Guide to Student-to-Student Teaching

You may already be using video to support your lessons, but have you considered encouraging your students to create them? Student-to-student videos enhance student understanding of a subject as well as student creativity and critical thinking skills. In a recent KQED MindShift article, Katrina Schwartz lauds peer-created videos for their ability to reach struggling students in ways that you as a teacher cannot. No longer are videos a distraction or a tool used only by teachers; videos can create a richer learning experience.

Why Use Student-to-Student Video

Image via Flickr by djromanj

As teachers, we often adopt the “sage on the stage” attitude, in which we project knowledge onto our students. After all, we’re older than they are, we’ve been teaching for years, so it should follow that we know more than they do. While that may be true, all the knowledge in the world may not effectively reach the student who is struggling with the material. Who can reach those students? Their fellow classmates.

We know from Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development that students typically learn best with the assistance of others. We often take “others” to mean teachers or professionals, but Vygotsky also indicates that “others” can also mean fellow learners or other novices.

Consider this: We know our subject, and when it comes time to create a tutorial for students, we can easily recite how to solve a complex algebra problem, understand the meaning of a poem, or describe the scientific method. However, it’s probably been years since these problems were difficult for us. For our students, these concepts may have seemed insurmountable as little as a few weeks ago. Therefore, they have firsthand insight into what’s confusing and what’s not.

As we all do when we learn, the students create meaning from these complex concepts and begin to understand the material in their own 21st-century way. With student-to-student videos, we can tap into that deeper (and often digital) understanding and have students help one another.

What Makes a Good Student-to-Student Video

When it comes to good student videos, the leader is Club Academia, which hosts tutorial videos made by high school students. Club Academia’s success is based on the premise that students learn better when they hear the material from another student who once didn’t understand the material. Not only do students speak the same language, they also inspire one another. Effectively, this approach encourages them to think, “If my classmate can learn this, I can too!”

Students exercise creativity when they make tutorials for their classmates, and they create a passion for the subject and learning overall. They take ownership in both their work and their learning process. At the end of the day, isn’t that what we want for our students?

Examples of Student-to-Student Video Usage

There are many ways to integrate student-to-student videos in the classroom. Below are just a few examples.

  1. Teaching Other Students

One of the most successful examples of student-to-student videos is Mathtrain, a set of “mathcasts” developed by Eric Marcos, a middle-school math teacher in California. Marcos’ students use tablets loaded with the program Camtasia Studio to create short videos explaining to one another how to understand the many complexities of math. He uses Screencast.com to upload the videos directly to the web.

Using young people in videos frequently raises privacy concerns, but Marcos is careful to include only the students’ voices and handwriting — never their images — in the videos. Students also go by pseudonyms to further ensure their safety. The result is a safe, enjoyable way for students to learn math from one another.

  1. Creating a Perpetual Classroom

Not only are students able to learn from one another, they also find themselves more engaged in the subject. As we know, engagement can make learning more exciting for students, and – most importantly – it helps them retain what they have learned. Another bonus is that they can revisit the videos again and again until they fully understand the material. In a way, they’re creating a perpetual classroom in which lessons are not just one-day events; they can be viewed at any time.

  1. Storytelling

Other fun projects that teachers have implemented among their students include book trailers, scene reenactments, advertisements, or choose-your-own-adventure scenarios. This video is an example of a student-created book trailer.

Not only can students demonstrate their creative side, but they also learn the importance of storyboarding, script writing, and video editing. Additionally, students can challenge previously learned notions about video.

  1. Critical Thinking and Argumentation

Students, like us, are bombarded with videos, be they advertisements or YouTube clips. They typically know what a good video looks like, what vernacular is used in a video, and how persuasion works in the form of moving pictures and text. Have they learned the correct things through their consumption of other videos? Creating a video in which they show what you may have taught them about proper argumentation and critical thinking places those skills into direct action.

How to Use Student Videos

One of the keys to successful use of student videos is your ability to use video, teach students how to use it, and clearly articulate what you expect of each video. Here’s a short walkthrough for teachers looking to incorporate student-to-student videos into their classrooms:

  • Get to Know the Video Creation Tools: First, familiarize yourself with video creation tools. If you’re already using your own content in the classroom, great! You’re at an advantage. If not, expand your knowledge on video technology, such as learning more about file types, screencasting, and other video editing software.
  • Explore Common Craft: Common Craft enables users to create stories out of paper cutouts, or RSA Animate, which brings life to words and drawings on a dry-erase board.
  • Train Students on Video Software: Once you are familiar with the software, teach it to the students. Ask them to create smaller projects, not for credit, so they become comfortable with the software. Consult your school to ensure that your assignments align with privacy standards.
  • Create and Distribute Assignments: Make sure that your grading criteria accurately reflect the chief focus of the project. For example, you’ll want to decide whether or not your expectations hinge mostly on the content of the video or on how well students film and edit it, among other craft decisions.
  • Finally, post videos directly to your content management system, such as Moodle or Blackboard, or even a shared course site, such as Edmodo. You may also choose to make your own YouTube or Vimeo channel. Knowing that videos will be available to a wider audience encourages students to take their video assignment seriously.

Schwartz’s KQED MindShift article further indicates that videos integrate easily with Common Core standards. Videos offer flexibility and engagement that is easily adapted to any academic standard or level.

In Short

Videos are more than entertainment; they’re excellent tools for engaging students and making them become part of the subject matter. Because videos are easy to create and present, and because many students already have some basic knowledge of creating video and posting to sites such as YouTube, it will be simple to teach students to use this great educational tool.