Back to School Basics: Create a Classroom Tour Video

Lights, camera, action! Once you’re done preparing your room, it’s time get out a camera or your smartphone and create a guided video tour of your classroom. When you’re done, upload this video to YouTube, and share the link on a classroom homepage or social media site. If you have availability to student or parent email addresses before the school year begins, send the link out. You could also send this during the first week of school, but sending it before the school year begins helps students feel a little more comfortable and relieve the first day jitters because they know exactly what to expect when they walk in the door. This also introduces you to parents so they can put a face to your name – it is especially helpful with parents at the middle / high school level who may never come into contact with their child’s teacher.

Here are a few things you may want to cover:

  • The basic layout of your classroom. Show the student desks, your desk. Where are student accessible materials? Where do they turn in homework? Do students store coats, lunch boxes, etc in the classroom or in lockers in the hallway? Is there a restroom in your classroom? Cover all of these areas and any other relevant information you can think of.
  • Is there a place within your classroom, or in the hallway where you post information such as field trips, conference sign ups, or other important information? Be sure to highlight this area so that parents can find it easily!
  • Have someone record you sitting in a comfortable place within your classroom (or, be really hip and use a selfie-stick). Behind your desk may come off as a little too sterile or intimidating. Introduce yourself and convey your excitement for the school year. Share your goals for the year. Remind parents where they can locate your contact information (don’t share your contact info in the video unless you are keeping the link private.)

Creating this virtual tour should set the tone for your classroom. Let students and parents alike see your passion for teaching, and how you take pride in this space. Be confident and speak clearly.

Other information videos you can create for your own classroom vlog (video blog) series can include:

  • An overview of your homework / classwork / grading policies.
  • If you have a self-contained classroom, or your entire homeroom follows the same schedule, overview this schedule. If you’re tech savvy, you can overlay pictures over the different areas within the school that the children will visit or even walk the school as you explain where you are going.
  • A walking video of how to get to your classroom from the front door of the school. For students coming into a large, new school this can really alleviate some anxiety.
  • Explain personal electronics policy / computer usage within the school.
  • Video screen navigation of how to access student grades online, locate information on the class website, or social media links for the class.

Post in the comments what other ideas you have for “How to” or informational videos teachers can create!

Tools for Breaking Up the Monotony of a Lecture

Three tools I think can work efficiently within the classroom to break up the monotony of any lecture are Audacity, YouTube and Periscope. Most people have been using podcasts as a way to disseminate new information to students for years. Others have used it as a way to present content to students who missed class that day. YouTube has been a recent sensation inside classrooms, as nearly everything you want to find is somewhere on YouTube. The newer sensation is Periscope. Periscope is an app that shows you live video of various things going on in the world. This app may become increasing useful in courses where discussing current events is important.

Each of these three tools offers educators the opportunity to break up a lecture in a number of ways. Let’s take a look.

Podcasts by some may be considered ancient within the world of educational technology, but there is still merit in using tools like Audacity. Things to consider when using Audacity is that it can take the place of a lecture at any point. For example, you can record yourself asking quiz questions and play this for the class. The students can write down their answers for submission rather than having to fill in a piece of paper. You can also insert other educator’s voices into the conversation. For example, when I cover investments I often present information from legendary minds like Warren Buffett and Carl Icahn. This gives the students a different point of view from my own. Being able to present a snippet of a lecture from one or both of these individuals gives students something else to think about.

While Audacity still technically provides a “lecture” the voice involved with this can be presented in a different way or be an entirely different voice altogether. For example, on a certain topic you may use Audacity to provide a variety of differing opinions on a specific topic. In business an example of this might be “how to trade options” and you could provide five or six opinions from leading experts. Just be sure that whatever way you use Audacity that your students are still involved in the conversation. If they aren’t involved they will not be as active in listening to the content.

YouTube is such an amazing tool these days that there are literally dozens of sites that are mere knockoffs of YouTube solely devoted towards educational content. The problem with those alternatives is that you are limited in what you can find. On YouTube you can find hundreds of videos that will present the same content, but in a number of different ways. YouTube also provides you with a variety in length of content, some videos are very short while other videos are very long. For example, the first day of class I often play The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch which is over an hour long, but when introducing Wall Street Survivor the video length is about 3 minutes. This differentiation in video length allows you to insert “clips” into parts of your lessons so you are not always lecturing.

When using YouTube in the classroom it is important to understand using YouTube itself. YouTube videos can be inappropriate for your audience and in some cases auto-play the next video upon completion which may not be appropriate to the content being discussed. It is often best to analyze each video and pick those appropriate for your lesson so you have control over the information and videos presented. Using YouTube videos without proper review could be seen as inappropriate usage of class time as well.

Periscope was recently purchased by Twitter and is a tool to view various videos of things going on in the world. One might think of Periscope as a more professional version of Vine. Periscope might be a perfect addition to a history classroom or any other classroom that would be discussing current events. A video found of someone completing a transaction on Wall Street would be perfect for a business course. A video found of someone at a monument in Washington DC might be perfect for a US History course.

Periscope essentially provides a live look in to various places throughout the world. Educators should be sure to do their homework before using Periscope within their classroom due to the product being a potential invasion of privacy if you are using it to record your own student work. Whereas Audacity and YouTube are used fairly often in education you will likely need your school district’s approval before using Periscope in the classroom, but the possibility of breaking up a lecture by displaying a short video of the subject matter is something educators often consider. Periscope is primarily live streaming so controls and review is limited, so keep this in mind too.

Overall educators need to exercise caution before implementing anything into their lesson to make sure they are following their district’s rules and ensuring the well being of their students.