Create an App-Style Google Slide Deck #AppSlides

The creative side of my brain has absolutely loved the design opportunities that have come along with my new role as a personalized learning collaborator. It’s challenging, rewarding, and fun to essentially meet with teachers and ask, “Where do you see your classroom practices going next?” and then finding ways to bring those goals and dreams to fruition.

One such creative endeavor was so fun I wanted to share it here for anyone, like us at the time, who is interested in personalized practices (and choice) at the elementary level. This initiative began during a collaboration with Rockbrook educators Jan Kyle and Elizabeth Raphael, and I built this piece with the guidance and support of Oakdale educator Alli Pontious. Below are the personalization challenges we were looking to address when we started. We asked ourselves, how do we create something…

  1. Built to Be Self-Guided: Students in our elementary buildings have an hour of literacy time each day that is used for supporting students across a variety of learning levels, but realistically teachers can only focus on one of these groups at a time.  So one goal for this piece was to design some self-guided instruction and self-paced assignments to support and challenge students when their teacher is meeting with another group.
  2. Built for Choice: Our personalization model is driven by student choice, so we hoped to build something that would give student choice across three fronts: choice in the topic of the content for each assignment, choice in the order of completing assignments, and also choice in the pace of instruction and assignment completion.
  3. With a Learner-Friendly Workflow: The above goals all sound great, but they pose a number of problems. Chiefly among those issues, how do you provide 25 options to second-graders without them getting overwhelmed or lost in the choices you provide? While Google Classroom could house all 25, learners at this level would likely struggle to effectively navigate that many options. At the time we felt we needed something more intuitive, user-friendly, and capable of relaying instructional video content directly on the assignment itself. Not to mention, we needed a simple way to share this out to our students.

Tech Disclaimer: Now, we are a 1:1 district whose elementary learners use Apple iPads, so as I was listening to these design goals and challenges, I kept thinking that I wanted there to be an app to make all these things happen. But unless I designed one, there was no program I knew of that could accomplish what we wanted to do.

Solution: I love designing PowerPoint slides. Yeah, nerdy I know. And in the past, I have leveraged hyperlinks in slide decks to mimic an app workflow. So I decided to merge that feature with the concept of a choice chart, which resulted in the presentation below. In that Google Slides presentation, I created a grid (indicators columns & topic rows: complete one in each column) where each choice is presented on an image that is easily identified/read (utilizes initials and colors). Those images are then hyperlinked to slides later in the presentation, and when those slides are being viewed on a touch-screen device, the result is an app-like workflow that primary students can navigate (I tried it with my first grader). Each slide gives simple instructions for that assignment, provides embedded or linked instructional video content when necessary, supports students with brainstorming suggestions specific to the topic they selected, and utilizes images as a simplified link to the Google Form assessments that are also topic specific. Three of the columns are self-grading, and if used over a duration of several class periods, students have the flexibility to select the order of assignments and (to some degree) the duration of time they choose to allocate to each.

So, enough talk about the idea. Take a few minutes to explore it yourself!

Click Here for the Google Slides App Deck for 2nd Grade ELA Time.

Your comments and feedback are encouraged.

Challenge Accepted: #Five4Five (Days 3-5)

Well, if you missed my post over days one and two, I would suggest backtracking to that blog for the premise behind my approach to the #Five4Five Challenge and my first two examples. Below are the daily, new-to-me video endeavors/projects I created or co-created over the course of these three days. My hope in sharing these pieces is that others might find an idea or an approach they can take away and apply to their own classroom practices.

Monday, February 5th: White Hot Flames and Workout Frames

Today actually afforded me the chance to work on two new-to-me experiences, one in our high school welding course and the other in the high school’s Strength and Conditioning 3 course.

