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.
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.
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:
- 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
- Simple — not a lot of bells and whistles
- Have to upgrade (which costs money) in order to access more features