Friday, May 6, 2011

Senioritis Redux

So here is a snapshot of my class last week. I needed to cover some items in Adobe Premiere for my Multimedia class. Mainly, how to do the cool transitions between video clips. You know the ones - the cool page turns or the cube rotation or the diamond dissolve or the most dramatic of all - the fade. I am getting fired up about this because when I made my last video of my daughter's first grade gymnastics meet (she is now 15), I used every one of those transitions. Once the video was complete - I sat back and marveled about how cool those effects were. Bottom line - I was fired up to teach this topic. What I didn't realize was that I was the only one in a class of 15 that was motivated to cover this topic.

I set out on an epic quest to show each and every student the wonders of including transitions in their video productions. I had a Prezi ready to go for the SMART board, I had all of my lesson files in order. I was going to introduce at the board, they would take notes and then we would work through the lesson files together as we perfected our Bike Race masterpiece. That was the beginning of the class. By the end of the class my hair looked like I stuck my finger in an electrical outlet. My face was as red as a tomato and my voice was quivering with anger as I found myself saying close your mouths and follow along for the hundredth time in a 50 - minute span. I was also half tempted to cut the wheels off of the entire classroom of chairs. Brilliant educational idea - Let's put wheels on the lab chairs so that our students can move around in the class whenever they want. Some days it looks like the Kentucky Derby in here and that day was no different.

After my description of the class, you might think that I teach young kids or even pre-school but the reality is that I am at a one year postgraduate institution for young men. A class full of 18 to 19-year-old males that are all (hopefully) going to college next year. I have been doing this for 15 years now and what I have realized is that our lucky young bucks are going through their second bout of senioritis. You see, we graduate in less than two weeks and no matter what content I wanted to teach, they were going to be uninspired. I could have been teaching them how to make millions of dollars and get any girl they wanted and all they would be thinking about is wondering how fast they can physically go in the chairs before they bruise.

So, in order to save my sanity I started thinking of ways that I could get the content over to them in a way that will allow me to stay calm and feel like I had some sense of classroom control. I decided to create screencasts of my lessons. Screencasts are recordings of a user's actions on a computer that can be posted to YouTube or Vimeo or any other streaming video site. Screencast programs like Camtasia Studio and Jing as well as Adobe Captivate allow the user to record either a program you are using or the entire screen and make a movie for training. I used Camtasia Studio because it also adds functionality such as captions, zooms, recording voice audio and picture-in-picture as well.

So there I sat at the computer on the first morning, ready to make my lesson with my coffee in hand. I methodically went through the lesson, cracking some jokes but being clear about the main points of the lesson. All recorded into one movie file. Some even with my image on the screen as well. That must have been a sight for my students. I then posted it to YouTube and voila - I am a published screencaster.

The plan in class was simple - hand out headphones, send them a link to all of the lessons and give them the questions that I wanted them to answer. Once I received the first question from a student that didn't get an answer (this took all of 10 seconds into class), I put on my stern face and said "If you missed it then rewind the video." I then sat on my desk in amazement as they were all fully engaged in the lessons. For those who don't believe I have posted a video of the class working on this project below:

Although most were not overly thrilled about the delivery, they all took part in the lesson. Most were relatively engaged and worked on their own quite successfully. I will post again with more of my ideas about why this worked and as to when and where to use this type of delivery but for now I am just going to bask in the quietness of the moment, take a breath and have another sip of my coffee while my calmer, better-groomed virtual self explains the finer points of burning a DVD to my students.

By the way - the students were capable of answering all of the questions correctly on their own. This never happened when I lectured.

I think I'm on to something.....

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