Developing tutorials as a department

one of the most exciting innovations we’re looking at as a department next year is beginning the process of using video tutorials in our teaching. (NB. The videos are clearly media-centred, but what I hope people will find useful are some general thoughts on how you might begin this process in your own department).

(What we used)

  1. Scripts
  2. A moderate amount of time
  3. A decent camera on a tripod
  4. Editing software (Imovie)
  5. Our youtube channel to upload and share finished videos

First tutorials

Our rationale for doing this was clear – as a Media department it seemed a crime that we had no videos of their teachers’ attempts to do the same things we ask our students to do all the time (and its a fair question in general I think: how often do we actually do and experience for ourselves the things we make students do every day?!). We hoped that on the simplest level, just having a clear, engaging visual representation of key things in our subject would really appeal to students. Also, it should provide variety and enable independance – easy for students to watch these again in their own time and to provide variety in teacher-led talk & explanation.

My first attempt was….ok. I worked mostly alone, with the help of one colleague for the main part – a scripted conversation with myself (watch it and you’ll see what I mean) to show the basics of using a green screen. A key thing I had wanted to do was to make the tutorials just a shade of laughable (remembering Jim Smith’s RING <RELEVANT, INTERESTING, NAUGHTY & a GIGGLE principle) so that students might be even more likely to engage with the material. I am not entirely sure how well it worked here, so you will have ot judge for yourself.

Conclusion: When making these tutorials it is better working as a group wherever possible – better ideas=better results.


Main tutorial: Camera shots, angle & movements (see here)

This was the first thing we did as a department (3 people involved in total) and it was much more successful that my lone first attempt. First we picked the best camera possible to film it (d’uh!), but what also worked really well was that in the planning stage we thought really carefully about the mechanics of the video and how it would communicate genuine learning and subject specific vocabulary to our students (the aim of it was to get them familiar with the various ways in which you can describe film)

What we settled on doing was using the ‘camera within a camera’ idea to really show off the mechanics behind the short film’s construction (see screenshot below). So, I was the hapless teacher with the coursework, while my other colleague filmed me who was in turn filmed by the other person in the department! This meant that we were not only showing our students what the different shots the camera was taking but also the way in which my colleague had stood/moved/sat(!) to achieve that shot. Have a look for yourself and see if you think we’ve pulled it off

Final thought: Keeping tutorials short seems to be the key. We have noticed that students want to be able to access the information quickly and not have to trawl through information that is not relevant to them. So, say for a program like photoshop, we have been making lots of mini-tutorials that don’t last more than 2 minutes – generally they are only showing one or two processes at the most.

Will be reporting back soon to see how they are affecting the teaching & learning of our students.


An evaluation of using with students

Having used diigo with a class for a period of a few months (and now said class is off on exam leave and unlikely to be using it for a few months), I feel that now is a good time to reflect on how I’ve been using it in a classroom environment over the past few months, and to try and draw a few useful conclusions about it, for my own future use and for other people who are reading.

Initial thoughts/Contents

  • Diigo – its effect on my own habits as a practitioner of education
  • Tips/Tricks/Pitfalls of using it in the classroom
  • Where it needs to go in terms of development, to work better in the classroom
  • Final thoughts


Diigo – its effect on me.

Before I begin talking about the effect its had in class, I thought i’d reflect on how diigo has shaped my own practice. I have recieved so many fantastic links from the diigo in education group in the 4/5 months I’ve been a member, but with edmodo, glogster and netvibesstill to get to grips with, I think this is the biggest compliment I can play a group where some fantastic information is shared. It would be interesting, perhaps if we shared less technocentric articles as a group, but I suspect that I myself need to do some more investigating into this area.

I would reccomend all teachers with an interest in using web2.0 in their teaching to join this group.



Firstly, a bit of context. My students were A-Level ones, so reasonably mature (16/17) and the group was small (about 9) so I was on hand to support in a very intensive way that I suppose might not be available for younger, larger classes. What follows are some general thoughts on what went well, what didn’t go so well and things that you should absolutely do to make sure students use diigo properly:

