6 February 2017
If you’ve run a successful crowdfunding campaign, there’s a pretty good chance that a teacher will ask you to speak for his/her class. There’s also a good chance that the class will be in a different city than you, so you’ll need to teach over Skype or Google Hangouts.
At least, that’s a hunch based on my experience. I’m asked to teach in this capacity every 2-3 months, either about crowdfunding or about game design/publisher. I’ve learned a few things along the way about teaching via Skype, and I have a solution for the problems presented by remote teaching.
I’m flattered by the opportunity to share my experiences, mistakes, and insights with students. I want to be very clear about this, as the “Challenges” section below may make it sound like I’m not happy about these opportunities. I don’t take them for granted.
Also, I relish the chance to teach more than one person at once–it’s the same philosophy for which I always encourage people to ask me questions in the comments on this blog, not through private message where only one person benefits from the conversation. You may feel the same way as more and more people contact you for advice.
Will teaching increase your backer total? Probably not. So if you’re prioritizing outreach opportunities during a busy campaign, teaching is at the bottom of the list.
A few months ago, I spoke to a middle school class over Skype about game design. I’m sure it’s hard enough for teachers to capture and retain the attention of middle school students in person, much less over Skype.
Skype is a wonderful tool, but there are too many layers of technology between me and the students. I’m trying to talk to the students and connect with them, but really I’m just talking to a camera and a microphone. It’s really hard to pick up signals from the students, and it’s even more difficult to get them to participate when I’m hundreds of miles away.
It’s tough for the students too. I’m asking them to engage with someone who isn’t there. Plus, they don’t know me, nor did they select me–the teacher did.
Last, if a teacher asks you to lecture for their class, unless you’re a truly gifted speaker, you’re going to have to prepare in advance. Your time is precious and limited, and for every 20 minutes you lecture, you’re probably going to spend about 1 hour preparing the presentation (if not more). That may be more time than you were hoping to commit.
Soon after I spoke for the middle school class, I was asked to speak for some elementary students. I wanted to try something different, so I proposed a new method to the teacher, and apparently it went over quite well.
I say “apparently” because we didn’t actually Skype at all. Instead, I asked the teacher to gather questions from her students (and augment them with some of her own) and send them to me over e-mail. Then I filmed a video just for her class in which I answered all of the questions, and I uploaded it as an unlisted video on YouTube. The teacher played it for her class a few days later.
Here’s why I much prefer this method:
- Engagement: The students are asked to think of questions in advance, so they’re actually invested in what you’re going to say. Even if they don’t care, they’re going to pay attention to see if you answer their question (ask the teacher to give you the first names of the students who asked the questions).
- Time: It still takes time to think about what I’m going to say in a video, as I want to give good answers to the questions. But it’s much faster than preparing a lecture.
- Timing: I don’t have to coordinate my schedule with the class. I can film the video whenever I want, and the teacher can play it whenever they want.
- Visuals: Since I know the questions in advance, I can have visuals on hand during the recording. I used a bunch of different games and components for the elementary video.
- Preparation: The teacher can watch the video in advance (if they want) so they can be prepared for the material I’m presenting.
- Flexibility: A teacher can’t press pause when I’m live on Skype. But they can pause a pre-recorded video and questions to their class.
- Permanence: There are ways to record Skype videos, but I don’t think most people do it. You teach the class, and then that information is gone forever. It’s really handy to have a permanent video that I can share on my YouTube channel as I wish.
Granted, there is one big loss when using this method: If students think of questions while watching the video, they can’t ask me. But in my experience, students very rarely ask questions over Skype.
Also, there are exceptions to this method. I recently spoke for Jay Little’s game design class. Jay does an amazing job at hosting the discussion, as he asks questions and is super engaged. A great teacher like Jay can bridge the gap in technology between you and the class.
The next time I film a video like this, I’d like to end it with a few discussion questions for the class. Also, thanks to film student Erin D. at Webster, I now know that solid-colored shirts with collars in the following colors work best on camera:
Have you ever lectured or learned over Skype? If so, do you have any tips or techniques to suggest? What do you think of this pre-recorded method?