Creating an Online Video Dictionary (made by kids)

Those of you clicking this link based on the ambitiousness of the title, please know that this is very much in the idea stage. Like many international school teachers, I have several students who speak English only while in school (or with only one parent). While all of these children have the advantage of bilingual or even trilingualism, their English vocabulary often needs to be developed in school.

bringing words For several years, my preferred method of vocabulary instruction has been based on the book Bringing Words to Life by Beck, McKeown, and Kucan. Through “robust vocabulary instruction,” students learn, practice, and apply vocabulary until they have internalized the new words.

I highly recommend this resource to other teachers–I have seen the success of its methods time and time again as my students develop their understanding and use of new words. Up until this point, however, my approach to vocabulary has been almost technology free. I have a google spreadsheet of Tier 2 words with kid-friendly definitions, but everything else has been on paper and pencil.

When Coetail Course 3 emphasized Visual Literacy, I felt comfortable with the topic, especially when dealing with video. Around this time last year, my students created digital stories for the first time, and we made non-fiction documentaries later in the Spring. On the teaching side, through tutorials, I have made digital stories on a weekly (if not daily) basis.

Now it’s time to put vocabulary development and digital storytelling together (along with the Alan-November-inspired quest for a “global audience”). By having my students create vocabulary videos, I am aiming to:

  1. Develop students’ vocabulary.
  2. Develop students’ cooperation and communication skills.
  3. Develop  students’ technology skills.
  4. Motivate students with a global audience.

Created with Doodlecast Pro on an ipad mini, here is our first vocabulary video:

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I think it turned out well and can serve as a template for future videos, but I have plenty of questions and reflection points:

  • For the first video, even though the students were narrating, making examples, and creating pictures, I was the one who made the script outline, wrote the words on the ipad, and walked them through Doodlecast Pro. If I turn a bunch of third graders loose, will they be able to do most of the process on their own?
  • Speaking of writing the words on the ipad, one of the biggest drawbacks of Doodlecast Pro is the absence of typing. It takes time to neatly write out the words, definitions, and examples. On the other hand, maybe the handwritten words give the videos a dash of homemade, kid-created charm.
  • Do I have the proper tool? I need to check out other screen casting apps (explain everything, screenchomp, educreations) and decide if they would be better options for my students. I’d be interested to hear opinions about which tools or apps you think would work best for this project.
  • Pictures in color would be nice.
  • Should we include opposites in the definitions? Is there anything we can do to add to or enhance the instruction within the videos?
  • I need to see if there’s a way to get rid of the Doodlecast plug at the end.
  • We cranked out this video quickly (15 minutes), but I’m curious how much time it will take to create others once the students are working independently.

The next step is to plan out new videos, teach students the technology, and see what they create. There is no shortage of vocabulary words to explain. And once we accumulate a significant number, it will be time to think about the online, kid-created dictionary. I have lots of ideas about that; so many that it will probably morph into my final project, so I will save those until later.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts on vocabulary instruction, the video (before we start making more), and the project in general. Thanks!

Permission + Encouragement = Cool Stuff

We are three months into the school year, and for a while I’ve felt that it’s time to shift my students from consumers and users of technology to producers and creators. Last year I followed the same pattern, spurred on by a confluence of factors, including a workshop by Jason Ohler, the implementation of google apps at my school, attendance at a gafe summit, and of course, the start of Coetail.

Despite my own commitment to embrace messiness, I feel like I’ve held back a little too long. Fueling my procrastination was the prospect of reserving hardware, dealing with software issues, helping students remember their passwords, teaching new digital tools, and supporting a class full of 9 year olds.

I recently realized, however, that sometimes you don’t need all of the above. Sometimes you can simply give permission and encouragement to students, let them sort out the details, and wait for cool stuff to show up. Even with third graders.

For example, my students were recently introduced to their google apps for education accounts. This was their first time to use email and google drive, and one girl in my class asked me if she could type up instructions on how to use email. Instead, I introduced the idea of screen casting to her, showed her how to use the software Jing, and wished her good luck. Here is what she came back with after the weekend:

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This is leaps better than what I would have created. I also learned, from the opinion of my student, that Quicktime is far superior to Jing for screen casting (I didn’t even know Quicktime performed this function).

This method wouldn’t work for all learners, but if you’re reluctant to get started with big tech-creation projects, try to support your students’ ideas, offer suggestions, and see what they can come up with on their own. Hopefully they will surprise you with what they create.

How to create video tutorials (simple, quick, and easy)

I’ve recently been convinced that simple, video tutorials are a tool that any teacher, even the not-so-tech-savy, can use to increase student learning. Yet the number of teachers actually using this method is low. There are hundreds of tools and methods teachers can use to create tutorials for their students. In this post I will show you the quickest and easiest way that I know to make and publish videos for your students. Here is the step-by-step guide.

1. Gather your tools. For this method of making a quick tutorial, you will need:

  • An ipad or ipad mini
  • Doodlecast Pro or another screencasting app (I’ve heard good things about “Explain Everything,” “Educreations,” and “Screenchomp.”
  • A stylus (optional (or make your own))

2. Plan what you are going to teach.

Writing a script might be an option for beginners, but after making a few tutorials, I think you will be able to narrate without writing anything down. The key is not needing it to be perfect.

3. Take pictures of anything you plan to show in the tutorial.

If you’re planning to do everything from scratch, you can skip this, but it cuts down on time if you can snap a photo of information that already exists. For example, for homework tutorials, I take pictures of individual problems on their homework sheets. If you’re reviewing something already taught in class, a photo of the whiteboard or chart paper might be helpful.

4. Make the video.

Most screen-casting apps are simple to use. Here is my quick, visual guide to Doodlecast Pro:


As you can see, you may need to sacrifice good handwriting when using the iPad. To create the videos, you will do a combination of 3 things:

  • writing/drawing
  • talking
  • writing/drawing while talking

The key, as Kim mentioned in our Coetail class, is to keep it less than 10 minutes (and even shorter for younger learners).

5. Share with students.

My preferred method of publishing is youtube, with a link on edmodo. If you’re unfamiliar with publishing to youtube, it takes less than 5 minutes to learn.

And that’s it. The most important thing is to give it a try. Once you’ve gained some experience, it’s possible to make and share a quick tutorial in 10-15 minutes. At the end of the day, if I haven’t had time to cover a concept thoroughly, I’ll often ask my students to check edmodo before starting their homework. Then, when the classroom is clear, I’ll sit down, create a quick homework helper video, and publish and post it by the time my students get home.

If you’ve tried something similar, or are inspired to give this a try, let us know in the comments. Thanks!