Tips For Using Video in Your Early Learning Service

Ideas for using produced videos

This year, about 80% of content people view online will be video, says the authoritative US Inc magazine. You are probably using videos in your learning stories or in your communications with parents as way to share activity in your center.  Educa supports sharing videos in stories and messages to parents in this way.

This article is not about raw videos like this.  It explains that produced videos — with snippets spliced together and formatting added. This type of video can help your early learning service build its digital presence.  And don’t stop your thinking there. Videos are also powerful tools to help your educators improve their practice, too.

Why use videos?

Online advertising company, WordStream, has a great piece about the power of video. A standout statistic in there is that when people watch a video they retain 95% of the message compared to just 10% when reading it in text.

Here’s our list of some prompts in using video for your early learning service, but there are many more to explore.

  • Promote your service to prospective families – here’s an example by HDS Early Childhood or you could look at whiteboard animation, which is now very affordable,
  • Feature your director or manager in a video interview – even if you only have one camera
  • Hand your local TV station a ready-made video story for their social media site or even broadcast TV
  • Create a time lapse video – here’s how – a 360 degree video with your phone – to wow your families
  • Enhance learning stories compiling still images with music or a voiceover such as this graduation video
  • Feature video testimonials from parents on your website
  • Improve your processes – Early Childhood Australia asks if you have filmed arrival times at your centre, what are the key features and how do they demonstrate your philosophy?
  • Give more insightful feedback to educators including over time
  • Enrich children’s meaning-making when you’re reading aloud
  • Modelling video-making to children to scaffold their learning and skills in that tech

Video recording skill tips

Have in your mind’s eye the kind of film you’d like to produce. Maybe you work better with tangibles. You could sketch out a storyboard showing the sequence of scenes or an overall synopsis. Think how you can transition from one scene to another. Perhaps a simple static slide with text or panning out from a scene will give the visual cue that focus is about to move elsewhere.

Modern filming combines shots of three to six seconds in length, although you’ll need longer so your subjects speak in sentences rather than short news grabs. Shorter footage means you’ll have an easier editing job, too.

Get the lighting spot-on and consistent – use window light. It’s soft, even and will give you a clearer pic. Early morning and evening filming will give you a softer light.

Tips for using your phone to film

We’ll assume you’re using your phone to film. Avoid portrait mode unless you want those nasty thick black stripes on either side of your image. Go for a wide horizontal landscape shot.

Make like professional cinematographers and use tilt, pan, slide and dolly zoom. Have we lost you? These are all done slowly – no sharp movements. To tilt, hold the camera in a fixed position, then move it vertically either from top to bottom or the reverse. Same deal for panning from left to right or the other way. A slide isn’t a pan or tilt because you’re not actually pivoting from a point. In less than three minutes, you’ll learn from this video how to create a create a smooth slider shot without a slider device.

Avoid the digital zoom as it will be jerky and create pixelated images. Mimic the dolly zoom professionals use when they attach their camera to a wheeled device they can push along rails along the ground or on a platform. A dolly zoom with a phone on the cheap is holding the phone near you, focusing on the subject, then moving it slowly closer to the subject.

Featuring movement is a ‘must’ for making videos more engaging. Tilt, slide and dolly zoom are all about helping immerse your audience in the scene. If you’re filming a process, consider tackling jump cuts as they just cut to the action, shrinking a boring five minute sequence into a few seconds.

You’ll notice we haven’t mentioned tripods here. You won’t need them if you can control the camera smoothly by hand. It takes practice.

Editing your videos

Your computer and smartphone will have video options for basic filming and editing. For those with a little more time, check out online movie/video maker apps such as Kizoa, Filmora or dig deeper with HubSpot’s list of the top 15 video editing apps. A nifty free program that includes video editing and compositing is HitFilm Express (free tutorials on YouTube), OBS (for screen captures).

Adding polish

Match the ambience of the music to your images. Google to find a free audio library for copyright free music. But don’t stop there. Add relevant sound effects. No problem if you don’t have a professional-quality microphone on hand as the BBC has made its library of 16,000 sound effects available for free.

If it all seems a bit too hard, remember there are YouTube training videos, free or affordable courses such as on Udemy, Lynda, Vimeo, and even the top 5 best video editing apps for kids if delegating it sounds like an option. There may also be knowledgeable people in your own network, so put your questions out there. Seek recommendations for software that suits your needs.

Spotlight on educators

Consider using videos to capture your educators’ practice and give deeper insight than a live observation would. An Australasian Journal of Early Childhood[1] article found videos “seemed to show the greatest promise” for teacher candidates to study the realities of teaching and learning in action”.

“Videos can capture richer, more detailed and complex events and situations of learning and teaching than can text-based descriptions. Video technology provides more convenient access to diverse learners and teachers in a variety of contexts than live observation,” says the study.

“Furthermore, with videos always available online, users can view (and review) them at places and times of their convenience as many times as they like and at their own pace.”

The study says video gives the inexperienced a chance to really appreciate the “complexity of learning and teaching”. By viewing the same video clips repeatedly with others, for example, they can deepen their discussions and reflections.

Enhancing ‘read aloud time’

You may not have thought of integrating video tech on tablets into your read-aloud sessions with children, as researchers Emily Hoffman and Joseph Rumenapp[2] have suggested. The idea is to record children’s reaction to a read-aloud session, then discuss those interactions with them. This way, they’re engaging with the real-aloud many times, increasing the meaning they make from the text. This approach brings to life Vygotsky social constructivist theory of learning.

Hoffman and Rumennap say: “Dialogic read-alouds engage students in interactive thought and discussion, contributing to rich, complex comprehension informed by multiple perspectives.

“… picture book extension activities follow interactive read-alouds and include additional discussion or engagement with the story’s various elements, creating a space for students to talk among themselves to navigate a collectively informed and individually agreed-upon meaning.”

Videos allow educators to extend students’ thinking and explore new ideas because it’s a “tool of connecting prior experiences to further learning”, say Hoffman and Rumennap. They also nudge educators to have reflective questions on hand to ask students when viewing the recording. Suggestions include, “Sometimes we can remember things that people say. Can you tell me about what you heard on the video” or “sometimes we can remember how something made us feel. Can you tell me about how you feel when you watch this video?”.

You might also be interested to see if there’s more or less meaning making if you video record children watching the Storybox Library’s online videos of ‘favourite stories read by our best storytellers’.

Using video modelling to teach

Children with autism may be better suited to learning skills through video modelling (VM), says a New England Center for Children study[3]. Segmenting skills or actions on the video “improved their acquisition rates”, it said.

However, there are limitations with the research.

“Although VM may add value and increase efficiency in behavioral and educational programming for many individuals with autism, further specification of the critical prerequisite skills is needed,” said the study authors.

Further research needs to look at how long after viewing the video, the child performs the task for the first time as well as what role short-term recall has for learning through VM.


[1] Lee, JS; Ginsburg, Preston, MD. [2009] Video Interactions and Learning (VITAL): Analyzing Videos Online to Teach Early Childhood Mathematics. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, June 1, 2009, Vol 34, No. 2, pp19-23

[2] Hoffman, EB & Rumenapp, JC. [2016]. Using Tabelts’ Video Technology to Enrich Early Childhood Read-Alouds. Illinois  Reading Council Journal. Sept 1, 2016. Pp23-33

[3] MacDonald, RPF; Dickson, CA; Martineau, M; and Ahearn, WH.  Prerequisite Skills that Support Learning through Video Modelling. Education and Treatment of Children, Vol 38, No 1, 2015. Pp33-48

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