Ferris State University Professor Chris DeFraia has experienced many of the same effects from the global health crisis as other educators. For one, the MEA member misses sharing advice, encouragement, and friendship with colleagues.
In addition, his genetics and biology students have seemed less engaged as the pandemic and mitigation measures to contain the virus have stretched on for a year. “And it’s really difficult to not follow them in being less engaged, because I get my energy from my students,” he said.
DeFraia also has juggled work while trading off with his wife on caring duties for their two-year-old daughter who could no longer attend daycare. (At one point he interrupted our interview to stop the cat poised to wake the child from her nap).
However, getting the hang of online teaching has been less of a struggle for him—and not because he had done it before. For about a year before the pandemic hit, DeFraia had been teaching himself how to make videos as part of a plan to “flip” his classroom.
Now he’s made a free, open-source series of videos for educators who want to learn how to make videos for teaching even after a return to physical classrooms. His YouTube channel, TeachWithVideo, separates the process into three types of videos, from easiest to most advanced.
“Teachers already have most of the expertise needed to make videos; the knowledge of their subject and how to teach it,” DeFraia said. “I’m just breaking down the video production part, to make it a lot easier to learn.”
DeFraia does not prefer online teaching, but using videos to shift class lectures and content delivery online allows him to use precious in-person time for higher-order thinking activities. “My students are going to be biology teachers, pharmacists, doctors, optometrists, dentists—they need to be able to reason and think.”
He decided to make the video series for educators when he realized he already had organized the information. Pre-pandemic he taught two aspiring biology teachers who wanted to learn to make teaching videos. “I was amazed at how quickly they learned, and their videos were excellent.”
DeFraia made the resource for educators that he wished to find during a year of teaching himself on a big learning curve.
His series instructs the viewer how to make a paper and pencil video, using a smartphone holder to record the teacher drawing on paper while explaining a concept. The next level of difficulty is a basic screencast, using a tablet and the Explain Everything app to make a whiteboard video.
The most challenging of DeFraia’s tutorials is an advanced screencast which edits together audio and video recordings with added visuals to make a professional-looking product. The advanced videos require some equipment to achieve, which he explains in the tutorials.
Sharing knowledge and resources is something educators do, he said. He also is offering feedback to any viewers who want to share the first video they produce. “There’s very little out there specific to teachers and how to make good teaching videos, so I wanted to provide that.”
Find his channel, TeachWithVideo, at youtube.com/user/cdefraia.
Read more stories from the series, “What it’s Like: COVID Vignettes”: