I’m a reluctant video star. I’m sure I’m not the only one. Once we face the camera for the first time, our uncertainties arise. My comfort with my video voice has increased with exposure and experience due to some #HumanMOOC work. The first task for this open, online course was to create a video introduction. The second task had each participant creating a video to introduce their online course to their students. Then more video capture using Flipgrid where our face and voice was recorded while answering some focus questions. After each of these experiences, and with encouragement and feedback from the course instructors and participants, I became less reluctant to face the camera.
So, with culminating projects for my own course to mark, I decided to do a video for each of the students to provide feedback on their digital stories. I sat facing the camera, notepad with jot notes at my side, green screen behind me, and I recorded a message to each of my 34 students. At the end of this process I felt that I had shared a personal message and connected in a small way to each of my students.
From my experiences creating these feedback videos, and watching videos from other #HumanMOOC participants, I have collected some thoughts about video creation for teachers and online presenters.
My background matters – Make sure you are aware of the background in your video. Consider where you are to make sure it doesn’t negatively impact the message in the video. While clutter can tell viewers what your interests are, it can also distract your viewers if there are too many things to look at e.g wondering what’s on your bookshelves rather than paying attention to your message. While recording video feedback, I used a green screen and then embedded images from the student’s work behind myself to highlight some of the key elements from their assignments.
Be still …. or not! I became very aware of my own hands since they tend to move around while I was talking. Making a decision to include my moving hands, since I rarely talk without them, allowed me to strategically communicate additional information. Sometimes moving side to side, forward or backward, leaning or reaching can be distracting or it can add the human element of movement to the video. The choice is yours, but be aware of motion that you don’t want happening.
Face it with eyes wide open! This became evident as I watched myself and others using video. Know where the camera is located and keep your eyes on the green light. Imagine the student at the end of that light. Since I work with two monitors, I frequently found myself looking the wrong way. I had to prop my laptop on some books to make sure my eyes were looking straight at the camera, not up or down. If I looked away, to peek at my jot notes, it appeared to be ‘thoughtful pondering’ rather than looking way. It became part of the message.
Sounds abound! I don’t have a particularly noisy workspace but I became aware of every interfering sound as it was captured on the video recording. I had to remember to turn my cell phone onto mute to make sure the notification chimes didn’t interrupt a sensitive or difficult feedback statement. I also became very aware of every ‘um’, ‘ah’ or ‘but’. While some of this tends to happen naturally, the overuse of these verbal ‘burps’ began to detract from my message.
Lighting it up! Having a good light that illuminates your face from the front helps. It reduces shadows, enhances facial expressions and makes you appear ‘alive and awake’. I stopped recording when it became too dark for natural light since the lamp I was using flickered from light to dark, creating a strobe-like effect on my face. Investing in a better lamp will be necessary or I’ll record in daylight to make sure lighting doesn’t detract from the message. I also became aware of the glare that the light created on my glasses so rather than remove them, which is another option, I kept my head slightly tilted or repositioned the lamp to remove this effect.
Microphones come in all shapes and sizes, but my snowball works best. For most of the videos I created, I used a blue snowball mic since it gave the best sound quality and wasn’t tapping on my necklace or getting tangled into earrings. I have tried a variety of different mics in the past and keep coming back to the snowball for quality and tone. You’ll need to find the microphone that gives the best sound quality so your voice is consistently clear and audible when recording your videos.
Pace yourself! My goal was to create a video that was just around the 2 min mark. I jotted notes about all the items I hoped to mention, rehearsed a few times to see how many points I could fit into the message without talking too fast or repeating myself. I chose to do this feedback in one take rather than several smaller clips because I wanted it to feel like I was talking directly to my student. I also had to realize that I couldn’t say everything, so focusing on key points was important. This was a conversation, not a rant, so I had to redo videos that revved through the points too quickly.
To script or not to script – that is not the question. I made a conscious decision to create notes about the assignment I was marking. Scripting in the truest sense was not my focus. Once the notes were made, I practiced a few times without the camera running. This helped me shape the message with an interesting statement at the beginning and a logical conclusion to wrap it up at the end.
What did I discover about myself? I’m human. I made mistakes. I had to re-record many times because one or many of these elements didn’t work out right. But I also learned that connecting and conversing this way has meaning and purpose. I wondered if this was the first time I had spoken to some of my students in such a personal way. In a face-to-face class, time slips quickly while students focus on tasks and learning, without a lot of one-to-one time from the teacher. After this experience I’ll look for ways to use video in my classroom more often. I’ll work toward answering some of these questions.
- How can I make sure this personal connection can happen early in the course rather than at the end?
- What can I do to make sure that each student feels they are important to me, as their instructor and teacher?
- Where can I use my video voice to build relationship and enhance communication within physical and digital spaces?
References and Images
Iko. (Oct. 18, 2012). Made of stars. Retrieved from https://flic.kr/p/dkQKRU
Nebraska Library Commission. (Nov. 27, 2012). Blue snowball USB microphone Retrieved from https://flic.kr/p/dwQ5gJ