Friday, December 19, 2008


I fondly remember the perpetual math teachers' mantra: show your work. To truly assess a student, it is important to see how they arrived to their answer. You have to look at all the steps. And that goes for all subject areas.

In a digital classroom setting, one powerful tool is screencasting. In a nutshell, screencasting captures a video of your computer screen as you navigate, and simultaneously captures your narration. The resulting video can be shared, posted, edited in a movie-editing program, or spliced into a podcast producer.

In working with teachers, I've realized this takes some different instructional thinking. Here are some ideas:
  • Narrated presentations in power point.
  • Narrated demonstrations of how to use a program
  • Documentation of a student of whom you want to assess his "time on task"
  • Multimedia presentations including several open windows at once
  • Multimedia presentations involving a webcam of a student speaking
  • Recorded analysis (for example, give students a diagram and some highlighting tools and have them record their analysis of what the diagram means)
  • Teacher instructions/help files for students to review
  • Teacher-made supplementary materials or instructions on projects for ELL students or those with special needs

Two of my favorite uses have nothing to do with instruction. Many districts in the Des Moines area have teachers make a screencast when there is something wrong on their computer, and then send the file to the technician to look at (sure beats an attempt to describe the issue through email). And one teacher I know has been leaving screencasted lesson plans for substitutes for over 5 years now.

There are several programs out there that do screencasting. Snapz Pro is one of the most widely-used screencasting tools, and it comes with a bevy of features. I currently use a slightly less expensive alternative called iShowU, which integrates well with my Mac-based programs. But for student use, at school or at home (and cross-platform), one handy option is the free Jing. Depending on your needs, there is an excellent product out there.

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