Wednesday, September 20, 2017

CPU #4: The Real World

The problem: I often talk about techniques and "real-world" practices in class, but we don't often have (i.e. I don't often make) time to go into details.
Yes, and…

Clips Power Use (CPU) #4:

Use a video to let students access the hidden world! I've spent the last week (or so) in class describing an experimental technique in genetics, but I can't (unfortunately) invite all 75 of my students in my lab to participate in, or even watch, this type of experiment. So, I used a video to bring the experiment to them! I used my phone to record video of me performing the experiment, then edited out the "fluff." I edited the resulting video segments into my photo library, and then imported into Apple's Clips app. I added Posters and animated icons, and had a great and fulfilling time doing it all!
As always, a key benefit of creating videos is not only having an engaging element to share with students, but I can use this video in the future. For example, when I bring students into my research group on campus, I'll ask them to watch this before we proceed with training in how to perform this technique!
As I've suggested before, I branded this new series of videos with an intro bumper that I can use in every video I create - and the video and audio will be exactly the same.
Have fun with your videos!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

CPU #3: Jigsaw + Clips = Engagement

Classroom issues opportunities
1) There is only one of me (instructor)
2) There are about 75 of them (students) - which can equate to disengagement

Classroom resources
1) A large, auditorium-style classroom
2) We all have mobile, internet-enabled devices

In our campus' 1:1 tablet program (platform agnostic: we have Apple, Windows, and Android devices) that is pretty steadily moving toward a BYOD (bring your own device) program, we faculty have been making a significant push toward ensuring that we focus on the pedagogy, leveraging mobile technology when appropriate. We often refer to the SAMR model, and hope not simply to Substitute electronic processes for paper processes, but to hit the Redefinition end of the course augmentation with technology spectrum. Here, one hopes to leverage technology to do something that one could only do with that technology.

This past weekend, I was struck with the idea that I should do something physically active in my class. Not just "active learning" in the sense that students are talking with each other and participating in applying knowledge to problems during class. In my 75-minute class, I realized that I needed students actually up and moving about! So, I tried Modifying the jigsaw approach. In a jigsaw exercise, small groups of students are formed. Then, each student is tasked with becoming an "expert" in one of a few topics necessary to solve a bigger problem. The students must then come together, after that initial learning experience, and share their new knowledge with each other. Then, the group works to solve the problem. This amplifies my reach, and engages the students, especially in large class sections. It helps them by allowing them to interact with each other, and to leverage each other as resources to help understand sometimes complex concepts.

I've heard a lot about jigsaws before, but I've never run a jigsaw in a class before. So, of course, I thought I'd take two steps at once. I'd use Clips to create the content that would provide each group member their own tidbit of expertise.

So, in a couple of hours, I developed some graphics to use as part of those videos, and I created three Clips that introduced three related topics relevant to DNA fingerprinting and the genetic differences between ethnic groups. This is the material that individual group members will access to become content experts. Here is one of those clips:
Note that I followed my previous advice and used Posters as transition elements: to summarize points and to inform the viewer of what topic is coming up next. I also used the animated icons to highlight specific elements of the video.
The next question I considered was: how to execute the jigsaw. I settled on the following pre-class set-up:
1) upload the three content Clips to YouTube
2) generate a QR code for each Clip
3) print those QR codes on paper and physically post them in different parts of my classroom

Then, during class, I had students:
1) form groups of 3
2) each member used a QR code scanner app on their mobile device to watch a different Clip:
3) each group member had a set period of time to watch the Clip by him/herself:
4) additional time was allocated for the members to share the main points of their Clips with their other group members:
5) the groups were presented with questions, requiring application of the Clips content to solve

Benefits and Outcomes
I liked this approach, because it was an easy way to deliver content to different sets of students. More importantly, my objective was realized! Students were up and moving about, for a couple of reasons.
1) they had to get up to get to the printouts of the QR codes they needed to scan to access the Clips
2) you might have noticed: many students had headphones with them, and used them to listen to the audio associated with the Clips. However, I had told the students that they could also leave the classroom to watch the videos, in case it got too loud in our classroom. Most of the students exercised this option!
The enthusiasm of the students for this approach was outstanding! Without instruction, students then rearranged desks (the ones that were not fixed to the floor, anyway) to share information with each other:

and even adopted new technologies (e.g. paper) to share information with each other:

Final Reflections
As the photos and videos above reveal, many students were very engaged with the material and with each other during this exercise, which took about 40 minutes (a few minutes to form groups, 10 minutes to scan QR codes and watch the videos, 10 minutes to share knowledge with each other, and about 20 minutes to solve the problem(s)). That felt absolutely fantastic on its own!

