Posts Tagged ‘ technology ’

Using Screencasting for Teaching, by Kirk McDermid

Using Screencasting for Teaching, by Kirk McDermid

by Dr. Kirk McDermid, Department of Philosophy and Religion, Montclair State University

Courtesy Creative Commons, 2012.

Quick (boring) facts:

“Screencasting” is recording all or part of what’s happening on a computer’s display, to share with someone at a later date . It’s often used in software tutorials to give new users a visual aid to help familiarize them with the software . There are many different packages out there that can record screencasts, but I’ll be writing about a free service called “Jing” ( Jing allows you to record a whole screen, a window, or a user-defined portion of a screen. It records up to 5 minutes of 10-frames-per-second video (so, not good for actual video, but just fine for showing mouse movements, etc.) and allows you to save them locally as swf (Flash) video files, or host them on (Techsmith also offers “Snagit,” which records more than 5 minutes and adds features, and Camtasia, an even more feature-filled screen-capture and video creator package.) Jing works on Windows (all contemporary versions) and Mac OS X 10 .6 .8 or later.

How I use it:

As with all teachers, I am constantly trying to find ways to improve communication with my students, and give them more effective feedback on their work—especially written work. And, of course, I’m lazy; I’d like to do it efficiently. (I’m also not the fastest typist, so I find that while typed feedback is an improvement over handwriting, it’s still very time consuming). I do use rubrics or other ‘pre-made’ commentary for general or common feedback, but that just doesn’t cut it when you find something that doesn’t fit the categories you defined before reading student work. I also find that I’m not good at conveying nuance in my comments— students find it difficult to distinguish ‘minor’ comments or asides from central, fundamental feedback about their work.

(And it gets worse when I can’t control my sarcasm or humor. For some reason, students aren’t prepared to detect those when they’re reading evaluations of their work.)

So, I screencast.

Courtesy Creative Commons, 2012.

Courtesy Creative Commons, 2012.

It’s simple: I set up a Jing window to record an area of a few lines’ worth of their paper, and I record myself reading it . (Yes, I almost entirely accept coursework in electronic form. I always have a copy; we have email records (or other means) to validate submissions, and the writing is always legible.) I skip over the dull parts (the dull parts of my reading, that is) by pressing a “pause recording” button, so it appears that I’ve read sections very fast sometimes, but then the whole screencast is full of commentary from me. (You can see times when I do that in the example screencasts, as my mouse flicks down to the left where the pause button is located outside the recording frame.) Sometimes it takes two or even three five-minute videos to read and respond to an entire paper, but if it’s one-two pages, one video does the trick . Then, just a brief typewritten summary at the end of the paper (mostly to remind myself of the evaluation I just gave in video form) and it’s returned to the student with a link to the screencast. (Total elapsed time is more than just the five-minute video that’s produced; if you screw up something or get interrupted, Jing doesn’t let you edit—you have to start over. But generally I get videos done in a single take, with only a few minutes of paused reading time, so a five-minute video might take 6-10 minutes to produce.)

Here is an example of a short essay that took me two five-minute videos to read: and .

But essays aren’t the only student work that visual and verbal feedback can help with. I use screencasts in a critical thinking/ informal logic course, where students have to do things like reconstruct an argument into a structured format for analysis. There are many moving parts, and it’s a nightmare to give good feedback just by typing, as your focus shifts from premise to premise as you critique their work. Another benefit: it’s easy to post screencast links as part of a discussion thread, and other students can easily follow along and benefit, too . Here’s an example:

How do students respond? I haven’t done a formal study, so all I have are anecdotes which are generally very positive. I’ve had students describe it as having me “read their paper over their shoulder.” Yes, I thought that sounded creepy too, but they intended it as an endorsement. I find that students can understand me better, as they can hear my tone and emphasis. They can also replay the video whenever they want . (Another under-appreciated benefit, in my view, is that they have to listen to the whole thing to understand my evaluation— they can’t skip to the end or just find “the grade” to see what I thought of the paper.) Like any assignment and feedback, what you put in a Jing screencast is only as good as your feedback, and the structure of your assignment. I typically assign papers that can be revised and resubmitted; students have a good motive to listen to my feedback in that case (whether it was a Jing, or not). I also find that students have fewer misunderstandings about what I’m referring to in my feedback—some errors or problems can’t be easily located using a pen on paper (arrows, circles, everywhere!!) but with a Jing, they can see you draw or scroll to the areas you’re focused on. (See the logic screencast above for a good example of that .) I used to screencast on a convertible tablet, using a pen to scribble on documents as I read and talked (awesome); now I have a plain laptop, but I can indicate passages clearly just by moving the mouse (great, not awesome).

