Sunday, November 2, 2014

My Flipped Videos are Boring

I've been experimenting with a Blended/Mastery classroom for my Beit Midrash classes for about three weeks. I've noticed a couple very positive changes that have helped my  students. For instance, many of my weakest students are now excelling. Their ability to learn at their own pace and pause, rewind, and re-watch has helped their understanding and mastery over the material. Also, our class time has been more productive and we're able to have more thoughtful discussions, projects and assignments because of it.

However, last week when I was helping a student with a video, I noticed something eye-opening. My videos were boring. Really boring. I've blogged in the past about the need for a Flipped Classroom facelift ( and I've tried to make them more exciting. The videos need to be more than just reading text, or a digital lecture. They need to feel alive and include pictures, maps, and digital animation.  But at the end of the day, if the videos are mundane and students dread them, I think there is a problem. 

Recently someone showed me a clip from a comedy tv show without the fake laughter after jokes.  It was painful to watch.  It just wasn't funny at all.  I fear that even the most engaging videos will still bore many.  Something recorded just can't compete to the real thing. 

The worst part is that each and every day of my entire teaching career I have searched for new and exciting ways to engage my students. I believe my class needs to be engaging, exciting, and fun. I work hard to have an exciting atmosphere where students look forward to class each day. 

Yes, learning isn't always going to be uber-fun. Yes, sometimes learning is technical and textual. Yes, sometimes we need to learn the basics before getting to the engaging and "fun" learning. But, if the videos are literally boring, I think there is a problem. 

Maybe I need to work harder to create characters in my videos. Maybe I need to make the videos shorter. Maybe something else. But for now, I'm back to brainstorming. I'll take an engaging and lively classroom over a efficient boring classroom any day of the week. Hopefully I can find a balance to accomplish both. 

Any thoughts or comments would be greatly appreciated!


  1. I love this post. It is very honest, reflective and genuine. Kudos to you.

    I agree with everything you're saying, but I'm not sure why it has to be all or none. Can you post videos of you reading the text without it being mandatory? The students with weaker textual skills can use them as necessary. I have found using videos of me reading as a resource instead of an assignment has been very helpful to my students this year.
    Also, you can the flipped models only on specific lessons, as opposed to creating a routine of using them. I find that dispersing "boring" lessons - without a constant routine of them - doesn't ruin the "fun" and engaging environment.

    1. Hey Josh,

      I totally agree it does not have to be either/or. I originally thought that it would help all of the students, but I think it is becoming clear that that isn't true. I really like your idea of having it as a resource for those that need as opposed to a requirement.

      I also like your idea for having them as a non-routine.

      Thanks for the input!

  2. I have never been a big fan of the "flipped model". In my own experience with middle and Jr. High school students, I find that the kids who have difficulty processing or focusing have the same difficulty off a video and never really "get it" until a live interaction takes place. As such, I think videos are a good resource for students to have as a review tool where they can review what they have learned at their own pace. It is not for everyone. I also think they should be short...there is only so much you can do to spice up a video before it is just you droning on and you can't compete with Hollywood two cents.

    1. Thanks, Tzvi.

      As you said, there were more students who did not see the videos as a useful resource as I had originally thought. However, those students who did find them useful, have excelled like never before. I'm thinking along the lines of what Josh said above and to make videos for those who it will help and/or not as frequently. Obviously it means more work for myself, but if our goal is our students, that's really all that matters :)

  3. Great post!
    While we probably don't have access to professional animators (like the wonderful videos on, I think if we're using videos, there are ways to make them more interesting (or at least watchable). The videos shouldn't be static; it's a visual medium so we should try to *show* everything we say. One easy way to do this is taking a screencast (using software such as Jing, screencastomatic, Camtasia, etc.) of good ol' Powerpoint. Powerpoint's custom animation lets you make pictures and text appear, grow, spin, and do just about anything else you can think of that can help you show the concepts as much as possible. Whether the kids can focus on what you say, they may have an easier time understanding what they see. Using basic video editing software (I'm lucky enough to have Camtasia Studio, but I think Windows Live Movie Maker that comes standard with Windows 7 is probably fine), you can add background music, etc. that can make your video more interesting or dramatic - or at least more watchable.
    That being said, I agree with Josh that we shouldn't rely on the videos too much. A couple of years ago, my colleague and I, who teach classes of 7th graders after 4 PM, discovered that the kids are much more likely to be able to watch and listen to the videos than to be engaged by a "live" lesson. However, when the class was exclusively videos (and follow-up questions), many kids had a hard time with that too.

    1. Thanks, Simcha.

      I'm intrigued about Camtasia and these other options you mentioned. I've been using Explain Everything so far. And as powerful as it is, it is limited. I've tried to add graphics and visuals ( to make it more interesting, but it it's pretty corny too.

      Do you have any examples of your videos using Camtasia?

      I definitely don't believe in extremes. There for sure needs to be a balance...

      Looking forward to hearing back from you!

  4. Camtasia itself is expensive (a colleague gave me an extra copy he won at Jedcamp last year) but any screencasting software will do. The difference is using PowerPoint, with its custom animation. You can use Windows Movie Maker that comes free on your PC to add music and edit it. I've used this and Explain Everything and the videos go much more smoothly using Powerpoint because I don't have to think about moving the pictures around while I'm talking. The animations are also much better.
    I'll try to post a link to an example later.  
    You may still think it's boring but I think it has more of a chance of being watch-able.  

    1. Awesome, looking forward to seeing it. Thank you!!

    (No music, but it has the animations from PowerPoint, and some zooming-in that I did with Camtasia)