After the jigsaw, when we came together as a class to discuss the group answers to the questions that were posed, it seemed to me that the students were better prepared than normal, and asked more questions (and more poignant questions) than usual!

One key reason to use Clips for a jigsaw: live captioning! As I mentioned above, having students watch (and listen to) videos in class could be a complete and abject failure, especially if students don't leave the classroom and/or don't have headphones. But, with the live captions, it was very easy for me to create those expert-creating Clips, and students can read the captions when they can't hear the audio because of environmental noise!

I will definitely use this approach again: a jigsaw exercise improves student engagement. Although using Clips to disseminate content to different group members is, by the SAMR model, mainly Substitution (perhaps Augmentation), now all of my students can access all of the videos (not just the one they watched) for study resources. I can use the same Clips in future semesters, too! Jigsaw + Clips is a win-win.

As a result of a comment on an earlier version of this post elsewhere, I also came to realize that one could also flip the jigsaw when using short videos to produce "content expert" students. If you have stable student groups, or form groups the class session prior to the jigsaw exercise, then assign those Clips videos to watch before class. Then, during class, you can jump right into the peer instruction and problem-solving!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Clips Power Use (CPU) #2: Higher Ed ≠ Starched & Stuff

As I've bemoaned in prior posts, as a college prof, I was worried that I wouldn't find a place for Clips - being aimed at social media production and its attendant glitz like emojis and *gasp* Disney-themed Posters - in my courses.

Fortunately, time (as usual) solved that dilemma. In fact, it was last week's #ADEchat (thanks for hosting, Jon Smith @theipodteacher!) that brought me around. Thanks to Jon, I was forced outside of my comfort zone, where we know no real learning takes place. He tasked us, during the Twitter chat, to create a #clipmercial (a short video) to advertise our class to our students.

Now, I already felt out of place, because many of the chat prompts didn't seem to apply to me. For example: introduce students to your classroom. First, I didn't have pictures of my classroom on hand to use in a Clip. Second, unlike many of my fellow ADEs, who are in K-12, I don't have a classroom - certainly not one that I decorate. I have a lecture hall that I use for fifty minutes, three days a week, which is much less inspiring. Yes, and…so I felt it reasonable to give myself a little leeway in creating a #clipmercial that didn't quite meet the "requirements."

Here it is:

After hastily (and with some technical difficulty) posting my clipmercial on Twitter soon after the #ADEchat ended, I realized that there is certainly value for Clips in higher ed. I've written about this already, and will continue to do so. But for now, here's the spin on short videos in education: they're great for teachers to make themselves human (and hopefully approachable) to their students. Although I didn't use any of the Disney Posters, I did use several animated icons, some humorous photos, and incorporated a potentially recognizable TV commercial for a fast-food chain that has the meats.

We can (should!) use Clips to introduce ourselves and to show our students we're not stiff academics! Many students have an impression, accurate or not, of faculty being out-of-touch brainiacs. Most (all?) of us have a lighter side - I challenge you to create a short video to show it off!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Clips Power Use (CPU) #1: Feedback

One thing I like about teaching: helping students learn!
One thing I don't like about teaching: repeating myself.
One thing I love about technology: it helps me do the former and avoid the latter!

Use short videos to provide feedback to all of your students on commonly-asked questions! Here's how:

At the end of (almost) each class period, I ask students to provide me feedback with an electronic Socrative poll, asking students about the "muddiest point" ("What topic(s) do you feel like you understand least well and want more information about or practice on?"). I do two things with this information: address student mindset and provide feedback.


Because I like to foster an environment in my classes where question-asking is comfortable, I take as many opportunities as I can to demonstrate to students how they're never alone when they have a question; that others usually have the same question that no one is willing to speak up about! And that's one of the reasons I get really excited about teaching classes where students use mobile devices to engage with me: I can provide them anonymous opportunities to provide real-time formative assessment information to me. So, I like to aggregate their results by summarizing their "muddiest point" feedback using a word cloud (e.g. using Wordle) and displaying it at the start of the next class period. This allows students to identify the most common responses (and, of course, it gives me information about what I need to reinforce, as well!) They see that they're not alone in their feelings about what material they want more information about.
Screen Shot 2017-09-02 at 7.44.43 PM.png
Last Thursday, one of the larger words was "consensus." I scrolled through all 72 of my student responses and saw that many of them were curious about various aspects of how to solve a problem I had posed to them during class using a Google Sheet-based interactive exercise (related to creating a "consensus DNA sequence").
I had realized at the ADE Academy this year that one of the great uses for video could be providing quick bits of feedback to students about their work. Because I have so many students in my class, I rarely get an opportunity to give all of them feedback on an exercise. So, now I use Clips, once I've identified those "muddiest points," to record video responses to supplement the materials students have to learn and to get feedback from me on their understanding. I post these on YouTube and distribute the URL to the students, so that they can access the information before the next class meeting.

