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Using Video in Teaching and Learning. Equipment (Part 1)

You may like to read the first post in this series here.

You probably already have some basic equipment in your studio to enable you to start exploring video in you teaching immediately, however for more professional results you may wish to purchase some extras, and there are definitely some pre-requisite purchases for teaching online. How much and what type of equipment you need will depend on which aspects of video use in your studio you wish to implement.

​​Let’s start with the basics. Your iPhone or smart phone comes with a built in camera and video camera and can produce some good quality images. IPads and tablets also have built in cameras. Choose the one that you find easier or better to use. I use the still camera for shots of correct seating height and posture to send to parents, for photographing notes and explanations I write on my small whiteboard during the lesson (especially theory or general knowledge lessons), and even for photographing the cover of a book so parents know the right one to purchase. It is quick and easy to share those photos via email, even within the lesson (perhaps while the student is still jotting down any notes and so I don’t need to remember to do it later).

Selfie stick with iphone recording lesson

​​The video in your phone can be used to take short footage of technique issues. Perhaps the student is twisting, but can’t see it for themselves, so a video taken from above can help them to see that instantly. With a bit of creativity, a selfie stick can be used to mount the phone above the keyboard for this purpose. (I used a heavy cushion in the photo.) A video taken from the side (with the phone sitting at the end of the keyboard, secured with blue-tack in the photo) can reveal issues such as wrist height, or involuntary curling of unused fingers. Students can then use these same techniques to video their own practice at home and monitor their progress.

Use an iPhone to record parts of or a whole lesson

The student can also use their own phone or yours to record your demonstration of the correct technique, which they can then refer to at home to help them practise correctly. Some of these short videos are small enough to email directly to the student. Longer videos may need to be shared via an online file service or uploaded as a private video. If you have a file sharing account such as Dropbox, you can set it up to automatically upload any photos or videos to your account when you are connected via Wi-Fi. You can then access them via your computer for file sharing or uploading after the lesson.

Videos don’t need to be limited to practical lessons. One of my adult students, for whom English is a second language, uses her iPad to record our theory lessons; at home she takes notes on the lesson as she watches it again and then brings her notes to the next lesson to check that she has fully understood it all.

Very diligent students can video their whole lesson on their phone or iPad for review and note taking at home. As teachers, we cover a lot of information in a 30, 45 or 60 minute lesson, and it can be difficult to remember all of the details, even for adults and even if good lesson notes are taken (or written by the teacher). Reviewing the video at home after the lesson and taking careful notes of what needs to be attended to leads to much greater progress. The phone can easily sit at the end of the keyboard for a side view of proceedings, or a phone or iPad can be placed on a music stand.

"Reviewing the video at home after the lesson and taking careful notes of what needs to be attended to leads to much greater progress."

iPad recording piano lesson or a mini-performance

​​To help simulate a performance situation, your phone or tablet can be placed on a music stand (or attached to a tripod - more information in another post) to record a whole piece. I have found, however, that a traditional video camera seems to induce a little more adrenaline than a phone in many students, even though they both result in a recording of the performance! Setting up some proper lighting also goes a long way to improving the simulation of a performance setting in terms of the student taking the recording seriously and therefore inducing even more adrenaline production.

Once you have tried out using videos in your studios in these contexts, you may decide it is worth investing in a tripod or holder for your phone or tablet rather than risking them being knocked over or falling over during a performance.

In the next post I’ll discuss some slightly more advanced equipment that won’t break the bank. If you are interested in online lessons, you’ll definitely need more than just a phone or tablet, so stay tuned for more.

Have you come up with other ways to use video recording on your phone/iPad/tablet in your teaching? Please let us know in the comments.

Previous post: Teaching and Learning the Piano from a Distance

Next post: Acoustic vs Digital Piano.

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

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