Demonstrations: You record, they watch in their own time. It’s a time-saving way of communicating process intensive information to students, from how to layout long division, to exactly what’s required for that mapping exercise in Social Studies.
Instructions on demand
Whether it’s a tour of an upcoming assignment, or instructions for how to find the area of a triangle, the traditional model for outlining processes to students usually involves explaining it to everyone, and then wasting time re-explaining it to the various students who got-most-but-not-all-of-it, or weren’t-really-listening. You can’t limit this sort of follow up to “We just talked about this, just do it the way I showed you”, because the explanation you’re referencing is now very much past tense, and irrecoverable—and so you’re condemned instead to having to give a a repeat performance.
A more possibility-rich and efficient alternative is to record your process tour, so that students can watch it whenever they need to. They can pause, rewind, rewatch, take notes, freeze frame to mimic what’s on the screen, share with the person next to them…your instructions are no longer condemned to fading with each passing minute, but are vivid and on demand.
This means that when a hand goes up, you only need to provide help if their question wasn’t already covered in your recorded tour—otherwise, you can simply tell them to rewatch, and get on with helping someone who actually does need your input.
Help that travels with them
Because it’s been recorded, that explanation you made about multiplying decimals is not only available to students whenever they’re working at their desk, but is also there with them when they’re doing any follow-up homework that night.
This means you could make a similar instruction video for a major project— complete with all the whens, whats and hows clearly outlined—so that students can watch it with their parents whenever they need clarification. Because it’s on their iPad, it’s wherever they are…which means you’re wherever they are.
It also means that if you’ve got a student who is struggling with a particular concept, you can record the help as you give it, so they can give themselves booster shots as needed. Parents can then work with exactly the same help, so there’s consistency between home support and what they’re hearing in class.
Over time, an archive of your best
If you’ve made a recording that shows a fun way to memorize your 9 times table, then it’s not just this year’s class that can benefit from that—you can reuse it in future years whenever the topic comes up. Short of datestamped here’s-what-we’ll-be-doing-today videos, the same is true of just about any video demonstration you create.
So while your first year is going to be about creating these content videos; in subsequent years you’ll often simply be selecting from your growing library.
It’s not designed to replace one-to-one personal help—in fact, if frees you up to be able to spend much more time doing exactly that.
Be everywhere at once
When instructions are entirely dependent on your physical presence, then you can only ever be covering one thing at a time. A class with access to a library of your explanations though could potentially have you explaining 28 different things to 28 different students…all at the same time.
Which helps ensure you’re available to give full, personal, I’m-right-here attention to the 29th student.
The apps that make all this possible are outlined below, and they’re just as easy for students to use as they are for teachers. For educators who would rather spend time helping individual students than recycling explanations to the whole group, these apps are gamechangers.
How to build your own demos
Building your own demonstration on an iPad is not much more complex than giving a demonstration with pen and paper—the only difference is that your iPad will be recording what you do.
In fact, if you’ve got the right app, and your iPad is airplaying to your class smartboard, you’ll be able to simply hit “record”, and give your demonstration as you normally would—when you’re done, the recording can be made available to everyone’s iPad so they can play it back (or not) as they need to.
Just talk while you write on the board
One of the most popular apps for getting this done is ShowMe, which turns your iPad into a whiteboard with a microphone. Use your finger or stylus to draw directly on the screen, and explain what you’re doing as you do it. Once you’re done, a single tap will turn your narrated doodling into a video that you can share with students…or the whole world, through showme.com, where there is a vast library of existing demonstrations from teachers, sorted by topic.
Working with existing images instead
If working with diagrams on a whiteboard is not your thing, then you might prefer instead to be speaking to pictures or documents you’ve created in other programs. Explain Everything is another widely used demonstration creation app, but it abandons the blank-whiteboard approach, and lets you instead import and annotate any document.
So you could import a scan of a best-practice example of an assignment that all students will be tackling, and walk them through the elements that make this example so good; you can circle elements, highlight them, underline, add arrows, whatever you need to make sure that they’re looking where you need them to be.