Because I had found that "consensus" was a common request for more information, I felt it was worth the investment of the half hour or so it took me to make the clip above. Not only can I point all of my students to it, but now I have it for use in future classes, and I've already incorporated it into my digital class manual.
The biggest potential "con" to this approach is that immediate feedback is always more useful to students, so it does take our commitment as teachers to look at and process student work, and then respond with a Clips video, as soon as is reasonable (for me, before our next class meeting).

I used Explain Everything in the video clip above to demonstrate, with animation, how to "align" the DNA sequences by sliding them left-right relative to each other. That video, exported from Explain Everything, was then incorporated into the clip.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Teasing with Trailers (aka Clipmercials for your Classes)

As I've written previously, because I'm not in a 1:1 iPad program, my perspective on using Clips has been to consider how use of Clips by the instructor alone might improve learning. In this case, I have a suggestion for how we can motivate students to attend class (maybe a problem more specific to higher ed) and/or to make class material relevant to the student. These are critical to help students engage with the material, and multimedia is a great mechanism to grab and hold student attention!

Class Trailers

You know what a trailer is: a commercial for a movie - a short "teaser" video that hopefully grabs your attention and interest and induces you to spend big bucks at the box office. After the 2017 ADE Academy, I decided that I would create a trailer for my 23 class meetings that are dedicated to learning/practicing new material and concepts.
I wanted my Clips-produced trailers to:
  • have a consistent look
  • be brief (so that students will watch them - mine range from thirty seconds to exactly one minute)
  • do one thing and do it well: present one piece of information and then pose a related thought question that would, hopefully, stump the students and provoke their sense of curiosity about how the living world works

For example:

Trailer Structure

As you've seen from the example above, my Clips only have three parts:
  • an intro Bumper
  • an Observation
  • a related Question

Trailer Production

The intro Bumper is based off of screen capture of a 3-D model of a DNA double-helix. I recorded the animation of the rotation and zooming of the DNA molecule using my iPad via QuickTime on my laptop. I imported that video into my Photos library and then imported it into Clips.

For each trailer, I found one still or video image related to the Observation that I described to the students. 

For accessibility (i.e. the deaf but also those of us who want to access the content of the video with the volume turned off), I captioned the Observation.

For that consistent look, I opted to use the same animated icon (the thought bubble) to hold a very brief summary (in text) of the live-captioned audio description I gave of the Question that we would discuss and attempt to answer.

I also used the same soundtrack for each Clip. With the amount of consistency I incorporated, my trailers are now pretty heavily "branded."

Trailer Distribution

Because I have produced a course manual that all my students download before the first day of class and use throughout the semester, I decided to embed all of the trailers on the front page of each chapter (one chapter = one class meeting). The students are required to read each chapter before class, so they watch the trailer before coming to the class meeting where we discuss the content. Caveat: embedding Clips can greatly increase the size of an epub/multitouch book/etc. Use embedded video sparingly! Most of my 75 students were clamoring for a leaner manual by the end of the first week of the term, so I made a second version with no embedded movies but links to YouTube, where I've created a playlist with all of my trailers. You can find them here:

This playlist does begin with a few Clips that are not trailers, but are other videos I distributed at the start of the term to help orient students to other aspects of my class. I'll cover some of these in future blog posts.


Using the workflow described above is useful in at least a few ways:
  • Student engagement. My students are coming to class prepared to have very interactive discussions about the topics
  • Relevance. By watching the trailer before reading assigned textbook material as well as other microlecture videos I've created, students have at least one mental "hook" that they can use to sift through all of that material and identify components that are directly relevant to the Question posed in the trailer
  • Assessment. We love to know if what we invest time doing for our students is making an impact! Embedded trailers didn't give me as much feedback as having YouTube-hosted movies. Using the Analytics tools built into YouTube, I can tell, for example, that in the last week, 4,443 minutes of my videos have been watched!
  • Production. A simple and short structure makes it easy to create 23 trailers practically on a whim. The part that took longest was deciding what topic I would focus on during each class meeting. After that, assembling visual media and creating the Clips was very efficient.