Teachers as Content Creators

This week in ECMP 455 we discussed the idea of teachers transitioning from the role of content facilitators to becoming creators of their own content, and in class we explored different content creation tools that are available to teachers.

I like the idea of teachers creating their own content and sharing it openly with their students.  I strongly believe in making education accessible to students outside of the classroom. Sometimes, I think we treat education as this teacher-held secret that students can only acquire if they are in class to write it all down — as if learning can’t take place outside the four walls of a classroom. But, if there is anything that I learned during my internship it’s that some kids have a lot going on in their lives and sometimes my Physical Science 20 class, or whatever class, isn’t their priority. I get that, and I don’t think that a student’s education should have to suffer because of that. After all, on the most basic of levels, our job as teachers is to help students learn. We shouldn’t restrict that learning to inside classroom. When teachers create and share content openly, students can access and review that content anywhere and everywhere, and as many times as they would like.

As I mentioned in a previous post, during my internship, I set up a Google Calendar for my Physical Science 20 class — the class that I taught all semester. At the end of every class, I would upload any notes/class work directly from my SMART Board to the Google Calendar, along with any handouts or assignments, in order to make the course content available to my students outside of the class. Looking back now, though, I realize that maybe there was a more effective way for me to share content with my students.  Although my students could access the notes and view them exactly as they were taken in class, they were just that — static notes. I realize that for some students it may have been tough to decipher the notes because they couldn’t hear me explain step-by-step how to solve a mole calculation problem, they could only see how I solved the problem. That being said, for the purposes of this blog, I wanted to explore different screencasting tools that would allow me to record a video of myself explaining the content. I ended up coming across one tool in particular that I really liked: Educreations.

Image result for educreations

Photo Credit: Dakota Moncrief via tes.com

 

Educreations is an app that essentially turns your iPad or computer into a recordable, interactive whiteboard that enables you to create Khan Academy-style video tutorials, lessons, or stories. Right away, I was really intrigued by this tool because, as a student, I am someone who needs to watch and hear a concept be explained multiple times before I get it, and I know that many of my students during internship were the same way. With Educreations, you can create a video lesson for your students which they can watch whenever or wherever they want, and replay or pause as many times as they want. If you have never come across Educreations before, here is a tutorial video that provides an brief overview of the tool:

One of the things that I like best about Educreations is how easy it is for teachers to use. Other content creation tools, like PowToon for example, have a lot of bells and whistles — you can add visuals, animations, background music, etc. This might make presentations more visually appealing, but I think it also adds a lot of extra work for teachers. For instance, the other day I spent some time exploring PowToon, attempting to make a chemistry lesson using the tool. However, I felt so overwhelmed by all of the different features that I got nowhere with the actual lesson — I spent most of my time trying to pick the perfect background and sound effects. What I’m looking for in a content creation tool is something that is practical and simple to use — I don’t want to spend a lot of time making a video lesson. Maybe that makes me sound like a bad teacher, but in my opinion, teachers already have a lot on their plates — it’s not realistic to spend hours upon hours creating a video lesson, especially if it’s something that you do/are going to do on a regular basis. For me, something like Educreations is just more practical. Educreations many not have as many options (you can draw, add text, or upload pictures), but I don’t think that’s a bad thing — depending on how you use the different features I think you can create an equally engaging lesson.

screenshot-2017-02-08-11-38-06

PowToon — a lot going on

screenshot-2017-02-08-11-38-53

Educreations in contrast — much simpler 

Another thing that I really like about Educreations is that is enables you to deliver instruction in a simple, clear and concise fashion. Last week in class we were introduced to Crash Course — a digital education channel on YouTube that provides information on all sorts of different topics from physics to psychology. I had never heard of Crash Course before so I spent some time watching some of their science videos, like the one below:

One thing that I noticed was that the videos were actually quite hard to follow — they are full of graphics and animations which I found distracting, and on top of that, the creators speak quite quickly. So, while I might have understood the content that was being presented, I didn’t actually take anything away from the videos that I watched. Now, this is not to say that the videos were not good quality — they absolutely were! The videos were very fun and engaging and were, I thought, unique way to present information. However, at some point, I think all the flash and fun impedes the facilitation of the content and takes away from the learning. Sometimes I think simplicity is key, and that’s what I like about Educreations — you can provide simple explanations or simple inquiry and still be helpful and engaging.

Overall, Educreations is exactly the type of tool that I was looking for to be able to share content with my students. I’m excited to explore it further and maybe start creating sample lessons to practice using the tool. To sum up, here is my pro/con list for Educreations:

Pros

  • It’s free (you can upgrade, but in my opinion, the free version works just fine)
  • Can use on iPad or computer
  • It’s compatible with Google, so you can upload documents and pictures right from Google Drive
  • Very easy to use
  • Simple — not a lot of bells and whistles (this may be a con for some people)
  • Khan Academy-style video lesson creator
  • Can be used in multiple contexts
    • Flipped classroom
    • Some teachers use it as a way to create simple tutorial videos for their students, like the one here
    • Create and share an answer key — can work through the assignment showing and explaining the solutions
    • One teacher uses it as an assessment tool in English, math, phys.ed, and health

Cons

  • Simple — not a lot of bells and whistles
  • Have to upgrade (which costs money) in order to access more features
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8 thoughts on “Teachers as Content Creators

  1. kirschsarah says:

    I completely agree with you on both points you raised, Amy!

