14 hours well spent

Just a mini-update here, because I’m stupidly proud with something I’ve eventually managed to make happen.

My Year 10s are studying Thomas Hardy’s poetry at the moment. We’re going about it in a fairly traditional manner: I give out copies of the poem, the pupils talk about them in groups for a bit with some guided questions, and then we analyse it all together on my whiteboard.

Due to Hockey, school trips and a bout of flu running rife, I’ve rarely had a whole class for any of these lessons and it’s been somewhat time consuming catching everyone up.

So, looking at what other English departments were doing to address such problems, I thought I’d try to build my own Youtube channel to provide a snapshot of lessons that absent pupils could review and thus not be so far behind on their return.

I, religiously, followed the advice from Ms Findlater’s Teaching Blog –   http://msfindlater.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/you-what-you-tube-channel-for-teaching.html – and managed to put something serviceable together.

And then came the interesting bit.

If you have to distil your lesson down to 15minutes, what would you choose?

This was actually a fantastic exercise in realising how much of your ‘teacher talk’ is pretty redundant in a lesson: when you have to cut anything out that isn’t absolutely relevant, you become pretty ruthless in making your choices.

I decided I would use Powerpoint to help me structure the ‘lesson’. This gave me a static frame to talk over, and also meant I could put up some visual prompts on the screen for pupils to consider – on top of me speaking. (in much the same way as I would in a lesson)

However, the bit I’m really pleased with is the way I got my ‘voiceover’ into the Powerpoint.

There are lots of ways of doing this – but I didn’t like the disembodied voice effect that they created. I wanted to try to find a way to have a focal point on the screen.

After a bit of research, I used Live! Avatar (which comes free with a Dell laptop) to animate the mouth of the Bogart avatar I’m using across all the digital materials I’m creating at school. It’s not the most sophisticated tool in the world, but I quite like the effect.

My first video, on The Darkling Thrush, took me the best part of two days to create. However, most of this was spent trying to work out how to actually use Powerpoint and then how to make it into a video.

My latest one that has just gone live was the work of one short evening – which feels a little more manageable.

There’s 14 Hardy poems in all, and I’m going to aim to get a new one put up each week. This will mean they’ll all be there just in time for my Year 11s to really start revising for their exams.

Obviously, there are many more interesting uses for this technique – I’m reading a lot about the ‘flipped classroom’ at the moment – but as a little baby step forward, I much prefer this than endless ‘catch-up’ sessions at lunchtime . . .

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