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Creating Engaging Video Lessons

As teachers, we love that awesome feeling after presenting a classroom lecture that really connects with students. It’s what helps us stay passionate about the work we do.

But, how do you transform an amazing classroom presentation into a video modality? Most teachers are not trained in producing video instruction, but increasingly, many are asked to do just that.

In this article, we’ll explore the tools and techniques used to create video lessons. Most importantly, you’ll learn how to produce video that attracts and retains student attention, resulting in measurable learning. 

Chunking 101

Let’s face it, the attention span of today’s students has diminished significantly. Teachers can fight against this reality, or we can simply accept it and design shorter chunks of instruction. Of course, attention spans vary from kindergarten to high school seniors, so adjust the length accordingly — you know your students best.

Your video instruction should do all the things we tell students to do in an essay or speech: gain the attention of the audience, deliver information while maintaining audience engagement, and conclude with a summary that builds interest in learning more about the subject. 

A good way to get students’ attention is to describe the importance of the instruction they are about to receive. Tell them how it will help them later in your class, maybe in another class, on an upcoming test, or — most importantly — in their lives. This is a good place to state learning objectives and provide keywords with definitions the students should know.

Keeping students engaged is a critical component of successful instruction — so, give students something to do. Hopefully more than clicking the “next” button, but that is a starting point. A better method might be creating a digital worksheet to be completed while watching the video. 

Another engaging technique involves creating a video that automatically pauses and delivers a question that must be answered to continue. More on the tools to implement this technique later. 

There’s an obviously simple student engagement technique that’s existed for eons: notetaking. Some students might be less inclined to take notes while watching video instruction — they might think it’s a waste of time because they can always watch the video again. We teachers know that students rarely get around to watching a second time, so encourage, and even reward notetaking.

Video Production Tools

Now that you understand the basics of designing video instruction, let’s look at the digital tools required to produce it. 

When you teach in the classroom, there’s a good chance you use some sort of digital presentation software, like PowerPoint. If so, you’ve already done part of the work, all you need to enhance it is to record your voice narrating the presentation.

Adding narration is an easy process with PowerPoint (Mac, Windows), Keynote (Mac) and Prezi (web-based, subscription needed for narration). Just plug in a mic, choose record, and narrate as you control the sequencing of the slides. The process is a little more complex with Google Slides (web-based, free).

Are you already hosting Zoom sessions with your students? If so, some of your work might be done. It’s easy to record sessions through Zoom and repurpose the video.

No matter how you produce your video instruction, it should be closed captioned to be accessible and legally compliant. Remember, English learners and visual learners also benefit from captions.

Audio-to-text systems don’t do a perfect job of creating captions, but they provide a great starting point. SchoolTube quickly adds English captions to video and does a commendable job of including punctuation. The text of the captions created by SchoolTube automatically creates keywords that make it easy to search for videos on a specific topic.

Do you use handwritten content in your instruction, like math formulas, drawings, or artwork? Digital notepads are great for converting handwritten content to a digital file placed in your video. Additionally, digital notepads are also great for students to use for notetaking.

Do you need to share your screen with your students during a lesson? Zoom makes it easy to capture a shared screen, but let’s look at some additional options. On the Mac, free QuickTime offers a simple way to capture a screen and record narration. Snagit (Mac, Windows) and Screencast-O-Matic (Mac, Windows) offer similar functionality in variations of free, trial, and paid subscriptions. SchoolTube offers free tools for both screen capturing and recording with your camera (Mac, Windows).

Adding quiz questions to videos is easy, and free, with SchoolTube video quiz creator. Another option is subscription-based PlayPosit. These tools invite students to interact by programming the video to pause at specified times to deliver questions — this adds that all-important student engagement element. 

Now that we’ve provided the tools you need to create successful video lessons, you are ready to embark on your quest to create bite-sized chunks of engaging video lessons that connect with students. You’ve got this!