– a Sustainable, Reusable Investment
I work as a German teacher at a university Language Centre in Finland, teaching students from different fields of study practical language skills. One factor becomes more and more important to me for every term: if I want to be a decent teacher, I need to allocate my working hours to factors that pay off. Spending late evening hours designing a flashy PowerPoint, which students see for two minutes during a course is an example of the opposite. Using a simple template, perhaps allowing myself a somewhat ugly colour in one of the ready text boxes and coming to class less stressed and more prepared to share students’ experiences, questions and discoveries nowadays gives me much more satisfaction. At the beginning, it wasn’t always very easy to accept for a perfectionist.
This pedagogic philosophy can also be seen in the video material I produce: Since producing videos can be quite time-consuming, I do it for themes that are needed for several of my courses and make the material in a way that is not quickly outdated. Moreover, the videos can be used in several pedagogical ways; for Flipped Classroom activities, as a way for weaker students to go through difficult themes again, as a means for students to catch up if they have been absent during class – or as a make-up lesson if the teacher happens to fall ill
My videos are produced in a multimedia room at the Åbo Akademi University, since I wanted to write and paint by hand, on screen, in order to explain the grammar logic. What I needed for the production was a PowerPoint presentation, a web camera, a good microphone and the Camtasia software for filming and editing. Here is one example: part 1 (of 3) concerning relative pronouns.
As I mentioned earlier, I use the material in different ways. For strong, motivated students, who have been absent when the subject was presented in class, it works very well as possibility to catch up. If I use the materials for Flipped Classroom purposes, the same student types are very pleased and report that they enjoy the variation and new methods.
When I started making videos, my main target group were however the weaker, less motivated students, who I thought would benefit from the possibility to see presentations again, possibly several times, since time in class is scarce and we need to have quite a high pace. Unfortunately, this has not always worked out as planned: if things are difficult to start with, students don’t want to sit alone in front of a video with the difficult material. They want to meet me, they perhaps want a different type of explanation, they want to explain what they have understood and where they fell off the wagon – and above all, they need some cheering and pepping-up.
My first tip would therefore be: make videos and other types of learning objects for target groups consisting of motivated, autonomous learners. They are the most likely to make use of the material. For me, someone who in fact loves the face-to-face-contact with students, it is easier to motivate the weaker ones live, as we do things together. My second tip is: if you can’t drop your perfectionism, don’t make videos. It takes much too long, if you need to retake every time you make a mistake. Make them, and after a while, you learn to live with them. Honestly, I still don’t like watching my own!