Teacher Showcase: Student Video Production with Tracy Donnelly and Kristen Ireland

Our new digital playground makes student video easier than ever before. Check out how two Northview teachers are doing it!

This post is rich with links for extra help and examples. Check ‘em out!

If you want your students to explore a topic through research, fully examining the issue from a number of perspectives and addressing diverse questions, you assign a research report, right? Or maybe, a presentation? Sure, those approaches are straightforward and familiar. They’ve also become a bit outdated. The research report, as traditionally assigned, lacks multimedia components. The presentation, as traditionally executed, lacks audience engagement. Neither takes advantage of the tools available to students in our current technological landscape.

That’s why Health teacher Tracy Donnelly and Zoology teacher Kristen Ireland, both teaching at Northview High School, have opted out of the traditional approach and opted into student video production. Their students have presented research on topics within the curricula through short video documentaries that make use of interviews, narration, titles and images, clipped YouTube content, dramatic re-enactments, and more to mimic a television documentary style. That style has been developed and refined over generations, but the tools at the students’ disposal are pretty new. Students use WeVideo, a free, web-based video editor, to assemble and arrange content produced by themselves and/or captured from the Internet. They use their smartphones to stage and record interviews and dramatizations. They capture images in simple manners and rip YouTube content with more sophisticated approaches. They use WeVideo tools to create captions, titles, and more.

Health Research  P8 School Lunches   YouTube.png
A playful video exploring nutrition pits a student against “Darth Diabeetus” in single combat.

The result? Let’s look at Tracy Donnelly’s health class first. Here, students gather into groups to explore a chosen topic in the curriculum, such as nutrition or bullying. They conduct research to develop a written script. The script then leads them in the creation and cultivation of video content (as well as a formal research paper that Tracy requires). Some students come to the task with more experience and lead the group in the video execution; others learn fast from their guidance. All work on their smartphones and Chromebooks, discussing the content and the video development as they go. The result? Some videos are whimsical and inject their topic with a dose of humor. Many, such as this one, feature students exploring the issue in the context of their own school community. Others go for serious inspection of emotional issues. Often, students mix fact-bearing title images with dramatizations of those facts. The execution is varied, but each video showcases the play of students in a medium that they enjoy playing with.

ZOO_FINAL Paris G .mp4   Google Drive.png
The beauty of the jewel anemone shines forth through the title screen.

The same goes for Kristen Ireland’s students in Zoology. This year, Kristen assigned a video project in lieu of a final exam. Make no mistake, the assignment was rigorous, but like Tracy’s Health project, students explore video development as their means of expression. Through documentaries on octopi, red scorpions, sea anemones, and more, students record voice-over narration, create titles, edit video, and insert images to answer the research questions asked in the assignment. Each video is an effort to address each requirement of the grading rubric and demonstrate the ability to engage in scientific discourse on animals.

Health Research  P7 Bullying   YouTube.png
Interviews with peers exhibit the student producers’ exploration of their immediate community.

Students have been recording videos to satisfy class project requirements since video cameras became inexpensive enough for schools to buy. So, in a sense, nothing is new here. And, when examining these videos, you may see that students are a bit rough in their video production skills. But step back a check this out in perspective. Now, each student has access to video camera technology at virtually every moment, and all of the footage from that equipment is incredibly portable and flexible. Now, a library of unimaginable hours of video content lie at students fingertips, ready for cutting and integration. Now, cloud technology enables portable collaboration and presentation. None of those current qualities was true even five years ago in our schools. As teachers begin to understand these facts and encourage their students to play with the possibilities, new media of expression will emerge to complement traditional approaches to assessment. As students increasingly face these challenges, their ability to communicate with the semantics and syntax of video will blossom. It’s a colorful, dynamic world of sound and vision. And it’s just ahead.

Mimic Octopus Emily Kelch.mp4   Google Drive.png
Captions merge with audio to express researched information.

Teacher Showcase: Interactive Video Instruction with Anna Drake-Kotz

Leave 20th century TV behind with Anna Drake-Kotz and Edpuzzle interactive video instruction!

We may have grown up on television, but our students are growing up on YouTube. And while that may seem a difference with little significance, it’s not. The video content on YouTube is more diverse, portable, and functional than television broadcast. It often comes in short chunks, and those chunks serve a specific user purpose. Search and recommendations serve content based on viewer characteristics much more responsively than television. YouTube is truly television for a different age, and as we grew up expecting audio-visual stimulation in our world, our student expect that and so much more.

