Sunday, January 14, 2018

Introduction to Video Editing Assignment Using WeVideo

I created a project last week for our middle school Computers class that introduces students to video editing. We use the education version of WeVideo in our district, so the project is based on that application. If you use another editor, you might still find the video clips and the assignment document to be useful.

For a final product, the students will create a 20-25 second commercial. This will require them to edit several short clips that I provide below and also make use of transitions, titles and music.

The Video Clips

To make sure this project only focuses on editing (leaving out all the work of recording), I compiled and trimmed out several short clips of free videos from Pixabay. Each clip shows rides and people at a carnival or amusement park. You can see those video clips in this Google Drive folder.

If you are using my directions exactly as I did, you'd want to make copies of those videos and upload them to a folder in your WeVideo Media. See this video for more information.

The Project Directions

Click here to get a copy of directions for the project as a Google Doc. It contains these things:

  • Step by step directions
  • Links to two videos that take students through the editing and finishing process
  • The list of requirements for their commercial
Note that two links are left out on the document because you would have to provide those to your students on your WeVideo account. Or you might use a different editor. In that case you'd have to modify those steps explaining how to get started.

If you do use WeVideo, you will want to set the project up similarly to what I did, including adding some links to the document. Here are the steps I used:
  • I copied the link from WeVideo that would allow students to add themselves as members to my account. That link needs to be pasted into in Step 4 of your document. There are several ways to add students to your account, but doing it this way worked best for this group I was working with. See this article from WeVideo for more information.
  • I created a project in WeVideo called Carnival Commercial and copied the link to it so students could add access the project. See this article from WeVideo to learn about project types. I chose the Shared option and I copied the link from the lower left of that Project screen (see the picture below). That link needs to be pasted into Step 5 of the directions. 
  • Finally, I shared those video clips I uploaded to my WeVideo media with anyone in that shared project.
After you do that to finish your version of the directions, share it with your students (possibly through Google Classroom) and they should be able to work through the project to completion.

A couple notes about WeVideo:
  • Students under the age of 13 should not use the free version of WeVideo. It is not COPPA compliant. If you don't use the educational version, you also won't have all the features referred to above.
  • We have had a lot of success with WeVideo at our middle school and high school. However, we do find the audio is sometimes too quiet on clips we record. It won't matter in this project if you use the clips I provided, since they have no audio. I have contacted tech support about this, but no satisfactory solution was offered. 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Six Things We Learned So Far In Our Middle School MACUL Grant Project

I've written here and here about our middle school math project funded with a MACUL grant. We've been making learning videos for and with students in 6th grade math. We post the final videos at

Since I'm an instructional tech coordinator and not a classroom teacher, I've been working with Brenda June's students. This exciting project that has required us to stretch as professionals. We meet several times a week to plan videos and discuss what we are learning. 

As you'll read below, it has been challenging at times. Our goal now is to glean the many excellent things we are learning from it so teachers can do the same without spending all the time we have. We will share those insights here, in our videos and at the MACUL Conference in March.

Here's a summary of big ideas and some practical insights we've learned so far.

1)  Students love making videos for other students. When I wrote the grant proposal, I hoped this would be the case with most students. But when we started out, the enthusiasm I saw in class surprised me. Initially we kicked off the project in every one of Brenda's classes. Out of more than one hundred students, I only saw slight resistance from one student when we asked them to make their first video. Within minutes, even that student was engaged in the task.

Before we had anything like an audience for our videos, students excitedly ended their lessons with phrases like, "Thanks for watching," and, "Be sure to see our other videos."

As you'll see in my next point, this is not the dream project to solve all the challenges of teaching math in middle school. Still, the idea of helping others learn and sharing their work with a wider audience changed class from the "got to do this" mindset to "get to do this".

2)  It's harder than I expected to do this on a large scale. There's no way around it. This is a challenge and we are trying to figure out exactly what we recommend for other teachers to try. I did learn a few practical things that I'll list below, but student created tutorials take a lot of time and effort.

