A screencast is a recording of a computer screen with voice. The term screencast is related to the term screenshot; whereas a screenshot is a single picture of a computer screen, a screencast is a movie. Here is an example of a screencast: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvnQlSZU1C4
As you can see, whatever you can do on your computer screen, you can record and turn into a lesson. Once you start, you will come up with more and more ideas of how to use this simple technology to your advantage. Let me tell you about a few things I use screencasts for.
Before you read on, let me assure you that screencasting is one of the simplest technologies around – you can watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vA3jx-p-TQ8 for a 4 minute explanation. And the best thing is it’s free.
I started using screencasting to improve my students’ reading. I created an example of a text that shows good reading techniques such as predicting, asking questions and using context to guess the meaning of new words - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-VQMql1pqjI. Then I ask my students to make their own screencast of a text they like. It really shows whether they actually understand a text and whether they know how to read a text properly. These screencasts can be used as assessments.
Because students will make the same mistakes in writing over and over and I got sick of marking the same mistakes over and over, I created screencasts with student’s writing focusing on particular mistakes. Here is an example of errors with final s: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6GATT8-dChE. Now when I notice a student makes these mistakes I don’t correct them. Instead I return the writing to them and ask them to watch the screencast first and then correct their own mistakes before handing it in to me. Sometimes I have to give students 2 or 3 screencasts to watch so they can correct 2 or 3 different mistakes. It cut a massive amount of marking for me and students get sick of having to watch screencasts first so they will make sure they don’t make these mistakes again. I noticed that, apart from dramatically reducing my marking time, there was a substantial improvement in their accuracy.
The next step I took was using screencasting for marking writing. Students email or drop their writing in Edmodo or Dropbox, and I open it in Screencast-o-matic. I spend a maximum of 3 or 4 minutes correcting their piece of writing (instead of the usual 10-20 minutes). Because you are speaking while marking their written texts, you can give them a lot of information quickly. I also liked that I could show my emotion in my voice: “Come on, Ahmed, you are making a lot of unnecessary spelling mistakes. You have to be more accurate! I am going to stop correcting them here. You fix them.” The only thing you need is a quiet area to record your own voice.
Once I had a bank of screencasts, I started using them in the classroom too. I made clips of all kinds of teaching points especially those that I had to teach over and over again. Apart from giving you as a teacher a break, I noticed the students focus when you show on a video. I always keep them short, no longer than 5 minutes. Again I noticed a huge improvement in retention. Students tend to remember things they see on a video screen because it’s visual as well as auditory.
You can post your screencasts on Youtube or any other platform you use and give your students access. That means they can revise lessons at home at their own leisure.
Having taught ESL for over 30 years and having been to innumerable PD sessions at work and at conferences, screencasting is the one thing that really changed the way I teach. I am a strong believer that technology should make our workload lighter (why else use it?) and screencasting really has. It has been an exciting discovery. I am sure you will find that too.