Today I asked my students who their favorite musicians are. It was a natural extension of a conversation we were having that sprang from the curriculum and I was genuinely curious. I am an Old, and I don’t know what The Kids are into these days. I mean, Taylor Swift is my jam, but other than her I’m at the point where the only reason I can recognize current artists is when “Weird Al” parodies them. So I have no idea. And it’s fun to give my students a reason to laugh at me.
Going around the room, something interesting happened. It wasn’t that they were naming people I didn’t know, it was that more than a few listed a person who, “has a YouTube channel, and they put their songs up there. They’re really good.” My students love YouTube. Some have their own channels, and they follow their “subs” as closely as I track twitter likes (only because I’ve somehow tied my self-worth to those little hearts, is all). Others own t-shirts with YouTubers on them. That was when I knew I was an out-of-touch Old. The look the student gave me when I asked her who was on her shirt. “He’s got, like, a million subscribers. He’s really talented.” I’m sure he is, and I’m not mocking my student. I haven’t turned into John Lithgow in FOOTLOOSE just yet. But I barely have time to watch the Netflix show my wife and I are slowly staggering through, I’m not tracking the latest and greatest YouTuber.
That does not mean, however, that I can’t exploit those obsessions for my own gain. The kids love the YouTubes, so to the YouTubes I will go. Honestly, I started doing this before I knew it had a name- blended or flipped learning. Blended means incorporating videos into class, while flipped, traditionally, means the lesson is done on video, the kid watches on her/his own time, and then the work is done in class. Great idea in theory, not so much in practice when you start to think about the internet connectivity of some of our kids.
Making video is daunting. Teachers can be much shyer than you might think considering our job is to stand in front of an audience (I know, I know, guide to the side, not sage on the stage, but the point stands). But it is harder to make a video and then watch yourself than it is to just do the thing. Though, making a video of yourself is a great reflection tool. That’s a post for another time.
Making a video is also shockingly easy. A simple, one-shot, short lesson. Set up your phone or iPad, point it at your face, do the thing, upload it to YouTube. All of you have a YouTube account, because YouTube is owned by Google, and gmail is ubiquitous. Heck, your school district probably runs on Google, making it easier because then you’re not putting stuff onto a “personal” account, it’s all going onto the one associated with your school. But do you know what that makes you? It makes you a YouTuber! You might not be as awesome as JoGirl27, but you’re on the platform. And that carries cache with our kids.
But why, aside from giving our kids a better reason to buy in? Why make a video? Because you can get information across faster and clearer in a video than you can live. There’s no interruptions, no phone calls, no bathroom requests, no repeating yourself over and no, no repeating yourself over and over. Set up the device (I don’t have a tripod, so I cut the corner out of a cardboard box and slide my iPad into the slot, works just as well), point at yourself in front of the whiteboard, get the lesson out in five minutes. Let stumbles stay in, we’re not looking for perfection, we’re looking for efficiency.
I have a bunch of Chromebooks in my classroom from various grants and Donors Choose campaigns, so I break my kinds into groups of two or three, send them to the bit.ly I created for the video, and let them watch. I’ll either put the actual assignment at the end of the video or up on the board. The kids watch the lesson, they’re able to go back, pause, replay, and take it at their own pace. I’m free to walk the room, answering specific questions and lending specific guidance.
Honestly, the biggest part is getting over feeling silly talking into a camera, and not stressing about being Spielberg. When it comes to making one-shot videos, go in for a KISS- Keep It Super Simple. I have puppets, and they teach most of my video lessons. The kids like the puppets more than me anyway. But one way or another I’m making videos and finding yet another way to deliver content. Maybe this way will work for that kid who wasn’t getting it the other ways. Maybe they’ll be jazzed because their teacher is a YouTuber (“But Mr Robertson, why do you only have six subscribers?”). And of course YouTube isn’t your only option. There’s Vimeo and Schooltube as well.
Get out your device. Set it up. Give a three, four, five minute lesson about something you’re teaching tomorrow. See what happens when you tell your students they need to go to YouTube to learn. Couldn’t hurt.
Two Video-Related Notes
Doug Robertson is the CUE Blog Editor and an eleventh-year teacher currently talking at fifth graders in Northern Oregon. He’s taught in California, Hawaii, and Oregon in 3rd, 4th, and 6th grades. He’s the author of two books about education, He’s the Weird Teacher and THE Teaching Text (You’re Welcome), one novel, The Unforgiving Road, and is an active blogger. Doug speaks at teaching conferences including CUE Rock Star Teacher Camps, presenting on everything from technology to teaching philosophy (or teaching The Weird Way, to use his words). Doug is also the creator and moderator of #WeirdEd on Twitter, which happens every Wednesday at 7pm PST.