I’ve though about writing this post many times, but have always hesitated, thinking maybe I’m being too sensitive about the issue. But after reading some posts recently, I’ve decided to put these thoughts out there. Feel free to disagree…
I guess what is prompting me to write this is that, more and more, I’m seeing people talk about how important it is to include a picture-in-picture with webcam in “flipclass” videos. This method allows you to capture both your screen and self in the video recording. I recently saw a post stating that this humanizes the experience. I totally get this point, but I have found that this doesn’t work as effectively for me as simply recording my screen (mainly my handwriting) and audio. Now, if you know anything about me, I’m all about observing my students very closely and adapting things to best fit their needs. Things change from year to year and even over the course of the year. Relationships and trust from my students mean everything to me. But I have to disagree that having the webcam of myself in my flipclass videos does anything to build these relationships or engage my students. I have tried “putting myself” (more specifically, my face!) in the videos and I’ve changed those. Why? It started with the following… I put my videos up for free for anyone to use. Knowing that students anywhere might stumble across one of my videos in a moment of need (or panic) makes me incredibly happy. And maybe the following is a gender thing or me being overly sensitive, but these are just my observations… When I included myself in the videos, I would get comments about how I look. I am not looking for validation on my looks or makeup in any of the comments that I receive.
And now this post is getting slightly uncomfortable and you might see why I’ve held off on this topic of conversation! But I actually don’t mean for this to be about me at all. The point I am trying to make is that we can’t just aim to follow a step-by-step manual for “how to make effective flipclass videos”. We can learn from suggestions, but what works for one person might be entirely different from what works for another teacher. Maybe the picture-in-picture thing doesn’t work for me because my videos are mainly just me inking on the screen and students should constantly be focused on what I’m actively writing. The attention piece in my videos is very visual without watching me talk. I can do so much with the pen. But perhaps when hand gestures are really needed, that webcam is a vital piece? So maybe it is not a gender issue at all and just based on style and content. Who knows, but the point is that what has worked for others has not been my same experience.
I have also seen it said over and over again that videos over 10 minutes are not effective. My videos average over that time limit for sure. My average is more around the 15 minute mark. And I’ve had a whole lot of success. I choose to put in forced pause breaks, attention grabbers, and embedded quizzes in my videos. It is what works for me and aligns with my current goals. Also, the audience I care about is my students and not what will get me the most views on YouTube. Maybe I’ll change all of this if I see that the needs of my students have changed. Anyway, I’m continually evolving in how I run my “flipped classroom” from year to year… So I might change my opinion on all of the above at a future date!
In conclusion, my overall point is that it is critical to observe what is working and what is not for you. My advice would be: do not attend a flipped classroom workshop or read a book this summer and go straight home to make a million and one videos that you will use to “flip your class” next year. It is critical to observe how your students are reacting and to tweak and revise your process along the way. It is also essential to embrace your style and see what works for you. No two classrooms should look exactly the same. We can all share best practices and gain an incredible amount by sharing reflections, what has worked, and what has not worked for us as individuals.
So when reading all of this, it is so important to remember that just because I may have found success with a particular model or technique, this does not mean that you will find exactly the same. The most important part about teaching, in my opinion, is building relationships with students through gaining their trust and respect. For me, a lot of this happens by simply observing, processing the feedback, reflecting, and then doing my best to continually customize the classroom experience based on my particular set of students’ needs. And all of the above is just my opinion. Feel free to disagree!