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The Power Of Video In Learning Communities

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I had an interesting experience the other day… I attended my first ever parent/teacher interview as a dad.

 #nedaviahjael on Instagram

My daughter is in kindergarten in the same division in which I work but not at the same school. It was a unique experience. Obviously, I have been a part of many parent/teacher interviews as an educator, but sitting on the other end as a father was a completely new and powerful experience. During the interview, her teacher Heather Harcus, @HeHarc showed us a video on her tablet of Nedaviah presenting to her class about bats. Watching that video was extremely powerful for me as a Dad. Obviously, it made me incredibly proud to watch my beautiful daughter give this presentation while I marvelled at her cuteness (speaking like a true biased dad); however, it was much more than that. It was more than just viewing a home video. It was like time and place was suspended and I was actually transported into the classroom participating in my daughter’s learning. For the first time I peered through a window into my daughter’s classroom and was able to see her learning in action. It gave me insight into seeing who she is in a new environment; one that I have never witnessed. It gave me a platform for discussion and participation in my child’s learning and school life. I realized that this was a platform I continued to want to access. I don’t want to miss the next 12 years from 8:00-3:00 of my daughter’s life.

For a while now, I have been thinking about how and why video can and should be used in the classroom.

Research shows that projects involving student video production have the potential to motivate student learning in deep and meaningful ways, providing opportunities for them to reflect on their experiences and construct their own learning. Video production requires integration of aural, oral, textual, gestural, spatial, and multimodal communications, and language required to communicate about images, music, motion, and film. Participation in video production projects provides opportunities for students to develop a variety of skills, including critical viewing skills, language and communication skills, observation and investigation skills, collaborative learning skills, thinking, reasoning, and problem solving skills, project management and organizational skills, and visioning and analytical skills. Video production is interactive, immersive, and student centered. It helps students build skills across the curriculum while developing greater understanding in the given content area. Students enjoy producing and publishing their work for an audience. Publication in turn provides more opportunities for interaction and feedback. Penn State (2007). Creating and Assessing Video Assignments. [ONLINE] Available at: [Last Accessed November 14, 2012].

After watching that video of my daughter that her teacher so graciously shared and spending the last week reflecting, reading, learning and experimenting, I am more convinced than ever that using video as a tool for learning in the classroom is imperative as part of our regular practice. I believe it will foster innovation and benefit students, teachers, and parents in a number of ways. Plus let’s face it… video is a medium that is not going away. A quick glance at statistics on YouTube will tell you that. I spoke with a few teachers in our school today, running the idea by them and we plan to move forward, intentionally using video as a learning tool and then sharing it with the students’ parents. I realize that the idea sounds simple enough; however, there are a number of factors to consider.  At the front end of this journey I want to share some of the initial ideas and thoughts I am wrestling with both as a father, as well as an educator and hope to gain some valuable feedback or insight from other parents and educators.

Communication & Parental Involvement

Transparently sharing students’ learning completely changes the conversation. Everyday I ask my daughter, “what did you learn in school today?” More often than not, she pauses… thinks for a little bit… then answers “I don’t remember”. Perhaps you have received similar responses from your child. When I saw the video of her talking about bats, I was able to ask her specific questions that triggered an awesome discussion between Dad and daughter about her learning. It completely changed the conversation. As her Dad, I became involved in her learning process.  A New Wave of Evidence, a report from Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (2002) cites that, “When schools, families, and community groups work together to support learning, children tend to do better in school, stay in school longer, and like school more.” National Education Association (2011). Research Spotlight on Parental Involvement in Education. [ONLINE] Available at: [Last Accessed November 15, 2012]. I believe as educators we should make every effort to transparently share and engage parents in their child’s learning. I believe as parents we should make every effort to participate in our child’s learning. It is not enough to wait until parent/teacher interviews, student led conferences, or until there is a problem to invite parents into the classroom. Technology allows us to do it consistently and often with little effort. It is not about more time, it is about a new way of communication. Utilizing tools such as classroom blogs, student online portfolios, video, Google Docs, Audio recording, and Screencasting, provides opportunity for schools and families to participate together in the child’s learning, removing the barriers of time and place.

