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Using Video in Teaching and Learning. Part 1: Introduction

iPad recording piano lesson


This is the first of a series of articles on using video technology in the piano teaching studio. Today I’ll start with an overview of how I started incorporating video into my teaching and introduce you to some of the topics that I will discuss in greater detail in subsequent posts.

Before you dismiss the idea of creating videos as something that would require too much of an investment, let me reassure you that you can get started in your studio simply by using your existing smart phone or tablet. Of course you can purchase a range of additional equipment to enhance your video making, which I’ll discuss in subsequent posts, but I would highly recommend trying out ideas with your phone or iPad first, and then if you like the possibilities and feel that you need to enhance the quality, you can then make some additional purchases.

My first foray into using video in my studio was simply to record my students’ performances, initially at my annual recital and subsequently also at the soirées I hold in my home each term. I used to burn these performance videos to DVDs for students at the end of the year for a record of their progress. These days I upload the videos to Vimeo and send the students and parents the link.

Having purchased a video camera for recording student performances, I began (at my teacher’s suggestion) to record my own lessons in the Taubman Approach, to help me in the retraining of my technique. It took me a while to realise that I could also implement this idea in my own studio. The students who record their lessons (and view them at home!) make much better progress than those who rely on notes written in the lesson and their memory.

Camera and tripod

I then took things a step further and began recording sections of my own practice in order to check my progress. I quickly recognised the possibilities for improving students’ technique in lessons.

"When students struggled to see the need to change what they were doing, I found they responded very favourably when they could look at their own hands more objectively and understand why I wanted them to make changes."

There are several ways you can do this in a lesson and some easy ways for students to do this at home too.

In the course of my Taubman training I was introduced to the idea of Skype lessons, which opened up a whole new world of possibilities to my own studio. I use video chat software to teach lessons to students who live outside of my local area and also for teaching local students when illness or weather or lack of transport make travelling to my studio impossible or impractical. Students can also join my soirées and workshops via video chat if they can’t attend in person.

Over the past couple of years I have been exploring some of the other applications of asynchronous online teaching – creating videos and uploading them for student use. Some might call this teaching via YouTube! Before you dismiss this idea out of hand, I’ll be unpacking some of what I do in future posts and I hope you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the possibilities. These videos can take the form of reminder videos for rote pieces, snippets of a lesson to help a student who is struggling with a particular issue, short teaching videos of items I teach on a regular basis for which students often require extra support, make-up lesson videos and performance videos from online students. Some teachers take this even further and make complete lessons available online (teach yourself at home style), but I am yet to be convinced that students can effectively teach themselves without feedback from a teacher.

Now that I’m building a library of videos that I use with many students, I’ve learned some basic editing skills and explored several different video editing programs. I’ll share with you the contexts in which I need to edit a video and the programs I recommend.

The way I make videos easily accessible to students and yet maintain their privacy has been constantly evolving, often due to changes brought about by the service providers themselves. Online platforms such as YouTube and Vimeo occasionally change the way privacy and access are managed, so it is important to keep up to date. A number of different platforms and file sharing options are available, and I’ll be discussing the ones I have used and the various pros and cons I’ve discovered along the way.

No discussion on using videos in teaching would be complete without looking at the legal implications of seeking permission to record children, uploading videos of students’ performances and copyright implications, so there will be a post on these aspects as well.

If you have any specific requests for topics you would like me to cover, please mention them in the comments below!

Next post: Teaching and learning the piano from a distance.

Next post in the video series: Using video in teaching and learning: Equipment (part 1)

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