Marina Milner-Bolotin in Curriculum and Pedagogy uses CLAS for mini-teaching by Teacher-Candidates

Marina Milner-Bolotin

CLAS allows you to have a discussion which is very purposeful and to the point. I find that it not only saves time, but also makes it much more meaningful.

–Marina Milner-Bolotin, Assistant Professor of Faculty of Education


How did you use CLAS in your course and what made you decide to do this?

I have used CLAS in two different courses: in ETEC 533 – an online graduate course in the Masters of Educational Technology Program (Technology in Mathematics and Science Classroom – http://met.ubc.ca/etec-533/ ) and EDCP 533 – an undergraduate course in the Teacher Education Program (Physics Methods course for future physics teachers). The students in these courses used CLAS to upload short (less than 15 min) videos and then to provide constructive feedback to each other. Keeping the videos short was key, since nobody has the time watch hour-long videos! The biggest strength of CLAS, in my view, is that not only can you upload and share videos with your students, but we can also annotate these videos – and it’s not just the instructor who can do this, but the students as well. When the students and I watch the videos, we can all annotate specifically the moments where we feel that an annotation or a comment might be helpful.

In my online graduate course (ETEC533), my students were put into groups to create and upload short videos about the class readings. Each group was put in charge of reading and presenting different books or papers, and I wanted the students to learn from what other groups had submitted. So after uploading their videos onto CLAS, I had the students comment and annotate the videos uploaded by their peers. As educators, they commented on the video structure and clarity, but more importantly they offered insights on the content presented by the videos, whether that be questions, responses or suggestions. And another great feature of CLAS that we’ve used is the ability to reply to all the comments and annotations. If someone posted a question at some point in the video, the students who created the video or even the instructor could respond to it. So with these features, CLAS allows you to have these immediate, relevant and meaningful discussions about the content you’re watching.

As I mentioned above, I also used CLAS in the face-to-face Physics Methods course for future physics teachers (EDCP 357). One of the major goals of that course was to help teacher-candidates acquire the practical pedagogical knowledge in the context of physics. To support teacher-candidates, we’ve been doing something called microteaching, where teacher-candidates are asked to upload a short video of them teaching a mini-lesson of a specific topic. Then they are asked to watch their own videos as well as the videos of their peers and comment on them. When microteaching is done live, you can definitely learn from the comments and questions raised by your audience after your mini-lesson, but you can learn even more from having a video of your performance and being able to review it and reflect on it afterwards. CLAS allowed teacher-candidates to focus on details, to revisit some concepts and look at how their peers teach their lessons. Through using CLAS, we left annotations and comments on the videos, so teacher-candidates also got textual feedback that they could refer to later on. Before, we were able to achieve something similar by bringing video cameras and filming equipment to class, and it was rather tedious work to do all that filming and file transfers. But now, it’s done much faster – teacher-candidates use their smart phones to record their mini-lessons and then they upload their videos directly onto CLAS to be shared with their peers. We can then discuss and comment on their lesson structure and teaching methods straight away.

What has been the result?

Using CLAS for video sharing, teaching review and direct feedback has been a fantastic experience for my students. After implementing CLAS into my courses, I asked the students to evaluate the changes and provide anonymous feedback on the use of this technology for their learning. If they had felt that the software wasn’t useful, was overly difficult or complicated to use, they could have sent in their anonymous critiques. But they didn’t, and I received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback instead expressed both in these anonymous surveys and in the end-of-course evaluations. Not only does using CLAS saves a lot of time, but according to their feedback it has also enhanced their learning in a way that has been very meaningful and helpful for their development as future or practicing teachers.

What are some challenges you’ve faced?

The few difficulties I faced were mainly technical. Sometimes, getting the videos onto CLAS was a hassle due to slow upload speeds or interruptions. But this issue could happen on YouTube and anywhere else if you don’t have a stable Internet connection. I recommended to my students that it might be a good idea to get their videos uploaded while they’re on campus at UBC, and to not use a wireless connection that could cut off during the upload process. However, I think that this would be a challenge of any software that allows you to upload a large amount of information. Another challenge is to assure that when you are recording a video with your Smartphone, you place it close enough so the audio recording is of high quality.
 

Marina provides insight on some obstacles with her CLAS experience and resources that she used that helped along the way.

What is your advice for new users of CLAS?

Whenever I want to try something new for my courses, I go directly to the staff at ETS, as well as my colleagues. Sometimes, I figured that if I was going to spend a lot of time trying to get things working on my own, I might as well ask for help so that I don’t simply waste all those hours with no result. I just don’t have that much time to spend trying to implement these technologies on my own. So if I know that somebody has done something similar before, or that they might have some tips for me, I would rather just go to them and ask them for a demo. And very often, people will give you advice that will save you a lot of time! So my advice is to first go online and search the options you have to implement something for your course. The ETS offers various videos that show you how different technologies work and can be used. Do not try to save time by not watching the videos – watch them, note down what information you need afterwards, and then ask for help. It is even better to speak to the people who have used these technologies in their courses.

Also, do not be afraid if things don’t work out the way you want them to. If you try something new, you’re bound to make mistakes, and the students will understand. Especially with technology, I think what’s important is to not feel put off when things don’t immediately function the way they should. Just try it again, and ask for assistance if you get stuck. Remember, you are a role model for your students – you teach them how to learn about new technologies and how to overcome initial difficulties. If you mode positive attitudes about technologies, they will be more likely to use technologies when they need them.


Creating an open space for discussion that is mobile friendly has generated positive feedback from Marina’s students all around. She notes that time specific annotations and the ability to engage students with shorter videos are just some of the strengths of the CLAS platform.

–Above videos are courtesy of UBC Faculty of Education