5 Ways to Use Screencasts

Screencasts are a powerful tool for teaching and learning, and have become a regular part of my class. Before incorporating screencasts into your classroom please keep the following in mind.

  • Find a screencast app or tool that works best for you. I use the free version of Screencast-O-Matic, although next year I am going to upgrade to the pro account. I find it easy to use and great for those just starting out. Here is a webpage from Flipped-History.com, which is a great resource on creating screencasts and many other things involving teaching and technology.
  • Get a good microphone. I use a body microphone that I clip to my shirt. I love this option because it only records my voice and hardly picks up any background noise, which is essential if you plan on recording while at school.
  • Don’t worry about perfection. I have definitely fell victim to redoing a screencast one too many times and wasting what little teacher time I have. However, I try to roll with my mistakes and not worry too much about mispronunciations and misspeaks.

Without further ado, here are 5 ways to use screencasts in your class.

1. Deliver Content

Finding the right video to deliver content to students is not always easy. For my kids Crash Course is too fast, BrainPop too slow, and many videos on YouYube don’t cover everything I need. I find that making my own videos has become easier and more beneficial for my students. The content is exactly what I want my students to know. The videos are made in my voice, which is tailored to my students, and is something they are familiar with. Content videos are great for review, absent students, to flip your classroom, or to help blend your students learning. Here is an example of my video on the reign of Justinian I from the Byzantine Empire:

2. Model Skills

Recently I have begun to use my document camera in my screencast videos as a way to model and teach skills. By being able to split my screen, as shown in the video below, I can show students how to take notes, annotate sources or use parenthetical citations. If you are a math teacher this is a great way to show your students how to divide or solve a problem. Like content videos, these skills videos are great for review, for absent students or to flip your classroom. Most importantly, skills videos allow students to learn at their own pace. Certain students might only need one viewing and then are ready to work. Others might need to watch the video many times or have to pause and push play to work through the skill at a slower pace. Best of all, students can then access the video at home or anywhere outside of the classroom to support their learning. The following video I made for my students modeling how to use the Gist strategy to take notes on what they read:

3. Directions For When You Are Absent

Typically, a day with an absent teacher equals a lost day for students – even with the best written sub plans and an excellent sub, it is hard to expect students to be able to progress in the same way as if you were there. I now make a screencast video going over the directions, often modeling for students what exactly they need to do, and pair that with a screencast content video and voila – the unit moves forward as planned. I of course pair the screencast with well written directions and plenty of support for the sub. Here is an example of one of the videos I used earlier this year when I was out of school for a training:

4. Tech How-To

The reality is that students continue to use more and more applications, sites, and programs in their schooling. They also are able to pick things up quickly, and the combined tech-knowledge of my classes usually surpasses mine. So when I need students to log into a new site, create accounts or get acquainted with a particular program, I do not want to spend much time. Therefore, I make a screencast with the directions on how to log-on, sign up, create, save, and share so that I do not have to lead the class through this. These tech how-to videos can be used as a Do-Now, freeing you up to trouble-shoot, check homework, or follow up with those certain students. Or, assign the video for homework and have your students come to class the following day signed up and ready to learn. Again, the beauty of the screencast is it allows students to move at their own pace, so those that need a few viewings to get it straight can without taking all of your time. Students that are absent have no trouble catching up and can do so from anywhere. The video below is an example of a tech how-to I have used recently:

5. Improve Teacher-Parent Communication

The last and most recent way I have been using screencast videos is to improve communication between myself and parents. Screencast is a great way to remind parents about an upcoming field trip and what their children need to bring, introduce them to a new program or project that is of interest to them, to explain ways they can get involved with the class or to simply give them an update on how the year is going. I still find it necessary to accompany the videos with a letter or email home, and of course any personal conversations with parents still must happen over the phone or in person. The screencast puts a more personal touch on home communication and can improve your ability to communicate with parents. This is a video I put together to introduce to my student’s parents how I use Instagram in my class:

Hi 5!

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