I make a lot of video tutorials and I've worked with students for years to make them in class. I didn't think technical problems would take so much time. On top of that, it's difficult to find time during class for students to get free to record a tutorial. Some of this is unique to our situation. I wrote the original proposal for a different class at the elementary level, but that teacher ended up in a new position. Brenda was glad to try this project, but we almost certainly would have written different details for use in her secondary classroom.

Here are just a few unexpected things I ran into:

  • We want to focus on why more than how in our lessons, but it requires students multiple takes just to successfully show how to do the problems. As I mentioned, attitudes have been great, but it surprised me how long it would take to work through a multi-step problem without a mistake. 
  • The microphone was picking up far more than just our narration, and sometimes not even our narration! After recording our first "polished" tutorial, we realized every time the students touched the table, it was being recorded as a loud thud by the microphone. Add another 15 minutes (1/4 of class time) to that one!
  • Even if the explanation and math work is perfect, students might mumble, misspeak or write illegibly. There's a lot to get right!
  • Editing takes longer than expected because of the mistakes. We've improved in this greatly, but our student created tutorials are much simpler and less polished than I originally envisioned. I thought I'd be able to get by with students doing most editing in iMovie on an iPad or WeVideo on Chromebooks. Instead I've had to do the editing and some of it has been very complex. I need higher end software too. More on this below.
3)  Focused discussion with colleagues is invaluable. This has been a key takeaway, as Brenda and I have had to spend hours working together on this project. We already knew collaboration is valuable, since we met almost weekly last year and have done many other projects together. This one has been particularly helpful, though, because we want our Learning Chats to focus on how to learn deeply.

Brenda and I read Mathematical Mindsets and a lot of other research about good teaching. She has spent her career constantly improving how she teaches and she's been focused on excellent discussion techniques in class for the past year. This project came at a good time, since she is excited about what her questions in class have uncovered and how we can address the misconceptions and gaps the students have in their learning.

It might not be completely clear in the videos we've completed so far, but what we've discovered and how we see it impacting students has been invigorating. Our most popular video so far touches on some of this. Be sure to watch The Learning Journey if you haven't seen it already. Part 2 should be available soon.

4)  You can see (and hear) students' misconceptions by having record their explanations. We suspected this of course. I mention it here because it's another sign that we're onto something important. When we first started the project, we had every student make a quick, informal video tutorial. Had they done their work only on paper, many of the problems would have looked correct. Hearing the thinking (or lack of thinking) behind each of their steps gave us much more insight. 

5)  Practice before recording is the key. This will also seem obvious, but it is worth mentioning. Anyone who has made a video knows that better preparation for recording saves a ton of time in editing. More than that, though, the practice I do with students before recording a Learning Chat gives me an opportunity to ask good questions and get them thinking about why they are doing what they do. A good example of this came from our tutorial about multiplying fractions. The discussion we had before recording that required the students to think more deeply than they were about the process. It also was one of our easiest to produce.

6)  We know better which tools work and which don't. Here are some specifics:
  • We decided on Educreations for informal tutorials in class. We tried Show Me first, but went with Educreations in the end when we wanted every student to record their work. We ran into fewer technical challenges with it. You can see two examples at the bottom of this page. It costs about $12 a month for the premium version that allows for easy sharing with the teachers.
  • I used to love Explain Everything on the iPad and I expected this would be the main tool for all of our polished tutorials. Well, they have added a lot of features since I used it and that has added to the complexity. It's still a great tool, but it's too complicated for the students. It posed challenges for me and Brenda as well. And it's over three times as expensive as it was when I bought it years ago. For now, I set up the problems and pages in Google Slides and then transfer them over to Explain Everything for the students to write on during recording. If they only write on it rather than construct all the slides with it, it serves its purpose well.
  • I absolutely love Camtasia for editing. It's expensive, but I get a free copy as a Google Certified Trainer. I've used it for years to make screen recordings, but recently I've started using it for all types of video. The animation features are excellent and the ability to quickly work with multiple layers is extremely helpful. I highly recommend it if you create professional tutorials or videos.
  • We use the iRig Studio microphone with an iPad to record narration. I like it, but as I mentioned above, it picks up every tap or movement on the table. I'm sure there are some shock mounts that would help, but our low budget approach has been to set it on a folded cloth, such as a towel or (in a pinch) a student's hoodie or stocking cap. 
So that's a summary of what we've gained so far. I look forward to creating many more videos over the next eight weeks as we prepare to share in our MACUL presentation!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Update on our MACUL project

A couple months ago I announced our project funded by a grant from MACUL. We have been working on it steadily, but we have progressed more slowly than we hoped! 

