Unleashing 3rd Graders with Youtube Video Editor

After my students began to create content for an online, video dictionary, Clare and Mariko gave some good feedback about how to improve the videos. When recording, the students gave example sentences for a vocabulary word with illustrations included. One of the suggestions was to add the text of the sentences to the videos, so the viewer could both hear and see the example sentences.

The bad news is that the tool we are using to make the videos, Doodlecast Pro, does not include a feature that allows you type text. And writing the sentences by hand would be too time consuming—we want the video-creation process to be as streamlined as possible.

The good news is that youtube, where we have published all of our videos, allows you to add text easily. This is a useful feature which is unfamiliar to many people. I created a quick video to teach my students the process:

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After watching the tutorial yesterday, one of my students was able to add annotations to her own video in less than 10 minutes. This segued into the “Kids-Teaching-Kids” method, and in less than a day, half of my class was comfortable with adding annotations.

I was initially worried that Youtube video editor would be a little too complicated for third graders, but once again I am happily surprised with their ability to quickly adapt and figure things out.

The “Kids-Teaching-Kids” Method of Implementing Technology in Elementary School

Rolling out new technology to a full class of elementary students is an intimidating task. No matter how well you model the tool with a projector, most students will not properly learn until they use the tool, make mistakes, and get assistance along the way. When a rollout happens at once, however, with a class of 15-25 kids, a lone teacher can easily become overwhelmed. There are ways to assuage this problem. You could bring in extra teachers to help your class. You could enlist older students to assist younger students. Or, if students have their own resources at home (or are in a 1:1 setting), you could flip the lesson using a video screen cast and hope students have parents or siblings around to troubleshoot when problems arise.

When my students recently started a video vocabulary project using iPads with Doodlecast Pro, I chose another way of implementing the new technology. Rather than trying to show my entire class how to create videos, I started with two students.


Photo credit to K. W. Barrett (Flickr).

The next day those two paired up with (and taught) two other students. Later, those four taught four more, the eight eventually expanded to sixteen, and within a few days my entire class was independently writing, creating, and publishing videos. Some students chose to continue working in pairs; others chose to make videos by themselves. It was much smoother than a huge roll out where everyone is confused and the teacher is pulled in a dozen directions at once.

I’m sure this has been done countless times, but I’ve never heard a name for it, so I’ll call it the “Kids-Teaching-Kids” method of technology implementation. Once my students were into the project, I still turned on the projector and showed the whole class a few tips and tricks, but mainly they were teaching each other.

I’d recommend this method to anyone who is hesitating to start a new project involving technology. Big rollouts are intimidating; starting small is a piece of cake. The next step for my class is to teach my school’s other third grade class, and then have the entire grade get another grade involved.

Has anyone tried a similar method of introducing new tech in the elementary? Or suffered from a disastrous big rollout? Let us know in the comments!

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!

Flipped Classrooms and the Global Audience

When I tried flipping math lessons for my third grade class, the initial audience was my class of 18 students. In the video narration, I speak directly to this audience, saying things like: “Today in class we learned…” or “Your homework for tonight is….” The videos were published on youtube, however, with a public setting, so anyone surfing the web could access them.

Shortly after posting the videos, I noticed the number of views quickly jump into triple digits. Even if you added the other third grade class from my school, and each student watched the videos twice, it was clear that other people were using the math tutorials.

Youtube’s data analysis service is excellent, so I went into the statistics of the videos to see where the clips were being watched and how people were finding them.

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As you can see, students from across America (where our math program originates) were looking for help with their homework and found these tutorials. A student’s mom even posted a thank you comment:

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This happened within a week. Over time, more and more students will find these videos to enhance their learning. For example, all of my students’ “Plants” videos from last Spring have views in the hundreds, and my colleague Alex’s middle school and high school biology videos also have hundreds of views.

While I’m happy others are finding the tutorials helpful, what excites me even more is the idea of my students being motivated by this same global audience. As I will show in my next post, creating videos is not difficult, and it is the perfect opportunity for students to clarify their thinking and develop communication skills. My main question is what project will work best for third graders. More math tutorials? Something to do with language or units of inquiry? I have some other ideas, but I will explore those in another post.

Flipping the Elementary Math Classroom

Last Spring, after flipped classroom proponent Alan November visited my school, I briefly experiment with a “light” version of the flipped classroom. Rather than teaching my 3rd graders entirely through video, I introduced new content and skills in class and then created homework tutorials to assist students who needed extra help. By the end of the year, my students were creating tutorials of their own.

As I wrote in the Spring, the videos went over well with my students, and this school year I was keen to experiment further with the flipped class model for math. As an IB Primary Years Program school, we attempt to integrate as much math as possible into our units of inquiry. We also use the “Everyday Math” curriculum, however, and I thought the step-by-step nature of the program’s computational algorithms lent themselves well to video lessons.