  • Part #1 (Welding): Our high school welding teacher, John Bombac, and I have been planning the creation of 45, one minute-or-less videos that detail the subtle procedures for setting up a weld or that demonstrate the physical technique of the weld itself. That last part is especially challenging given the sensitivity of the camera to the welding flame and the need to drastically drop the camera’s exposure enough to capture the fine details of the weld. Some of our early efforts ended up in nothing but a white halo or ball of light at the point of the weld. But on this date, we figured it all out and recorded a pretty detailed look at the OA welding technique. One down, 44 more videos to go lol.
  • Part #2 (Strength and Conditioning 3): Previously, one of our elementary school PE teachers had expressed an interest in differentiating his lesson activities by ability level (and at times creating choices for any given activity set). Through the use of gifs and timers, he had hoped to develop a timed presentation or movie that would facilitate these choices or differentiated options on a screen for his students. This idea had come from an observation he had once done at our high school, so to better understand what he was hoping to accomplish, I spent time in Strength and Conditioning 3 on Monday.
  • What I learned was that they use a program called Rack Performance as a way to organize and facilitate large groups of athletes progressing through a timed workout. This program accounts for warm-ups, equipment setup time, rest, and also the time allocated to complete each activity; it is also capable of facilitating both individual and/or small group team workouts.
  • Today’s video: First, I created six sample gifs (that are NOT for elementary use – just as an example) using the Giphy website. I added three of those gifs to one PowerPoint slide along with a 30-second timer. I repeated the process for a second slide, and then set both slides to auto-advance in 30 seconds time. After adding an opening and a closing slide, I ran the PowerPoint while my Quicktime screencast was recording. That screencast video I’ve shared below, and I hope to replicate this process with actual elementary PE indicators for a unit. Conversely, I’m also tinkering with adding gifs to the Rack Performance system in place at the high school to add visuals to their program.


Tuesday, February 6th: 2nd-Grade Video Production

The set of organizational videos that the 6th graders created (*see my day one post) will be used as instructional content for a 2nd-grade choice board that we are currently developing. However, the 6th grader indicators do not include Description, which is one of the writing structures taught in 2nd grade. So before the choice board can launch, we need a Description video. Thankfully, Oakdale 2nd grade teacher and PBS Digital Innovator Alli Pontious offered the opportunity to develop the Description video with one of her students.

By this date, this student and I had met once for 45 minutes, and she had nearly finished writing the entirety of the script in one sitting. It was seriously impressive. So today, we met to finalize the script and film the instructional portion of the video. Now it’s not easy being on camera and reading from a script. Your mind has to balance the processing of what you are reading and your verbal fluency all while you simultaneously manage your own facial/physical posture. That’s a lot to ask of anyone, especially someone in second grade! So my new-to-me experience for today was filming a video with a second-grade student, though honestly, she was a pro. Here are a few snippets from her video that I’m pieced together to share in this blog. There’s still editing to be done, but you’ll see just how phenomenal she was with creating this piece.


Wednesday, February 7th: “Maycomb Madness” Onboarding Video Production

Recently, I met with high school English 2 teacher Holly Currie who wanted help gamifying her upcoming To Kill a Mockingbird unit. Her goal was to theme the unit around the NCAA men’s basketball tournament that would be taking place at the same time (and is always on the minds of students during the time this unit is delivered – so why fight it right?!?!). The nuances of the game are intricate so I won’t be spending time detailing what that experience will look like – she and I will chat about it in an upcoming podcast, but on this day I developed a fun onboarding video that will kick start that unit in her classroom.

The video itself features basketball player highlight clips, and periodically (when the shot is clear and slow enough for this step), we took images of the TKAM movie characters – cropped around each character’s head – and superimposed those heads over the heads of the basketball players in the clips. To do this, I learned that all you have to do is lay a cropped image over a video in iMovie. Then you select the Picture-in-Picture feature to bring the cropped image into the frame over the video itself. From there, you can resize the image and reposition it wherever you like. So after I added those faces and a little music, we had a unique, onboarding mashup that we can use as the trailer to Holly’s “Maycomb Madness” game. (Sorry, I can’t share the video as the faces are not mine to share)

To anyone still reading, thank you for following me on my #Five4Five journey. I hope one of my experiences sparked an idea. Please know that I’m always happy to collaborate if you want to chat. Special thanks to all the terrific Westside teachers and students who I had a chance to work with during these five days. I love the boundaries you all are pushing with video production to support learning in our district. And last but not least, thank you Michael Matera for starting this challenge and leading the charge for others to complete a #Five4Five. This year I’ve really tried to make it a goal to create more content (given how much media I consume), so I would encourage anyone and everyone to take on this challenge for the personal growth in it — try new things, reflect on those new processes, and then don’t be afraid to share your ideas with others.


