Free PD: Making More Engaging Video Lessons

One of my biggest self-developments during distance learning was my video lessons. Like most people, I’m sure, my previous video lessons for flipped classroom consisted of screencast slideshows that I narrated over. While these get the job done, I knew that they would likely not be enough to hold my students’ interest during distance learning when I wasn’t there to monitor their attention. When our mitosis unit rolled around, I knew I had to think smarter to get my students to tune into a full lesson from the comfort of their homes. This felt overwhelming- I was competing with TikTok, SnapChat, video games, and other flashy distractions. How could mitosis measure up?

Then, I had a creative spark. One thing led to another, and I ended up with a mitosis video lesson of about 25 minutes that nearly all of my students watched!

My first video lesson!

That first successful lesson was a spark that led me to continue exploring ways in which I could take my videos to the next level. Now, I want to share all of that learning with you! I’ve thrown together a free professional development course, designed to be downloaded and completed at your own pace. It’ll walk you through planning and creating your own awesome videos, and there’s a ton of really great (free!) resources for you to explore and use to make your own video lessons. The PD is geared toward iMovie and GarageBand, but you can do all the same things in similar video and audio editing software available on PCs like Windows Movie Maker and Audacity.

You can download the free PD on my TPT store here! My only asks are that you: a) consider going back to TPT to leave a review after you’ve completed the PD, b) consider giving my store a follow to be alerted about future products, and c) feel free to share this PD with colleagues, but only by directing them to the TPT page and having them download it for themselves. This helps me keep track of data and viewership.

I had sooo much fun putting this PD session together, and I really hope you enjoy it and find it useful in improving your practice no matter what next year looks like! As always, feel free to reach out to me with questions, or let me know what other topics I can help you learn about.

Happy teaching!

GLST Reads: Don’t Read the Comments by Eric Smith

Audience: Young Adult

Genre: Realistic Fiction; Video Games

Author: Eric Smith

Tags: video games, streamers, streaming, girl gamers, strong female lead, gender issues, discrimination

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ /5

Release Date: 01/20/2020

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader Copy of this book for free through Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.


This one’s for my proud #nerds who love video games, whether playing them or watching others play. The main character Divya is a highly successful streamer known as D1V on the well-known game streaming platform Glitch. The money she makes from ads and sponsors help her single mother pay the bills for their small apartment. She catches a lot of flak from strangers on the internet for being a #girlgamer, which has led her to one important rule she sticks to- don’t read the comments. But as the threats from anonymous online group Vox Populi escalate and things turn dangerous IRL, Divya will have to decide how far she’s willing to go to keep her voice.

Meanwhile, Aaron is still busy juggling writing for an indie video game designer with a summer job as a receptionist in his mom’s private practice while trying to convince her that video game design is a career worth pursuing. It might be easier to make his case if only the guy he’s been writing for would actually pay Aaron for his work as promised. When Aaron crosses paths with infamous-but-private D1V on accident while playing his favorite video game, he can’t believe his luck. Slowly he becomes entangled in her world, which he begins to realize is closer to his than he ever thought. While navigating his own struggles, Aaron works to help Divya navigate hers and begins to learn what it really means to be a good ally.

Filled with a lush and well-rounded set of characters (even the most minor background characters have depth and personality), this is a fun, powerful, and timely read about the struggles girls and women face when they try to participate in activities or spaces traditionally thought of as “for guys only” that accurately portrays the impact of video games and streaming on the lives of those for whom it means so much. This was one of my two #bestbooksofMarch for day 3 of my #30booksofApril bookstagram challenge (@msburrowsclass93) over on Instagram. Highly recommend this book!!!

Commentary: Our Teachers Do Not Look Like Our Students

I recently saw a social media post that made me stop and think. It read, “Social Experiment: If you come across this tweet, reply with the grade you were in when you had your first Black male teacher.”

Immediately, I began scanning my memory and working on the math.

I had a high school PE teacher, a chemistry professor in between my associates and my bachelors, and one Ed Tech professor in my bachelors program.

