Sunday, March 18, 2012

Recorded It!

In continuing experiments with recording my lessons for the purpose of assessment  (of self and student), I tried several things last week.
Today's illustration: reflections on the water at Ricketts Glen
During one lesson, I used my iPad and Audio Memos to record for about two hours.  I set the iPad up on a table at the side of the room and told the students I was recording for my own use only (not to share with anyone outside the classroom).  No one seemed concerned about it and we all rapidly forgot about the device as the lesson got going.  Even though the room has a lot of ambient noise due to an incessantly loud air vent, the resulting recording was good enough for me to clearly hear my speech and (to a lesser extent) the speech of the students.  I zipped through and added bookmarks at transition points, which was very easy to do.  If I wanted to, I could have inserted recorded comments.  As noted in a previous post, the app allows you to takepictures and insert them as bookmarks.  I've been taking pictures of the chalkboard before I erase -- since erasing usually comes at a transition point, why not use the pictures to bookmark?  Seems like a natural! Other than a quick run-through, I haven't analyzed the recording. This is the obvious drawback of this form of assessment.  A recorded three-hour lesson could take a significant investment of time to review. Audio Memos does allow you to listen in "chipmunk mode" (my name for it), which can reduce the time a bit.

I also used the Flip camera in a lesson last week. (ETA: the Flip is no longer supported, which is sad, but there are possible alternatives HERE.)  I put it on its little tripod on a shelf at the side of the classroom.  It did a good job of recording the audio, which will be useful.  Because of the stationary setup, the video wasn't terribly effective. You couldn't see the board.  I was out of the picture often as I moved around the room. It was OK for observing student interactions with each other, though.  If I set the camera up at the back of the room, it may be too far away to capture the audio well (let's see).  Once I find a good place to put the camera, I can use the video to observe my use of the room and the board, my non-verbal cues (or lack thereof), and the actions of the students.  In my opinion, messing with the camera during the lesson (moving it, stopping and starting it, etc.) takes attention away from the students and draws attention to the process of recording, and I'm not too keen about that.  I could ask a fellow teacher to help, but it would have to be worth the trip (two of my classes are in a far remote corner of Philadelphia).

The realization I'm coming to is that, since getting a good recording can take some planning and significant time to review afterward, it's a good idea to set out with a specific intention.  If I'm focused on, say, board management, then photos will suffice.  If I want to analyze speaking (mine or my students'), audio is fine.  If I want to check gestures, use of the room, or facial communication, then video is best.  I don't have to record the whole lesson unless I'm focused on the flow of the lesson itself.

I have another adventure with Audio Memos to share in my next post ... stay tuned!

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