Challenge Accepted: #Five4Five (Days 1-2)

Well Michael Matera, after three days of following your #Five4Five Challenge last week, I decided to start my own #Five4Five attempt on Thursday, Friday and finish Monday-Wednesday just in time for my weekly Thursday blog post. I’m not sure if that cheapens the challenge as it more of a 5 for 7 that way, but I’ve never been one for following rules and conventions anyway so… : )

Okay, now with that said, my goal was to create a video something each day for the five days and share those pieces as a part of a two-part blog post. The challenge aspect here, apart from the 5 for 5 quantity, was to try and create pieces that had some new-to-me element of the process itself or in the end product.

So Michael, thanks for the inspiration; here’s how my week went…

Thursday, February 1st – Thinglink Application

On Thursday, I finalized my entry for a tech-challenge contest that will select six winners and pay for their trip to #ISTE2018 in full. This contest asked entrants to create a tech — something — that in 2 minutes or less details how you use tech in supporting students, why you would like to go to ISTE, and how you intend to take what you learn and share it with others.

In the classroom, I always encourage my students to “zig when everyone else zags” when there is an opportunity to make a product/project your own. So in that same spirit, I sat down and thought about what the most common product would likely look like…

  1. Most people will likely create a video. It’s the best medium for getting the most out of the 2-minute timeframe.
  2. Most people will be sharing a straightforward explanation of their best 1-3 tech-forward stories.

So my thought process was, how do I NOT do those things (or at least do them differently)?

So I began to brainstorm from a place of — What would it look like if I created a video series that provided choices to the judges to allow them to watch what tech endeavors they are most interested in versus the one or two that I would pick? I mean, after all, my job title is personalized learning collaborator right?!? Choice is our thing. Plus, if I provide those choices as a part of a visual, it would give me the chance to show the breadth of the things I have created or co-created with educators (beyond the 1-3 examples the time constraint might permit).

Cool with that part of the overall idea, I committed to creating an image that I could then upload to Thinglink. I’ve recently started using infographics dropped into Thinglink as an easy way to present learners with info and a set of videos in a visually appealing, easy-to-access format. Idea -check. A way of facilitating these video options -check. But I still needed to get away from that “here are my best bites” approach.

After giving my brain some time to storm, I committed to the idea of taking my schedule from the previous week and sharing a 30 second or less summary about the tech influence on each meeting/collaboration on that schedule. I felt this approach had a certain authenticity to it, a fidelity to the day-to-day use of tech that the 1-3 best bites could not provide. Unique approach -check.

So, 20 videos, one new image, and a Thinglink later, here’s what I came up with for the contest and for day one of this #Five4Five challenge.

 *Can’t See the Videos? Here’s the Link:

Friday, February 2nd – Instructional Videos by 6th-Graders

I’ve been making instructional videos for four years now, though they’ve only been bearable to stomach for about the last three years lol. In all that time, though I’ve helped other teachers produce video content, I’ve never had students tackle the challenge of creating instructional videos themselves. So when 6th-grade teacher Becca Kratky came to me with the idea of having her students who tested out of an organizational patterns unit create videos over that content, I was excited to see what they could/would produce.

So, I met with four of her 6th-grades for three class sessions to work on developing their scripts for the videos they had decided to create. The students worked hard, wrote their own ideas and dialogue for the piece, and I tried to reduce my role to that of a guide/support to make the end product truly theirs. After the scripts were finished, we spent two class periods shooting the content for the four videos, and then I offered to do the final edits for them (given that we had only been allocated five class sessions to finish this project).

On this date, I worked on and finalized Emon’s video on Cause and Effect. I’m happy to share his work here and to again remind you that he wrote out the dialogue for the entire video, the skit included. Before the end of the school day, I shared this video (in person) with the group of four students and their teachers. It was a terrific way to end the week, and to end my second day of my #Five4Five on (co-)creating a video something I’ve never (co-)created before.


