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June 29, 2010 / Ben Chun

You Have 5 Minutes

Here’s a simple exercise for a faculty: Pick a topic that you can teach in five minutes. Prepare a lesson. Deliver it to an audience of colleagues and get it recorded on video. Hard stop at 300 seconds no matter what. Then immediately watch the recording, critique yourself, and get feedback from the audience.

Over the past two days, every one of the instructors in MEET got a chance to do exactly this. It was one of the best professional development exercises in which I’ve ever participated.

I’ve been a high school teacher for five years now, and this is the first time I’ve ever seen video of myself teaching. I have no idea why it isn’t done more — perhaps because it would be quite time consuming (not to mention potentially quite boring) to do it for more than 5-minute lessons, or with a large group of teachers. And it’s easy for us as teachers to raise so many objections: five minutes is such a very short time, having colleagues as an audience is way different than teaching teenagers, this doesn’t show much about the long-term relationship building, the overall planning of a course, or even a day’s hour-long lesson: the big picture is missing.

But I’ll tell you: looking at this small picture was very helpful. Seemingly tiny things like how a spontaneous question or interruption is handled in the moment, the offhand examples or metaphors you pick, where exactly you stand relative to the board, how you gesture, what you write and what you say while you are writing, the spatial organization of information, the pacing, all come under a microscope. It’s really helpful to get feedback on those things, and see myself doing them. They all matter.

Looking at it a different way, this is also like Pecha Kucha. There were some such talks given at EduCon 2.2 and while the quality of the content and presentation was varied, I appreciated that I could see five different ideas from five different people over lunch. Yes, the depth is limited. It’s a trade-off. I think anyone who cares about an issue or a concept would benefit from trying to create and deliver a summary version of their position. I think anyone who teaches or wants to teach would benefit from picking a single skill or concept, trying to convey it in five minutes, and then immediately evaluating that attempt.

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  1. Hélène Martin / Jun 29 2010 4:25 pm

    Our schools have some cameras for students and faculty to borrow and I’ve had the opportunity to stick it in the back of the classroom a few times. It’s really scary but terrifically useful. Of course, it’s best to have someone actually man the camera (and I was lucky to have a mentor of mine do that for me once), it’s also very insightful to have it just sort of taking everything in. For example, I was really mortified to hear my tone of voice and see my body language change when transitioning from talking to a strong student to a weaker one and it’s something I try to be more conscious of now.

    Good idea to film a really short lesson and discuss immediately.

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