‘Flipped learning’ pioneers Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams share their tips for making videos that will engage students.
(Editor’s note: Flipped learning, in which students watch instructional videos for homework and use class time to practice what they’ve learned, is catching on in many schools. This is an excerpt from a new book by two pioneers of the flipped approach, titled Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day. Copyright 2012, International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and ASCD; reprinted with permission from ISTE. The book can be purchased in the ISTE Store for $19.95, or $13.97 for ISTE members.)
When we first started making our own videos, they were not very good. Over time, our videos have gotten better. Give yourself some time and you, too, can make high-quality educational videos for your students. There are a few things we have learned which we now call our Cardinal Video Rules.
1. Keep it short. We are teaching the YouTube generation, and they want things in bite-sized pieces. If you are teaching the quadratic formula, teach just the quadratic formula. Do not teach anything else. When we first started making videos, they lasted the same length of time as our typical lectures. Most of our lectures contained multiple objectives. This is fine in a live setting, but in a video setting we have found that we need to stick to one topic per video. We try to keep our videos under 15 minutes and really shoot for under 10 minutes. Our mantra here: One topic equals one video.
2. Animate your voice. When you are making these videos, you are most likely using some sort of presentation software (e.g., PowerPoint, Prezi, Keynote, Smart Notebook). The only thing you have to engage your students besides your slides is your pen and your voice. Change the inflection of your voice. Make the videos exciting. We found as we got more proficient with the software, we were able to relax and be ourselves more and more in front of a computer.
3. Create the video with another teacher. There is something powerful about watching two people having a conversation instead of watching one teacher talk at the viewer. Not often do you listen to a radio show and hear only one person talking. Think about your morning commute. When was the last time you heard only one voice? Radio stations realize that a conversation is far more engaging than a single talking head. Our students told us the same thing: Two heads (and voices) are better than one. Students learn more. Because we have both been teaching for quite some time, we know which topics students will typically struggle with, so one of us usually takes on the role of the student learning the material while the other takes on the role of an expert. Students tell us this dialogue is helpful in their comprehension of the material.
4. Add humor. We typically have some sort of a running joke in our videos. We usually do this for the first minute of each video. Students either love these or hate them. Because they know the joke will take up the first minute, those who like our weird sense of humor tune in, and those who don’t just fast-forward. [Humor brings] interest and a certain wackiness to the videos, which helps keep the students interested.
5. Don’t waste your students’ time. We’ve watched teacher-made videos where teachers talk about their favorite football team for five minutes. Students are watching this on their own time, and this sort of discussion wastes that 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 do not think we would ever have embraced the flipped classroom if the annotation feature had not been available.
7. Add callouts. We incorporate a fair amount of postproduction editing in which we can add callouts. A callout is a text box, a shape, or some other object that will appear for a while in the video and then disappear. Our students have found these very helpful, because they bring their attention to the key elements in a video. We also use these to show steps in a problem. For example, we use the callouts to list the steps in the process. We state these steps during the recording, but also reemphasize them visually with the callouts.
8. Zoom in and out. In the postproduction editing, we zoom in to different portions of the screen. Having the ability to zoom adds to student comprehension. For example, when we do a mathematical problem, we zoom in to the onscreen calculator. Or, when we are highlighting a picture on screen, we can zoom in to the portion of the picture that is most important for comprehension. This not only emphasizes a particular item, but it declutters the screen and helps the students focus.
9. Keep it copyright friendly. Because these videos will likely be posted online, make sure that you follow all appropriate copyright laws. Consult experts in this area to ensure that you do not infringe on the copyrights of others.