That’s 3 teachers, and I’ve been in school almost 22 years (counting preschool to grad school), taught by over 95 different educators. To my memory, besides one online class in grad school, I have not had a black female teacher.

I grew up in a relatively large, diverse city. I went to highly diverse schools with students from around the world. And still, the vast majority of my teachers were white.

Not one classmate in my teacher preparation program was black. Only three students in my graduating class were Latinx.

No classroom teachers in my building are black. In fact, only one non-foreign language, non-English language learner classroom teacher identifies with an ethnicity other than White. None of our district office staff are black; the only high-level non-white district employee is the ELL coordinator. Here’s the district breakdown from Illinois Report Card:

And here is the ethnic breakdown of students in my district, also courtesy of IRC:

Over 50% of the students in my district will not regularly encounter or work with a staff member who looks like them. They do not see themselves reflected in our academic, educational environment. People who “do school” do not look like them, come from their background, or understand their culture. Over half our students will have this school experience.

In this regard, my district is not unusual.

In most of America, our teachers do not reflect our students. Not even close. I could explain quite a few different systemic reasons for that.

I could begin at the systemic inequities in teacher hiring practices.

But it might be more accurate to begin with the major systemic inequities in teacher preparation programs.

Or, it may further be accurate to point out the systemic inequities in college entrance and attendance and completion.

But that is predicated on the massive systemic inequities in K-12 education.

And those begin with the systemic inequities in access to quality childcare and preschool opportunities.

And even before that, deficits are created by inequitable access to nutrition, literacy, security, and basic necessities for too many families in a developed country in 2020.

But before a child even reaches that point, we must note the systemic inequities in prenatal care that allow non-white women to have far, far higher rates of miscarriage, birth issues, birth defects, etc. compared to white mothers.

Some of this inequitable care stems from a lack of resources and opportunities, and it stems from a lack of quality education.

Which takes us all the way back to college equity, K-12 equity, and the lost opportunities caused by a lack of teachers of color in our public school system.

This is a giant systemic cycle. Massive. And it’s been running nonstop for well over a century now.

The cycle must be broken if everyone is to have the same opportunities for success in life, if we are to truly call ourselves, “One nation, under god, with liberty and justice for all.” It’s not quick and it’s not easy, but working as educators to break the cycle of class, race, and gender-based systemic oppression is one of the most important things we could ever be a part of.

Public school teachers, college educators, parents and families- we have work to do. It is essential. We cannot remain passive and allow another generation of kids to be locked in this cycle, or we become willing contributors.

We must explore together the steps we can take to make a difference in the lives of our students and communities. We must be willing to have some very, very difficult conversations, complete with intensive self-reflection. We must actively encourage teacher preparation programs to seek diverse talent without sacrificing admissions standards, and we must explore the systemic practices that provide an easier path to teacher certification for people from middle-class and upper-class backgrounds. We must involve stakeholders at every level in our mission to diversify our schools and provide our students with mirrors as well as windows. In providing students with diverse role models daily in schools, students not only understand that education is for everyone, but students are also exposed to a variety of perspectives, backgrounds, and cultures, creating a generation that will be more at home than ever in a diverse and welcoming society. This is the future our children deserve now. Together, we have work to do.

GLST Reads: Music From Another World

Author: Robin Talley

Genre: Historical Fiction

Tags: LGBTQ+, coming of age, punk rock, religious issues, family issues, growing up, romance

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

Release Date: 03/31/2020


I received Advanced Reader Copy of this book for free through Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.


An enjoyable romp through 1970s LGBTQ+ San Francisco, Music From Another World is a historical fiction story told through the eyes (and letters) of two young girls deciding how far they’re willing to go to be themselves. The characters, settings, and ESPECIALLY the music in this book took me right back to the cool punk my 15-year-old self desperately wanted to be. Seriously, the soundtrack to this book is 🔥🔥🔥.

The story itself is told through a mix of letters and diary entries from two alternating perspectives. Tammy is a heavily-closeted lesbian trying to survive in Orange County with her evangelical gay-bashing family, while Sharon in San Francisco is coming to terms with the recent knowledge that her older brother is gay. The girls cross paths as pen pals through a school assignment, and their shared fascination with punk music turns a project into a true friendship at a time when both of them just might need it.

