Online videos promoting students, districts

Both national and local talent is being used to help Elk River, Milaca other Minnesota students and families learn from online videos. That’s good news for students and a compliment to teachers who continue seeking new ways to help students learn.

Casey Mahon, manager of communications for Elk River wrote, “We are using video more strategically to share school and district stories, as well as news. We just finished a video that explains our strategic planning process, which we shared with all parents who have e-mails on file (10,000-plus). Video can be a more interesting way to communicate stories, news, features, etc. “The district also created a video showing how Parker Elementary teachers used a “flash mob” to increase student interest in reading: =TVnazay5 AYw&feature=related.

Julie Cook, a Milaca math teacher, is, according to principal Troy Anderson, “doing the flipped method of teaching with her intermediate algebra classes. The students watch the instruction via the video clip outside of class: The students then have more work time with the expert during class time.

Cook reports, “I have had positive reactions from most of my students. They like this method because they can watch the videos multiple times if needed and they are able to ask questions and work through the problems in class where I am able to help them. Of course, as with all new things, I had a few students that struggled with the change, but after a few weeks most of them are now telling me how much they enjoy it. Their scores have also shown the benefits of this approach.”

She continued, “There are many kids that are quiet and even though they have questions they are afraid to ask, but with the added time they are given in class, I am able to stop by and check on them and I am the one initiating the questions. I think, for some students, this is the best way for them to get help.

“Also, with the extra time in class I am able to see where the students are having troubles and able to address those right away to the whole class, instead of having them go home and struggle through the assignment. There are still some students that don’t have access. Our school’s computer lab is open from 7:30–4:30. This allows the students the ability to watch them before, after or during school. I have many students that watch these videos during their study hall as well. I also give the students access to my school iPad if they would rather watch the video in my room, but I only allow this during their study hall, before or after school.”

Jeffrey McGonigal, Anoka-Hennepin’s associate superintendent for high schools pointed me to HippoCampus, which has hundreds of free videos that educators, families and students can use:

This is part of the Minnesota Learning Campus website, a project of the Minnesota Department of Education, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System, and the University of Minnesota.

For a different approach, check out a video by Minnesota Transitions, an inner city charter school that cleverly focuses on negative numbers. It’s called “Don’t be Negative,” and is found at

Finally, West St. Paul Sibley High School teachers sent several videos they have created. The first helps explain how they are replacing word problems with video problems:

Sibley teachers also are helping students make their own videos illustrating physics principles. A basic learning principle is if you can explain something to others clearly and accurately, you know the subject well.

I saw enormous creativity among the 30 districts and schools I contacted. Here’s hoping that we’ll see more sharing among districts. — Joe Nathan (Editor’s note: Nathan, formerly a Minnesota public school teacher, directs the Center for School Change at Macalester College. Reactions welcome, [email protected])