Enter Arbor Hills teacher Anna Drake-Kotz. Anna teaches sixth grade science, and she has been a strong user and advocate of interactive video instruction through the platform of Edpuzzle. You may have attended her professional development session in October of 2016, and if you did, you’ll be familiar with the lesson she’s running on this late start Wednesday in December. On this day, Anna’s students are continuing their study of matter, with particular attention to pure substances, mixtures, and their qualities. But, rather than lecturing or reading from a textbook, the students are learning the concepts through interactive videos Anna has created in Edpuzzle.

Anna’s sixth grade learning targets

Here’s how it goes: Anna finds instructional video content that she likes. Today, she is using short videos from Crash Course Kids. She uploads those videos to Edpuzzle, which enables her to create questions embedded in the video themselves. Then, she shares those videos with her students through Google Classroom. The students log in and watch the video. At planned points of the video, the playback stops and Anna’s question appears. The student must answer before moving on. Results from these quiz questions flow directly to Anna’s teacher dashboard in Edpuzzle, where she can see results, reset videos for students, and plan for further instruction.

EdPuzzle Dash.png
The Edpuzzle dashboard here shows assigned videos and their progress in completion by students.

But why do this instead of a traditional lecture and discussion? After all, those traditional approaches, with the right teacher, can be dynamic, engaging performances that capture students’ attention. But, the approach Anna is developing here will not only meet her students in a learning mode with which they feel comfortable, but will also fuel further instructional change. Anna could assign the videos for homework to create a flipped classroom approach. Instead of assigning students traditional text reading at home, an Edpuzzle video could be assigned. Students could then report to class ready to explore the concepts actively, and Anna could use the results of the Edpuzzle quizzes to modify her instruction. Moving direct instruction to this mode offers other benefits as well. Absent or homebound students would not miss out on direct instruction. Also, all students are required to engage themselves with active thinking during the instruction. Interactive quizzes and the Internet technology that serves them provide such clear and flexible benefits that they should be considered vital tools in any modern teacher’s tool box.

Especially when the resource is so simple to use for both the teacher and the students. Edpuzzle integrates with Google Classroom, so classes can be created through importing from Classroom and videos can be posted directly back to the Classroom. Teachers can search for publicly shared videos on Edpuzzle, curating material rather than creating it. Videos can be created through sourcing YouTube content, which is vast and valuable. Teachers can customize content as well, even including their own voice over (as Anna once did to clarify one of the video’s discussions of states of matter, a topic net broached until next chapter).

Anna guides her students through the simple Edpuzzle login process.

Today, the students are seeing the benefits. As they complete three interactive videos of approximately three minutes each, they work at their own pace, sometimes disappearing silently into the work, at other times collaborating with peers. All the while, Anna floats around the room, helping students as needed and monitoring completion. The dashboard fills the Smartboard in the front of the classroom, so Anna can monitor progress at a glance. This instruction finishes quickly, which is perfect for the shortened period today, but it leaves students ready for the applied lab practice with chemical reactions scheduled for next week.

The work Anna is doing here today may seem simple, but its impact is huge. Developing interactive video content like this gives students more control over resources for learning while maintaining Anna’s guidance. In the YouTube age, it just makes sense.

Linked Resources

Anna’s PD Session Page from the Sylvania October Inservice


Edpuzzle YouTube Channel

Also, search for Anna’s videos on Edpuzzle

Cool Trick: Teacher-controlled YouTube Approval

Finally, using YouTube in your classroom is simple and fast.

Sylvania Schools now offers its teachers the ability to approve YouTube videos that have been blocked by our content filters. In addition, YouTube has cleared a large amount of content for automatic safe viewing. Check out how you can approve videos while remaining safe with students. Watch the tutorial below or check out this instruction guide.

Cool Trick: Quicker “Ripping” of YouTube Videos

Save videos from YouTube quicker and easier than before!

Have you tried Clip Converter? Would you like to save videos from YouTube for use later on? If you answered “Yes” to either question, then learn this cool trick. Using savefrom.net, you can “rip” those videos off YouTube and keep them forever. It’s ridiculously easy!

Savefrom.net FAQ