Students in today’s classrooms belong to the most media-savvy, mobile generation ever – and providing an online learning experience that engages these students is a challenge for schools everywhere.
In the past, simply uploading a PowerPoint file or Word document to a learning platform may have been enough – but evolving technologies such as the web and SmartPhones have brought about a new wave of possibilities for engaging online learning.
Video can now be brought into the classroom with ease and it is a medium which resonates with our young generation and it puts them in complete control of when, where and how they learn.
Online video lets schools provide an online learning experience that is immediate, visual and thoroughly engaging – especially when compared with the usual fare of PowerPoint files and Word documents on a virtual learning environment.
Below are some simple, effective classroom techniques that teachers can use to bring online video into their classrooms.
Capturing the learning
No matter how engaging and inspiring the lesson, the sound of a school bell tends to act as a “reset” button in the minds of students – especially if it signals lunch time.
By capturing key parts of a lesson with video and placing it online, teachers can create a permanent record of the learning, allowing students to access it, on-demand, at any time. And like the “catch-up” services that television channels now offer, it provides a valuable resource to students who may have missed the lesson, or who simply need a reminder of what was covered.
Learning objectives, starters and plenaries
The ability to provide engaging learning objectives, and for students to be aware of how their learning progress fits with these, is a crucial part of the learning process in many schools.
Learning objectives are most powerful when students have been involved in drawing them up and assessing themselves against them – and when combined with an interactive whiteboard, digital video provides a way of making the process more engaging.
At the start of a class, play back a video clip from the students’ previous lesson – and through a class discussion and teacher questioning, use the clip as a basis for drawing up students’ learning objectives for the current lesson.
What stage did they get to last lesson? What needs to be improved upon? What’s the main thing that they need to focus on? Objectives can either be whole-class, or individually drawn up by students or groups within the class for project work.
At the end of the lesson, play back some key clips from the current lesson (this is easy with digital video, as it is simply a case of plugging in the camera or uploading video using a mobile device and pressing “play”).
Ask the students to think back to the objectives they set at the start of the lesson – and again, through class discussion and teacher questioning, have them assess their progress against these objectives.
It is a great way of making their progress real and tangible, and maintaining the learning momentum from lesson to lesson.
Video has the power to take peer assessment to a new level – particularly in practical and performance subjects such as music, drama and dance, where it can play a crucial role in supporting students’ learning. A student performance placed online can spark a deep discussion, and it is especially powerful as a homework task where the teacher has given a specific focus.
As a music teacher, I used to regularly place student performances online, and ask students to comment on each other’s videos with a specific focus as a homework task.
For examination subjects, this can be a great way of students getting familiar with the assessment criteria and mark scheme – give them a copy of it and have them “mark” each other’s performance videos, leaving a comment and justifying their marks.
It has always been said that the best way to learn something is to teach it – and by creating their own video content, students can do just that. After covering a concept in class, ask students to create a short video in which they explain the concept or topic in their own words – and encourage them to be creative in how they demonstrate their learning.
This encourages students to really think about what has been covered in class, and synthesising it into something new by explaining a concept in their own words, really helps to cement the learning in their minds.
This works particularly well as a group activity – students have a lot of fun creating videos. It is the perfect way to make those dry, theoretical topics practical and engaging.
I found that when my students did this, their recollection of the concepts they had covered was so much better – and their focus during lessons also improved, as they knew that at the end they would have to create a video about an aspect of what they had learnt.
When it came to revision time, they also had access to videos of themselves and their friends explaining concepts, which was infinitely more engaging than the usual PowerPoint files and Word documents.
With online video it is possible for teachers within a department to create an engaging bank of online videos explaining key concepts and topics for students to access at any time.
Creating these videos is not difficult for teachers (although some initial stage fright is to be expected – which quickly fades). It is simply a case of explaining a concept in the normal way, but with a camera pointing toward the teacher or board, and then uploading this for students to access.
Talk to your departmental colleagues about the concepts that students struggle with most, divide them up, and create some videos – it is a revolutionary way of supporting students’ learning, and amplifying the reach of great teaching.
Flipping the classroom
Taking teacher-created content one step further, the “flipped classroom” is a concept which was developed by teachers in America, and which has started to spread and gain traction around the world.
Normally, teachers stand at the front of the class and deliver content to all of the students at the same time – and after this, the students then apply the knowledge, often as a homework task.
The “flipped” concept turns this model on its head – instead of standing in front of the class and delivering the content, the teacher creates an online video, which students watch before the lesson.
This frees up class time for activities which let students apply that knowledge – and frees up the teacher to circulate the classroom and deliver more personalised support to students.
The “one-size-fits-all” model has been dominant in our classrooms since the Victorian era. The flipped model turns that on its head, ushering in a new, student-centred, personalised way of teaching and learning.
With online video, students can learn at their own pace, on any device, at any place – putting them in control of when, where and how they learn.
James Cross, a former secondary school teacher, is educator in residence with the MediaCore online video publishing platform.