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At the beginning of the school year, I still stuck with the homework tutorial model. Here’s an example of the videos students have been watching:

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Last week, however, I had the perfect opportunity to try to teach entirely through video: Typhoon Day! We learned around 10 AM that school for the following day would be cancelled due to the approaching typhoon. We also were getting ready to learn two new algorithms, so when my students went to Art class, I created two longer-than-usual tutorials. My students were supposed to watch and learn during their day off:

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Both algorithms were completely new to my students, so as soon as they returned , I was eager to see how thoroughly they learned from the videos. For the easier addition method, the entire class figured it out from the tutorial alone. For the more complicated subtraction algorithm, about 75% of the class was fine, and the remaining 25% needed more assistance.

The reaction from students was also positive, so I will keep experimenting with flipped learning throughout this school year. For my next two blog posts, I will discuss some unplanned benefits of posting the videos, and I will also explain exactly how I made the tutorials.

Videoscribe review – a whiteboard animation and presentation tool

When our Coetail face-to-face session spent a day discussing digital storytelling, I was already familiar with the topic. A year ago I attended a workshop with digital storytelling expert Jason Ohler, and my third grade students have created several fiction and non-fiction digital stories. When we had the afternoon to experiment with movie-making tools, I decided to find something new.

I was curious about white board animations–videos where you see a hand drawing pictures and text on a background while a voice narrates the presentation. A famous education video based on a Ken Robinson speech used this technique:

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After chatting during break with Coetail colleagues, I learned of an ipad app that allows you to create simple yet similar videos. The app is called Videoscribe and was created by the company Sparkol.


There is a paid version of computer software (with a free 7 day trial) as well as an ipad and android app. I paid $4.99 for the app, but at the time of this writing, it looks like it’s free (with plenty of opportunities for in-app purchases).

After downloading the app I started experimenting right away. My first idea was to use it to publish the results of a big experiment that my students conducted on heart rate and exercise. This is how far I got:


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I didn’t bother adding music (lots of tracks available) or a voiceover yet. While it looks cool, I’m not sure if it’s worth the time invested. With technology in education, I am primarily concerned with tools that will allow my students to communicate, create, and express themselves, and after making this short video, I think videoscribe may be too much for third graders. Teachers of older students may want to look into it, and at the very least you could use it to add introductions or credits to other movies created by students (which is what Philip‘s student did for her around the world in 40 hellos project).

I may change my mind in the future, but at this time, videoscribe seems to be a little too complicated to be an effective communication tool for young learners. I am interested to hear if other teachers have tried it with their students.

Road Movies – a quick, easy, and free digital storytelling tool

A few weeks ago, after a 7 hour coetail session on digital storytelling, I went to some friends’ house for dinner. As I opened their apartment door, I was greeted by an iphone camera pointing in my direction. After a full day of exploring various digital storytelling tools, it was surprising to see a real person making movies in the real world (as opposed to coetail people living in a coetail world).


My friend explained that she was using a new iphone app called “RoadMovies,” created here in Japan by Honda. Using your phone camera, you create a 24 second movie with short clips. You can choose 24 clips of 1 second each, 12 clips of 2 seconds, or 8 clips of 3 seconds.


When you are finished, you choose an instagram-esque filter, add a moody Japanese song as a soundtrack, and you’re ready to publish. Since it’s made by Honda (ostensibly for road trips (preferably in a Civic or Accord)), they also add the time and distance traveled to the end of the video.


It’s so easy, I downloaded it right away and made a film of my post-dinner trip back to my apartment:

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My friend was the first person to tell me about this application, but a quick search showed that it’s the most popular free app in Japan and gaining popularity in Korea. And while it’s fun to document your dinner party or trip to the beach, I’m curious how this could be used in classrooms and schools.

Off the top of my head, I have a few ideas:

  • a fun way to record and share field trips or festivals
  • a communication tool to give parents a glimpse of what went on during a day in class
  • a creative challenge for students to tell a 24 second narrative
  • a brief highlight video of a sports practice or game
  • video mini-lessons; for example, how different types of music change the feel of the same video clip

I am planning to try a few of these, but please post a comment if you have other ideas.

Getting Started with Youtube in 5 Minutes

Looking back on my blog posts from the past half year, at least half of them deal with youtube in some form or another. Whether publishing your students’ digital stories, or creating homework tutorials, or having sports teams break down their performances, youtube is a powerful tool for educators.

While there are some extensive guides to using youtube in schools, as well as resources from google, some teachers might be intimidated to get started with uploading and sharing videos. I met another teacher at a conference who mentioned that he would like to use youtube, but he would wait until the following school year to do research and learn about it. Really though, it only takes 5 minutes to get started. To show how simple it is, I’ve created this brief video to explain how to upload and change the sharing settings:


After making the tutorial, I realized 5 minutes may be too much. Once you learn the steps, it takes less than a minute to upload, so give it a try next school year.