Illustration by Edpuzzle Staff
Have you ever wished that you could see a thought bubble above each of your students’ heads as you explain a new concept? I sure have.
As a high school chemistry teacher I aspire to get my teenagers to be curious about how patterns in nature can be observed, replicated, and predicted. But sometimes all I get are crickets.
The first lesson of every unit in my class begins with a discrepant event (a scientific demonstration that flexes the mind and makes the student question what they’ve just seen). My purpose is to introduce a new concept and vocabulary that will be revealed throughout the unit.
For the last few years, I’ve been recording these lessons (that were previously in-class demonstrations). Converting these types of lessons into reusable resources has allowed me to focus my energy and reduce waste.
Putting these videos in Edpuzzle has given me a better understanding of students’ construction of concepts and has increased engagement to almost 100 percent.
I decided to flip my chemistry classroom and start recording the discrepant event at the start of each unit because these lessons constrained me to being in the front of the room. Plus, chemical demonstrations require a lot of prep and cleanup (with the potential of creating products that are nasty to dispose of).
I started to think long-term. I have 2-3 sections a school year and I plan on teaching chemistry for the next 30 years or so. That amounts to a lot of time preparing and cleaning up. With chemistry, there are always safety concerns and I felt I was wasting time, especially when students were absent.
Recording these experiences opens up a unique opportunity to give each student a close-up view of the demonstration and their own personal experiment with me.
Investing in recording these lessons allows me to focus on giving students feedback and developing their understanding of the content. It also allows the student to rewind and rewatch if they missed any details the first time.
The introductory demonstration to my Acids and Bases Unit is the classic Cabbage Juice Indicator demonstration.
The main goal of this lesson is to introduce the concept of the pH scale and to show it as a spectrum. Red cabbage contains a chemical called antrocyanin, which can be extracted easily to make a violet solution. When this solution is mixed with an acid the color changes to a pink or red hue, while bases make the mixture appear blue or green.
This is one of my favorite demonstrations to perform because the violet solution changes color before your eyes. However, the grocery shopping, setup and cleanup make it very labor-intensive. Also, the red cabbage juice smells funny. So by recording the demonstration, I avoid comments from students with sensitive noses.
I started with the end in mind. In past years, while teaching about the pH scale, my students performed a lab titled the pH of Seltzer. In which they used chemical indicators that I supplied to determine if the pH of seltzer changes when it is left open.
This new learning environment required a redesign. I reimagined the old lab to a new one where students could replicate my demonstration and test lots of household materials with an at-home indicator.
After curating a number of resources for my students on how to create chemical indicator reactions at home (like this one from Carolina), I went to work revamping my Lab Report Google Doc. I find that students need a lot of support with lab reports, and creating a template helps with organization.
My next step was to record a series of three videos in order to deliver content. The first video was the hook (the cabbage juice indicator video) and the next two were content in which I recorded my screen for students to take guided notes, and do some calculations related to the pH scale.
Recording the video
I use a screen-recording device to record my videos. I personally like Screencast-O-Matic and find that the paid subscription is well worth the deluxe features.
One feature that I regularly use helps me script my videos. This allows me to add closed captioning and has a helpful speech-to-text capability. Adding closed captioning better serves my hearing-impaired, ENL, SPED and frankly, all of my students (I tend to talk pretty fast!).
For this lesson, I recorded two different types of instructional videos:
Video 1 - Cabbage Juice Indicator Demonstration. My goal here was to allow students to observe a pattern and then construct their understanding of the scientific principle. I wanted to introduce some common acids and bases, and also get a gauge on how much my students already know about the pH scale.
I started by collecting acids and bases from around my house (vinegar, lime juice, seltzer, bleach and drain cleaner). I then recorded my video (using the front-facing camera on my tablet) from the perspective of sitting in my kitchen. I find that if the video watches like a cooking show, students will stay engaged.
Video 2 - Acids and Bases Guided Notes. This video is of lecture style notes that explain scientific definitions and ask comprehension and guiding questions.
This is another type of lesson that lends itself to being recorded and delivered on Edpuzzle because lectures are not the best use of my time in class. I limit these to 20 minutes in length so they are manageable.
For this video, I used SmartNotebook along with my Surface Pro to record a video of just my screen and voice in Screencast-O-Matic. I recorded this video with the intention of adding both open-ended and multiple-choice questions to guide student thinking.
TIP: Record a video to explain the instructions for a complex assignment.
I recorded a video of the instructions for the At Home lab and uploaded it to YouTube. I find that recording directions to assignments has saved me a lot of time. Instead of answering every single question, I point students and parents to the YouTube video first.
Once parents know that you made a video it reduces the number of stuck students and frustrated parents. The video also includes curated materials listing possible options for the lab, the lab report, and presentation rubrics.
Video 1 - Cabbage Juice Indicator Demonstration. Using Edpuzzle and embedding questions throughout the demonstration allowed me to give each student an individualized experience.
At the start of the video, students have to make predictions and classify substances. For this, I hold up an acid or base to the camera, ask a question verbally and have the same question appear as a multiple-choice question in Edpuzzle.
Since this is marked automatically, it easily allows me to scan for student misconceptions right at the beginning of the lesson.
Throughout the rest of the video, I scaffold questions in a specific order to draw students to the conclusion that vinegar has the lowest pH and drain cleaner has the highest.
Video 2 - Acids and Bases Guided Notes. In this video, I have both open-ended and multiple-choice questions that are also meant to guide student thinking.
I tend to include a “call to action” question in the beginning of the video that is easy and catches students’ attention. This also serves to boost student confidence and gets them to pay close attention.
Students loved the video lesson. Many of them left me comments in their daily check-in (assigned via a Google Form) that they loved seeing me perform this experiment from my kitchen.
They were hooked on the lesson and the concept. Many of them said that they had never seen anything like it.
I also gained a great deal of data on student thinking. Students were asked to make predictions at the beginning of the demonstration, and normally I would not have such a comprehensive view.
Normally when I ask a question, I can only call on a handful of students and have a small sense of their level of understanding. With Edpuzzle, I can now quickly assess comprehension and catch any misconceptions.
During this time when distance learning is the new normal, think of lessons that you can record to make the years to come easier. By creating these ready-to-go lessons, you’ll have the ability to focus your efforts on student engagement and feedback.
Four years ago, I mapped out the lessons for chemistry that lend themselves to being recorded and assigned through Edpuzzle. I then divided that list into fourths, with the goal of completing them all in four years.
Recording lessons that you will be able to reuse takes time, effort, and planning. Now that I have every lesson from my original list recorded, I plan to weed out outdated videos and integrate better ones.
Everything doesn’t need to be done right now, but making investments now will save energy and allow you to focus on what matters most, the kids.