Online Learning Without Laptops: Record Short, How-to Videos for Mobile Phones

Focus on Teaching Edthena tips for teachers and coaches about professional development and professional learning

The role of the teacher is to facilitate learning. But this can be hard when students aren’t in the classroom. The problem is even trickier when students are in younger grades, don’t have computing devices, or maybe both.

In the absence of technology for every student, districts are leaning on the two P’s of teaching: packets and parents.

Making teaching easy for parents at home

It is not uncommon for a parent to assist their child with homework. In fact, many parents would be the first to tell you that they are at-home educators in some way. Yet, full-time learning-from-home during school closures is requiring parents to help children with content and methods of learning that may be unfamiliar. (Case in point: Common Core math memes)

Rather than leaving parents guessing, teachers can demonstrate effective teaching for parents by recording and sharing model teaching videos. The benefit is that teachers can be tactical about modeling the pedagogical moves in a context that parents are able to understand. A parent could even send a practice video back to the educator for feedback before she or he teaches the real thing.

Flipped classroom videos for parents (and students)

When students stopped being able to attend school in person, there was a rush to create online mechanisms for teachers to teach students at home. A popular method for asynchronous teaching is recording a style of video previously termed a flipped classroom video. This is similar to the types of videos available on sites like Khan Academy.

While a flipped classroom video can be a powerful teaching tool, it can take quite a bit of time to produce. It also depends on students having regular access to computing devices and internet at home. The unfortunate reality is that there is a vast digital divide, and not all students are connected.

Districts aren’t sitting idle. Even with packets, there are ways to innovate. One example is how Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) chose to support their home learners. As part of their Home Learning Plan, they sent packets. But district leaders also asked teachers to create short “how-to” style videos that could be watched by parents and guardians along with students.

Nathalie Means Henderson, IPS chief schools officer, shared an example of this learning support video.

The video is to support the second-grade math curriculum. It is a good example of a short and sweet video that gets to the point and still has all the “best parts” of a lesson facilitated by a teacher:

  • Clear learning objectives. The video starts with Nathalie saying and showing a written learning target. The objective is clear, and the connection to students’ prior learning is mentioned.
  • Show and tell with visual aids. After displaying the learning target of the lesson in the video, Nathalie leverages the power of video by showing the exact parts within the packet that the lesson will cover. She’s leaving nothing to chance when there’s no way to ask a clarifying question to the teacher.
  • Model the must-haves. This short video is a companion to the packet-based material. It’s a supplement, not a stand-alone. As such, Nathalie doesn’t try to teach the whole objective comprehensively. Instead, she points out that the ten frames are an important tool for being successful with this objective at home, a.k.a. independent practice.

Overall, we think Nathalie’s video is simple but effective. In fact, maybe some might not call this a lesson but a “video to guide student learning.”

Looked at through a different lens, this is an example of how teachers might give instructions within their classroom to facilitate practice, ensuring that everyone is engaging with the correct materials with supplies at the ready.

Whatever you want to call it, the video defines the learning target with effective visuals. It models how to set up the addition strategy that the students are familiar with. The video format is meant as an example of a distanced teaching approach that could be replicated by teachers.

Nathalie Means HendersonThe benefits of creating short (not long) lesson videos for parents and students

Nathalie’s video is a model for her district’s teachers to replicate, but it also creates a clear vision for a different type of video-based teaching which can be a helpful tool for distanced teaching and learning.

We think this video, in particular, highlights a few other benefits:

  • The on-demand nature of the video support increases access – parents and students can watch anytime.
  • This type of video is an enhancement to facilitate productive practice and leverage teacher-student relationships – if a family doesn’t have access, it’s going to be ok.
  • It’s a short video which means it’s a small file – this isn’t going to max out a cell-phone data plan.
  • This video set a clear and achievable standard for production quality– teachers won’t feel pressured to create Oscar-worthy videos.

And at the end of the day, this is the Chief Schools Officer modeling instruction. If she can create a short video at her kitchen table, all teachers can start to envision themselves doing it.

Enhancing packet-based learning during future school closures

In case it wasn’t clear already, we think these short videos can be powerful tools to enhance at-home learning. We explored how to give feedback on flipped classroom distanced teaching videos in Session 1 of our Kitchen Table Coaching training series. The session includes a review of another sample video and models types of feedback that might be effective to consider.

As schools and districts make plans for fall, there is a real possibility that students may be learning from home part or full-time. While that’s not ideal, we think it’s best to prepare for how to deliver the best possible learning experiences given the tools available.

Although the face of learning has altered for students, the concepts being taught have not. To adapt to this change, successful teachers will be open to trying new things when it comes to distance teaching. Creating these quick “how-to” videos for parents is just one of the many distance teaching tools that teachers can put into their tool-kits to support student success.

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