I do also use Jing to screencast tutorials; if you’ve ever had students complain they don’t know where to find something on Blackboard, use a screencast to answer that once, then post it somewhere you know they can find it. I also run an off-campus hosted wiki as a coursework site for students; Jing eases the learning curve, since it’s something they’ve never done before . (It’s a unique type of wiki.) Here’s an example:

About the author:

Kirk McDermid is an assistant professor of philosophy at Montclair State University. As a philosopher and physicist (BSc in physics from UBC, MSc and PhD in philosophy from the London School of Economics and the University of Western Ontario, respectively) interested in the philosophy of science and epistemology, he has published in Physics Letters A, Religious Studies and Teaching Philosophy. He is also associate faculty at Royal Roads University in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, team teaching a course on critical thinking for Justice Studies students with a law enforcement veteran. He is always interested in exploring innovative pedagogy and instructional technology as ways to increase student engagement and make differentiated, student-driven learning manageable for instructors. His current research interests center on developing an epistemology of student plagiarism, examining the philosophical import of variational methods in physics, and implementing a semantic wiki to manage student learning and collaboration.

Managing your online persona as an educator

There seems to be a lingering question of how and if we present ourselves to students via social media. This post offers some good guidelines for managing your online presence, with a very useful collection of further resources at the bottom of the post. As always, please share your thoughts about interacting online with students and establishing an online persona as an educator.

Five Minute Video with Will Richardson

Will Richardson argues for radically changing how we teach, how we approach student learning, and integrating technology into the classroom. He’s a very compelling (though fast) speaker. This is a short video reminiscent of Sir Ken Robinson’s ideas on education and change.

Originally sourced from:

Work That Matters | High Tech High

Via Scoop.itEducation and Social Media

From the website

“The teacher’s guide to project-based learning” Free for download

How to design and run projects for students that begin with an enquiry and end with a tangible, publicly exhibited product. This guide has grown out of the partnership between High Tech High, the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Innovation Unit.”

This newly published 100-page guide is available for free download. It is the product of an extensive collaboration primarily between High Tech High (a 10-year-old network of 11 public charter schools in San Diego) and Learning Futures (a UK-based non-profit organization that has worked with over 40 schools on innovative methods of teaching and learning, focusing on student engagement). -JL

The guide “offers step-by-step advice on planning and managing extended, interdisciplinary projects as well as useful protocols for critique sessions, templates for important documents such as project plans, and examples of high-impact projects.”


More Resources – Flipped Classroom

I know, I know. I’ve posted a lot of information and opinion on flipped classrooms lately. Since this link takes you to a diigo page of resources and articles on flipped classrooms – all in one spot – I had to share it. I hope it’s helpful!

Flipped Classroom.

In Defense of Studying Social Media – 10,000 Words

In Defense of Studying Social Media – 10,000 Words.

Should a more indepth and critical knowledge of social media be articulated by granting certificates and degrees in this area of study? This article advocates for such, and for moving beyond personal and more superficial knowledge of these platforms, so that employers and academics can better demonstrate and exercise the power of social media in the work place and the classroom. Discuss.

Are you Facebook friends with your students? Should you be?

Are you Facebook friends with your students? Should you be? Comments and experiences welcome.

teaching and learning with technology

In the normal classroom discussion the other day I was interested to find that everyone in the class (16 of them) have joined a Facebook group that one of them set up as a Literature study group. They’re all there, I asked and checked, and are discussing and asking questions and supporting each other (I hope) and pushing each other in the right directions (I hope)

I hope because I’m not sure. And I’m not sure because I’m not there. I’m not allowed to ‘friend’ students or be connected to them in social networks according to our school policy; a policy that I had a hand in developing. But, you’ve got to wonder. Here am I out here, trying to utilise our own online tools including a pretty decent wiki and blog setup, to get student collaboration and participation going and, here are they in there, doing it themselves, in…

View original post 83 more words

For those interested in instantly gauging student understanding of concepts, polling for student opinions and perspectives on issues raised through discussion, or just curious on how you might integrate this in your teaching practice, check out these new tools. Read the full entry for more information of how these tools are utilized, and how easy they can be used for instant student feedback on learning.

TED Lessons Worth Sharing – Critical Balance

This blog post examines the 10-minute lectures, an initiative based on animating the best TED Lectures and lecturers:

I’m re-posting this analysis because it relates to our discussion of the flipped classroom (pre-recording lectures for students), and because I think Dr. Runte makes some wonderful points about reducing knowledge to encapsulated bits of information that may not allow for deeper thinking, critical discussion, and a regimen of disciplined learning that serves them well into their academic lives and careers.  Could this be enabling a further reduction in student attention spans? Thoughts?

