Creating Videos for Learning

I’m up to Thing 19 of 23 now! This week I’m blogging about how I use videos in my flipped classroom. As I’ve previously described, my senior Classics classes are flipped through iBooks and iTunes U. For each segment of content, I’ve filmed a short video tutorial by recording myself speaking over a Keynote. I also provide a page of notes, which is more or less a transcript of the video, for those who would prefer to read the information. When surveying the students I’ve found that about half prefer the videos and half the written notes, so I’m happy to continue providing this choice. 

My Keynote videos aren’t particularly exciting (I’ve tried to make them more engaging with images) but I think they convey the information they need to clearly, and are quite straightforward to create using my laptop and ​a simple USB microphone. Here’s an example about the Nature of Roman Religion, which I use in my Y12 Classical Studies class. I upload the videos privately to Youtube and the students watch them through a widget in their iBooks. At the beginning and end of each video I also remind the students of the key questions they need to answer, to help guide their note-taking.


​I’ve also experimented with a number of other apps and tools. I’ve previously mentioned Adobe Spark Video, which I love getting the students to use. ​It’s a really great way to quickly make a really professional looking short video. Here’s an example I made to give students a basic overview to the city of Athens (excuse my super Kuwi accunt, it sounds particularly strong in this video!).

Another app I really like, but have yet to master, is Explain Everything. My iPad handwriting is still pretty messy but I’ve been experimenting with it to make tutorials on grammatical concepts for my junior language students. It’s quite effective in its simplicity, and I want to continue improving my abilities so that I can create more flipped content for my junior students. 

I’ve also made brief forays into iMovie, to try and make more ‘visual’ videos which combine images and videos from different sources. My students seem far more talented at this than I am and I want to get them creating more of their own content next year. As Thing 19 said, making an effective video actually requires a lot of thinking and decision-making. This year I’ve found my senior students quite reluctant to look beyond just submitting work in a written format, so next year I want to push them to demonstrate their learning more creatively. I plan to encourage them by removing this default option, so that creating their own audio and visuals becomes more natural. And here’s an iMovie I made about the House of the Faun which I’ll use to show them anyone can do it…

How do you use video in your flipped classroom?

Producing and Creating

Thing 14 has asked me to look at using Web 2.0 tools and apps in a transformational way. I think this fits in quite nicely with what I’ve been trying this year, both in using iPads as tools to enhance learning (rather than substitutes for pen and paper) and in the aims of my flipped classroom.

I see creation, the final step on Bloom’s Taxonomy, as a really useful way to communicate to students that it isn’t enough just to regurgitate information; they need to be able to do something with it. We talked through the different steps at the beginning of the year and many were surprised that remembering wasn’t the hardest one! I tried to sell my flipped approach to them by explaining that they were doing the remembering and understanding bit at home, and we’d try to reach creation level in the classroom. I’ve had mixed success with this, but I’ve learned a few useful things along the way.

When giving students a task that involves producing their own content, I’ve found that I really need to design it in such a way that they have to use their knowledge in a new context. If I get them to make an article/video/presentation about a topic, I tend to be given information which looks suspiciously copied and pasted. However if I specify the purpose of their creation, or the target audience, they have to think a bit more carefully about how to make sense of that information and how to communicate it.

One of my favourite apps for creation is Adobe Spark Video, formerly known as Adobe Voice. It’s a beautifully simple app that enables the students to create short videos with icons or images and a voiceover. I’ve had a lot of success using Adobe Spark Video in a range of classes and like it because the students can produce something of a relatively high standard quite quickly and easily. A lot of the formatting and aesthetic bits are done for them, so they don’t get distracted from the content! I’ve mainly used it with junior classes (both French and Latin, in different languages) and the boys picked it up really easily. I also tried it earlier this year with my Y12 Classics class, who needed to explain the siege of Dyrrachium and Battle of Pharsalus to a Y9 Social Studies class. Here is one of my favourites, with images drawn using Paper by 53 (and a voiceover by one of the student’s friends – he liked his English accent…).

A challenge I have faced in trying to get students to create their own content is getting older students to be creative. While the juniors are quite happy to try new things and take risks, the seniors prefer to reproduce information using word processing or presentation apps. Many of them are really talented artists, designers, musicians and actors, so I would love to see them apply these skills to Classics, but when given the choice they are reluctant to do so! I think the pressure of high-stakes assessment does make them stick to ‘safer’ options wherever possible, but it will be interesting to see what my current juniors are like in a few years time.