Learning & Authentic Assessment

Who would you rather hire… the person who says they can fix your brakes or the person who can show you how to fix your brakes? The truth is that I could very easily write down on my resume that I am an expert when it comes to fixes the brakes on your car, and I could even study how to fix brakes and be able to pass a multiple choice exam on fixing brakes in a very short amount of time; but, there is no way that I could ever show you. There is no more authentic assessment than watching someone accomplish a task. Video provides authentic assessment and keeps a record that students, parents, and teachers can later look back on to clearly identify growth. Video extends the learning beyond the four walls of the classroom. Take a few minutes and view Help With Bowdrill Set and Audri’s Rube Goldberg Monster Trap. The power and authenticity of the learning is obvious!

Privacy, Tech & Time

I alluded to the fact it is not about more time, it is about doing things differently. It is not about cramming an additional thing into our schedule, it is about leveraging technology efficiently. Recording 30 videos in a day and then trying to upload them all at once to a video hosting platform later that night is not efficient or even plausible to do consistently.  Instead of assigning work, collecting the work, marking the work, and handing back the work, just film the students doing what you are already taking time to do. Ask them questions as part of the process in the same way that you would be asking the questions anyway, just be holding your phone or tablet with the record button already pushed when you do it. A few clicks later with the right apps/platform to work from and you are done. There are many different free platforms available for hosting and sharing video. YouTube and Vimeo are probably two of the most obvious options; however, Dropbox and Google Drive (works with WeVideo)  are also viable options. When considering the platform that you are going to choose there are a few factors to consider: privacy, efficiency, and flexibility.

  • Privacy: Who do you want to be able to access the video? Many parents may not be comfortable with their child being recorded and put online for the world to see.
  • Efficiency: What is the easiest and quickest way to share the videos as part of your practice?
  • Flexibility: How are you going to share the videos long term? What are you going to do with the content after the school year ends? Do you want to be able to embed the videos on a blog or website or just distribute a link?

All of these platforms listed above do account for these questions in different ways. Really you could use any of them depending on what you are most comfortable with. That being said, from my experimentation and reading thus far, I think the best way that accounts for privacy, efficiency, and flexibility is using a combination of a blog, Google Drive, Google Drive App, and Iphone/Ipad. Here are some of the reasons why.

  1. Blog. This is where the video will be embedded. This could either be a classroom blog or the student’s own blog/online portfolio. Taking the extra step of embedding the video in a blog or pasting a link in a post (embedding it is better) drastically increases flexibility in the future and ease of access for parents. Embedding the video as a post allows a category to be assigned to the post. For a classroom blog for example, the teacher could make a category for each student’s name. Parents can subscribe to their child’s category so that every time a post is published to their child’s name they would be notified via email. Furthermore, using the blog allows for many different forms of content to be attributed to categories as posts (audio, video, written work, Google Docs etc.) so in essence it becomes a one stop shop for parents to participate in their child’s learning. Regardless of the medium of content in the post, parents could comment on their child’s work and engage in conversation with the student and teacher. Finally, all of the content for each child could be exported to a 3rd party platform in the future when the teacher is no longer teaching that student. For example, kindergarten content collected on a classroom blog could later become part of a child’s online learning portfolio when they get older and create one.
  2. Google Drive. Videos can be shared in the same way that Google Docs are shared ranging from private to public. This offers great flexibility in terms of controlling who can view the videos. We are taking the time to create shared folders ahead of time so that any content (video, docs etc.) that are moved/uploaded to the folder will automatically share with the appropriate people. All you need is the parents and/or students email. Google Drive also gives you the ability to embed the video quickly and easily into the blog. You can watch my screenr on how to do this and check out Mrs. Matsuba’s Blog of her grade 2 learning community to see an example.
  3. Google Drive App. By downloading the Google Drive App you can upload videos from your phone or tablet to the correct shared folder with a just a few taps eliminating the need to organize and share later. This skips a couple of steps and makes it easy and quick to do as part of your lesson as opposed to organizing and sharing content at the end of the day.
  4. Ipad/Iphone. Really any tablet and/or smart phone would work. Utilizing the tablet or phone as the video camera enables videos to be uploaded via apps (YouTube, Vimeo, Google Drive, Dropbox etc.). This saves time by eliminating the step of importing the videos to your computer prior to uploading them to the video hosting platform. As soon as the video is finished being recorded with a quick couple taps of the screen it can be uploaded while you continue on with your lesson.