There were several things that worked well in this story, and a few things that didn’t. I expected the format of letters and diary entries to grow stale quickly, but for the most part I found I didn’t mind it. Sometimes the letters came across a bit stilted or awkward, especially when Sharon was recounting entire scenes with dialogue to Tammy. I also feel like the initial friendship between Tammy and Sharon lacked development. The pen pal program felt a bit like a convenient plot device to bring these characters together, and the development of the friendship felt a bit rushed and forced. I really liked Peter, and thought his character was the most developed and well-written. The adults in the story largely felt superfluous and, in some cases, cartoonishly stereotypical; something to be generally feared, and of no use to our teen heroines. I adored the scenes at the bookstore, marches, and punk concerts, though I could’ve used more vivid setting descriptions- especially as this book is geared toward an audience who definitely won’t have experienced 70s San Francisco.

I would also feel remiss if I didn’t point out that there are multiple instances of forced outing of multiple characters in this story, as well as negative reaction to some characters coming out. While there is obviously a historical context, I know these things can be triggering to some folks.

Overall, there was a lot of nostalgia in this book, and the story drew some clear modern parallels as many young LGBTQ+ people can relate to the difficulty of being accepted for who you are. A fun romp for the 15-year-old punk in all of us.

GLST Reads: Michigan Vs. the Boys

Author: Carrie S. Allen

Audience: Young Adult

Genre: Sports Fiction/ Realistic Fiction

Tags: sports, hockey, strong female lead, gender issues, discrimination

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ /5

Release Date: 10/01/2019


I received an Advanced Reader Copy of this book for free through Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.


“This is the separate-the-men-from-the-boys part. Lucky for me, I’m all girl.” 

Gosh, I loved this book. As an avid hockey fan and someone who really enjoys strong female leads in traditionally male settings, this book checked so many boxes for me. The story centers around Michigan, a female hockey player devastated to learn that her high school’s girls team has just been cut due to budget issues. While her teammates find various ways to move on from the blow, Michigan, who is not ready to leave her beloved sport behind, makes the bold decision to try out for the boys team instead.

Her drive to succeed and her hockey know-how quickly make Michigan the team’s top scorer and bring a positive spotlight to the program, but things in-house aren’t so hot. Team captain Daniel and several of his buddy teammates make it clear from the start that they believe Michigan has no place on the ice with them. As their antics escalate over the season, Michigan is forced to decide whether her love of the game and fear of losing it are worth continuing to be the victim of increasingly dangerous harassment.

There was much to love about this story, starting with Michigan. Throughout the book I found myself frustrated by her decisions regarding the harassment she experienced at the hands of her own teammates. “Just tell someone!” I raged. But in reflection, these repeated poor decisions are what makes Michigan such a believable character.

So many women in male-centric environments believe that they have to be independent, that harassment or aggressive behavior from male colleagues must be dealt with independently. There is a strong fear of the consequences of being seen as weak. Michigan perfectly embodies that rock and hard place in which many girls and women find themselves, and her story shows all the things that can go wrong when implicit bias and pure sexism continue to pervade.

We also get to see Michigan’s journey to recognizing a big character flaw, over-independence and a refusal to rely on others, which nearly costs her literally all the things she cares about. This includes her relationship with swim team hottie Jack, a character with just enough depth to be enjoyable. Sometimes he just feels like the generic boyfriend character- that is, until later parts of the story, when Michigan (and the reader) is forced to remember that Jack is his own person with very real feelings and opinions.

This book had an enjoyable cast of characters. Even the minor C-List characters, mainly Mich’s old hockey teammates, all manage to feel like unique and interesting people in the brief moments we see them. Mich’s family also felt pretty real. I was also very pleased with how everything was wrapped up in the end.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read that provided a nice treatment of some serious themes of gender bias and discrimination. I really recommend this book to anyone who likes sports stories, strong female characters, and realistic issues in young adult fiction.