HAVE you ever felt like you needed to clone yourself in the classroom? How about some robots to help you with your teaching? What about being replaced by a robot? You are unique, and your interactions with your young learners are precious. You create a safe space for them, you inspire them, you troubleshoot, you laugh with them, collaborate with them, and generally play a role in loco parentis. Many of your learners will think back to their school days and recall how you inspired them to learn. You are irreplaceable! Except, except, except … the bit where you're explaining from the front, and some learners are bored because it's too easy, and some are lost because it's too hard. There is a part of your role that can be captured and duplicated. The aspect to which I refer is information and explanation broadcasting. Why not record the explanation and make it available to learners? If you create a bank of recordings on your school website, learners can grab explanations as needed, freeing class time for creativity and collaboration. Of course, some learners won't engage with video explanations, but some will love them, rewinding to critical moments, accessing the explanations early as preparation, or later as revision. They can 'pull' the explanations at the point of need instead of having them 'pushed' out onto them at a set time. They can engage from home, from school, via phone, on the bus, anytime, anywhere. As we'll see, you don't need to go high tech to achieve this. Most powerfully of all, by web publishing your explanations, you can help shift the emphasis of class time from content to problem-solving and creativity. Creativity can become the main event, and within this context the learners can pull the explanations they need when they need them. Let's look at some technologies to make this happen. We'll start with the easiest techniques and build up to something more ambitious. Point your phone at some blank paper or whiteboard Tape your phone to a shelf, pointing down at blank paper, or stand it vertically on a music stand, pointed at a whiteboard. Grab some coloured pens and start talking and drawing. A timeline of ancient Egypt? An introduction to calculus? How to do a bibliography? The scaffolding for a project? Click record and start explaining! Plug your phone into the computer, transfer the video, then upload it to your school web portal or to a free website (such as Weebly - www.weebly.com) where learners can access them. You could even have a student film you in class, when the explanation goes live. Don't be precious about production values. Get into the habit of point-and-record and over time you'll have a whole bank of explanations available. Use ShowMe or Explain Everything If you have an iPad, these two apps are a must. The core feature for both is: click record and treat the iPad screen like a board. The app records you speaking while you type or draw on the screen. Explain Everything also lets you integrate videos and web tours into your recording. In Explain Everything you can export the video easily and in a variety of formats: to your camera roll, to Dropbox, or direct to YouTube. For ShowMe, it saves the video to the ShowMe website and gives you a link you can use for sharing. The mobility and instant publishing capabilities of these apps allow for an interesting application. Let me illustrate: A few weeks ago I visited the Year 7 mathematics class of my colleagues Mark Liddell and David Hoffman (Mark is on Twitter @markliddell). They share 50 or 60 students in one space, and each works to their strengths in directing input and scaffolding to where it is most needed. Now, Mark Liddell had an iPad open with the ShowMe app, as he roamed and helped troubleshoot. Whatever sticking points emerged, he'd talk through the problem with the student, using the iPad screen to draw, while recording the audio. At the conclusion of each interaction he simply emailed the link to the recorded video through to the student, who could now refer back as needed. And if he encountered other students stuck at the same point, he could email them the same video as well as refer them to previous student. This is an excellent demonstration of physical space, virtual space, and cultural space all fitting together: over time, Mark and David are using virtual & physical space to build a resourceful and independent culture in their students. Jing and Screenr Both tools allow you to create a video file by recording your computer screen. For instance, you can record your web explorer, or a PowerPoint, or really anything you can bring on screen, and narrate the video as you go. Both Jing and Screenr are free and very easy to use. They let you record your screen in one take for up to five minutes, and then allow you to save your video online. You can then embed your video on your web portal or website for the students. Camtasia This is the high-end option for fully produced, edited tutorial videos stitched together from multiple sources. You can capture video from your computer screen, edit it together with other live video footage, add a soundtrack, tweak the audio, add title, subtitles, captions, clickable hotspots, and even include a 'picture within a picture' effect, whereby your head appears via webcam overlaid onto the main footage. In fact, it does more than that. As a French teacher, I just discovered I could use the text captioning system to add subtitles, and then automatically upload them to YouTube, so that viewers can use YouTube's 'CC' feature to turn the subtitles on or off. Camtasia can even create a video that pauses and asks the students quiz questions. Depending on how they answer it can jump different sections. Once you're done editing, it can save in many different formats. I've been using Camtasia for over five years and never had any issues. It is a fine piece of software. However, it does come at a cost: US$179 for educators, which is just shy of AU$200.   Where is time best spent? I remember spending a week of my holidays digitalising key explanations for five years worth of French courses back in 2006. I used Camtasia, set up a production line, and ploughed through the material systematically. Those videos have been accessed by students every year since. Some learners love them, and for some they're irrelevant. Since seeing my colleague Mark Liddell using ShowMe to record explanations live in class and email them straight to students, I intend to try this in our French classes and see if it's helpful. Learners teaching learners? How about learners creating their own tutorials using these techniques? Now, I don't want to put a wet blanket over this idea, but at the same time I think we can do better. To my mind, the highest learning experiences come through the galvanising experience of collaborative creativity. Learners engage with a meaningful problem or creative project, and along the way drill down into skills and content mastery as a way to achieve the higher purpose. For my French students, I'd much prefer to see them record an entertaining variety show in the target language, using various skills in the process, rather than record their own tutorial on how to use 'IR verbs'. I've heard this viewpoint described as "Flipped Bloom's", i.e. putting Bloom's taxonomy with "creating" as a foundation and "remembering", "interpreting" and so on existing only on this core basis. Automating explanatory materials can have a role in putting the first thing first, rather than getting distracted by the grind of pushing learners through endless amounts of content.

  • This article appears in the Term 4 issue of Technology in Education – a standalone magazine inserted into the November issue of Australian Teacher MagazineTechnology in Education is published every term. The latest magazine is available to download free on iOS and Android devices.

iOS: https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/teacher-+/id569816828 Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.paperlit.android.teacher Steve Collis is director of innovation at the Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning - the research and innovation unit of Northern Beaches Christian School. You can follow him on Twitter @Steve_Collis