Using an Introductory Video to set the stage for a Blended Classroom

Introductory Video on YouTube

Deanna Cullen wrote about her decision to move forward with a blended model this year and asked for some suggestions about videos. I've been using videos as a teaching tool in my class for the last six years and wanted to share some thoughts. I teach IB Chemistry, which means my content is quite prescribed, and will be tested heavily during May of the second year of the course when my students are seniors. In this environment, I find the videos to be a great resource. Students can come back to the videos later in the course in preparation for the cumulative exams, and their feedback to me about the videos confirms this as a revision strategy that they utilize. And anecdotally, the statistics from YouTube about the views of my first two videos this fall show that some students were already re-watching the videos prior to the first quiz we had recently.

This fall, I moved to a new school, starting at International School Bangkok. Based on my work with previous groups of students, I wanted to maintain the flipped model at my new school. Since I'd be the new guy and need to establish myself and my routines I thought I'd try something new while exposing my students to the flipped model. It started the first day when I polled the students, asking them if they had used videos from teachers before. Being at a new school, I had no idea what numbers to expect. It turns out the split was pretty even, with approximately 50% of the students responding that they had used videos in class before. Stating the obvious, that means that about half my students hadn't ever used videos. Given this high number, and wanting to create a good understanding of how I use videos, I created an "Introductory Video" for the students. This video wasn't so much a content teaching tool as a way to get them familiar with the structure of my videos and my expectations for their work with the videos.

Since I've been doing this for a while - and don't ever profess to be perfect! - I'm on iteration four in terms of my thought process about making the videos. This means I've made quite a few changes to how I structure and create videos. As I mentioned, IB Chemistry has a very prescribed set of content. So I use this pre-determined content structure as a scaffold for the overall structure of my videos. Each major topic (e.g. Topic 2, atomic structure) is broken down into sub-topics (e.g. 2.1: The Nuclear Atom and 2.2: Electrons in Atoms). So for each sub-topic, I create one or more videos depending on the detail needed. I then keep everything consistent in terms of labeling my files. For example, I create the content using PowerPoint, then create the videos using Explain Everything on my iPad. The PowerPoints and videos are labeled by number. For example, for section 2.1 I created "PowerPoint-2.1-TheNuclearAtom" and "Video-2.1-TheNuclearAtom." Given that the IB is assessment heavy, I also create practice problems from previous exams for students. I label these with the same structure, such as "PracticeProblems-2.1-TheNuclearAtom." This overall structure makes it easier for students to go back and find these resources.  And based on feedback from previous students, they have appreciated this consistent approach to labeling.

Back to the Introductory Video I made for my students. Within this video, I shared how future videos would be structured and key points of focus. For example, I use the Syllabus Statements from the IB as the lens through which almost all content is discussed. So I have created a specific slide background to share these statements. I use a different color background for the actual content. Occasionally, students are asked a Checkpoint Question as formative assessment. This is yet another color. The IB provides students with a Data Booklet for their exams, so I made yet another slide background to share Data Booklet connections. By first impression from the description, it may seem confusing, listing all of these colors and backgrounds for different purposes. However, last year at my previous school when I changed to this format I had a wonderful group of students that were really keen to provide constructive feedback and engage in genuine discussions about how I teach and how they learn. They were pretty consistent in their feedback that the color scheme worked to their advantage to set the stage a bit for what information was being covered on each slide throughout the video. And this is a two-year program, so having this consistent approach really makes sense.

To help students with note taking, I also create a graphic organizer (a.k.a. Notes Handout) for them to use while they watch the video. And to be consistent with the naming convention, the notes handout that corresponds to the PowerPoint and video mentioned earlier would be "NotesHandout-2.1-TheNuclearAtom." Again, the consistency helps students (and me!) stay organized.

If you are curious about what this all looks like in action, below are some links to the documents and videos mentioned here. I am including the introductory video, as it was new this year, along with the material for section 2.1. And a quick note about all of this sharing: I do not consider this to be the ONLY way to use videos in the class. And my videos are by no means perfect. I occasionally make mistakes that the students find. The flipped model is quite diverse in its use by teachers throughout the world. I am only sharing one way of organizing things. And to give a bit more context, sometimes the video comes first for a section of content, while other times the students engage in some activity or inquiry before seeing the video that is aimed as solidifying their understanding. My next task this weekend is to grade some quizzes relating to Topic 2: Atomic Structure to see how they did with the first few videos.

So Deanna, I hope your journey with using videos in the blended model goes well. I'll follow this post up later with some background on how I use the Checkpoint Questions and Google Forms to get formative assessment data and feedback from my students. But briefly, the feedback from students about the introductory video was relatively positive. They generally liked the background on the organizational features and expectations. Within the comments, students said that the video had a lot of background noise. I was able to make an adjustment based on this feedback and reduce background noise for Video 2.1. This also gives me a chance to show students the value of the Google Form. I had about 85% of the students complete the form for the introductory video, and this has been pretty consistent for the three videos that followed. Based on the number of views, I'd say almost every student watched the introductory video. I will admit that at an international school, homework completion isn't likely as large of an issue as it can be in other settings. However, I feel that the use of the introductory video sets the stage for students to understand why and how I use this format. I hope that this leads to student buy-in of the process, even for students reluctant to try something new.

I'm always curious to learn how others use videos and resources. If you care to share, leave us some information in the comments. I look forward to the discussion.


Links (all accessed 8/30/2014)

Introductory Video

Introductory Video Handout

Introductory Video PowerPoint Slides

Video 2.1: The Nuclear Atom

PowerPoint 2.1: The Nuclear Atom

Notes Handout 2.1: The Nuclear Atom

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Comments 3

Deanna Cullen's picture
Deanna Cullen | Mon, 09/01/2014 - 11:43

Lowell, I appreciate how intentional and organized you are in the videos. This looks like a great training tool for students to understand the process. This has helped clarify how my own videos should be organized. VERY HELPFUL!


Ryan Lenz | Sat, 08/08/2015 - 22:26

Hi Lowell--very useful post to read as I consider how to integrate the principals of flipping into my IB SL2 class.  Would you say that this approach leads to more rapid/efficient covering of content?  I am in the unfortunate situation of having less-than the number of 'recommended hours' for my SL class, and I am looking for ways to move more quickly through the material.  It's not a terribly desperate situation, but I am starting my second year about 20% behind where I usually am.  

Lowell Thomson's picture
Lowell Thomson | Mon, 08/10/2015 - 08:12

Hi Ryan,

Thanks for the comment. Glad you found it useful. I'd say I'm on iteration 3 or 4 in terms of really being deliberate about how I organize things with my videos and that has led to some improvements. 

In terms of speed of delivery, I don't actually find I'm any faster with the content. For me the reason I switched to videos was to make better use of classtime for applying the knowledge and skills from the video. I do more hands-on work directly linked to the content.

I think videos could be used to move faster, though. For example, in you SL class if there are portions of the curriculum that aren't quite as difficult, these could be done through videos while you move forward in class with other topics. I'm not familiar enough with the Bio syllabus to know if that's the case.

And for me, I use to do more review days before assessments. I do less of that now, given that students can access the videos for revision on their own. That is one area where I do feel I gain time, but I'm not sure I would attribute that only to the videos. It was a bit of a philosophical switch on my part to save the review time for March and April of Year 2 preparing for the big exams instead.

Good luck with your move to making the videos. I'd love to hear how it works out for you.