By Thom Gibson
The word blog actually came from the term weblog. It wasn’t until Peter Merholz did a play on words and said “we blog” that the name stuck. In turn, the word vlog is a video blog, or video weblog.
Vlogging has taken all sorts of styles, from people sitting in their bedroom sharing ideas and stories, to people taking their camera with them, documenting their activities as they go.
Just as blogging has become an avenue of reflection for teachers who may not consider themselves writers, vlogging has the same potential—even if you don’t consider yourself “video folk.” If filmmaking IS a passion of yours (like it is mine), you have all the more reason to bring that passion into the classroom.
How to Get Started
You don’t need a fancy camera to vlog. Most phones have excellent cameras in them. If you go that route, be sure to always hold your phone sideways when filming (instead of up and down) because most video players are horizontal, not vertical.
If you want to get an actual camera (being that video can take up a bit of space on your phone), here’s a list of 10 quality cameras for under $100.
As far as editing, you could go as basic as doing no editing at all, to using user-friendly editing software like iMovie (on your Apple desktop, iPad or iPhone), or Windows Movie Maker on a PC.
While Movie Maker isn’t on Windows 10, you can still download it for free here. If you’ve never edited before, search “iMovie for beginners” or “Windows Movie Maker basics” on YouTube to learn the basics.
5 Vlogging Ideas
1. Record a Lesson
This is already a growing practice with many teachers. Set up a camera in the back of your room and push record. It’s painful watching yourself the first few times because there are things that we see ourselves doing that we never realize we did (and yes, you really do sound like that).
This type of vlog is best used for personal reflection and there’s no pressure to share it if you don’t want to. This type of vlogging recording is ideal for reviewing new lessons you’ve never tried as well as finding ways to improve your tried and true lessons. It’s also helpful for watching your general demeanor with students.
I saw that I often ask students to stop talking numerous times before actually following through with the appropriate consequence. I also realized that whenever I am about to address the class, I preface with “Ok, so…” I did it almost every time. It was annoying to watch. I consciously try to avoid doing that now.
2. Document Your Planning/Reflection
To take the lesson video a bit deeper, do a short pre-lesson video where you share what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, and why you’re doing it that way.
During the actual lesson, set the camera to record giving instructions to the class but as students begin their activity, take the camera around and talk to them. Ask what they’re doing, why they’re doing it. (As a rule of thumb, I never film a student who doesn’t want to be filmed).
After the activity, film a few students giving feedback; what did they enjoy, what did they learn, how would they have done it differently? Video yourself afterwards as well. Did things go according to plan? What worked? What didn’t? What would you change?
I did this with a new activity I was trying with prime numbers and prime factorization in my 6th grade math class. I put it up on YouTube and have gotten feedback from other educators who saw the video and did the activity in their classrooms, making the changes that the students and I suggested in the video.
It was also pretty humbling going around asking students why they were doing the activity and many of them not being able to answer. It showed me that I was not being as clear with the learning objective as I thought I was.
3. Send Video Announcements to Students and Parents
I’ve done this in the past and put it on the homepage of our class website, welcoming parents and students to the school year and sharing information about our class and how I planned to use the website.
It didn’t take any editing and after only a few takes of recording myself, I felt I had said all that I wanted to say as clearly and concisely as possible. I didn’t script it out, but had a general outline in my mind of what I wanted to communicate.
4. Create a Class Instagram
Instagram is an awesome vlogging platform. When great stuff is happening in class, I take a video on my phone and upload it to my class Instagram account (khabelemath) later. I will put the student’s first initial and describe what they were doing (i.e. A and R debating if 1 is a prime number). See one of my Instagram vlogs below (click image to watch the video):
A few things happen when you vlog on Instagram:
- You show that you value the work and efforts going on and that you want to share it with people outside the classroom.
- You meet students where they’re at—on Instagram. I don’t follow any students with that account, but a lot of my students follow this class account. You can even give the job of posting class photos to a student that you think could do a great job.
- You’re modeling digital citizenship in the way you handle yourself online.
I know a lot of schools have pretty strict social media and cell phone policies and this may not be feasible for all. If you are able to do it, it’s also best to fill parents in on the account and invite them to follow (that way there aren’t any surprises later on).
5. Vlog a Field Trip
Field trips lend themselves to natural filming opportunities—think: family vacation videos. If you’re not comfortable on camera, you could get away with never even showing up in the video when you go this route.
Ask students where you’re going, what you’re doing, and how they’re enjoying it. I always try to get footage of students laughing together or looking curious about something. Parents love these and they can be used in the future if the school plans to go to the same place on a field trip again.
Here are a couple vlogs I created from our recent middle school field trips.
Where to Share
You have several options for sharing your vlogs. The obvious choice is YouTube but depending on how comfortable you are with having such a wide audience, or depending on your school’s social media policies, you may want to keep you videos viewable to your school community only, or just yourself.
YouTube has a ‘private’ setting so only you can see the video as well as an ‘unlisted’ setting so that only people with the link to the video will be able to view it. Google Drive is another way to upload your video and even give viewing access to only those you email it to.
Vlogging in the classroom can be a valuable practice not only for the teacher, but the school community as well as the community of educators as a whole. Video is a powerful medium that’s becoming a more accessible avenue for sharing and reflection. Give it a shot and I’d love to hear (and see) how it goes.