Why go to this trouble? Because it’s much more engaging and easy to remember than dotpoints on a rubric—once students have seen an example of excellence, and heard you talk about it, they’re much more likely to embrace those benchmarks as their own.
Another use for this is to scan a recent exam paper, and walk through some of the troublesome questions.
Or use a photograph of the classroom to show new students through where everything is: readers are over here; schoolbags go here; math equipment is in this box. Or a here’s what do do once you’ve finished your story this morning, and then here’s what to do once you’ve finished that…for recallable, clear and engaging instructions. (See also the entry on Behavior Management)
How students can see these videos
Summoning help with QR codes
We look in more detail at this must-know idea in the chapter on quizzing, but simply put, QR codes will allow you to place special barcode-like squares next to individual questions on students’ papers. When the student uses a QR code reader on their iPad to scan the code, the correct video will automatically play.
So, for example, if you were to use such a reader on the code below, it will load a YouTube video with a tutorial on how to factorize a trinomial—I chose this video at random, but it could just as easily be one that you’d uploaded for your own students:
This technology makes it very easy to ensure that help is always immediately available, and in the right place. Rather than having to email students lists of links, and then hope they’ll figure out which one they should be watching, all they have to do is scan the QR code that’s been placed right there next to the section of work they’re trying to complete. The help video will load immediately—they effectively will have summoned the help they need, as surely as if they’d put up their hand and called you over.
Again, this is not so you can avoid helping students, but so you can target your help to those students who really do need it, and in the context they need it in…you’ll literally be able to be in many different places at one time.
Creating a class library of help
All of this means that instead of process-based explanations having to be live performances to a captive audience, you could pre-populate a library of explanations of common skills, and then make it available any time for those who need it. Students are not compelled to use them, and they’re still very welcome to put up their hand for personalized help; the whole point is that you’ll be more available to give such help, because the videos are effectively a small army of clones that are prepared to do all the re-explaining on your behalf.
So paradoxically, having a video library leads to more one-on-one help, not less.
The questions you’re asked then inform which videos you might create next: if you find yourself being asked the same question a dozen times, the answer to that question is worth recording in its own right—it takes much less time to make one of these demonstration videos than it does to give the same explanation a dozen times.
I hear and forget, I see and remember, I do and understand, I teach and master…there’s no reason that students can’t create videos of their own…what better way for a student to demonstrate they’ve mastered long division than to make a video that teaches others?
It’s a potent new genre of concept mastery—as well as completing drills, sitting an exam, or answering teacher-posted questions, students might also be required to make their own how-to video that steps through that process.
So how exactly do sodium and chlorine atoms combine to create table salt? What’s the difference between a crocodile and an alligator? What impact might global warming have on Pacific Island nations? Their little video explaining it will take just minutes to make, but will speak volumes about their depth of understanding…and may yet prove to be a useful resource for future students trying to understand the same topic.
Using existing libraries
Because there are countless teachers around the world teaching the same topics as you are, it’s entirely possible that they may already have recorded a brilliant tutorial video—if a teacher on the other side of the world has made a surprisingly clear explanation of how to do long division, then that’s an asset your students should be able to access.
This idea is what inspired the Khan Academy, a library of over 3000 free videos that have been sorted into topics. So, for example, in the section on Math > Arithmetic and Pre Algebra, you can watch (among many others) a video explaining negative numbers and absolute value. Alternatively, go to Art History > 1800-1848 Industrial Revolution I > Romanticism in France, and you can watch a video on Goya.
Similarly, showme.com—the website behind the ShowMe app that we looked at earlier—has a vast and growing collection of teacher submitted explanations across a wide range of topics. Some of them you might think are not so good, some you’ll think are excellent, and wish you’d thought of yourself…your role here becomes perhaps one of curator as much as content producer. If you can find and QR code the videos you’d be happy for your students to use, you can end up with a wide-ranging video library for your classroom very quickly….
…no, it’s not cheating. It’s smart. There’s no rule that says the only explanations students hear have to come from whoever is teaching a particular class, nor is there a rule that says the best explanations will always come from that one teacher. iPad is brilliantly positioned to bring the collective wisdom and expertise of a whole world of teachers to bear. (See the chapter on Video Learning)