  1. Always have a print out of the students’ username and password ready. Mine forget theirs. A lot.
  2. The first few times students are using diigo and its ‘sticky note’ feature, always start the lesson by reminding them that if they used this feature then they need to make sure that as soon as they start writing a note the select the drop down menu for the ‘privacy’ feature (see below). Students need to decide if the content they are writing is to be shared with the rest of the group (and most of the time with mine, it was), so they need to find the group you have assigned them to belong to and select that.diigoshare1
  3. Highlighting is fiddly! In its current state, a few students have managed to highlight whole parts of the website, rather than just the line or two I requested them to do. I don’t think this is deliberate: It’s the same when we get frustrated on word when the highlighter goes crazy. Remind students that if they make this mistake, they can right click on the highlight and an option should come up to erase it.
  4. Keep the diigo homepage open. It sounds silly, but a lot of mine forgot to and then sometimes had to go through a few steps to get back to. Remind them to open a seperate browser or tab when using the Internet.
  5. Making use of your group’s diigo homepage.My favourite tool is still this. I love the ability to review the annotations we’ve all made on one page, by clicking on the yellow box that I’ve highlighted round the red square below. It makes for a good plenary or start to the next lesson – challenging those sticky note annotations also increases their value and the respect you pay to the feedback students leave, something that leads into our next point.diigolesson2
  6. Moderating those pesky post-it notes. There’s nothing to stop students leaving inappropriate notes , publicly, but lets not forget that as long as a teacher is constantly refreshing the group’s homepage, its very easy to keep track of the sticky notes being left on the websites that have been bookmarked. I had one instance of a student posting an inappropriate sticky note, but because I immediately saw it and immediately asked the student to remove it, it seemed to be of little interest to the other students. Perhaps a more interesting notion to consider is the moderation of the conversation that can begin when students begin to respond to each others’ sticky notes…

An example would be when one of my students began to reply to other students’ sticky notes, without any prompting me (he had been absent and was techincally speaking a lesson behind us). ‘Great!’ I thought. But I quickly realised I didn’t like the replies he was leaving. Although they engaged critically with what they were replying to, the response was always on the negative side and came accross as not well balanced. One of my thoughts for the future then is how to continue to encourage discussion within diigo, but make sure that students recognise that rules of balance and discussion ought to be recognised in the same way that I always would expect in a classroom discussion.


Where next for diigo?

I was new to the whole social bookmarking thing, I admit. I completely skipped delicious, but it seems to me that a key difference between it and diigo is that diigo has more potential for taking the links found further. I know diigo is not a wiki and I think I have already shown ways in which the group’s homepage was used more effectively, but I would like to see more usability in the forum. As it stands, the forum feels limited. A good example would be that I wanted students to follow up on posts other students within the group. They hit reply and get the text contained in that post and the ability to reply to it. Good so far. But when they click submit then their new post gets dumped right at the bottom of the thread, sometimes mile away from the post they’re replying to. My students and I found it a bit confusing and I think a stranded approach to posts (plus the ability to easily add in some tricksy multimedia like this ‘ere wp), would continue to mean that you can use diigo in interesting ways to draw out deeper learning from students.


Final thoughts

I will be using diigo again next year. With slightly tighter e-safety controls (which I suspect we will get when the next round of changes arrives), I intend to try and use it with much younger students. I like that I can easily create accounts for students and I don’t need a long list of their email addresses first. I remain most impressed by how much diigo enabled students to vocalise their thoughts about poetry in a way that gave them more security and space to do it, without feeling pressured to call out the ‘right’ answer in class. My hopes as I continue with developing the use of diigo is that others (particularly in different subjects), might discover interesting and different ways of using it for something as idiosyncratic as poetry. This in turn will lead to more ideas for everyone involved.

Conceptually diigo addresses some big problems that face students today; put simply it enskills them to use the internet in an open way, where the debates that need to be had, on things randing from validity of information to building collective knowledge as a group are interrogated.

Two wordles….

Wordle: The Great Gatsby

Two recent wordle’s I’ve made, one containing the entire text of F Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby’ and the other derived from the content of my blog. Lots of fun, but great for teaching as well – Intend to use the former to generate discussion about the book with my students.

Wordle: My blog

More updates to follow soon – currently buried in masters work!

Proud of podcasting and such….

While today has been a tiring week work-wise, with various commitments seeming to spill over and clash with each other, I did have a fantastic lesson today with my media studies group and my year 11 English class.

For the first time I’ve managed to successfully use podcasting in a lesson to really enhance students’ learning. I think the past few times there has always been some sort of technical hitch and maybe one or two students have managed to produce something resembling a podcast, but it has been a stressful process. My ultimate aim is to bring other teachers in the school on board with podcasting and to do this, I want to make sure the process is relatively linkable to the philosophy of ‘plug in and play’. I’m beginning to get much more comfortable with Audacity and that seems to be making it quicker for students to pick it up. Although we’re still having issues with microphones (although I hope to get hold of this at some point), everyone managed to record something and most managed to edit it. The editing was done with aid from the excellent websites freeplaymusic and soundjay, the former offering some fantastic quality instrumental MP3s. I intend to blog about freeplaymusic and the impact its had on my teaching another time – this isn’t the only context in which I use it.

My media group did some fantastic work for me too, some in class, some out of it. They were doing the usual task of filming an advert for a given audience, but some really took the initiative – one filmed a 2 minute film out of school which was fantastic. The other’s trajectory you might be able to guess from below!