When thinking of screen casting, academics may not be the first thought, but screen casting is becoming a viable way to allow for distance learning while still being interactive. There are several screen casting applications that range from full suites such as Captivate, to plug ins such as Jing. One app that can be used as a browser plug in is Screencastify. Screencastify is a great tool for the educator to use as a starter application, in particular the free version. Screen casting isn’t for everyone, so with that in mind using a free program would be the best start. Screencastify allows the user to add as a plug in to Chrome.
This feature allows for a quicker startup and the user does not have to install the application to their computer’s hard drive. If you are looking for a program that has a desktop version, this would not be the correct application. Screencastify can only be used on Chromebooks, Chromboxes and in Chrome. Starting a screen cast starts with clicking the icon pictured above. The user is then given an option to either record the tab they are currently browsing, their desktop or camera.
Within each recording type, the user is given options that can tailor the recording experience. Within the tab and desktop option the user is given the option to embed the webcam. This will show the audience the presenters desktop or tab as well as a recording of the presenter in the lower right corner. This is helpful when the lesson requires the student to view the instructors face or body language to give the students physical cues. The webcam is a great tool for instructors to gain physical cues from students. To pick up if a student is struggling with a lesson. Being able to view the instructors face also lends to a more personal experience as stated by some of my students.
Screen casting is useful for feedback and help when students are struggling. Written feedback can be helpful, but occasionally a student may need to talk it out to better understand a point. If a student isn’t in the same area as the instructor, screen casting is a useful tool for these types of interactions.
The lite version of Screencastify is loaded with tools that can be used to enhance the screen cast. These tools are available within the recording and is circled above. As the user you can exit out of the tool bar by clicking the X to recall the tool bar type alt + t and the tool bar will reappear. The focus mouse feature, darkens the casting screen and highlights only where the mouse’s cursor lands on the screen. Use this to draw the user’s attention to a particular area, for educators this can be especially helpful when trying to illustrate a process, such as a math problem. The student’s eyes will be drawn to what is highlighted instead of the entire screen. The hide cursor icon allows the presenter to have what they are clicking on highlighted in a red circle, this can be turned off and on.
This is another feature that can be helpful in highlighting areas, concepts or processes for the students. The pen icon gives the presenter the ability to write on the screen. Admittedly this is easier said than done, anyone that has ever tried to draw with a mouse or touchpad can concur. Although this feature may not be used often it is available. The other features are the erase which allows the presenter to erase a portion of what was drawn or the wipe screen which clears the entire pen drawing.
The free version allows for 10-minute length recordings at a time, with a maximum of 50 recordings per month. For an upgrade the cost is 24.00 per year, a small investment if after using the lite version, you find that screen casting is a tool you’d like to incorporate into your lessons.
As an educator screen casting allows you to model digital age work and learning. Being able to fluently conduct, record, and upload a screen cast will demonstrate a fluency in the technology. Screen casting allows for collaboration between the student and instructor. The instructor can give the student the ability to do screen cast of their own and present on a topic. Through screen casting and the embedded tools the instructor can design and develop digital age experiences for the student. Instead of posting to a discussion board or just a voice recording the educator has the option to create an immersive experience that mimics a traditional learning environment. Screen casting is the ability for a distance learning to have a connection with the instructor that is beyond message board posting and written responses.
Screen casting can also be used from the student’s perspective as mentioned above. Collaboration can be achieved by assigning students to a group, and a topic. Having the students record a screen cast for their presentation fosters the use of technology and collaboration among students. This may also provide an avenue to allow the students to explore learning creatively that expands beyond text based learning. Instructors have the ability to have assignments that students must create lessons using screen casts instead of the normal written essays, screen casts can also be used in companion to essays.
Screencastify is a great starter tool for screen casting but there are some limitations that should be addressed. While the ultimate goal is to sell the premium version, allowing for a slightly longer recording time would be helpful, possibly even 15 minutes. There are three recording options, tab, desktop and web cam, but when choosing desktop the user has to choose one program, which makes it difficult to toggle between programs. When choosing tab, only the tab that is displayed when the recording begins will be recorded.
Another feature that would be helpful is allowing live broadcasting which would expand the casting ability. Currently only the ability to record your casts and then upload to Google Drive, YouTube or locally is available. To foster additional creativity and collaboration live casting would be a welcomed feature addition to Screencastify, even if that ability was only added to the premium version.