How to Use Video to Support Science Experiments

How to Use Video to Support Science Experiments
Contributed By

Malcolm McKinsey

6th Grade Science Teacher and Curriculum Leader for Grades 4, 5, and 6

How to Use Video to Support Science Experiments

Posted in Pro Tips | March 07, 2018

What science instructor has enough classroom supplies, time, and laboratory materials? None! Yet somehow we get the job done. Using video recording gets the job done more efficiently.

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Video recording in the science classroom reduces stress on the science instructor, makes better use of time, minimizes supply consumption, and improves student learning outcomes. Let's take a quick look at why you should be using video in your classroom.

Why Use Video in Your Science Classroom?

Reasons to record your science investigations and lab experiments on video are many, such as reducing instructor fatigue and increasing student engagement, but they also include:

  • Better Use of Class Time—The flipped classroom or blended classroom model, as described by the American Association of Chemistry Teachers, allows you to upload a video going over safety procedures, proper use of lab equipment, or the mathematics needed for any calculations needed during the investigation. This can then allow you to focus class time on the investigation itself.
  • Consistency Across Classes—For science instructors providing instruction in five or six classes a day, video can help avoid overlooked details. Video your introduction of concepts once, with all the details, vocabulary, and procedures, then play it for each class to ensure you have given students all the same information.
  • Easy Review of Concepts—Before formative or summative assessments, video can help review concepts in a risk-free zone.
  • Increased Accuracy—Especially for physics experiments, videotaping the lab allows for "on-field review" for precise measurement, calculating fall rates, and getting clear, unambiguous results.
  • Economical Resource Use—One recorded demonstration lab uses far fewer resources than multiple demonstrations. This lowers the cost of chemicals and consumables and decreases time needed to clean equipment

Lights! Camera! Action! All the Equipment You Need to Get Started

Equipment needed to accurately and clearly record science experiments is surprisingly basic. You can put down the director's megaphone and pick up any of these tools:

  • Cell Phone—Often perfectly adequate for most videotaping.
  • Webcam—This allows for a steadier, clearer image than a hand-held cell phone.
  • Microphone—Quality audio is essential for recording any lecture, introduction, or instructions.
  • Online Video Editor—A few minutes (or, yes, an hour or two) spent processing your video with iMovie, QuickTime Pro, or Movie Maker will improve quality, student attentiveness, and production values.

Remember you are recording the video to reach all students, so avoid background distractions, audio volume drops, and using quick, abrupt movements that mask the information.

Learning support (LS) students, students with visual and auditory processing challenges, and ESL students all benefit from being able to view and re-view your video. Make it as accessible as possible for them by using microphones and taking the time to establish a visually appealing set behind you, even if it is just your clean whiteboard.

Not a Home Movie: Common Mistakes to Avoid

The goal of recording science experiments, instructions, or introductions is to educate. Avoid common beginners' mistakes, says Deakin University:

  • Not Rehearsing—A few mistakes are forgivable, but a video replete with error after error quickly becomes a distraction to students. Rehearse what you are going to do, and be willing to make more than one attempt.
  • Recording in Noisy Areas—Choose a quiet environment for videotaping your experiment, notes, or instructions; before students arrive or after they leave is ideal.
  • Using a Handheld Camera—Invest in a tripod or camera mount so the image is steady, clear, and consistently good viewing quality; minimize tilt, pan and zoom.
  • Not Having a Camera Operator—If possible, recruit a fellow instructor to operate the video recorder (whether it is a DSLR, cell phone, or video camera) so you can concentrate on your "performance."
  • Being Too Polished—Try not to over-rehearse your work; allow students to see and hear you make mistakes, says college courseware provider Knewton, which recommends only fixing errors central to the educational objective (like mispronouncing or misspelling "ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid" or "syzygy").

Uses of Video for Science Investigations and Experiments

To make distance learning easier, Schoology has its Conferences (formerly BigBlueButton) Conference app. This promotes inclusion of students at far-flung partner schools and students who need asynchronous opportunities to review material. But distance and asynchronous learning isn't the only use for video in the science classroom.

Here are a few other ways to use video:

  • Scientific Prediction—The very heart of science is its ability to make predictions. Promote this with students by introducing a portion of a lab by video, withholding the actual experiment, and then ask them to predict or hypothesize the outcome.
  • Formative assessment—Show a portion of a science experiment, then have students write an explanation of the unviewed part, such as identifying the products of a reaction.
  • Support for ESL Students—The gift of limitless repetition allows these students to master challenging, content-specific vocabulary.
  • Support for LS Students—Repetition (and the ability to freeze or slow down the video) helps them better understand the experimental process and results.
  • Catching Up Absent Students—"You missed the lab? Watch it here, and still complete your lab notes.
  • Boosting Sample Sizes—Collect results from experiments in all your classes, then offer them to everyone to provide a larger sample size of data.
  • Instructional Self-Reflection—Video recording is great for student teachers to improve their delivery, but Edweek points out benefits for veteran instructors, too, as a way to reflect on good and bad habits.

Creating Student-Centered Learning Opportunities

Recording science experiments is also a great way to keep the student scientists engaged. You can require them to record their own experiments, reflecting the flipped classroom model. They then send you the video electronically.

With multiple versions of the same experiment, you can compare their attempts to increase reliability. Their lab notes reflect not one outcome but 25 or 30. Students take ownership of their own learning, and you have honored their media in ways many other instructors do not.

Additional Resources

For more information about recording science investigations and experiments, consider Schoology's Help Center, TechSmith's suggestions, and this practical step-by-step guide from the Department of Defense Education Activity's (DoDEA) e-learning portal on using audio and video with Schoology.

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