Classroom Resources: Coming in Fall of 2020: Deep Uncertainties

Classroom Resources: Teaching with Videos: How to Read a Textbook

By Stacy Palen

As I adapt to teaching online this fall, I find that the one thing I really need students to know how to do on their own is read the textbook. I’ve always assumed they knew this skill because I remember being in high school, checking out the textbook at the beginning of the year and taking it back and forth to school with me. Maybe you remember making covers out of brown paper bags to protect the books… and I remember teachers explaining some kind of note-taking method in great detail that I used for a while and then adapted to my own purposes.

But this falls in the realm of “things aren’t what they used to be.” Some schools now have classroom sets of texts that students do not take home. Some don’t use books at all but use free online materials. Some have ebooks but not hard copies. And even for students who do have traditional hard-copy texts that they can take back and forth, some of them never received instruction on how to read them.

This is interesting, because I have never taken ten minutes of class time to explain to students that reading a textbook is not like reading Harry Potter. Nor have I taken ten minutes to give them a strategy for approaching this kind of reading. It just never occurred to me. (I have given entire assignments to my upper-division classes about how to read a journal article, but that’s pretty specialized.) As I think about what I really need students to do while learning in an online environment, the textbook looms larger, rather than smaller, in my mind. Well, then. If that’s true, I guess I’d better tell them how to do it.

To this end, I made a video, about 10 minutes long, in which I explain my textbook-reading process. This is not a perfect process; it’s not the best process; and it might not be the process you use. But it’s a process that gets students thinking about textbook reading as a skill that they can learn and then adapt to their own needs.

I’m pretty pleased with how the video turned out. I made it on my iPad; I used the “Screen Recording” feature in the “Settings” to capture what I was doing in Notability. Then I edited it in iMovie and uploaded it to Kaltura. There is a little 8-second, University-specific boilerplate introduction that I asked our Marketing/Communications team to make for me so I can drop it into all of the videos I make in the future. This 10-minute video took me about 3 hours to make, but I didn’t know what I was doing. Going forward, I think I can cut that time roughly in half; I need to plan for about 10 minutes of work for each minute of finished video.

I’ll be making more of these, so let me know in the “Comments” section below if there’s a particular video topic that you need. If you need it, other people probably do, too! I’ll see what I can get done.

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