Tuesday, September 13, 2022

5 Little Things You Can Do To Improve Your Videos

Whether for it is for education or entertainment we are all watching more videos than ever before. We have more tools to record and share videos than ever before. With the tap of an app or click of a link, you and your students can be making videos to tell stories, teach lessons, or to simply entertain. But before your students make their next videos, have them review these five simple things they can do to make their videos better.

1. Make it short and sweet! Two minutes or less. 
It's better to have two videos that are each two minutes long than it is to have one video that is four minutes long. Don't believe me? Check out the research that Wistia published a few years back. Based on data from more than 500,000 videos played more than one billion times, Wistia determined that there is a significant drop-off in viewer engagement after the two minute mark.

2. Landscape, Landscape, Landscape!
Recording on a mobile phone? Turn your phone sideways to capture in a landscape view. We view the world in "landscape mode" so record it that way too. Or think of it this way, you watch your television in landscape mode so capture and publish your video that way too.

3. Background.
If you don't have the time or knowledge for using green screen techniques, pay attention to your background. Are you making a simple video announcement to post on your school's blog? If so, avoid using a plain white wall as your background so that it doesn't look like a hostage video. A bookcase can make a great background. Playground equipment can make a nice background too. Are you recording outside or near a window? If so, make sure you're not washing out your subject with too much background light.

4. Show us your eyes not your nostrils!
When recording with a webcam that is built into your laptop, elevate the webcam to at least eye level. Otherwise everyone is looking up your nose! I have three big books that I put under laptop when I host webinars and Facebook live sessions. On a related note, look at the camera instead of at your laptop's screen.

5. Filter your audio. 
Your phone's or your computer's built-in microphone might be fine for quick "selfie videos," but for other projects you should consider getting a nice external microphone. For under $50 you can get a nice, durable Snowball microphone to plug into your computer. It will filter wind and other background noise. There are plenty of external microphone options for cell phones too. I use one made by Insignia. For ease of use, I prefer an external microphone that plugs into your phone or computer directly rather than through a Bluetooth connection.

225 NASA Infographics

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory website contains a large library of infographics that you can download and print for free. The library contains infographics about spacecraft, exploration missions, planets, moons, the solar system, and comets. I downloaded the What is Comet Made Of? infographic that you see pictured below.

Applications for Education
If printed in color, these infographics could make a nice addition to your classroom walls. More importantly these infographics could provide a model for your students to follow as they create their own infographics about topics in space science.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Try Using Vocabulary Lists to Help Your Students Conduct Better Searches

This is an excerpt from this week's Practical Ed Tech Newsletter

I'm in the process of updating my Search Strategies Students Need to Know online course. In the process of doing so I revisited a good article that I read a few years ago. That article is Characterizing the Influence of Domain Expertise on Web Search Behavior (link opens PDF) written by White, Dumais, and Teevan at Microsoft Research. They found that domain experts (domain referring to subject matter) conducted searches with more branchiness than non-experts.
Branchiness is defined as "the number of re-visits to previous pages in the session that were then followed by a forward motion to a previously unvisited page in the session."
Furthermore, the search sessions of domain experts consistently include more pages, more queries, and more overall time.

The findings of White, Dumais, and Teevan were consistent with findings of previous researchers on the topic including Ingrid Hsieh-Yee who is cited by White, Dumais, and Teevan. In 1993 Ingrid Hsieh-Yee found that students used more of their own search terms and less of external suggestions when researching topics for which they had prior expert knowledge.

What's this mean for teachers and students?
It would be unfair to expect students to be "experts" before conducting a web search. However, it might be worth having students develop a bit more prior knowledge of a topic before turning them loose to search the web for information about that topic. This might be done through reading materials provided by the teacher. It might also be done through mastering some vocabulary terms before embarking on a search. Increased prior knowledge could lead students to have more branchiness in their search habits.

Good Places to Find Constitution Day Lesson Plans

This coming Saturday is Constitution Day in the United States. If you find yourself in need of some lesson ideas for Constitution Day, C-SPAN, DocsTeach, and TED-Ed all offer either lesson plans or resources for building your own Constitution Day lesson plans.

Constitution Day Lesson Plans from C-SPAN Classroom
C-SPAN Classroom offers free lesson plans and Bell Ringers (discussion prompts) that were either designed for Constitution Day or can be used to meet the requirements of Constitution Day. All of the lesson plans incorporate short video clips addressing topics like enumerated and implied powers of Congress, interpretation of the Constitution, and checks and balances. You can find all of the lesson plans and additional resources in this Google Doc.

DocsTeach is a National Archives website that all middle school and high school U.S. History teachers should have in their bookmarks. DocsTeach lets you build online activities based upon curated collections of primary source documents. DocsTeach also provides some pre-made activities that you can give to your students. DocsTeach has twenty pre-made Constitution Day activities that you can use today. An additional 166 documents and artifacts about the Constitution can be found through a quick search on DocsTeach.

TED-Ed Lessons
TED-Ed offers a bunch of lessons that are appropriate for Constitution Day. Those lessons are linked below.

The Making of the American Constitution.

Why is the US Constitution So Hard to Amend?

Why Wasn't the Bill of Rights Originally Included in the US Constitution?

How is Power Divided in the US Government?

A 3-Minute Guide to the Bill of Rights

How do Executive Orders Work?

What You Might Not Know About the Declaration of Independence

Sunday, September 11, 2022

A Short Overview of the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine - And How I Use It

The Internet Archive can be a great place to find all kinds of old videos, audio recordings (there's a huge collection of Grateful Dead show recordings), pictures, and books. The Internet Archive also offers a tool called the Wayback Machine that you can use to see what a website looked like on a previous date. 

In this new video I provide a short demonstration of how to use the Wayback Machine

Applications for Education
I've used the Wayback Machine to show students how breaking news was reported for significant events. Depending upon the site that you choose, you may find that the Wayback Machine has multiple snapshots of that site for the same day or week. Looking through those snapshots can be a good way to see how much the reporting of a story changed throughout a day or week. 

I've also used the Wayback Machine to show students how the marketing of some products has changed over time and how much the value of products has changed in their lifetimes. For example, have students take a look at this snapshot of Dell.com from 2000 to see what a computer cost and the specifications of it for that price compared to today.