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Feb 9, 2022

Six Best Practices for Effectively Using Video in the Classroom

Screencastify Squad

Most teachers are starting to see a vision for how powerful video content can be in the classroom. Just about everyone (more than 99% of teachers) incorporates video, at least on occasion.

What’s less common as a teacher is feeling like you have a complete sense of when video is the best approach and how exactly to implement video for maximum effect. Sometimes, it’s obvious. Often, it’s a bit murky.

Today we want to talk about the immense value of video and why it helps students 👩‍🎓. We’ll also show you six best practices that can improve your effort to use video effectively in the classroom.

Let’s get started by reviewing what makes video so great in the classroom 🧑‍🏫.

Why are videos a great method for learning?

We’ve seen a massive rise in the adoption of virtual 🖥 and hybrid learning models over the past decade, and video is a very large part of these and other new models. It’s also an integral part of the flipped classroom, where video content typically shows up in every single lesson plan. And even for in-person learning, video is showing up in all sorts of engaging, creative ways.

But why are videos a great method for learning? Is it just the convenience of the format?

That is part of it but not all of it. Videos in the classroom can certainly be convenient, but new research suggests that students benefit from diversifying teaching strategies and techniques, including the use of video.

Consider these reasons why video content can be a great method for learning (and for teaching)!

Students learn best with different teaching techniques

There’s rightly been some backlash to the notion, popularized over the previous few decades, that various people weigh heavily toward specific learning styles (such as visual, auditory, and kinesthetic). It’s not that there aren’t areas of strength and weakness: every teacher knows that a particular student may appear to absorb diagrams more easily than words alone, while others flourish particularly well with hands-on learning.

There’s a better approach to this information than to attempt to customize learning delivery to perceived learning styles. Ultimately, all students must learn to learn in multiple ways if they are to achieve long-term success. And students will typically stay more engaged when teaching is not monotonous and uniform.

So incorporating video content — alongside numerous other teaching strategies, including reading, kinesthetic, and auditory — can help all students to stay engaged and to hone their skills in learning no matter the method.

Looking for an example? Here’s how one private academy worked to implement multiple methods of delivering instruction, covering the various ways that students learn.

Videos are a great addition to text excerpts

Video content alone can be powerful, but using it alongside textual resources can be even more beneficial to students.

This concept is not new: for decades, literature teachers have been rolling out the TV/VHS/DVD cart to show excerpts of “Macbeth” or “Romeo and Juliet” or “Walden Pond” after assigning the reading.

What’s changed is how immediate and expansive the video options are these days. You can find video content to illustrate practically any text in any subject — from math explainers to breakdowns of complex scientific concepts to visualizations of ancient history.

Literature teachers can still utilize video but can take it a step beyond enrichment or reinforcement. Upper-grade teachers could consider assigning a work of literature that has been adapted to film, then performing literary and visual analysis on the differences and the reasons for those differences.

Videos provide more information

The old adage says that a picture 📸 is worth a thousand words. Video 🎥 takes that concept and amplifies it a thousandfold, if not more. It’s at least part of what makes movies so compelling: they can capture an overwhelming amount of detail, communicating in an instant what a narrator would have to spend a dozen or more pages to describe.

In the world of education, this wealth of information takes the form of context and background, helping to more efficiently explain the topic at hand. In this way, video content is often easier to understand than words alone.

6 best practices for effectively using video in the classroom 🎬

We hope that if you’ve made it this far, you’re convinced that using more video in the classroom will improve the learning experience for many learners.

But if you’re like many teachers, knowing this isn’t the problem. The more important question is how precisely you should be using educational videos to enhance the learning environment.

Below are six best practices that can guide you as you seek to implement animations, explainers, instructional videos, and other multimedia content in your classroom — not just as eye candy or to fill class time, but as meaningful classroom instruction that helps students meet their learning goals.

1. Choose videos that align with each subject

First, be strategic in the selection of videos and video clips. Don’t use video content merely to entertain or to fill time; use it to enhance what you’re teaching, as a real learning tool that augments each subject and topic.

You can often find existing content that aligns with standard topics within your discipline. Sites like Khan Academy are a great place to start. But if you don’t find quite the right thing, you can always make your own videos. Screencast apps and services like Screencastify make it easy to record video yourself using just your computer’s webcam. You can even create your own video lessons in this way.

2. Hold students accountable so they pay attention

There are risks when embracing modalities like video or video games that have traditionally been associated with entertainment. One is that students will not make the leap to understanding video as a learning tool and may check out 😎, so to speak.

Student engagement — especially with video content that isn’t itself blatantly entertaining — is a challenge, but an easily solvable one. Simply make them accountable for the learning by assigning quizzes or other assessments that touch on the video content.

You can also give students goals or prompts, helping them make the most of learning opportunities by guiding them to the most important aspects. “As you watch this video, pay attention to…” is a useful structure, at least for motivated students. (And you can create more motivated students by assessing the content.)

Pro tip: Use Screencastify Submit to get student answers to your own video content. For more engagement guidance, check out our ultimate guide to student engagement.

3. Provide students ample time to write notes

If you’ve ever tried to transcribe dialog in real time (and you’re not a professional court stenographer), you know that it’s just not possible. So if you’re using video content in a context where students could be expected to write notes, make sure you give them time.

Yes, students need to get to a place where their “notes” are more compact than a full transcription. But in middle and high school grades, they likely need a little assistance getting there.

For pre-produced video, this might look like pausing every now and again (especially after the main or most important points). For video you create, you can experiment with ways to build in these pauses or create cues for your students so they develop the sense of what (and what not) to write down.

Pro tip: If students need further direction, pause after key points and then give them a question prompt, highlighting a key point they need to write down.

4. Keep closed captioning on

Professional video (including most YouTube content and most education-focused content) often has closed captioning embedded. Wherever you find this, turn it on. Verbal processing is harder for some than others, and adding text on screen can help bridge the gap.

Pro tip: Transcripts of videos as handouts can also make sense, especially for content the students are intended to revisit.

5. Make video a regular part of the classroom

If video only comes out on special days or if students are already conditioned to view it as entertainment, engagement can be a challenge. The best way to fix this is to change the culture by making video a regular, even daily, part of the classroom. As students begin to see video as an educational tool rather than a “free day,” their relationship with the modality will improve.

Pro tip: Use multiple presentation tools — including video-based ones like Screencastify — both for and with your students.

6. Try to limit the reach or scope of each video session

One mistake new teachers can make (or teachers new to producing video) is to try and cram too much in. Don’t try to cover several topics with one video session. Instead, break up lectures or longer-form content into shorter segments that focus on one or two key topics apiece.

Pro tip: Most students aren’t likely to dive into “Tuesday Lecture.mov” to try to find the one nugget they’re thinking of. But if that 45-minute video is broken into five or 10 smaller, tightly focused, appropriately named videos, students can find what they need — even by searching your school’s learning management system.

Power your classroom’s videos with Screencastify

If you’re looking for an easy way to incorporate your own video content into your classroom, Screencastify is an ideal screencasting solution. Screencastify lives as a Chrome browser extension and is so simple that anyone can start recording in minutes, if not seconds.

Made by educators for educators, Screencastify has a ton of helpful resources that helps teachers like you make engaging, powerful screencast content.

Ready to do more with video? See what Screencastify can do for your district!

Screencastify Squad

Helping educators accomplish more, create visible success and inspire new ways of teaching.