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Doceri Teacher Feature: Aubrie Holman

Name: Aubrie Holman

Subject: Honors IBET Biology (Integrated Biology English and Technology)

AubrieHolmanSchool: Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology

District:  Fairfax County Public Schools

State: Virginia

What drove you to begin making Doceri screencasts for your students?

When I started teaching at a school for science and technology, I quickly realized my ninth-grade students needed to learn most of the AP biology curriculum while also conducting a year-long research project.  I felt like I had to completely change the way I interacted with my students to “cram” in all the material.  Labs, if we had time for them, lacked analysis and a sense of completion, learning seemed superficial, and there wasn’t enough time in class discussions and activities—the very things that my past students loved and remembered most.

Originally, I was using Doceri as a way to adapt to moving around a building under renovation—it was an adaptable interactive whiteboard.  But when time got really tight, I used Doceri to make one very rough screencast.  And while the kids mocked my sound quality, at the end of the year almost ALL of them said in their final surveys that I should do more videos.  Teenagers never agree so wholeheartedly on much of anything.  I took it as a sign, and decided to try to make as many of my lessons into screencasts as I could the following year.

Did you completely flip your classes?

I’d say yes…with a few exceptions.  Every unit I teach has at least two lessons on YouTube.  I like to use “puppets” (really they’re cardstock cutouts with magnets on the back) to teach a few topics throughout the year.  So I still teach a few lessons in class, but it seems more like story time.  All of what I’d consider lecture is online in screencasts.  Actually, the few occasions I’ve taught a brief lesson (for example, on the t-test) in class, my students have asked me to record it.

A_Holman1I wasn’t sure if flipping would work.  I started out facing parents that seemed resistant to the idea of online lectures, only to find out later that they love them.  YouTube lessons mean parents and children can learn side-by-side.

I’m glad I took the leap and decided to put in the extra effort to get lessons online this year.  I had to be really honest with myself and acknowledge that what I had been doing was not my style or my best work, and it wasn’t working. I’m so happy in my classroom this year and cannot wait to make more changes next year to get the most out of my class time with students—including having them use Doceri more often.

How has Doceri changed how you interact with your students?

I feel like I’m able to keep one step ahead of their questions; I can address those “tricky” topics right away and emphasize my point with a story or illustration.  The time we spend together is more meaningful and productive because everyone comes to class with some common ground.  Then, class time can be used for practice, enrichment, lots of labs, and most important—time for their year-long research paper.

I work with a team of teachers, and it’s amazing to be able to tell them that I can set


I projected these DNA origami coloring instructions for use after a test.

aside a whole hour to just let our students work together on their writing while I act as a facilitator, a mediator when discussions get heated, and a sounding board for questions.  I find myself much more in touch with students’ needs—able to get a feel for where they are and how far I can push them to stretch their existing skills and build new ones.   And if it turns out they need more support, I can just throw a 5-10 minute video on YouTube after class.

My students are happier because they know they’re free to learn whenever and in whatever way makes them most comfortable.  (I never expected them to rave about these lessons the way they do…don’t high school students have a reputation for complaining about everything?) I’m happier because I can focus on them—and I know that they are all able to access a lesson of consistent quality (it’s hard to do the same prep six times in a row and not forget stuff or confuse yourself).  And my relaxed, happy attitude in the classroom makes the learning environment a much better place for all of us!

What advice do you have for new Doceri teachers?

1. Get to know the program using a topic you’re really familiar with and enjoy teaching.  If possible, just spend a few weeks playing with all the buttons. OR…let your students use it for an assignment and learn from them.  I let my students use Doceri in class for ONE hour and learned three new tricks over six class periods.

2. Keep your videos short…they upload faster.  And as an early YouTube user…I had more success uploading at off-peak times.

3. Start small, let Doceri make things easier for you.  One of my favorites is using it to make lab instructions visual.  Just take a screenshot and annotate.  I can say with a picture and a few words what would take a paragraph.

Sample video:


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