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In this week’s #remotelearningdiaries, Earth Science teacher Sean Ellison explains how he creates virtual field trips to help his students prepare for standardized tests. Read more and get tips on how to recreate the lesson for your students!

When it was announced in late March that our school would be closing down, I knew I wanted to create content for my students that would be engaging and relevant even while we were not in the same space together.

I grabbed my phone and a tripod and hit the road. Over the course of two days I recorded myself visiting several rock outcrops to put together virtual field trips for my students.

Having used a flipped classroom setup in my 10th grade Earth Science classroom, I knew I wanted to keep my students focused on the lessons I put together.

Edpuzzle provided the perfect resource to ensure my students would stay on task and would be interacting with my lessons while we were learning at a distance.

Putting the videos together

As we started with remote learning, it was communicated that our lessons should not cover new material and should focus on reviewing content. I was lucky in that I had already covered all of the geological content of my course for the year.

My goal was to use the geological formations of our area to review content using as many real world examples as possible. At that time it was still thought we would be back in time to take our statewide standardized exams so I wanted to keep that content as fresh as possible.

Sean Ellison Image 1

I identified locations by looking through Roadside Geology of New York by Brad VanDiver and through field trip guidebooks put together by the New York State Geological Association.

The Roadside Geology series is available for every state and I highly recommend picking up a copy for your state. The New York State Geological Association makes all of their field trip guidebooks available for free on their website.

Before heading out the door, I identified several sites I wanted to visit. For each site I wrote a storyline that I wanted to tell. What rocks were present? How did they form? What was the sequence of events that went into making this location look the way it does? Doing this helped me create a list of shots I knew I was going to need to get once I reached the location.

My original idea was to record myself bringing attention to a detail about the location, posing a question based on content we had covered, and then explaining the answer by showing charts and graphs or using a large whiteboard on an easel.

The combination of wind blowing my papers around and cool temperatures freezing my whiteboard markers quickly put an end to that. I made a quick decision to record that part when I got home.

Sean Ellison Image 2

Assigning the lessons

Once I was back home I recorded the explanations to my questions, cut out bad takes and spliced everything together. While there are many different tools you can use to make your own videos, I used iMovie which comes free with MacOS. Once I had everything finalized I uploaded my video to Edpuzzle and inserted the questions I was posing on screen.

Due to equity issues with students lacking access to the internet at home my school encouraged asynchronous learning for our classes.

I assigned my completed videos on a daily basis and worked to keep each video under 15 minutes knowing students' attention spans would be challenged by anything longer. I supplemented with selected practice exam questions that were based on the content covered in the video.

Finally, the integration of Edpuzzle with Google Classroom made it easy to post video assignments and to quickly give feedback to students.

Student feedback and results

Once I started posting my videos, I wasn’t sure how students were feeling about this style of learning due to the lack of one-on-one time we normally have in the classroom. However, I soon started receiving emails from students like this one:

I’m writing this email to show my appreciation and thank you. The online work especially the Edpuzzles have been very helpful in keeping this all fresh in my mind. The videos are very thorough and have helped me understand just like if we were in the classroom and you were teaching us about it and I just wanted to tell you I appreciate the effort to do that!

While remote learning is not for every student, a majority of students were very successful in completing the assignments with a high level of accuracy.

Unfortunately, I won’t know how successful these students would have been on the statewide standardized exams this year but I do hope they have a new appreciation for the geology of their area.

Future use of Edpuzzle

Now that I have these videos completed, I want to figure out how I might make use of them in my classroom in the future. Hopefully we won’t be in this same situation a year from now but should the worst happen, I have them ready.

If we find ourselves back in the classroom next year, these videos can be assigned as review activities for the end of a class period or assigned as homework. I want to look into visiting more sites in the area and create a library of virtual field trips to have as teaching tools both in and out of the classroom.

Edpuzzle made it easy for my students to stay focused on the content I put together as we reviewed geology during the lockdown. While I won’t know the effect it had on their achievement I know my students looked forward to my assignments. Considering the stresses we were all going through, I was glad to know I gave them something to enjoy.

Want more excellent teacher tips? Check out #remotelearningdiaries on Twitter for more great Edpuzzle lesson plans!

Create virtual field trips in Edpuzzle
Filed underTeaching today

Sean Ellison

Earth Science Teacher at Norwood-Norfolk High School

Sean Ellison is a teacher at Norwood-Norfolk High School in Norwood, NY where he has taught Earth Science for over 15 years. His focus is on creating as many authentic learning experiences for his students as possible. He is the Earth Science subject area representative for the North Central section of the Science Teachers Association of New York State and the webmaster for the New York Earth Science Teachers Association.