Recording in the Classroom: Some Tips

I’ve been busy @unitqp lately.  We recently just wrapped up participation week, which is when the majority of level three students (field experience typically before student teaching that requires 30 hours in the field) complete the field experience of their methods course.  Through the work of the grant we are trying something new where we record our students when they are out in the field and use that as a way to show/highlight areas the students are doing well and not so well.  One thing many of us can attest to is that it is easy to gloss over something that didn’t go so well when writing an essay or creating a portfolio.  This creates a system that promotes students without addressing some of the underlying developmental problems that could be preventing them from becoming excellent teachers.

With the use of video we are hoping to prevent more instances where students slip through the cracks.  Now that we have had our maiden voyage as it were, there are some things that I wanted to share some tips about recording yourself in the classroom.  If you want to learn more about the process the students went through, go here.

  • If someone is available to help record while you are teaching, have them help.  The video will only be as good as it is pointed in the direction of all the action in the classroom.  While this may not be a problem for the traditional teacher who lectures all period, this may be more problematic for the student centered teachers that move around a lot in the classroom.
  • If someone does help you record, have them use a tripod.  There is nothing worse than shaky video and it’s even worse when the audio is scratchy because they were touching the microphone without knowing it.
  • Reduce the ambient noise in the room if possible.  Turn fans, radios, and anything else that makes noise off.  Also close windows and doors.  This may seem simple, and it is, but the quality of the audio will improve dramatically.  Which is important because the video is as much about seeing your actions as it is hearing your words.
  • Move the camcorder as close as possible to the source of audio, while still capturing the video you need to see.  For example, if you have a camcorder setup in the very back of the room with 5 rows of desks, but students only sit in the first two rows, move the camcorder closer to the front of the room, while still behind the students.  This will result in louder and more clear audio.
  • If you can export the video from the device to a useable medium, then use that as your camcorder regardless if it is your phone, iPod, iPad, or a standard camcorder.  We used a variety of camcorders and had good results across each.  Some performed better than others, but the quality of video was still very nice.  You don’t need to have high end equipment to get high end results.
  • If sharing your video with someone else, cut the length down to a manageable amount.  No one really needs to see you teach for 50 plus minutes.  Instead, target the area you want to improve upon the most or that will help your friend improve the most.  The Teacher Performance Assessment Consortium (TPAC) requires only 10 minutes of video for their teacher performance assessments at the pre-service level.  Whether or not this is enough for in-service teachers, I’m unsure.  Regardless, take ten minutes to cut out some of the material that isn’t going to add value to your practice and share everything else.
  • As with everything that includes minors, get parent permission if you plan to use the video for anything beyond your own reflection.
  • When you are done with the video, never to use it again, delete it.  No need to dwell on the past.

Saving time with RSS readers

This is one of those things I ‘ve been meaning to talk about for a while now and just haven’t found the time to write.  Well, what better time than now.  For those that don’t know what RSS means, check out this Wikipedia article.  It will probably tell you more about RSS than you really want to know.  My short definition is that RSS feeds are a way to receive updates posted to a Web site, usually a blog, podcast, etc.  RSS feeds aren’t anything new, but many people aren’t using them.  This could be due to a variety of reasons, but I think one of the biggest is that many people do not know now what to do with an RSS feed.  Well the answer is simple, and requires only the use of an RSS reader.

How this works is that you “subscribe” to a blog, or other Web site that has an RSS feed, using an RSS reader.  The RSS reader will then update automatically any feeds you have subscribed to.  So, when you want to see updates from a Web site, all you need to do is open your RSS reader and see if there are any new posts.  You may be asking yourself, “What’s the big deal? It doesn’t take that long to check these two, three, five, ten Web sites everyday.”

While that statement may be correct, time is relative to each person based on how much they value their time.  If you are like most educators, time is a rare and precious commodity.  For most, taking time to check multiple Web sites everyday to see if there are updates takes more time than you probably realize.  RSS readers increase a person’s efficiency by bringing the updates from all your favorite Web sites to one location.  Instead of checking five sites everyday, you can check just one and then move on with your day.  The time you save using an RSS reader translates into time for other, perhaps more important tasks you need to complete.

