Author: Matthew Moore
In my past five years of flipping I have tried many many tools to aid in my flipped classroom. There are a variety of apps and software programs that have come and gone. I make it a point to collect little bits and bobs for cell phones, cameras, and microphones. Many of these items find a place in my flipped toolkit, but there are very few that see the light of day on a regular basis. Google apps like Docs, Slides, Drawing, etc. on the other hand get daily use as my school is a Google school. My web cam is an absolute neccessity as I am firmly in the camp of teacher made materials for the bulk of the independent space learning. For me, my cheapo document camera is a must. I learn visually and prefer to draw or demonstrate with manipulatives, the document camera allows me to digitize and archive live drawings and demos. I also love my learning management system (LMS) Canvas, although I think we are headed for a rough breakup as I move to single sheet digital organizers utilizing the concept of Digital Instruction Blocks, or DIBs.
Getting the band together
So thus far in my flipped class rock band, I have the melody instruments like web and doc cams. I have Google apps to provide the lyrics. Finally, I have an LMS to keep the beat and keep it moving. Just like a band I need something to bring it all together and that is Screencastify acting as the mixing board allowing me to mix all of the elements into an effective and harmonious whole that make it all presentable to my classroom audience.
Screencastify is my favorite
I will give an example of the role Screencastify plays in a moment but first let’s just talk about the program itself. Screencastify is a free, yes FREE, screen capture or recording extension for Google Chrome. The very simple idea behind the program is that it records all visuals on the screen and from a camera device while also recording audio from the input of your choice. That’s it. That is all it does. Simple idea right? That is the beauty of Screencastify, it has been developed to be easy to install, easy to use, and so effective you miss the power of the service the extension provides.
As a Chrome extension, Screencastify integrates seamlessly with Chrome and allows it to function on computers and tablets running Chrome as well as the increasingly ubiquitous Chromebooks. What this means for me is that it works on the vast majority of devices with which I create instruction. Better yet it installs on Chromebooks in less than two minutes and has become a powerful creation and presentation tool for students in my classes both inside and outside of the classroom. Even when I was working from Chromebook labs that wiped each time a student logged off, my students could install Screencastify, create, and upload all within the classtime and have their creation available on their Drive or YouTube.
By recording audio and video directly from the installed device, my students can record and narorate slide or wrtiting items they create. Students can use the built in web cam to record themselves or others doing a demonstration, role play, or explaination. All of this is easy for the student becasue as long as the student can get it on the screen and speak toward the microphone they can create without the high tech barrier. Students can also do some very basic croping and annotating. Best of all students can quickly upload with a single click to Google Drive or Youtube or share their creations or presentations directly.
Others can speak to the coding and tech that goes into allowing this free extension to do what it does, but all that I care is that students can be introduced to and using Screencastify in under 5 minutes. I, on the other hand, have a greater appreciation for the magical coding that I do not understand as I like to use multiple input and output devices as I mentioned previously. What floors me is that regardless of what I attempt to put on screen or how many windows I have open, Screencastify dutifully records all of it.
Multimodal means better communication
To give you an example, just today I created a training for students and teachers about Gmail. In eight minutes, I explained the organization process of Gmail and how students can use labels and filters to manage their inbox effectively. I used my web cam to speak face to face with students, while demonstrating the process in Gmail. What I believe was more effective was the inclusion of my document camera along side those items with a colored physical envelop and post-it notes to explain the process of adding, removing, and filtering with labels so those emails are organized and readily accessible to students. Screencastify allowed me communicate with verbal intonation, visual gestures and body language, digital enviroment, and physical demonstration in an eight minute primer for a school wide curriculum. Screencastify brought all of the elements of the orchestration together naturally, seamlessly, and without drawing attention to the programing behind the curtain.
Why I pay for a free program
As a final note, I do not use the free version as it is limited to 10 minute recordings and 50 recordings a month. However, the primary reason I pay the $30 yearly fee is because I want this program to stick around. Yes the pay version removes the watermark and provides a few other options, but the beauty of the program is encapsulated in the free version…it’s just so simple.
Matthew is a mathematics teacher with Seventeen years of experience at the high school level and has also served as an adjunct instructor at the local community college for the since 2004. He has been flipping his classroom for the past five years from the most basic math classes to the most advanced at the high school and college level. Matthew is also a co-founder of the Illinois Flipped & Blended Learning Network. He has served as a representative for my students and colleagues in many capacities and am convinced that true change must be shared change. Matthew can be reached on Twitter at @matthew_t_moore and maintains a web site at matthewtmoore.wordpress.com.