Click Here to access Part #2 of my #Five4Five experience.

A Lesson on Lawn Care & Life

Entering into my third year of teaching, I bought my first home, a newly-built townhome that was so close to the school I could see my driveway from my classroom window. I loved my time in that house and always took great pride in caring for that home. That care even extended to the small 20×10 foot patch of grass that I owned behind my house. So the following summer as temperatures rose and the climate became dry, I made it a part of my daily routine to step outside each morning, turn on the outside hose, and water my little plot of grass for 15 minutes.

Days passed. Weeks passed. June passed. And in July, a nearby neighbor asked if I would check on his pets while he was out of town on vacation. I was happy to help, and so one morning, after watering my yard, I walked out the back of my property to his house to care for his animals. Afterwards, making my way back home, I saw my yard from a new perspective, and being the nerdy English-brain that I am, the metaphor in that moment was both clear and profound.

Lawn 1

That fall, in all of my classes – and honestly, in every course I taught thereafter – I managed to carve out five minutes to share this story and the following insight…

Isn’t it amazing, the transformation that can take place, when you are intentional about giving 15-minutes of your day to tend to the things you are responsible for? Just 15-minutes can breathe life into something, to help it to thrive, when it would otherwise die without that effort.


So what do you need to water in your life? Isn’t it worth 15 minutes of your time?

…Two years ago, I came across this quote, and it fit my story. Just yesterday morning, my Facebook Memories add-on brought the quote back for me to revisit, which ultimately inspired this blog post. So, I’ll keep things simple, and leave you with this parting idea.




Flex Space 2.0: The Next Conversation


In my third year of teaching, I returned from winter break to find that each of my four sections of English 12 had significantly swelled in numbers. Supposedly, there had been an oversight on the part of our school counselors regarding our students with special needs population and that issue – coupled with an abnormally high rate of students dropping down at semester from AP English 12 to our course – left me with class numbers of 29, 30, 31, and 32 students in the smallest classroom in the building, a room with only 28 desks.


Over that winter break, I had spent considerable time on a total redesign of our third quarter unit. The redesign had come about as a result of what I’ll simply diagnose as a senioritis outbreak that seemed to set in annually around week two of our Brit-Lit unit on the topic of poverty. The unit redesign  I would later come to acknowledge as my first iteration with a personalized learning model as I focused on offering students significant control over the pace at which they progressed through the novel and assignments. I had started the semester with the fiery-excitement any educator experiences when trying something new for the very first time, but the news of my new class sizes had stamped out that optimism. Our learning space just couldn’t facilitate flexible grouping of students across a variety of stations without me assigning students a place to be.

So, discouraged and frustrated, I did what most teachers do in moments like these… I looked for a place to vent.  I paid our media center specialist, Robin Schrack, a visit in the library, and she and I had what I feel today was a very fortuitous conversation in retrospect.

Me: “Robin, I’ve got this idea for a new approach to how we do things in English 12 for the third quarter, but there’s no way I’ve got the space for it. I’ve got students sitting on the floor in every section, it’s the smallest room in the building and –”

Robin: “Well why don’t you just hold your class in here?”


So later that day, after looking over my schedule for the quarter, I returned to our library and… checked-out… the library.

That was the spring semester of 2010.

Flash Forward Eight Years Later: For four years, I held class in that media center for 1-2 quarters per year, even when I switched to teaching English 10. Then, when I moved to Omaha and began working at Westside, I had acquired a sensibility about space that aided me in finding new ways to facilitate this model of instruction in an ordinary classroom using your average, standard-issue desks. Over the past four years, you could say that my desk configurations have served as a visible representation of my eccentricity lol. I have zero doubt that the teachers with whom I share that classroom space would attest to that – I’m looking at you Sarah Schoenrock (@sesrock1979). But today, I struggle to imagine lesson planning without giving thought to how the manipulation of the furniture and learning spaces could be shifted to optimally facilitate the task(s) at hand.

