Thursday, 18 August 2016

Three Interactive Video Lesson Platforms that ALL Teachers Should Know About.

Students love videos. Teachers love videos.  We ALL love videos.  And, for many of us, we learn so much better if we can see what we need to learn. However, as every teacher knows, a video can be a moment in the class when you actually lose student engagement due to a number of factors. Videos, despite their appeal and potential very rarely extend a student's understanding in a profound manner because every student's experience with a video is different.   But, with the recent development of a slew of interactive video lesson digital tools, teachers can now take a video and essentially personalize the learning experience for their students quickly and effectively. Furthermore, the busy teacher can now access oodles of pre-made video lessons from a wide variety of sources that can be used as is or customized to suit the individual needs of any classroom or teacher.


Three interactive lesson platforms that I use frequently are EdPuzzle and PlayPosit (fka Educanon) and TED-Ed Lessons  Personally, I really like EdPuzzle and TED-Ed Lessons, but I have colleagues who love  PlayPosit.  So, how do they all stack up? Are all interactive lesson platforms equal? I spent the last month testing out these three platforms and have come to a few conclusions

Can do audio voiceovers.
This platform is easy to use and offers a number of features that make it a really great choice  My favorite feature is it's simplicity of use.  Simply upload your video, trim to include only the content you want with a ridiculously easy to use trimming system of sliding bars, and add in your questions.  Oh, and if you want to provide narration of your video yourself, you can record your very own audio track. Pretty cool. Like all of the platforms featured in this post, you can access your class analytics.  Unlike Playposit, you can do so for free.  EDpuzzle is one of those digital tools that seems really simplistic, and, if you want, you can really just use it to teach basic comprehension of key concepts. However, it's how educators pose questions,  how they use the editing features of this platform to their advantage, and how they choose to deploy the lesson that makes all the difference in terms of whether or not the digital tool is any better than giving students the textbook and a worksheet.

Look at how this lesson uses the link tool to help students out with tough questions.  The lesson creator also uses the link tool to make students dig deeper: The Spanish Empire, Silver & Runaway Inflation

Editing Options Galore.
Like EdPuzzle, Playposit has a very simple platform.  It offers a teacher many, many options when comes to formatting and there is essentially nothing you can't do with the editing manager.  Like EdPuzzle you can trim your video. Playposit also has an audio feature which is very useful if you teach students who need audio. However, students can't record their answers in audio, and students complain about the fact that the editing manager does not include a spell-check feature. You can also broadcast and/or share your lesson, but after multiple uses of this feature, both myself and my students find it awkward to use: it does not work very well on the Chrome browser and the video takes A LONG time to load. This lag drives my students crazy.  As well,  Playposit does offer a library of pre-made, ready to go "bulbs" (lessons) that are well organised according to discipline and sub-disciplines. And, like with the other platforms discussed in this post, teachers can customise these bulbs. Furthermore, if teachers want to, they can pay for a premium mode that enables them to print out their lessons as worksheets and gain access to more question types: rather cool features;  however, to be honest, I wish such useful tools were free.

A neat lesson using the Playposit platform is: Hernan Cortes: Hero or Villain

Enables students to "Dig Deeper"

The most simple platform out the four. Don't let this fool you. Its simplicity is deliberate. It doesn't have the bells and whistles of the other three  (it really needs an audio feature) but it's neutral design and structure enables educators to do with it what they will. Furthermore, it is completely free. Just like the other platforms, teachers can add in questions and get class analytics. Each lesson has five components: Watch, Think, Dig Deeper, Discuss, ...And Finally. The more you use this platform, the more you realize you can play with those five sections and shape them specifically to your needs. Furthermore, it's simplicity enables you to integrated lessons from the other two lesson platforms into the Dig Deeper Section. Speaking of the Dig Deeper section, it is in this section  along with the "...And Finally" section that TED-Ed enables teachers to truly elevate and expand not only the depth but the breadth of learning in their classrooms by bringing in critical thinking and extension activities.  A perfect example of a lesson that pushes students to think critically and deeply is Josefino Rivera Jr.'s The Danger of a Single Story. 

The Verdict:

All three platforms are excellent provided they are used mindfully. Your initial use is often simply a "I need a lesson to teach now" moment,  but as time goes on and you commit to really playing around with the medium that is an interactive video lesson,  you will begin to discover all of the ways you can use technology to extend and expand learning.  Apart from the well-documented benefits that video lessons can do in the flipped learning environment, a few benefits that I've noticed are:

  1. Heightened student engagement. Not one of my students does not like to learn this way. 
  2. The ability to pick and choose which lesson platform best suits both the needs of my students and the purpose of a learning experience.
  3. The ability, when used mindfully and critically, to enable students to move beyond the basics of a lesson into deep, critical thought.
  4. The ability for every student in my class to learn at their own rate. As a special education teacher, this is, for me, the greatest gift.  I can also customize each of these platforms in ways that enable me to provide accommodations, remediation and  enrichment all in the same lesson.
  5. Students appreciate having video broken into manageable pieces.  A few of my students prefer to see the video in it's entirety first, but everyone always goes back to the questions.
  6. The ability for students to highlight their own learning or personal interest by building and researching their own lessons. Students can create their own lessons using the TED-Ed Lesson platform once they register as a user. It's an amazing and rich learning experience to learn how to present and teach your own lesson. 
  7. Almost instantaneous feedback. 
  8. A superb way to help a student catch up after an absence. I no longer need to re-teach and re-teach key lessons. By building a solid library of video lessons and then posting them to my LMS of choice, I provide a tool that enables every child to learn no matter where they are. 


So, in closing, one final note:  none of these tools offer one-stop shopping.  If ever a design team comes up with a platform that combines TED-Ed's ability to elicit deep learning, combined with Playposit's suite of editing tools, combined Edpuzzle's shear ease of use, they will corner the market. Until then,  I'll leave it up to you to decide which one works best for you.

Enjoy and together, let's help our students take advantage of their LearnAbilities.