The Power of Screencasts...and the Tools to Do Them

Screencasts are a dynamite way to show "how-to" tutorials. Recently my teaching partner and I used screencasts with our students for them to show their understanding of plate tectonics by synthesizing information on a map that we created into an oral presentation that would be recorded.

When the learning product is differentiated, class presentations may follow. However, in this case the skill was all similar and we didn't want to have to sit through 20 of the same type of presentation, but we did want the students to construct an explanation of plate tectonics supported by evidence. This is not done by a multiple choice test and is done best by referencing information. There were two screencasting tools that were handy for us.

QuickTime Player
If you're on a Mac, nothing is easier.  Search for QuickTime Player in your applications folder and drag it to the dock. Right click and select "New Screen Recording". Do a mic check to make sure that the volume is to your liking and do a trial recording. What I like about QuickTime is that it allows you to crop a small part of your desktop for a screencast leave out some of the desktop clutter. Videos are saved as a MOV file and easily shared to other sites.
If you don't have the luxury of a Mac, go to the Google Chrome web store and install "Screencastify". Screencastify isn't as sleek as QuickTime, but what I like is the option of integrating the screencast with the webcam which isn't an option for QuickTime. Screencastify also has the same sharing options and editing options as Quicktime. Make sure that students are signed into their chrome browser and are not using "Incognito" mode.

Compatibility With Google Sites
One problem that we came across was how to upload these videos to their portfolios. Our current school doesn't have a Youtube channel and I considered creating a channel that my students could login to, however, there was a much easier work around that didn't involve this at all.
Since my sixth grade portfolios are Google Sites that I created with Site Maestro, we learned that we could just go to "Drive" and insert a raw video that was embedded without having to be uploaded to a third party site.

Inserting a "Video" from Google Drive eliminates the need for Vimeo and Youtube sites. 

Working With Drive
To get the work to me, I simply created a drive folder which all students were given access to. They were able to drag and drop their work from their desktops, or save to drive (with Screencastify) for purposes of assessment and evaluation. From there, they could search Drive for, and insert their videos. A word of caution: Quicktime's MOV file is easily uploaded from drive, but the default file type from Screencastify took about 4 hours to convert after being uploaded and saved to a Google site. We work in South Korea with lightening fast internet, so expect longer if you have slow bandwidth.

"We learned that we could just go to "Drive" and insert a raw video that was embedded without having to be uploaded to a third party site"

In terms of time, the project took about 1 hour, from when I first introduced the project to modelling the tools to giving them time to play and when they finished their recordings. We had made a collaborative map beforehand and had a strong knowledge base through formative assessment. See a finished piece of student work for yourself!

NGSS Standards: 

  1.  Construct an explanation based on evidence for how geoscience processes have changed Earth's surface at varying time and spatial scales.
  2. Analyze and interpret data on the distribution of fossils and rocks, continental shapes, and seafloor structures to provide evidence of the past plate motions.
  3. Develop a model to describe the cycling of Earth's materials and the flow of energy that drives this process.
  4. Develop a model to describe unobservable mechanisms.
  5. Evaluate limitations of a model for a proposed object or tool.
  6. Time, space, and energy phenomena can be observed at various scales using models to study systems that are too large or too small.
  7. Complex and microscopic structures and systems can be visualized, modeled, and used to describe how their function depends on the shapes, composition, and relationships among its parts; therefore, complex natural and designed structures/systems can be analyzed to determine how they function.

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