Ever since I first watched the amazing screencasts at Khan Academy, I’ve wanted to make some of my own. However, I thought making a screencast was for the professionals. People who could afford lots of high-tech gadgets and had the hours it took to create them. This week I learned how easy it is to make good-quality screencasts without a lot of expensive equipment or hours spent chained to your computer. Be warned – it’s so easy that you might just find yourself on YouTube, too!
It was surprisingly easy to make my first video, or screencast. All you are doing is narrating what’s happening on the screen and recording it as a video. Simple! I did have to purchase some equipment, but for the price I paid, I was able to make a good-quality screencast. There are a lot of variations on tools and software, but here’s what I used.
- SMART Notebook software – My classroom has an interactive whiteboard from SMART Technologies, so I kept it simple and stayed with their corresponding software. I used the Smart Notebook built-in video recorder tool. It comes with the program and does a fine job.
- Wacom Bamboo Graphics Tablet – I bought this from Amazon for about $80. There is a learning curve with this device. Be prepared to spend not only some money to purchase the tablet, but also time to practice using it. I’m still not as good at manipulating the pen like Sal Khan, but I hope that with practice there will come a greater degree of expertise.
- Microsoft Headset/Microphone – You can buy a good-quality microphone at Staples or Walmart. Make sure you get one with a USB plug-in so you avoid the scratchy background noise that comes with the traditional jack plug-in.
- YouTube account – I chose to save my videos at YouTube even though I was able to easily upload my video files to my class website. However, there was a delay of about 2 minutes after clicking on the link as you waited for the file to download. Ugh! When I save it to YouTube, I just hyperlink it to my class website and there’s virtually no wait time. Straight to the learning!
For more information, check out this post at TeachThought.com. This is where I went for advice when I was first researching how to make a screencast. (Ladies, one of the nicest things about making screencasts that no man will ever tell you is that you can make these videos without wearing a stitch of make-up!)
Smart Uses for Screencasts
I’ve only been using these little tutorials for a week now, so it may be too soon to evaluate their effectiveness. Here is what I can share:
- Teaching Resource – The screencast is one part of my lesson, but not the entire thing. A screencast is not meant to replace a living, breathing teacher. The screencast is just another resource I use to teach the lesson objectives. Since I have a Whole Brain Teaching classroom, I like to pause the screencast every 20 seconds or so. Then I add gestures and have the students do a Teach-Okay with each other. Another way to keep students engaged is to use small dry erase slates during the video. If I’m showing a math screencast, for example, I will often pause and have them copy a problem to solve on their slates.
- Extra Learning – Some students need to hear a lesson repeatedly, or have extra practice sessions. Having a computer-based classroom makes it easy for them to plug in their headsets and listen as many times as needed. Students who have Internet access at home can easily watch it there, too.
- Absent Students – Life happens and students miss school. Sickness, family emergencies, doctor’s appointments…these can all interfere with a student’s education. While the video doesn’t replace the teacher, it can help make up for lost time when a student has been absent. A screencast is also great for a sub when it’s the teacher who is absent!
- Focused Instruction – After every math test, I like to analyze it and look at the difficulties revealed by the assessment. I’m looking to determine how many students missed each problem. Depending on which problems they missed, I can then assign individual students to re-watch specific screencasts and complete the accompanying problems for more practice.
So here it is – my first screencast. Believe it or not, I made this on only my second take. I think it’s pretty good for a first attempt. Years from now, I might cringe with embarrassment! Check it out.
I’m going to keep making these screencasts, and reflect on their impact with my students. If all goes well, I might venture into different subject areas. If not, oh well. Live and learn! I’m certainly no Sal Khan, but I don’t have to be. My screencasts reflect my knowledge, personality and what my students are learning. That’s a wrap!