Does anyone have any suggestions about how to encourage older students to make their own creative content?

Reflections on 2015

2015 has been my first foray into flipping. My two Classics classes had quite a lot of content to go through, but the exams require the students to analyse that content rather than just recall it. In 2014 I went through the content in class, but had trouble getting the students to analyse it for homework. This year, I decided to reverse the process.


I used iBooks and Facebook to deliver content to both my classes. To make my videos, I recorded Keynote presentations (I’m camera-shy so didn’t want to be in my videos!) and uploaded them to Youtube. Each video has a series of “key questions” to guide the students through their note-taking. The iBooks contain the unrecorded Keynotes, plus the key questions and suggestions for further reading. I also gave them a selection of readings from primary source material.

Prior to each lesson, I gave the students the Youtube link to the video. At the beginning of each lesson, we went over any questions the students may have had, then moved on to activities. Often this involved reading the primary source material and answering questions.

What went well…

I liked that my resources contained all the information in one place – it’s difficult to find a one-stop textbook for NCEA Classical Studies! A lot of the students liked the resources too and found them useful for revision purposes.

The flipped process saved me from “lecturing” and did free up some time in the classroom for extra activities or to review difficult content. It was also useful for students who were away from class or wanted to go at their own pace.

What didn’t…

I had a few technical difficulties and making resources from scratch meant that the students didn’t have all the videos in perfect working order right from day one. They also had their own issues, like no/slack access to internet, which prevented them from accessing the prep before class. A lot of our students are very busy, with heavy extracurricular commitments, so it was not always possible for them to prepare fully for class. Hopefully this problem will be resolved next year, when I already have the resources and can give them to the students well in advance.

I also believe that a number of students looked for excuses not to watch the videos, and I found it difficult to get a 100% success rate, even when I introduced penalties (like temporary exclusion from lessons to watch the videos) if students were not prepared for class. Some students commented that they just read the text on the videos rather than listening to them, and that it took ages to get all the notes – they are keen to write down everything I say rather than just the answers to the key questions!

I also had some problems with what to do during lessons themselves. My classes are on the smaller side, so when I tried to break the students up into groups for differentiated activities, they were often reluctant to part with their friends. This meant that we could spend a long time going over questions at the beginning of class, and so some students felt like there was no point watching the videos as we just went over them in class. I found it useful going over the primary source material with the students and I think they got more out of it with the prior knowledge from the videos, but lessons could get repetitive at times. I would like to find more interesting and varied activities to do during lessons.

Before we begin

Why this blog?

I’ve decided to start this blog to record my quest to flip my Classical Studies classroom. I’m hoping that, by keeping it, I’ll be able to engage more critically with the various bits and pieces that I read, reflect on and then store in the back of my head, as well as track my progress more easily.

Why flipping?

I’ve read a lot about the flipped classroom and I can really see the value in changing the way I do things. In my first year of teaching Classical Studies, I started off in a very lecture-like style, going over content in class and then trying to get the students to do more difficult activities which required higher-level thinking at home. However the less able students really struggled with these more complex tasks, and I think all students would gain more from discussions and activities in class where they can build on the simpler factual knowledge they have obtained. I also think that flipping really helps with the NCEA system of assessment, where students have to examine, evaluate and analyse content rather than just recall it.

Where am I at?

This year, I attempted to flip my Y12 and Y13 Classical Studies classes. I recorded Keynotes as video lectures, and shared them with the students via Facebook. We then built on this content in class by doing activities in class like discussions and source material analysis. It wasn’t entirely successful – more on this later! – but I think things were promising enough that I’d like to pursue it.

Where do I want to go?

As I prepare for next year, I would like to build on my progress and learn from my mistakes. Hopefully I can cut out the teething problems that I had in my first year of flipping and have a more successful second year. The key things I want to improve are:

  • my management of the flipped classroom – making sure that students engage with the content at home and come to class prepared.
  • my in-class activities – these were not always meaningful and at times I let the students have too much say in what they did, making for some lazy lessons! I want to be able to help them achieve a deeper level of understanding in class.
  • my differentiation – flipping provides an ideal opportunity for students to pursue their own interests at their own pace. I did not take full advantage of this in 2015, so next year I will aim to provide a wider variety of options and help students to achieve their own goals, in their own ways.