Using Video Apps in the Classroom

One of the great benefits of having technology in our classrooms is the potential for engagement it offers.  As teachers, keeping students hooked through a whole year is one of our biggest challenges, especially when they have all sorts of distractions to take their attention away from school. My best advice has always been to use the distractions for our own educational purposes, and I’m pleased to share another way of doing that.  It’s quick and fun, and could fit into any project or lab in your classroom.

Making a video for school has always been a fun type of project but the biggest problem is that the product is usually miserable due to the amount of time students need to put into actually organizing the shooting, editing, and scripting of the movie. With the advent of mobile cameras, this is no longer an issue. Every student has a potential movie in their hands, and over the past two years, great software has been released to create that movie. My two favorites are Vine and Cinemagram. Vine is a social networking type of site that allows users to create looping video (vines). They upload and share the videos using the Vine app and can embed these videos in a website or share them with whomever they please. Cinemagram is extremely similar except that it restricts video length to four seconds. This might seem like a bad thing, however the four second clip length actually forces a lot of thought out of video makers, since their content needs to fit into four seconds. My preference is Vine, because the app is beautiful, but both are great services.

Actually implementing these tools in your classroom is a synch. First, tell the students to download whichever app from their App Store. Second, provide them their video making assignment. Third, and this is the important part, make sure to develop some sort of routine of how these are submitted to you. I prefer that students just email me their links with their names, but for some it might be hard to keep track of. Last, make sure you give your kids enough time to complete the project. I suggest at least one class period to think about their movie, and then the normal amount of time you would give for a project. Easy and effective, my favorite type of technology.

Project Ideas

Now that the setup is out of the way, let’s talk about the exciting part. Remember that the key part of video as an artistic medium is the inherent ability to share it with a lot of people. Give students video projects that they’ll want to share. Here are a few ideas:

  • A video of students adhering to/breaking a lab safety rule
  • A short comic about matter and one of its physical properties
  • A video of any lab demonstration
  • A video log of any family trip to a school related venue, like a museum
  • A day in the life of any historical figure
  • A video of a lab demonstration they could do at home
  •  A compilation of survey footage about a local town issue
  • Reflect on a field trip in real time
  • A silent movie demonstrating any topic or historical events

The list could go on and on! Remember to make it fun and something the kids will want to share, and their creativity and energy will do the rest. If you decide to make any Vines this year, we’d love to see them!

We’ll be going on a weeklong hiatus from the blog for summer break.  When we get back, however, it’s going to be an exciting time for Slate & Tablets. We’ll be releasing Planner to Greenwich High School and putting it on sale for any school to order! See you soon.

Praise For Lumosity

It’s rare that an app comes along that wins our highest singing praises. We know the amount of thought, energy, time, and resources it takes to design and develop something truly special, but Lumosity deserves the accolades its received, as well as the top spot on the App Store’s charts it currently occupies. I wanted to highlight the three most important things the app does that makes it so special.

Simplicity

Every great app has this in common: it’s easy to use, it’s easy to interact with, and it’s concept is simple. Lumosity is no different. Play a few minigames every day that are designed to train your brain into thinking in different ways. The games take no time to learn, and keep it simple with the rewards system. The interface has a no nonsense layout. Everything about this app screams simplicity, minus perhaps the requirement of creating an account with their system to use it.

Repetition

Want your users to become good at something? Make them do it over and over. Some of the best teachers are also coaches, because they recognize that, despite the fact that it can be boring, repetition is an important and powerful tool towards mastering skills. In Lumosity’s case, the user repeats the same type of thinking task in different ways (ideally) every day. Improving at a task is inherently rewarding, and so long as the user keeps repeating the games each day, they’ll get better, causing them to feel rewarded and, in turn, continue using the app. Lumosity’s real hook here is the notion that you’re making yourself smarter. I’m pretty sure there’s no medical correlation between using the app and actually being smarter, but they’ve marketed it that way and it’s working.

Progress

After you’ve convinced your user to interact with your app for months on end, the initial gratification and novelty of using the app will be gone, and you need to do something to keep their attention. I call this the “Candy Crush Crush”. Fad games like Candy Crush and Angry Birds are fun, addictive, and cute, until the initial fun of playing the game disappears and the user tires of the same menial task. These games eventually crash because they don’t do anything to entice their user to continue interacting with their product after six months or a year.

Lumosity, on the other hand, continues to track your progress with the goal of making you smarter. It provides you charts about how you’re improving at thinking, which is really clever. What they’ve done is found a way to convince the user to keep playing when they’re bored of the games because they can see visually how much “smarter” they’re becoming. Morality aside, it’s clever and excellent design.

Some Announcements, Some Advice

Happy Fourth of July everyone! A little late, I know, but independence from anything is something to be celebrated. Today we have a few announcements and the best advice a teacher ever gave me.

Launch Date

Planner by Slate & Tablets will launch in Greenwich High School on August 21st. On that date, it will become available for order from the general public. Students and staff will download the application from the App Store and login using a username and password specific to GHS. Each school will get their own app and username/password combo with their order. We will have an initial order form ready on that date, with more details on pricing and additional customization options. Stay tuned.

Planner Site

We realize that we would need an additional support section on our website for the Planner for things like the order form, but also some screenshots and tips for using the app. We’re pleased to announce that this too will launch August 21st, and can be accessed through our website, www.slate-tablets.com.

Summer Vacation Advice

Finally, some advice from one of my favorite teachers. He said the best thing you can do with your summer is to get a summer job in a field that you have no interest in. I followed that advice and can concur that I agree. For teachers, that’s a little hard, but it can be applied to other things like books. Read a book this summer about a topic that you have little to no interest in, but that other people recommend. The point of this is developing a passion for something. As teachers we strive so hard to encourage our students to earn their education, that we sometimes forget the power of inspiration we have. Passion is contagious and it doesn’t require effort for a student to acquire. One of my favorite parts of this job is that it lets me dabble in a lot of different areas I’m passionate in, and my students have told me that it frequently comes across in the classroom. So do something unpredictable this summer!

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