This fall, as part of our #ETTchat series, Communications Editor James Daley will be chatting with our EdTechTeacher instructors about some of their favorite tools, apps, and strategies for the classroom. In this post, he interviews Avra Robinson, about screencasting in the classroom.

Screencasting is the use of a specialized tool to record a computer screen while performing or demonstrating specific tasks, usually accompanied by vocal narration. Not long ago, it would have been quite rare to find screencasts being used in most classrooms, largely due to the complex or expensive software that was required to create them. However, easy-to-use, user-friendly apps and browser extensions like Screencastify, Quicktime, Camtasia, and Explain Everything have now made screencasts simple enough for anyone to create, and teachers around the world are beginning to discover what an indispensable tool it can be.

Avra Robinson is the Director of Online Learning and Instruction for Edtech Teacher, and an authorized Google Education Trainer. After more than 15 years of helping teachers and students integrate technology with curriculum, Avra has a wealth of experience strategizing about which technologies offer the most efficient and powerful opportunities for learning. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Avra about the power of screencasting. What follows are five of the most important ways that Avra sees screencasts improving teaching and learning in today’s classrooms.

Avra Screencasting ETTSummit

1. Screencasting as Substitute Teacher

One of the most straightforward ways that screencasting can be useful in the classroom is when a teacher simply can’t be in the room to demonstrate something on the computer for her students. Avra tells a story about how she first came to understand the power of screencasting almost by accident. While on maternity leave from her job as a technology teacher, she found herself struggling to facilitate her classes through a substitute teacher that just didn’t have the technology experience to handle the lessons on her own. Not being able to physically demonstrate software in the classroom, Avra did what she thought was the next best thing: she recorded herself demonstrating the software at home. The substitute was able to simply play these videos instead of attempting to teach the software herself, and the students did not fall behind on any of their learning.

2. Screencasting is available “Just-in-time”

Avra is a big proponent of just-in-time learning strategies, which are a natural fit with screencasting. One of the best things about creating even simple demonstrations with a screencast, as opposed to performing live demonstrations, is that screencasts can be posted online for students to find and use at the moment that they actually need the information. Not only does this allow the students to gain the maximum benefit from the demonstration, it frees up the teacher from having to repeat the demonstration over and over again for different groups of students, or for those students who simply can not remember the original lesson.

3. Screencasting your Assignments

Another way that Avra suggests using screencasts is as a means for delivering and/or explaining  assignments to students. As every teacher has experienced, far too often students either fail to properly record an assignment, or simply don’t pay close enough attention while their assignments are being explained.  By explaining an assignment with a screencast, and then making it available for students to review when they get home, teachers can be sure that their instructions will not be so frequently misplaced or forgotten.

4. Screencasts Hold Students Accountable

On the other side of the classroom, screencasting can be an invaluable tool for students to engage with as well. A usage that Avra suggests is for students to record a screencast of themselves reading aloud from a written composition during the revision process. In her own teaching, Avra observed that simply asking students to read their work aloud (without recording it ) rarely resulted in compositions that were as  polished as they should be. However, once she had her students type their work into Google Docs and screencast themselves reading aloud during revision, the final product was markedly improved. The reason for this improvement, Avra claims, is that creating a visual and auditory record of their revision process makes students feel more accountable for the quality of their work, which in turn makes them catch and correct more of the errors than they otherwise would have.

5. Screencasting Makes Learning visible

Perhaps the most powerful aspect of screencasting lies in its ability to make students’ learning visible; to create a record of learning in real time that can be shared, viewed, and reflected upon by students, teachers, and even classmates.  Often the most difficult part of teaching is just being able to grasp what it is that students are learning and are not learning. By having students record their work and narrate their thinking, teachers are provided with a window into each student’s specific understanding of the concepts and skills they are engaging with. Or as Avra put it: “If my algebra teacher could have just gotten inside my head and understood what I knew, and more importantly what I didn’t know, maybe these days I’d be able to balance my checkbook.”

Avra Robinson will be discussing this topic in far greater detail during her presentation on Google and Screencasting at the 2016 Boston Innovation Summit. To learn more about Avra’s presentation, or to sign up for the summit, visit www.edtechteacher.org/boston.