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Free Screencast Tools: Classroom Ideas

Web 2.0 platforms continue to evolve, and tools that allow users to share “screencasts” are at the forefront of that evolution.

While popular meeting platforms such as Skype facilitate “face time,” they lack the ability to display narrated actions performed on one’s computer screen. In addition, typical online meetings require the parties to meet at a designated day and time.

In contrast, screencasts (video recordings—complete with real-time audio—of actions taken on one’s desktop or laptop computer) are changing student instruction, as well as the way people connect and learn online. Screencasts eliminate the need for scheduling, allowing the presenter to simply record the actions s/he wants to share, save the file and send it to any number of recipients, who can view it at their leisure.screencast-o-matic

Popular free screencast tools include Screencast-O-Matic, Jing and CamStudio. Each one offers a unique set of features, but they all perform the basic task of recording desktop action with audio.

For educators seeking ways to collaborate and share with colleagues, integrate new technology into instruction, or even facilitate a “flipped classroom” experience for students, here are two great ideas for using screencast software in the classroom. (For a true “flipped classroom” experience, assign viewing of the screencast as homework, and have students apply their knowledge during class time, when you’re available to support their work.)

Create Software or Web 2.0 Tutorials

Explaining the ins and outs of any application can be tricky, especially when the other person can’t see what you are describing. With screencasting software, you can not only accurately display the proper steps to create a table in Word or attach an audio clip to a PowerPoint presentation, but also narrate the entire sequence. animoto

Students can pause the screencast while they attempt to replicate the action, then resume after they have accomplished a particular set of steps.

Want to teach students how to use some of the newer tech tools while also incorporating academic content? Create a screencast that demonstrates how to use online video editing tools (such as Animoto or Flixtime) to make an educational video (e.g., a public service announcement on a health or prevention topic, or a persuasive ad sharing one’s views on a popular debate topic). Then follow up by having students create their own videos.

Foster Digital Literacy

For decades, research-paper assignments have been accompanied by warnings against plagiarism. These days, assignments often also come with cautions against using copyrighted images or video. Screencasting technology is the perfect vehicle for teaching students about the proper use of wikipediamaterials found online. Once you’ve created the screencast, you can show the video to multiple classes of students, or replay it every time kids are preparing to do online research.

Teachers can demonstrate, with audio commentary, exactly what constitutes plagiarism or copyright infringement, and then demonstrate strategies for avoiding problems (e.g., appropriately quoting or paraphrasing text and then citing the source/author, identifying public domain images, or providing proper credit for free-use images that require attribution).

While you’re at it, why not teach about proper use of Wikipedia? It’s one of the largest Web sites in the world, and countless people consult it every day for information, despite its reputation for potential inaccuracies. But that doesn’t mean students should ignore the site altogether. Show students how Wikipedia information can be verified, while cautioning against dubious links, questionable sources and direct citation of Wikipedia.

Related resources

Tech in the Classroom: Screencast-O-Matic
How to Use Wikipedia in the Classroom
Animoto in the Classroom: Activity Ideas
Using Wikis in the Classroom
Event-Coverage Tech: Classroom Ideas
Real-Time Chat Tool: Student Activity Ideas
Free Tech Tools for Tough Times

Article by Jason Tomaszewski, EducationWorld Associate Editor
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