George Lucas Educational Foundation
Professional Learning

PD That Helps Teachers Improve the Quality of Their Video Instruction

Tips for planning professional development that supports teachers’ growing skills in using video to enhance students’ learning.

October 28, 2020
ZUMA Press Inc / Alamy Stock Photo

The education profession has been saturated with articles, podcasts, and news segments on the impacts of Covid-19 on teaching and learning, and the pandemic has shown us that we need to shift our educational system from a structure based on quantities of time to one that is ongoing outside the classroom, with student learning at the center.

One way to help accomplish that is to maximize the potential of video in instruction, and over the past several months, video has become an essential tool, helping educators serve students more effectively while providing students with a voice.

Positive Impact of Video in Education

Whether we’re teaching remotely or via a hybrid model, the foundation for building relationships is authenticity, which includes nonverbal communication, honesty, and genuineness—sharing who we really are.

Video allows teachers to better connect with remote students because it conveys all of those characteristics of authenticity, in part because teachers don’t need to wear a mask. In reading the book Anxious, by Christine Ravesi-Weinstein, I learned that designing introduction videos so students and families can see what the teacher looks like reduces anxiety for kids. I shared that learning with my staff, and that activity was a great introduction to our hybrid learning start to the school year.

Video learning is effective in and out of the classroom—educators can use it to create more time and space for active learning. Once a video is created, it can be updated and reused as needed. Students can watch videos repeatedly, pausing or skipping through, so they can learn at their own pace.

In a hybrid teaching model, video allows students to effectively engage outside of the classroom, so teachers can allot more time in the classroom to live discussions with students. In a flipped classroom, students watch video lessons for homework and use class time to dig into content with teachers and peers.

Video is also a wonderful way for teachers to assess student learning. Educators can use video to incorporate student voice, choice, and creativity into virtual learning. In addition, when students create videos, they practice thinking critically and, depending on the structure of the assignment, learn how to write scripts and collaborate with classmates.

Supporting Teachers’ Use of Video in Instruction

Using video in classes takes professional development (PD) and training so teachers can best use the technology to increase its educational impact.

Many districts spent the summer of 2020 focusing on getting staff members ready to support students in whatever learning environment—in person, remote, hybrid—they were adopting in the fall. Much of that focus, appropriately, centered on video conferencing platforms like Zoom and how to use student digital safety platforms like Gaggle. But if video is going to be used to its fullest potential, districts have to take the next step and train staff on how to best maximize the opportunities that video creates.

Over our many years as presenters, Christine Ravesi-Weinstein and I have discovered a few common elements needed for effective professional development for educators, and I’d like to thank Christine for her help with this article.

Determine the goal: Start with ensuring that the PD session’s design and execution are aligned with the goals for student learning. If the training is about video in the classroom, give teachers strategies and takeaways that can be implemented quickly to keep their motivation high. This training should be about how to enhance student learning through the use of video, not “Learn how to log on to Zoom.”

Add relevance: Offer examples of successful implementation of video in math, science, English, and social studies classrooms. Designing the session topic around relevant content will increase staff interest and engagement. Once you have shown examples, have educators begin the process by making a video trailer for one of the courses they teach. This activity will allow educators to practice video creation and create a resource for families and students to get excited about the course.

Know your staff: Professional learning is all about supporting educators as they learn to do a better job using the skills you’re teaching them, but online meetings or virtual PD sessions often go too fast because a presenter assumes participants know the basics. Just like students, each educator has a different ability level. Educators using video have a wide variety of reactions, from “I don’t like being on camera” to “I can’t wait for this.” Be mindful of the technical ability level of the audience and their comfort level with video. Share clear objectives and goals for the video PD sessions so the educators know what to expect.

Under plan: This sounds counterintuitive, but learning to use video takes practice, and one of the keys to a great PD session is participant comfort. Part of the learning must include practicing the skill immediately afterwards, making the material even more beneficial.

A common flaw in many PD sessions is having too much planned and having to race through content at the end. If a session goes that way, it can leave participants feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. It’s better to have more free time to practice new skills.

Guide teachers to use video to listen to students: Equipped with the necessary expertise and creativity, teachers can really hear their students’ voices with video. This expands the possibilities for lessons and allows teachers to use video as a platform to assess their students’ proficiency on state and local standards. When one of your teachers develops a great plan to get student feedback via video, share that out in PD so all teachers in the building can learn from it.

Have fun: We want teachers to see the value of video in learning and to incorporate video into their classrooms. Having fun while they’re learning will show vulnerability and ease participants’ nerves. Using video in education may be new for some or all of us, and having fun with it is the foundation of success. Modeling a thriving remote learning environment can be a great way to build trust with your staff. When leaders use activities that make learning engaging and fun, educators are more willing to join and take risks.

Fun videos could be a Flipgrid to share a pleasant or funny moment from the past week or building a Youtube channel of staff recommendations for books to read. These fun entry-level activities can showcase the power of video while sharing a little of your personality and ideas.

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