Cheap, ubiquitous technology has made video production and distribution accessible for any teacher. A video teaching portfolio or class record is becoming part of the application process for some employment or professional development opportunities. Both the Apple Distinguished Educator and the Google Certified Teacher programs require prospective participants to submit a short video application. Some search committees also request a class or demonstration video from job applicants. A simple, well-edited video is a chance to show yourself at your best. But, by the time you hear of a great opportunity, you may not be able to capture your teaching on video before the deadline. The new school year is the perfect time to start recording what makes you special as a teacher or researcher. A few inexpensive tools are enough, and you may already have them.
Video cameras used to be expensive and hard to use, but they no longer have to be. The Flip video camera was the breakthrough product in 2008 that put HD video production in people’s hands for less than $200. Though no longer produced, these very basic, sturdy cameras are still available online used for $50-75. They are as simple to use as power-on and press record. I still use mine regularly and never worry about lending it to a student. Most pocket-sized point and shoot cameras include a movie mode. Finally, many of us have a high quality video camera in our phones. Recent iPhones and Android phones shoot adequate video for most purposes.
Make certain to get a tripod, or even more than one for different purposes. Even the coolest colleague’s or student’s hands are a bit shaky. Classroom desks or tables can tilt or wobble. I’ve had very good luck with Joby posable tripods of various sizes. They are cheap, easy to use, and tough. Plus, they look fun. That is a big plus when trying to put a class at ease in front of the camera.
You may want to try to get some lights or microphones to improve the quality of your final product. However, better external microphones generally require more expensive cameras with mic inputs. Clearer sound can be added to videos with the same tools you might use for podcasting (see Brewster and Von Dietze, 2010). If you want a little more lighting than you find in your school you might be able to get by on the cheap. For a video shot in a rather dim office with awkward shadows, a couple of ¥299 clip-on lamps from Ikea were all I needed to brighten things up.
Entry-level desktop software packages are all you need to produce a quality application or portfolio video. Update to Apple’s iMovie 11 on the App Store. Windows Live Movie Maker is a free download for Windows 7 and Windows Movie Maker is available for earlier versions of the operating system. Each of these packages comes with support pages and tutorials from their makers.
You can go even simpler. If you shoot your video on your phone, you can edit it right there. For the iPhone, Splice (free version and ¥399 paid version) is a simple, but flexible video editor. It allows you to do all of the basics: cut clips together, create titles, and add voiceovers. At ¥499, iMovie for iOS devices is a bargain. For Android phones or other devices such as the Galaxy Tab, Clesh video editor is an advanced cloud-based editor (¥400 in Android Marketplace). Andromedia HD is a free full-function editor for Android. These apps for mobiles or tablets are good enough for short projects that don’t require too many bells and whistles.
A few tips
Privacy rules are confusing and changing. Recording your teaching necessarily means recording students. A simple permission form in English and Japanese for students to sign is a good idea. Specify that students’ names will not be used and that the video is for not for commercial purposes.
Exporting your video
After you’ve edited together the clips you want, added any voiceovers, and carefully typed your titles, you have to export, or render, the final file for viewing. There are a bewildering number of video file types, but sticking with an old standard like mpeg is probably the easiest way to make sure recipients can view it. It may seem counter-intuitive, but the audio quality may actually be more important than the video. Classrooms tend to look similar, but it is the language and interaction that is really important. Select higher quality audio if you can when exporting your video.
Choose simple clothing that you will feel comfortable wearing often. That makes it less jarring if you edit together excerpts from several classes.
Practice ahead of time with the chalkboard or dry erase board to see how notes appear on video. Writing that students can read in class may be illegible on a phone, tablet, or computer screen. It may appear much smaller, and any glare on the board cannot be edited out in post-production.
A busy classroom looks great but may make for poor audio. One solution is adding a voiceover. Try going to the classroom ahead of time and video recording an introduction or lesson plan explanation in peace and quiet.
Start now with a co-worker
A good video should tell a story. Try to capture some of your early classes this year for a "before and after." This also gives students a chance to get used to the camera in the classroom. They will become comfortable and some will even really enjoy it. Working with another teacher is ideal so you can record each other. This makes a nice collaborative project and may double as an easy entry into peer observation.
Links and references
Andromedia HD video editor. (n.d.). Retrieved from <techcatmobile.com>
Brewster, D., & Von Dietze, H. (2010). Podcasting and student-driven content. Retrieved from <jalt-publications.org/tlt/departments/tlt-wired/articles/369-podcasting-and- student-driven-content>
Clesh. (n.d.). Forbidden technologies plc: Products. Retrieved from <www.forbidden.co.uk/products/clesh/>
Splice - Video Editor. (n.d.). Retrieved from <itunes.apple.com/us/app/splice-video-editor/id386894062?mt=8>