Every school year marks a new beginning: new students, new colleagues, new initiatives, new challenges. For me, this year brings with it new responsibilities. I’m one of the two new instructional technologists at our school. The position is new to our school and new to me; I’m doing all I can to approach the work with a combination of veteran vision and rookie enthusiasm. Three days into the school year I am where I want to be.
Just the other day I found myself in a music practice room with one of my colleagues. She was looking for help with ways to record ear training exercises and make them available through our LMS. She wanted to make targeted and timely practice available to her students. We walked through all the steps of two different workflows. It was a successful session from idea to execution.
As we wrapped up, I had my colleague teach me back what she had learned. Pretty standard practice, right? Have it put in her own words and work me through the process as she now understood it. There was one twist: I recorded her explanation in the form of her own screencast: her voice, her process, her processing. She walked away from the session with an understanding of the tools she has in her hands and an artifact that marked her learning in progress.
This got me thinking. What if we rethought screencasts? What if we did something similar to what I described above with students: their voice, their process, their processing. What if we could chronicle learning as well as we transmitted it through recordings and screencasts? What if we worried less about polish and more about process and progress? What if we heard the voice of the learner rather than that of the expert? I think these are all questions worthy of consideration.
The tools for screencasting and creating flipped lessons are so easy to use that anybody can rehearse, record and share out a tutorial in minutes. (For screencasts, I have been using Screencastify on a Chromebook. I just installed Cattura’s CaptureCast and I look forward to giving it a try. For whiteboard lessons, I am a huge fan of Explain Everything on the iPad. I understand Explain Everything has recently become available for Android as well.) Given this reality, we can worry less about trying to replicate a standard form and think more openly about reworking the whole framework.
I had toyed with the flipped format before. I have recorded my fair share and I have given my students choice in what they would like to have available. I have even flipped the flipped script: my students have written and recorded their own “Khan-olly Academy” videos before, most on Spanish grammar topics. These demos were excellent for the time and tools we had, but they were external to the learning, not embedded in it–more encore than ongoing. In a process-driven sequence, multiple versions could be recorded to both mark progress in understanding and serve as conduit.
Obviously a model like this works for tech tasks: how do I? where do I? when do I? The connection between tools and topics is clearer and the perceived urgency is greater. Digging deeper, however, we can think of other applications. Describe the working of the circulatory system over time; the process of photosynthesis; the structure of a sonnet; the significance of a work of art or a movement? At the unit or semester level, the questions could be broader: describe your understandings of revolutionary movements or the works of Latin American “Boom.” Once we free ourself of the digital equivalent to a one-time-engagement-expert-opinion mentality, we open up so many possibilities. Students could create a daily/weekly/monthly chronicle of their understanding. Teachers and students can put together a portfolio of demonstrations of understanding and descriptions of the learning process. These could hang side-by-side in a virtual gallery. Students could share their screencasts with others to help improve their understandings. Students from one year could create a searchable archive for students the next year, and these students in return could augment the project.
I intend to explore the possibilities and try to answer the questions above this semester. Join me!