain concepts. I don't film entire lessons, so explaining concepts is the only aspect of my teaching practice that this does help me address in this way, but I think I have improved a lot. I have also been able to improve how the filming of this is done.
I recognised things such as: speaking too quickly when explaining a concept I was really enthusiastic about; "glossing over" some important details; and a terrible knack of talking to the board when I am writing things up. I have not "fixed" all of these, but I think I have improved.
2. Student Absences
At my current school, there is a lot of pressure from parents and students for the teachers to make the time to help students catch up on lessons that the students have missed. Although I do not begrudge this, it is an inefficient use of time. My "catch up" time takes me away from helping other students continue to progress when it happens in class, and adds to my workload when it happens outside of class. The "catch up" sessions are usually grossly abridged versions of what was covered in class, too.
By filming the teaching of my lesson, I can direct students to these videos and instruct them to see me for further clarification after they have tried to understand the key concepts themselves. This is a much better use of time and gets the students to understand that it is their responsibility to catch up work. Students becoming more independent and perseverant have been nice spin-offs of this approach.
It has also helped me cater for my own absences, as I now have a "library" of videos of me explaining concepts. By booking netbooks for the students, my ethereal self can still teach the lesson and the students can still attempt the same tasks that I would have set if I was not away.
3. Differentiation
We all know that students learn at different rates and in different ways. I had always wanted the time to make some sort of online tutorials to complement what I taught in class but never thought of this (simple) solution. It has been very encouraging to see students using my videos (and the "pause" and "rewind" buttons) when revising for assessments, or revisiting ideas during their inquiries.
Students can actually be taught the same lesson two or three times (by me!). Plus, this revising of content can be ubiquitous. I still need to go over things again in class at times, but the difference is that the students have (usually) had another look at the video before asking for clarification.
By filming the teaching of content, we can spend a lot more time on collaborative and practical activities. This is much more useful for students (and for me) to gauge how well they can apply what they have just been taught, and makes the lessons much more interactive rather than being too unidirectional.

The Recipe
It took a while to find an efficient way to film my lessons, upload these videos, then make them available to my students. Ultimately, I decided to upload them to YouTube. This meant considering student privacy and accepting that some unfavourable comments may be left on my YouTube channel.
I made a few "ground rules" for myself:
  1. Only film myself and the work, unless students volunteered to be filmed. Be explicit that these videos would be uploaded to YouTube for all to see.
  2. Don't wait to get it perfect to try and film it. Even if there are mistakes, it is worth uploading. If you wait for it to be perfect, you won't ever start!
I was really worried about how time-consuming such a venture could be, so I had to find a manageable recipe as quickly as possible. This is what I came up with:
  1. Start the lesson with the teaching of the concepts. Film it from a stationary point (a moving camera is a real distraction!!).
  2. Set the students on a low-level task which checks their comprehension of what was just taught. Collaborative or individual; it doesn't matter. While they work on this, start uploading the video to YouTube. Now, move around the room to help the "strugglers".
  3. Set a higher-level challenge/task which relies upon collaboration of some sort. I am lucky that I teach Science, so I can base this around an experiment/investigation. Embed the video(s) and photographs of the work off the board (if applicable) to a class blog.
This recipe prevents me adding too much to my workload outside of class. I can also encourage students to persist with the tasks I have set them as I am doing some work for their benefit. It is amazing how much they will help themselves when they actively see you busy making their life easier.

1 comment:

  1. Very impressive that you do this all the time Matt. I've often thought of filming the odd lesson for reflective purposes but have never got around to it, I'm a bit of a fidgeter and bounce around my year 5/6 class too much for this to work. I thought! You've provided me with some ideas on how it might look in my room and I might now need to give it a go. I did laugh about you're talking to the board, it is a regular comment from my classes too.