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.
As teachers, we obviously have to give a lot of instructions all the time and I have observed two ways of doing this. The first is that teachers start raising their voice and try to get the students attention that way. Often instructions have to be repeated, even more than once. When students don't listen, the teacher's voice gets louder and louder. Yet most often this has the opposite effect - students start speaking louder to each other and don't seem to listen at all.
The second way is much preferred. The teacher makes sure that he/she has the attention of everyone in the class first. This can be done by raising hands until everyone is quiet and focused on you. It can also be done by standing in front of the class and making some kind of noise, or ringing a bell, and wait until it is quiet. Then give instructions ONCE ONLY.
The "once only" is important! When the students get used to the fact that you will give instructions only one time, they are more likely to listen carefully. If they don't listen and ask you to repeat, you can simply refuse and tell them to ask their neighbor. After a while, everyone gets tired of having to repeat the teacher's instructions for their classmates and so the students will push each other to listen. However, if they don't understand the instructions the first time, they can ask of course.
The great advantage for you is that you can spare your voice and you don't have to exhaust yourself getting louder and louder.
Please feel free to share your experiences with giving instructions here.
One of the challenges we have as English language teachers is that students are often in a hurry. Just yesterday I had another request to help someone get from an IELTS 6 to IELTS 7 in a month. He wants to emigrate to Canada and needs this score for his permanent visa. Students often don't realise it may take a full semester to improve their IELTS score half a point, so to go from 6 to 7 could take a full year. When I was learning English myself, I spent many years learning new vocab and expressions, and my first language is quite close to English. I am originally Dutch. I often tell my students that I had a vocab notebook in my pocket for 2 full years and wrote down new language every day! And this was after I had already achieved an upper-intermediate level in most skills.
The following video clip illustrates the frustration some students feel sometimes. And it's just funny! BTW I work in the Middle East.
So I advise my students to be patient because you don't want to end up making the following mistake: