Digital content, including digital videos, has important implications for how students learn--here are some tips to integrate it in an engaging manner

6 keys to producing effective digital content

Digital content, including digital videos, has important implications for how students learn--here are some tips to integrate it in an engaging manner

Today’s educational environment requires that teachers become not only content and pedagogical experts, but also technology experts. This reality has become even more clear with the COVID-19 pandemic, as local, state and national-level educators and leaders grapple with how to open schools, pivot to online instruction or develop some middle ground.

In the new frontier of education, we now understand how important digital content is to virtual learning. K-12 students live in increasingly digital worlds and their use of video, whether they are following YouTube and Instagram influencers, or communicating with their friends through Snapchat or other video messaging, has become an integral aspect of socializing for children and youth.

Related content: 5 new strategies for digital content

Educators must embrace digital video tools and platforms as one of the many tools in their teacher toolkits to meet their students where they are, engage students in the ways that they learn, and build learning communities in the classroom as well as remotely.

Don’t let this new reality overwhelm or discourage you. Digital content resources have become increasingly user friendly, and many teachers have all of the tools on their smartphone or personal computer that they need to capture, edit and publish professional quality video content for their students.

As an associate professor of graduate education at the University of Richmond training K-12 teachers, I have developed a variety of tips and strategies that I provide to my own teacher candidates as they prepare to teach in today’s classroom. Having taught middle school in Georgia for many years, I also remember the days when the tools for developing quality video was expensive and technology intensive. These days, with a few tips and some time to explore the various tools, any teacher can become a quality digital content producer.

Below are six key tips related to digital videos that will quickly help you become an effective digital educational content producer.

1. Clear ideas are crucial: Storyboarding or organizing your video components before you hit record helps your final product be more logical and organized. Don’t hesitate to take the old-fashioned paper-and-pencil approach to sketch out the parts of your video, be it a video lecture, a documentary-style presentation or an informal conversation.

2. You are already an expert: You likely have many years of watching movies, television and documentaries, and you should think about the video content that is interesting to you, particularly in terms of communicating information in an engaging manner. For instance, when recording yourself, frame yourself in your videos so that your face is clear and visible, the lighting doesn’t back light you (like those anonymous tipsters on crime shows), and that your microphone is placed so that your voice is upfront and audible. You no longer need an expensive studio microphone for digital video, as the typical ear buds, Bluetooth head sets and even phones and laptops have high quality microphones built in. Proximity is key because these microphones pick up all of the sounds in the environment, so make sure you position your microphone close to your sound source (your voice). Although many digital video tools can edit sound to make it louder, or adapt the lighting, the most time-consuming aspects of editing digital video and sound can be avoided by just setting a reasonable light source toward your face, and a microphone close by to pick up your voice clearly.

3. You already have video resources: Many tools you have, or maybe already use, can make professional quality educational videos (the days of the camcorder are over). Whether you are on a Mac (iMovie), a PC (Movie Maker), online (Youtube Studio), on a smartphone (video camera, voice recorder, apps), the devices that the average person has access to today are light years ahead of technology from only a few years ago. You have a mini-Hollywood studio at your fingertips.

4. Get over the fear of getting started: The hardest part of developing good digital educational video content is getting past the fear and procrastination. Many teachers I have worked with have spent years perfecting their in-the-classroom craft and are afraid that they need to start over, or recreate the wheel, in order to shift to online formats. Rather, think about the performance aspects of your teaching in the face-to-face classroom and highlight some of these in a digital video. If you have a good lecture or presentation that you have used in the past, set up your smartphone and record it. If you have had a guest speaker in the past, interview them through a video chat and record it.

5. Think variety when sharing out digital video content: Sharing digital videos with students is no longer limited to the old-school teacher blog. Numerous free platforms are available and today’s Learning Management Systems (LMS) provide many bells-and-whistles that make collaboration easier, and communication more integrated. Consider offering your digital videos on a variety of platforms, from your school or division’s proprietary platforms to free sites like YouTube or Vimeo. Think about file size, however, when publishing your digital video files, as student’s access to high speed internet may vary. It might be helpful to compress your videos to smaller file sizes so that they are easier to stream or download by students.

6. Student video response: Just like you, students have access to many free video tools, and you should leverage those. For instance, Flipgrid is a free platform for teachers where students can respond to prompts through video submissions directly from their smartphones or computers. Social media platforms have been used effectively by teachers including private Facebook groups, Instagram stories, Twitter feeds and more. In addition to students adding their own videos, they can curate videos from online and share with their classmates.

The University of Richmond recently partnered with Discovery Education to offer two new courses for educators to improve their technology integration skills, as well as better prepare for delivering online instruction. With the world-wide coronavirus pandemic, these skills have never been more important, and the savvy educator understand that this need will only continue or increase in the future in schools.

One course we are offering in the Fall 2020 is Digital Video Development and Educational Applications to support our teachers in Virginia to improve their digital video skills as well as build their confidence in being digital content producers. I suggest that teachers should be seeking out professional development on digital video development through formal educational opportunities or even the numerous informal tutorials available online.

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