The Flipped Classroom: The Good and Bad of the New Old Trend

by Julie Dalley

A new buzz word has been wending its way through the online education forums and blogs: the flipped classroom. There seems to be a lot of confusion about what this means exactly, and here are some borrowed definitions as well as a look at how this method is anything but new.

What is a Flipped Classroom?

A flipped classroom is one in that the students do research, study, and analysis of core concepts and exercises outside of the course, and the instructor has them practice applying these concepts during class time. Most models call for the instructor to pre-record lectures (sometimes as podcasts, mostly as videos uploaded to  In the flipped model, the core concepts are viewed by the student prior to class and class time is taken up with applying these concepts and wrestling with problems or exercises using this core knowledge. All of the examples I have seen have been math classes, probably due to their heavy reliance on lecture to impart fundamentals and then consistent practice that reinforces learning. In addition, most of the models I’ve found online are K-12, but I suspect that many higher education instructors are using some variation of this model and are just not calling it a “flipped” classroom. For an example, see my first link below under Resources. Kieran Mathieson, associate professor of information systems at Oakland University, also integrates interactive exercises and e-textbooks, in addition to lecture:”My variant on this is that the independent, outside-of-class work also includes many exercises, with formative feedback. See for a short story. I’ve been running courses this way for a few years.”

I don’t know if “flipped” or “backward” are appropriate terms for this model of learning and instruction. You actually are NOT reversing instruction (are the students teaching you?), you are delivering it in a different way, so “flipping” may just be a catchy idiom. As one video pointed out, many humanities courses already do this: you read the novel, or essay, or history of a subject first (rather than watching a video, but you could be watching video) and then discuss it in class. The term and practice of “flipping” a course has become quite popular though, and I believe it is because of several factors:

  1. The corporate model. This is how Khan Academy presents all of their material, via the video. Khan is backed by many big name corporate sponsors. Bill Gates is all about this model. As one blogger cautions, though, “A nagging concern that what might come out of this movement is not the freeing up of the classroom, but the intrusion of the bureaucracy, the big business backed educational resource sites such as the Khan Academy.”
  2. The hybrid course model. Many schools are vying to compete in the hybrid/online course market. This method of instruction integrates an online component and also keeps the physical presence and expertise of the instructor available to the student.
  3. Practice. Theoretically, more class time is spent in inter-active, engaged exercises that allow for deeper learning. By allowing students to view or listen to lectures via video/audio casts at their own pace, rewinding and listening to lectures (as well as returning to them for review) as often as they like, instructors can spend class time working one-on-one with students to implement problem-based learning that leverages the knowledge they gleaned from the lectures. More time can be spent on discussion, and on give and take between students and teacher (Socratic questioning), rather than passive information reception on the part of students.

Some Criticisms of the Flipped Classroom Model.

  • Time: Recording and posting videos of lectures prior to each class session (and far in advance of class) takes some technological knowledge, reliance on technology (will all students be able to access it? what if my uploade fails or is corrupted?), ability to record and upload each video, and then notify students of its availability. This takes time.
  • Lack of Flexibility: Some classes really “win” when they happen organically, when the topic can diverge and discussions can be nurtured from without (the days news or events informing instruction, for example) and pre-recording lectures takes some spontaneity out of instruction. However, one can hopefully create spontaneously creative and dialectical moments through in-class exercises and practices.
  • Dated material: one criticism that really resonates is the inability to use lectures from class to class. One assumes that a dynamic class is constantly changing, with new or fresh ideas, material, or curricular activities helping to deliver a lesson from semester to semester, or year to year. Spending so much time pre-recording lectures probably means doing this every time, for every class.
  • Student Preparedness: Some of us already struggle with students coming to class prepared by doing the reading, much less have expectations that they will listen to the lectures and be prepared to engage in active exercises of conceptual knowledge. What if they didn’t “get it”? Do we then waste the time we planned on doing application work with re-explaining what the video was meant to already have explained? As Professor Karl Fisch acknowledges, “First, students must watch/complete the “lecture” or “content-delivery” video portion of the class outside of class. Clearly some college students – as well as some of you – are not doing this. If this part isn’t done, the entire model falls apart.” He does not offer a solution to this problem if it becomes endemic of the whole class. What then?

If you are currently experimenting with or have used the “flipped classroom” model, I would love to hear from you. Please post your comments or experiences to this story and share with other educators around the country.


Exploding the Lecture:

Create a flipped textbook for your course:

A Blog compilation of Flipped Classroom Resources and Articles:

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