    I think it is so important to make sure you are allowing students to do learning at their own time, when they have the time. Too often, we blame students for not being able to come to class or do their homework when we are not considering the “why” of the matter, and we are not providing any adaptations or opportunities for students to complete that expected learning when they can.

    I am also glad you point out that sometimes all the “bells and whistles” can be distracting. In any classroom they can take away from the learning because it is overstimulating. Don’t get me wrong, I think you can absolutely learn from some of these “bells and whistles” like music and video and drawings and speech, but encouraging a student or a teacher to put all of them together in a less-than ten minute video is too much. I have definitely seen many a PowerPoint handed in for a project that has unnecessary scene transitions and animations.

    I do have a question for you though – where do you think slowing it down and removing stimuli moves from being a good thing to causing a loss in engagement and interaction? I think that’s a lot of the push for having fast talking, pictures, videos, sounds, and I wonder where that engagement gets lost when you remove it all. Of course, I’m not sure of the answer myself, just wondering if you have any insight on it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • amypmartin says:

      Thanks for commenting, Sarah! To be honest, I’m not sure what the right answer is either. Maybe it’s simply a matter of balance — creating something that is simple yet engaging.

      I briefly mentioned this in my blog post, and maybe I should have done a better job of making myself more clear, but I think that depending on how you use the few features available in Educreations (text, drawing, pictures, etc.), you can still create an engaging, active presentation or lesson. For instance, while I was looking at examples of Educreations that other teachers have made, I noticed that some teachers made really good use of diagrams, photos, and other visuals to help make the lesson more engaging for students. I think student engagement is also partially related to how the teacher delivers the content — when the teacher is talking can you tell that they excited and passionate about the topic?

      That being said, I also I think that Crash Course, PowToon, and others like them are still very valid tools and definitely have a place in the classroom. I think they are very fun and engaging, and I can see myself using them as maybe a supplement to a lesson as a way to further expand on class content. I just don’t think that I would use them as my main way to deliver content, if that makes sense. I guess it would also depend on the students in my classroom. I don’t have much teaching experience, so I can only go off of my experiences during internship, but I know that some of those flashy tools would not have worked in my Physical Science 20 class — my students needed simplicity.

      What do you think?

      Like

  2. carmellekgerein says:

    Educreations is something I have never heard of before but after reading your review I definitely want to try it out. I am thinking of using this for one of my lessons for my major project. I like that this is free and easy to use, two of my favorite things! I find some of these apps have a lot of options but that almost makes it too intimidating to use, so I’m glad that Educreations has some options but not too many. Thanks for providing such a great summary of Educreations. I always enjoy reading what you have to say. I can’t wait to try out Educreations!

    Liked by 1 person

    • amypmartin says:

      Thanks for reading, Carmelle! I’m definitely not an Educreations expert, but I really liked what I had a chance to explore. I think it would be a really useful tool to use for your major project — I look forward to seeing/reading about how you use it in your math unit!

      Like

  3. roxannwaelchli says:

    Hey Amy,
    This was a great review of Educreations! There is so much to say about the tool! I love that you want to make your lessons available for kids that have other things going on in their lives. Sometimes kids might be in the classroom, but not really “there” or maybe some kids need to
    “see it”, “read it”, and “listen to it” more than the one time they are in class to fully understand the content. I wonder if doing this for every class is really feasible? I feel like if you are given new classes each semester, it would be extremely time consuming to have to make new lesson plans and then recreate them for online?
    Thanks for sharing!
    Roxann

    Liked by 1 person

  4. alexjtaylor16 says:

    This is perfect for me! I have wanted to try a screencast lesson for my online unit and this seems perfect. Free is always great for teachers and I find (like you said) upgrading is not usually necessary. I had never heard of PowToon either so I like that you posted the two photos beside each other in comparison.
    I also liked that you mentioned the point of how instructional videos can be too visually overwhelming. I believe that education used to be all about attention-grabbing techniques. When I was in elementary school, my classrooms were full of posters, signs, and colorful bulletin boards; I was always paying more attention to the walls than the teacher. Now, however, some teachers are trying to “zen” their classrooms with neutral colors and minimal decorations. I think this applies to what you were saying about graphics of online lessons and goes along with the saying “less is more”. Videos don’t need to move fast and be full of graphics to be beneficial and intriguing.
    I really look forward to trying this website out.

    Liked by 1 person

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