Recording Lessons

When the pandemic shut down in-person gatherings, many of us pivoted to online programs. Some loved working with digital tools to create learning opportunities. Others longed to get back to face-to-face sessions. Now, researchers are mining the data from several studies that suggest at least one aspect of online learning – the recorded lesson – is something we should hang on to, even if most of our programming has returned to its pre-pandemic in-person format.

Some of the reasons may seem obvious: when children miss a class, they can watch a recording to catch up. If they are struggling with an idea or can’t remember the steps to a practice, a video refresher can help. But the value of recorded lessons goes well beyond backing up in-person instruction. They also bolster children’s attention and aid retention, in part because kids can work at their own pace.

The key to using recorded lessons well is to focus on what makes them work for kids. Playing to short attention spans is one such element. Keep your videos short (6-10 minutes) and create a set if you have something longer to present. For example, group a series of tai chi moves in one short video, offer a brief history of tai chi in another, and create a reflection on its contemporary spiritual benefits in a third. Or read a spiritual storybook in one and create a series of activities around the story in separate videos.

Organize your recordings in a video library. Think of your videos as part of a curated collection that children (and their parents/caregivers) can access whenever they are curious about a subject. This also allows you to reference older recordings when you circle back to a spiritual concept or practice later in the year.

While the simplest videos feature just you talking (with perhaps a few visuals on slides), add an interactive component to increase children’s engagement. Embed a Kahoot or Mentimeter survey that invites children to share their responses to a question and see what others have said. Or ask students to pause the video to try a yoga pose, sketch a timeline of Gandhi’s life, brainstorm a mantra, or retell the story to themselves or another person.

Videos may also help children feel more comfortable asking questions.  Kids often feel anxious when they don’t understand something. They may be afraid of looking ignorant in front of their peers. Encourage them to jot down questions as they watch videos, which they can then email to you or post anonymously on a group message board. Respond online or weave opportunities to explore these questions into future in-person lessons.

A hidden benefit is that recording lessons will also improve your teaching. Organizing ideas to fit a short video form reduces the use of irrelevant, distracting details. And previewing the videos provides an opportunity to listen for inconsistencies and digressions.  However, don’t worry about being perfect on camera. The best videos, say the experts, reflect personal authenticity and enthusiasm more than flawless filming techniques.



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