Monday, August 24, 2015

Vlogs in the K-12 Classroom - How to Use a Vlog as an Educator

Vlogs in the Classroom

by Sheila Dankers (@sheiladankers)
Vlogs, short for video blogs, have become very popular, thanks to YouTube.  While watching funny videos or cute animal videos on YouTube is fun pastime, there are also many important and productive ways vlogs can be used.  Many people watch vlogs to learn how to do something they are interested in.  For example, I have watched vlogs about how to make chocolate souffles, use web tools, and to learn in graduate courses.  My husband has watched videos about how to deep fry turkeys, break down a gun for cleaning, and aviation training. YouTube videos have even played a part of the uprisings in the Middle East. 

In education, vlogs can be used for learning both by watching and creating videos.  It is sometimes difficult to engage students when learning about new concepts.  Interesting videos capture students’ attention and help them understand difficult concepts more easily.  Lon Safko, author of The Social Media Bible, explains one advantage of video that makes them a great educational tool, “The more senses that are involved in gathering information, the more compelling the process becomes.” 

A recent innovation in education which involves the use of vlogs is “flipping the classroom.”   Students watch teacher-created and/or other videos for an introduction to concepts at home, then return to school to discuss and work with the concepts with teacher help.  This frees up time in the classroom for labs, learning activities, and other assignments in which the teacher can guide students and clear up misunderstandings. 


There are many channels on YouTube which provide excellent educational videos made by organizations and individuals—many are by other teachers that can be used for flipping the classroom, in class, or to help students with homework.  You can find them using the search tool on YouTube. As a 5th grade science teacher, here are some of my favorite channels:

Have Fun Teaching
Bill Nye
Sick Science! and SpanglerScienceTV
Khan Academy
Texas Parks and Wildlife

Teachers may also want to search Just Dance Kids for fun, school-appropriate animated dance/music videos for brain breaks and class parties.  You can also find video clips from news stations to use in the classroom on YouTube.  I have even used a Coyote/Roadrunner cartoon to help students understand potential and kinetic/mechanical energy, and not only did it work, but they loved it!

If you decide to make your own videos, you may want to watch this teacher-created video by Jason Rhode about how to make YouTube videos with just a webcam directly on YouTube. You can also use free screencasting apps such as Jing and Screencastomatic, which are available on the internet, to show students how to use technology tools. 

Another ways vlogs can be used in education is for students to create videos to teach others what they are learning about in creative ways, which can be shared on YouTube or a class website.  There are many free, easy-to-use apps students can use such as Voki, Animoto, PowToon, and Babble to use to make amazing videos. Teachers can evaluate student-created videos for how well the students understand the concepts using a rubric which is given to students before they begin the project. 

One of my favorite apps for student created videos is Socket Puppets.  It is available for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.  One advantage of the app is that students can create a sock puppet video in seconds.  The socks automatically animate the voice of students.  Students choose their puppets, backgrounds, and props.  Other advantages are that it is very easy to use, produces super cute sock puppet videos, and is a lot of fun for students or adults.  My 4th and 5th grade students love it, but it can be used by children at a very young age with a little help.  It can be used for individual or small group projects, making a mini-lesson, or for flipping instruction and is easily shared on YouTube or Facebook.  Here are the directions for creating a video using sock puppets:
  • Write a script for with 1-4 puppets about the topic.  Practice the script.
  • Tap on the “new” button on the main menu of the Sock Puppet app.
  • Tap on puppets to select them for your video (up to 4 can be used each time).  Click next.
  • Tap on the background you would like to use for the scene.  Click next.
  • Select props by tapping on them.  Click next.
  • Move the props and sock puppets around by touching and dragging them with your finger to place them before recording.  You can also resize props and characters by pinching and dragging with two fingers.
  • Press the red record button to begin recording.  Each time a character is to speak, tap it, then begin speaking.
  • When finished recording, tap the stop button to begin rendering your show.  It will play a preview of the movie.  If necessary, students can re-record by tapping the record button.
  • Tap on the save icon to save your puppet show. A prompt will appear for you to provide a title.
  • Tap on the share icon for the option to export your movie to YouTube or Facebook.

Disadvantages of the app include: it has a 60 second time limit for the free version, or a 90 second limit for the Sock Puppet+ paid version.  You also have to purchase the + version to save videos to your photo library on your Apple device.  Movies cannot be edited, but have to be re-recorded, which isn’t really too much of a problem since it is fast and easy to do.

One great thing I have learned about using technology tools from the educational technology courses I have taken is that there are usually several video tutorials already published on YouTube and/or the tool’s website.  You can find tutorials for Jing, Animoto, and Sock Puppets on their websites and on YouTube.

Finally, schools can also use vlogs for connecting with parents and students.  A district, school, or teacher could produce a vlog with a weekly or monthly video about how to help their child succeed in school, letting parents and students know what is happening in the school, and/or homework help.  

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