In my current role as a personalized learning coordinator in our district, I’m lucky to routinely have the opportunity to completely nerd-out about flexible spaces in a 90-minute session focused on the thought process behind pairing personalized practices with the ideal room configuration to make it all happen. That session is one of my favorite parts of our day-long training on personalized learning, and while there is a great deal of content we cover together, here are a few of the central tenents we discuss as Flex Space 2.0: The Next Conversation in building your learning space…

  1. You don’t need a grant to create a flexible learning space. Nice furniture would be nice. No question. Does a classroom with high-tops, low-tops, beanbag chairs, etc. help create a positive classroom climate and also promote student engagement by empowering the learner with choice? Most educators would answer with an adamant, Yes. Could you take on a design-on-a-dime venture to add a few new pieces? Absolutely. But for those without a budget, for those without the DIY skills to create your own furniture (me), or for those… with… some other hang up, know that flexible learning spaces can still be created using the traditional desks or tables in your classroom. How? Just approach it with the mindset of trying to provide students with choice in where they sit and be deliberate in teaching them how to use their freedom of choice to make sound academic decisions. Where you sit, who you sit with, and understanding that you can and likely should move to different areas of the room depending upon what type of assignment you are working on should all play into each individual student’s thought process as they use the space flexibly.
  2. Flexible seating should lead to each student discovering their own set of optimal conditions for being productive. Don’t take my word for it. Here’s a video reflection from my former student, Josh, who – after four weeks in a flexible seating model – refined his understanding of his optimal work environment. Initially, he chose to sit with a group of his friends, then one friend, then he found it productive to sit in isolation when completing individual work.

    Now let me be clear, I am not promoting that students completely isolate themselves and talk to absolutely no one in class. No unit I design is ever without face-to-face student collaboration. However, for some learners, there are tasks that are best completed on their own in an environment free of distractions. And while this concept is hardly a revelation to adults/educators, it was to Josh. You see, Josh did not perceive his relocation to that isolated space as some sort of academic banishment to a deserted island where he was sentenced to work, facing a wall, until he complied. Instead, Josh chose his seat and learning space – and chose poorly. When I asked him how his productivity had been, the answer was obvious to both of us, and he was given the option to choose where to relocate. Over a long enough timeline, Josh arrived at the understanding that he articulated in the video. Since that time, Josh has informally admitted to me that he now asks to reposition his seat in other classes to make this space available when he wants to be productive on an individual task. Therein lies one of the great opportunities flexible seating provides our learners.

  3. Your room redesign will require scaffolding to acclimate students to their new seating/learning space options. Be transparent with your students about the philosophy behind this shift. Explain to them what options are available and come up with a process by which to introduce them to each space. For example, the flexible seating guru Kayla Delzer has recommended giving students the opportunity to sit in every seat or space for an adequate amount of time to give them an experience to justify the eventual choice they make as their ideal seating option (Kayla’s blog). In my own classroom, students like Josh chose between working in a group, as a pair, as an individual, or in a floor spot. For a third example, check out this Westside Personalized podcast with Prairie Lane Elementary teacher Richard Christie as he shares how he numbered off areas in his 6th-grade classroom, assigned action verbs to accompany the desirable actions to occur in those spaces (an idea from learning space guru Dr. Bob Dillon), and Mr. Christie then posted those verbs on signs in each area to clearly define station expectations and ease his ability to manage behaviors in those expectations.

Having developed this facet of my own instructional mindset and classroom practices, I can’t imagine conducting a lesson without addressing this design step. It’s become essential for me. So whether this blog post finds you casually in search of new ideas or desperate and in need of a class redesign, making your learning space flexible is unquestionably a matter of necessity – so please, be excited at the opportunity to be inventive.

My #oneword for 2018: Appreciation

I love New Years Resolutions. When I commit to one, I am tenacious about trying to keep it.

In 2015, I made my workout resolution a SMART goal, and I’m proud to say that I completed it – I fulfilled that resolution from January 1 through December 31st. Woot.

In 2016, I made recommitted to the previous year’s workout resolution but made it even more challenging this time, and around mid-October, I was so far ahead that I got bored with it (though I did complete it). Woot. Woot. And I started thinking ahead.