Brenda June and I have learned a lot as we've been creating video tutorials for and with students. I make a lot of videos, so this isn't new to me. But from choosing the scope of the tutorial to finding the best tools and workflow, it's been more challenging than I expected. 

We added a few more videos over the past weeks and now that we have a routine down I expect to have a few more from students before we go on break next week. Here is a summary of what we've done.

First, you might want to start at our Room 10 Learning Chats site. Besides the videos listed below, we also ask pre-questions for many videos and some of them have additional resources.

Our most popular video so far has been The Learning Journey, which I created with Brenda. We are still working on the follow-up video, Identifying Your Next Step.

These are the other tutorials Mrs. June and I created:
And these are the ones featuring students:
Keep in mind we are all still learning how to best churn out videos at a good rate. All of these videos have plenty of room for improvement. Many of the things we don't say in the video or the slight mistakes we left in can provide an opportunity for discussion in the classroom. 

Mrs. June, the students and I are very open to feedback. Please comment here or send me an email if you would like to suggest improvements or if you have any other thoughts to share.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Learning as a Journey - Helping Students Become Their Own Teachers

I recently finished the video below with help from Brenda June. Brenda is a friend and a middle school math teacher from my district. It's designed to give some simple tools to students that they can use to be self-sufficient learners.

It's a result of many discussions over the past couple years about our classroom experiences and ideas about learning that we've discovered from many sources. Most notably, we were both greatly inspired by Jo Boaler's Mathematical Mindsets and John Hattie's work.

The video (which will eventually be the first of two) provides some simple images and ideas comparing learning to a journey. While that's nothing new, we hope the simple visuals provide a concise, effective way to present it to students.

It includes our "3 Big Questions" that can help students identify their next step and it provides our take on a familiar four-point scale for students' regular self-assessment.

I also created this Google Slides presentation, which provides a space to write the learning target and success criteria for a lesson. There are summary slides for the 3 Big Questions and the four-point self-assessment scale.

We have received some helpful feedback from our students. We would love to hear any thoughts about the video from other teachers. Please send me an email or comment below about its usefulness or how we might improve it.

A couple other notes:

  • I used Camtasia to create the animation. What a great program! Many thanks to TechSmith for providing a copy through their program for Google for Education Certified Trainers.
  • Most images in the presentation came from Pixabay
  • This video is part of the grant funded project Brenda and I started in September. You can read about our project for MACUL here.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Short Music Video Project for Middle School

Here's a quick music video project we did for our middle school Computers class. We used iPads with the Pixlr app, GarageBand and iMovie.

The video that students produce will be very short and the song will be very simple. Here's a sample one I made with my family. It took about 30 minutes from start to finish, but students will probably take at least two class periods to work through everything.

All of the directions can be found in this document. It links to the sample video and to four tutorials. We assigned it in Google Classroom and the students were editing pictures and making songs in no time!

Here are a two notes:
  • I made the tutorials as a series of slides rather than capturing the iPad while I used the apps. It was a shortcut that leaves out some details, but I like the students to have to explore and learn the apps rather than watching every single tap.
  • Our iPads are shared between classes, so each one has a generic Google account on it. We encourage students not to sign in on them with their own accounts. That's why the final steps explain that the students must share the files with their account. If you have a different setup, you will want to modify those last steps.

It's really easy to add some class content to this project. Just have students sing a simple chorus or make a short rap about what they're studying. They could hold signs in the pictures or use text features of Pixlr or iMovie too.

I'll be glad to hear feedback if you get a chance to try this fun activity with your students!