Part of the reason I am choosing to try out how this process works is because two of our main initiatives in Parkland School Division are Google Apps and psdblogs (Edublogs) where teachers and students are utilizing blogs as learning portfolios. Using video simply adds a powerful leaning medium that works with our focus, thus allowing us to build on the capacity we are building within our teachers and students. That being said, if you are currently using video in your class, or have insight into how this could be done better, or even have some ideas or things I should consider please share them with me! I look forward to getting some new ideas from your feedback!



  1. Hello Travis,

    I am so glad that this 30 second video of your daughter made such an impact for you. I also thank you for inspiring me to do more with the video than just simply show it on my tablet. I know as teachers we feel very busy and get caught up in all the day to day hustle and bustle that sometimes we forget about what it is that we truly want to occur from our teaching. For me, slowing down and enjoying the moments when children are truly engaged and finding ways to extend that enthusiasm is key. Sharing the learning with parents is such a great way to help extend the learning.

    I also would love to mention that today I was at a Professional Development for Kindergarten teachers of Parkland School Division. The topic was “Engaging Learners in the Early Years”. The focus was on PLAY, and how important it is to give children the opportunity to play on a daily basis. Today, I shared Nedaviah’s video, as well as a few other students. I believe I would not have had the same results as I did with the video activity, if I had not establish a safe environment that allows risk taking and explorative learning. PLAY is so much a part of that process, and it needs to be advocated just as much as technology in the classroom. Before creating this video, your daughter pretend played being a news reporter who had the job of reporting about bats. Students played in small groups listening and reporting the news. The students were highly motivated and engaged. I can not wait until next week when they build on what they learned from their bat presentation and apply it to their report on a marine life animal. Maybe they could pretend to be Steve Irwin or David Suzuki or Jacques Cousteau or Scuba Princess Sparkle Toes…etc, etc.

    Please, if you have time, watch the below video that Jill Melnyk shared with us today. It is quite moving.


    • I agree with you 100%! I love the fact that my daughter comes home having a good day and looks forward to school each day. I want her and all of my students to go through school excited and engaged in their learning. In this example, like you referenced, the learning took place through playing in an environment where she felt confident to take risks and to share what she learned. The technology is really not the focus. The technology should really only be a tool that empowers and transforms the learning. It is about leveraging the technology as a tool to meet the learning goals, develop skills and share/extend the learning. I think it is an awesome time to be in education with more and more of these tools being at our disposal.

      I appreciate the work you are doing! And by the way, yes great video!

  2. Mark Upton says:

    Hey Travis,

    Really enjoyed this post and it resonated with me for a couple of reasons.

    Firstly, like you I have a child (4 yr old boy) in kindergarten and the responses I receive from him in the evening about what he did/learnt that day range from “can’t remember” to “played basketball outside”. Your similar story and the ensuing discussion on use of video really connected with me. It would be great to see how my son interacts and communicates during their group time etc.

    Secondly, I am involved in sports coaching and have an interest in how we can better develop coaches. With some expertise in video application development we (myself and another coach educator) came up with the “Coach Enhancement Platform” – a private online video platform for coaches to self-reflect on their coaching and also receive feedback/mentoring.

    When you were talking about embedding video in blogs, security and other options available it got me thinking. Our platform allows similar functionality to embedding video in a blog and being able to have a discussion thread around it. The key difference is that our discussion thread is time-coded with start and end times, meaning it is linked to specific sections of the video and actually creates “sub-clips”. It operates like sports video analysis/behavioural analysis software.

    So for instance, you could create 3 or 4 sub-clips of some interesting moments to share and discuss with your child later. Primary school age children could also create the clips themselves. You can also create your own categories for organising/filtering your clips. For coaching purposes we use these to categorise coaching behaviours – ie feedback, instruction, questioning, observation etc. (you could do similar if observing teacher behaviours in the classroom).

    There is also a “dropbox” style sharing functionality where parents could upload their own videos of their child and the administrator of the account (teachers) could then add the video to the platform or download to their own computer/tablet at the Kindergarten. Perhaps this would enable parents to record things their children do at home or places they visit. Then in Kindy, with the teachers assistance, a child could show the video and tell everyone what they got up to. An advanced form of “show and tell”!

    Anyway, I will share the links to our site and blog if you want to check it out….

    I hope this didn’t end up coming across as a “sell” for the video platform – my main intent was to share my thanks for the great post and the idea of being “transported” into the classroom.

    Thanks Travis!


    • Thanks for sharing. Cool idea about the coaching platform to. I checked out your blog and website. I think leveraging video is powerful in many contexts and we will see more and more fields tapping into this.

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