As I looked to 2017 (in November of 2016), I came across the One Word Resolution idea for the first time (I believe through Bethany Hill’s #JoyfulLeaders hashtag -@bethhill2829) and loved the concept behind it. So, I gave myself some time to reflect, and fortuitously came across the following quote…


What a powerful idea.

Now, I am and have always been a person who is appreciative of the many blessings in my life, but I had never thought of the term Gratitude as anything more than just an after-the-fact thankfulness. This quote, however, suggests much more. Holden’s contention here is that gratitude is a mindset, a present consciousness that you are attuned to your gratitude in the now. The idea struck me so profoundly that I knew I had found my One Word.

Though I had identified my word for 2017, something still troubled me about it. I felt at the time that I needed to define my One Word to identify how I intended to interpret that word as a life philosophy. Now, I get it – you might be saying, Well doesn’t that kind of defeat the whole idea of selecting one single word? Maybe. But just as my previous resolutions had benefitted from being written as SMART goals, I felt (and still believe) that defining that one word, in your own words, adds clarity and purpose to an otherwise vague idea.

So my 2017 one word was Gratitude and my definition was…


The picture I chose for this quote was taken on a hammock under the Santa Monica Pier. It’s a photo that represented a moment of peace in 2016 I had been quite grateful for at the time, so I created this image and made it the desktop on my computer to encourage me to revisit it often.

Triple Woot.

I actually loved the idea so much that I decided to make creating a One Word Resolution the icebreaker activity to start off the spring semester for all my classes. Each student selected a word, defined the word, and then used Snapchat or Adobe Spark Post to create an image or video that contained their own One Word Resolution along with a simple sentence definition of the word. I collected this assignment using Seesaw, and then took some of the best examples and made them into a video using Animoto. Here’s what we all came up with…

So, 2017 got off to a start I was grateful for (*smirk) and that one word kept me grounded and focused on the positives in life despite the many personal hardships I faced in 2017. By year’s end, I felt I had improved at being grateful in the present, so I began considering my next step for 2018.

Alright. So, all this backstory and context has led me to select the word Appreciation for 2018. In 2017, I became a much more in-the-moment grateful person, and what I found was that my gratitude was often ignited or inspired by (or with) someone else. From simple moments playing with my children to times gathered around a table in conversation with friends enjoying good food & drink to moments with my students or athletes or colleagues that epitomized the reason I chose this profession, I found myself profoundly grateful for time spent with others. But ya know what, while being grateful in the moment is a reward in and of itself, my passion in 2018 is to make that gratitude something I openly share.

So I have a new desktop image now…


I can’t wait to spread as much positivity as I can in 2018 and share with others just how much I appreciate them during those moments I am so grateful to experience.

So let me just say to anyone still reading, THANK YOU for taking the time to share in my story. I would encourage you to take time this year to tell the people in your life just how much they mean to you.

Best wishes for a happy 2018!

Create Better Instructional Videos in 2018

Three years ago, at roughly this same point in the school year, the spring semester was just getting underway, and I had that half-nervous, half-excited I’m-trying-new-things-in-class buzz with me as the new year began. Over break, I had committed a tremendous amount of time to launching my second fully-personalized learning unit for our English 9 Honors course at Westside High School. The final unit of the fall semester had been my first, unit-long personalization effort, and it had gone exceptionally well with regards to both student performance and achieving the myriad of other classroom and learner benefits personalized learning has to offer.

That said, there is certainly always room for improvement, and I had noticed during the previous unit that the video content I had provided as an instructional resource had been underutilized and/or just not used at all. It was simply a collection of the best videos I could find on YouTube about each subject, and some of those video pieces were adequate at best. So, I committed to doing some research on how to make my own video content with the goal of making it more engaging. That research lead me to a study that had concluded that viewers are more engaged in a piece of media if they know the person or people in the video.

Well, I thought, challenge accepted.

So, I checked out a camera from our high school’s media center and got to work. I can’t even tell you how many hours I spent over that break couped up in a small side room in the library or at a 24-hour coffee shop so early in the morning that I was the only patron there, but I was creating my first set of instructional videos and I knew that the instruction was going to directly align with how I taught that content in class. It was invigorating to be able to be creative, and I learned a lot during that time.

