We got back this evening from a full day at the New England League of Middle Schools conference at the Convention Center in Providence RI. For the second year, my colleague and I presented to fellow educators about our flipped classroom -- it was quite well-attended, and we got some great questions and feedback from the audience. That included some requests for examples of our video lessons....
all credit due to Bill Watterson
I have recently produced most movies with a simple camera and iMovie, but there are many more ways to produce your clips. If you already have multimedia presentations, wouldn't it be great to convert them into your homework videos? Yeah it would. Sometimes the process is simple, sometimes it's more complicated ... depending on your original version.
If this blog post is missing a crucial step or a common computer program, or if you find an easier solution, please let me know!
Making a movie from Inspire or a similar app
Converting an Explain Everything project into a movie
Converting a Keynote project into a movie
As a flipper, you don't have to make your own videos. You also don't have to make your own meals. By taking control of the ingredients and the process you'll probably feel better about the product. However, there could be lots of good reasons not to record videos for your students -- personal shyness, access to equipment, available time, etc. If you want to give it a shot, I offer some lessons that I learned the hard way so you don't have to.
Voiceover videos are a good compromise for beginners. I have used Screencast-o-matic, a free online tool that lets you record up to 15 minutes of sound and on-screen activity. There are other similar programs too, like Camtasia. Here is an example of a recent voiceover video I made by changing the text color for each box, and then clicked 'Undo' to reveal each box's words at the proper moment.
1. Downgrade the wardrobe, but upgrade your microphone.
I also have experience making some classic "talking-head" educational videos. They have their own issues. In an earlier blog post I described and defended my green-screen system.
1. Wear the same shirt every time.
4. Fortunately, though, you can have fun with the "Video Adjustment" properties:
Okay, that's all I have tonight. Jot a comment with any questions, worshipful praise, or snide remarks.
This week is mostly devoted to filming and publishing some videos for September. I still have almost a month before students come to class, but I feel urgency to create and update some content.
I also felt a strong need to improve my video-production system. Last year I recorded several clips during the early morning (unshaven, ugh) to take advantage of the quiet, or in a classroom at school (echo! echo! echo!), and even screen-casting in my car (good acoustics, but sketchy wifi and sometimes it got cold). I refuse to invest hundreds of dollars in recording equipment, because I want to show that teachers DO NOT need lots of extra stuff to be successful flippers. And I would rather spend my spare cash on golf clubs or fixing my car.... The simplest videos are made with webcams in the teacher's house, but the background items distract me (Ew, weird curtains! He should dust that ceiling!), and their voices usually sound muffled. Besides, proper lighting was always a problem in my at-home recording sessions. I often looked like a ghoul or a ghost.
After some tinkering and testing, I finally achieved a decent solution in the basement:
The green felt was super-cheap: about $3 at a fabric supply store. I only wish that it were a little wider, but it works okay. I call it "Kermit Skin" because I'm a morbid and gross person. It needed some ironing, but now it will just stay hanging on the water pipe so it should remain wrinkle-free. This place has pretty good lighting from two fluorescent bulbs, and I have enough space to put the cheap $15 tripod from Target. The acoustics are terrific down there ... as long as nobody walks around upstairs and the dog doesn't bark.
The camera I use now is a Kodak Zi8 (like a Flipcam) which I borrowed from my school's video journalism program. I'm the program adviser, so that helps. The microphone is surprisingly good, and its WVGA mode is just fine for my recordings. Nobody needs to see my face in 60-fps HD! I think any point-and-shoot camera would work fine as well. I tested the webcam feature on my Macbook, but the video quality was too low and it garbled the greenscreen background.
Why did I bother filming on a greenscreen?
Here is my first finished product: "Major Issues of the 1600s-1700s"
How much did this video cost me? $20 and about 2 hours
This is probably good advice for all new teaching techniques, but it's particularly true for flipping. From the very beginning, the other 8th grade social studies teacher* Jean and I have been collaborating and co-planning the videos, activities, assessments, etc. Without sharing the workload of thinking & planning & everything else, we would have both gone insane months ago.
(* Our middle school has about 180 students per grade, divided in two clusters for core classes. Some other middle schools in our district have 3 or 4 content teachers per grade, but we're just two.)
Of course there are many ways to divide labor, but here are specific ideas to share the flipping:
ONE TEACHER makes the video script (like a PowerPoint)
THE OTHER actually produces/records/edits the video
This way you are both familiar with the content, and probably spending equal time.
Between me and my colleague, I'm more comfortable recording my voice and gorgeous face...
Also, I'm more familiar with iMovie and video-recording.
ONE TEACHER finds several useful videos from other sources (Schooltube, Discovery, etc.)
THE OTHER narrows down the list to just 1 or 2, and makes the related assignments.
If you are not making your own videos yet, then it might take hours to find the just-right clip(s).
This way you can choose a Designated Downloader to go down that rabbit hole...
... and the colleague can sift through the short list!
ONE TEACHER tries post-video activity X
THE OTHER uses post-video activity Y
Jean and I apply this strategy at least once a month, either accidentally or on purpose....
Teacher absences, different student populations/attitudes, and other factors can require a change.
The flipped video & assessment are constant factors; 1 or 2 class periods might look different.
It's a cool thing to do when we can't decide on the best video-related activity to do...
... let's try both! Then next year we can both use the activity that worked best.
This whole flipping thing was Jean's idea back in spring of 2013, so she deserves the most credit and/or blame for everything we've done the past two years. I can't understand how anybody travels this road solo....
Who is this flipping guy?!
Andrew Swan just finished his 17th year of teaching middle school (currently 8th-grade Social Studies in a Boston suburb). Previously he has taught 6th, 7th, and 8th grade English, ancient history, and geography in Maine and Massachusetts. This was Andrew's 4th year of flipping his instruction, thanks to the collaboration and support of his intrepid content partner. [not pictured]