I know from my own experiences that using an RSS reader has made me more productive.  I have also had the chance to expand the number of blogs I follow and organize them in a way that lets me target the skill or area I want to devote my PLN time to on any given day.  So for me, my RSS reader has not only helped make me more efficient with my time, but it has also expanded my knowledge base by allowing me to follow more blogs more easily.

If you want to get started using an RSS reader, it’s easy to do.  All you need to do is look for the RSS icon usually accompanied with “Subscribe” or “Feeds” on your favorite Web sites.  Most Web sites usually put this at the top of the page, in with the navigation links, or sometimes at the bottom of the page.  If you don’t immediately see one, try search the home page of the Web site for Subscribe using the built-in search feature of your Web browser.  For most, the quickest way to bring the find feature up is to push command-f or control-f on the keyboard.  You could also find it under the edit menu on most computers/Web browsers.

Next you need to setup an RSS reader.  There are a number of options, but I prefer Google Reader the most, but feel free to use one that meets your needs.  Here’s a list of a number of RSS readers, both Web based and computer based (actually installed on your c0mputer rather than being stored on the Internet).  Once you find the RSS feed, by clicking subscribe on a Web page, you can copy the RSS URL and paste it into the subscription section of your RSS reader.  It is important you choose the RSS URL and not the Web page URL.  The difference is that if you choose the Web page URL it won’t update in your RSS reader, where the RSS URL will update.  For example, if you entered into your RSS reader, it would not update when new posts are published.  However, if you entered, you would receive updates every time I published a new post.

You may also notice that many Web sites have buttons that will enter the RSS feed into your reader for you.  This is the case for Technology Tips.  If you click on Posts-Technology Tips under RSS on the homepage, you will be taken to another Web page that allows you to subscribe to this blog by just clicking on the name of your RSS Reader.  So if you are using Netvibes as your RSS reader, then all you would need to do is click the Netvibes button on the subscribe page.  Below is a video that takes you through this process.

23 More Google Apps

It seems like it has been a while since I have posted an update, but with the holiday, I’m not surprised.  One thing I found while on vacation was that Google has made 23 more apps available for Google Apps users.  This has been a long time coming and I’m excited that schools finally have the opportunity to begin using more of these tools in their classrooms.  Here are a couple of the apps that are new that I’m excited about:

Blogger: For those who don’t know, blogger is a Google’s blogging platform and is quite simple for teachers and students to begin blogging and sharing their ideas with the rest of the world.  I know many teachers that have been frustrated in the past with the lack of access to this app.  However, now teachers can begin having their students complete blogging activities in their courses and help students develop a reflective voice that is necessary for life long learning.

Reader: Central to my PLN is my Google Reader page.  I follow a number of blogs from educational techology, to politics, to design, to weird and wacky news.  I have found that through the use of Google Reader that I have become more informed with what is happening in my field as well as staying abreast of what’s happening in the rest of the world.  Living in a rural state it is easy to become isolated with the lack of different ideas coming at you everyday.  Through the use of Google Reader I have been able to have my beliefs challenged, which has made me a better educator and person.

Picasa Web Albums: Picasa has become one of the ways I share pictures with family, friends, and co-workers, not to mention it is the place that I use to upload images to use on Web sites as slideshows.  This may be a simple app, but it does open the doors for increased multimedia applications in the classroom, whether it be through an annotated slideshow that tells a story or simply a way to share pictures of a class field trip.

Having access to additional google apps has made teaching more flexible.  Teachers now have more resources in their arsenal that are now easier to use since students don’t need to have an additional email account to access certain apps.  Not to mention the fact that IT admins now have greater control over these sites, so if a student violates an AUP, they can now restrict access to the apps, as well as follow other compliance policies.  This is a very exciting time and I can’t wait to see how teachers in all areas integrate some of these apps into their instruction.

Socialnomics: The social media revolution

Here is a great video about social media and how it has become a major role in our lives.  What’s interesting is if generation y is already this intertwined with social media, what will the next generation have?  How are we preparing them for their future if we aren’t teaching and using social media in our schools?  Doesn’t sound too relevant to me.