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use video-taping as part of science lab activities and have suggestions for video in other content areas at the end of this article. Rather than students creating a story or film with their videos, my approach is to have them focus on content by using the video in place of a lab report or classroom discussion and to then share it with their peers. For video science labs, they script and then record a short presentation about background information and hypotheses before beginning the lab. One of the lab group members then videotapes the set-up and execution of the lab while she or one of the other group members narrates an explanation and rationale for each step. After concluding the actual experiment, the students analyze their data, draw conclusions, and then record the final analysis of their results and rationale for each conclusion based upon data and any calculations that were done.

There are several benefits to having students incorporate the videotaping into their lab work. First of all, it requires them to have a more complete and thorough understanding of their goals and the background knowledge necessary for the lab exercise prior to beginning since they must record an introduction for the lab they will be performing before they start it. Too often in science labs students skip over the background information and pre-lab thought questions in their rush to get started mixing and touching things. Requiring students to record an explanation of the lab and to give a hypothesis and rationale in advance encourages greater reflection on pertinent class content and requires that students have a more solid understanding of their ultimate goal before they begin.

A second benefit is that it gives them an opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of class concepts. While the students tape the lab set-up in progress, they must explain why they are doing each step, and students also must identify experimental variables and controls. Many students have demonstrated a deeper understanding of experimental design and science lab equipment and procedures by having to explain these things and use proper terminology which they may not have had to understand in the past.

Another significant benefit of recording and explaining lab activities is that students can share their presentation with other groups. The day after a lab and the videos from it are completed, groups exchange cameras and can view each other’s lab videos. This gives students an opportunity to learn both by listening to multiple people explain class concepts and ideas as well as by having to use higher-order thinking skills by providing the video authors with a critique of their lab execution and the validity of the conclusions drawn. An additional benefit is that students who were absent on the day of the lab have a chance to see what occurred and are still able to participate in the peer review since the explanation and execution of what was missed was recorded.

I do not have students edit their videos since the focus is to provide a record of understanding, ideas, and what occurred during the lab rather than to produce a polished film. Because of this the time investment beyond what would be spent on a regular lab exercise and traditional written report is not that great. I use Flip video cameras that are incredibly intuitive and easy to use. It only required 10 minutes of instructional time to explain how to use the cameras and have the students practice shooting, zooming, replaying, and deleting clips.


Without guidelines and clear expectations of progress, though, students could easily waste a significant amount of time playing with the cameras and getting off task. To help minimize these problems, I provide a script outline that students must present to me before I check out a video camera to their lab group. It includes a list of important questions that should be answered and space for them to think about and write their responses (What science concept is this lab about? What do you already know about this topic? What are you trying to accomplish? What is your hypothesis and rationale for it, etc?) It also includes spaces where students list the names of which group

“I use video reporting in the context of a science classroom to improve student lab performance and analysis skills, but it could easily be extended to other core content areas. “

members will have which tasks, such as who will talk about which things and who will be controlling the camera at different points throughout the lab. I also provide checkpoint times where students must have met and shown me certain amounts of progress that, if not fulfilled, jeopardize students’ grades or privilege of doing a video lab rather than a traditional written report.

The checkpoints have been an effective motivator for the most part since students have been enthusiastic about using the lab videos and the change from the norm of written reports. Students value having an audience beyond the teacher and being able to receive feedback from multiple people. It also gives them the opportunity to integrate a wider variety of cross-curricular skills into class in addition to science content: outlining and literacy, public speaking, performing, video production basics, and critiquing others’ work.

I use video reporting in the context of a science classroom to improve student lab performance and analysis skills, but it could easily be extended to other core content areas. Students in English classes could explain their interpretation of written pieces or a discussion of literary devises used in a short story or poem. They could also discuss their interpretation of events and the viewpoints of different characters from novels or plays. Math students could present story or challenge problem strategies, explanations, and solutions. Social studies students could describe parallels between historical and current events. No matter which subject video is used in, it provides a tool for motivating students to put more thought into class concepts and goals as well as a way for students to share their ideas and receive feedback from their peers.

Laura Bell teaches science at Stockbridge High School in Stockbridge, Michigan and is grateful to MACUL for funding a set of classroom FLIP video cameras.

Winter 2011-12



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