Illustration by Edpuzzle Staff
There’s no denying it – online video content is here to stay. In a time when Forbes is running down lists of YouTube millionaires and the world gobbles up a billion hours of video every day, it’s only natural to adapt your teaching to this new reality.
The beautiful thing about recording videos is that anyone can do it, and you don’t need to spend a fortune (or anything at all) to get started. All it takes to make educational videos your students will love is an idea!
Why make educational videos?
If you’ve never recorded a teaching video before, you might be asking yourself if it’s really worth the hassle. The truth is that there are so many benefits to creating your own videos for your students, you’ll wonder why it took you so long to get started.
- Flip your classroom. If you’re using the flipped classroom model, incorporating your own videos will be a game-changer for you. While it’s true that there are endless educational videos for you to choose from, studies show that students learn and respond better when listening to a familiar voice. If you’re not exactly sure what the flipped classroom model is or you just haven’t put it into practice yet, recording your own videos is the perfect place to start!
- Save time. Once you’ve recorded your video on the topic of your choice, you’ve got a priceless resource you can use from class to class and year to year. Use that extra time to innovate and dream up creative activities and projects for your students, get your grading done early or record another video!
- Observe and critique yourself. Another way to do things is to record yourself live during one of your classes. (If you want to upload the video to a public platform later, make sure you have parental consent for any students who appear in your video.) You’ll be amazed at the insight you’ll gain from watching yourself back. Are you engaging with the whole group? Only looking at one side of the room or calling on the same students? What’s your body language saying? There’s no better self-evaluation tool!
- Keep absent students up-to-date. A never-ending problem is what to do when one of your students misses a class, or when you have a student with long-term health issues who can’t make it to school. Make sure every student feels included with video lessons to keep everyone on the same page. Think of the time and energy you’ll save by sending a video link rather than dedicating your lunchtime to catching up one absentee student!
Tools You Need to Get Started Recording Videos
The truth is that when you sit down to record your video, you don’t need much. It boils down to three basic elements, each with a wide variety of features and prices for every budget (starting with free). They are:
- A camera
- A microphone
Let’s start with the camera, since it’s impossible to record a video without one! You probably already have a smartphone or a laptop with a built-in camera, which is perfectly fine for beginners. Some of the latest smartphones actually have amazing cameras that have even been used to record entire films (we’re looking at you, Steven Soderbergh).
If you’re using your phone’s camera as opposed to your laptop, you’ll need a tripod to stabilize it for when you’re recording. Amazon is the cheapest place to find one.
If you’re a photography enthusiast, using your DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera is a great option, but if you’re just starting out, the $350 minimum price tag might be a little too steep.
Next up is your microphone. Again, your smartphone and laptop come with this feature built-in (which you can enhance by plugging in any earbuds with a microphone, like Apple’s), or you can invest a little in an external microphone for better sound quality.
A lavalier mic clips to your clothing, while a desktop mic might be better for a seated lecture or screencast (more on that later).
Finally, lighting – and yes, it is everything! A poorly illuminated video will kill your engagement factor. The rule of thumb here is that for the camera, you need to go brighter. This can mean placing two desk lamps sans lampshades on either side of your camera or investing in umbrella lighting (a kit starts from around $50 on Amazon).
Where all of these tools are concerned, make sure you record a test video first so you can see what the quality actually looks like before going all in on your video.
Software and Apps You’ll Need to Record Your Videos
Some basic editing software will come in handy for anyone who wants to make educational videos. Luckily, Windows and Mac both come with their own free versions.
For Windows, it’s the Photos app, and for Mac, it’s iMovie. Both allow you to trim your videos, add text and music, and splice multiple videos together.
Another must is Screencastify. This free app allows you to record your computer screen, which is perfect if you want to show your students how to do something online or if you’re using slides as part of your video. Screencastify’s free version includes the ability to record 50 ten-minute videos per month, or the unlimited plan is $24 for a year.
If you want to mix it up a little bit, a great app to get creative with is Green Screen by Do Ink. Just like its name implies, this is a green screen app that allows you to record yourself in front of any background you can imagine. All you have to do is set up your own DIY green screen (neon green poster board works well as does a bolt of neon green fabric). The next thing you know, you could record your class in the middle of the rainforest or on a space station – pretty cool!
Finally, Edpuzzle is a platform that can turn your video into an assessment tool by allowing you to add questions, comments and audio notes to your video, which are stored in your online gradebook once students have answered them. It’s the perfect way to make sure your students actually watch all your hard work and that it doesn’t go to waste!
Recording Tips for Your First Videos
Just like with lighting, in terms of your attitude and energy level, you need to turn up the volume. Since video does add one degree of separation between you and your students, you need to make sure you stay upbeat and engaged throughout.
If you’re screencasting, put some extra pep into your voice since students won’t be able to see your facial expressions. And speaking of facial expressions, don’t forget to gesture and use movement to your advantage. Just don’t move out of the frame!
Do a test run first to analyze your body language, speaking rhythm and energy level. It doesn’t hurt to ask a co-teacher or a friend to give your video a quick look and let you know their feedback, too.
Start Making Your Own Educational Videos Today
To sum up, you don’t need to spend money on anything fancy to get started. You can even ask your school’s technology teacher if they have some equipment (like a mic or lighting equipment) that you could borrow from time to time. They’ll probably be excited at the steps you’re taking to use technology!
Once you’ve started recording your own videos, you can think about investing in more high-tech tools, especially if you’re interested in monetizing your content one day for a wider audience.
Any way you slice it, creating your own teaching videos is the perfect way to flip your classroom, engage your students and modernize your teaching skills. So go forth and create!