Okay, so flash forward, it’s time to implement! The unit launches, I’m dare-I-say giddy to get it underway. Students start off quiet, slowly easing into this new-for-them way of experiencing school. And they stay quiet. And after about a week, students start to voice their opinions and reflections on their personalized experience, and well, let’s just say that they weren’t all glowing!

*Watch the Full Video Podcast Episode Here

Despite my best attempts to improve the quality of my video content, it turns out that students don’t enjoy watching a shoulders-up shot of me talking into a camera for 20+ minutes.

Weird. I can’t imagine why?

So, beaten but not defeated, I knew that this was a worthwhile endeavor and skill to develop; I just needed an opportunity to learn more than I already knew. And in my experience anytime I’ve needed help, I’ve found other educators to be my best resources, which led me to turn to our WHS journalism advisor in charge of video and TV, Matt Rasgorshek (Raz).

Raz, a nationally renown advisor, agreed to let me survey his Intro to Video course on the days that he was giving direct instruction and also on postmortem days (whole-group video critique days). After a semester of sacrificing lunches and the occasional portion of plan time, I had a new perspective and changed my entire approach to video content creation.

The new principles I had learned were simple, but I had never considered them before, and I thought it might help others if I share a few of them in this post. Here’s what I would say are My Top Five Takeaways from that time with Raz that I would recommend any new-to-video educator consider.

  1. Instructional Videos Should Be 5-Minutes or Less: This can be a challenge at times, and occasionally I break my own rule here, but brevity is key. For longer concepts, make a two or even three-part series of videos that break the concept down into 5-minute chunks if necessary.
  2. Write Out a Script of What You Intend to Say: This will help your videos to be concise and also ensure that you cover everything you wanted to share/teach.
  3. Have a Personality: I like to say that it’s important for students to see that their teacher is “wired right” meaning that the teacher laughs when something is funny, is upset or disappointed when it’s warranted, and that students see us as real people and not just a puppet that hangs on the back of the door to room 135 at night until I’m reanimated the next day. Video is a great medium for infusing humor, personal examples, and fun into your teaching persona, so don’t be afraid to intentionally show those sides of your personality. *When you write your script, write use an informal voice/tone.
  4. Good Sound Trumps Good Video Quality: If you’re creating new content on a limited budget, record the video with your phone or device and instead invest in a good microphone. I use a Blue Snowball Microphone often, and I also like using the Shure MVL Omnidirectional Lavalier Microphone. Both are under $100.
  5. Be Okay with Being Just Okay: If you’re anything like me, I wanted to be Spielberg my first time out. It’s obvious that developing any skill is an art that evolves over time, so don’t be an ultra-perfectionist and be too hard on yourself with the first few pieces you produce. Enjoy the journey, and be okay with where you are along the road. Your students will love you just for trying!

Well, that brings this blog to a close, but I’ll leave you with a few examples of my earlier video pieces as a reference. Below is a link to an image I uploaded to a site called Thinglink. I wanted to house multiple videos all on one, student-friendly page for easy access, and Thinglink is great for that. If you’re looking for a few instructional video examples to get you started, feel free to check out the videos by first opening the link then clicking on the dots in the image. And good luck in 2018 with your instructional videos!


*For more great stories of classroom-tested personalized practices and reflections, subscribe to The Westside Personalized Podcast on iTunes

Personalized Learning Element #4: Data Driven Decision Making

Utilizing data to drive personalized learning practices is critical to student success. What is key in personalized learning is to share this data with students so that they are able to make intelligent decisions within the freedom and flexibility unique to this style of instruction. Let’s face it, students aren’t always able to accurately judge what they know and determine the ideal conditions in which they learn best. This video looks at how standards-based data along with learning style assessments (that become learner profiles) can empower students to optimize their experience in the personalized setting.

Personalized Element #3: Flexibility

The third element of personalized learning in District 66 is flexibility, which applies to both mindsets and space/seating. This video breaks down how this element can play out in the teacher and students’ approach to the personalized design while also providing insights regarding flexible seating arrangements in the physical layout of the classroom.