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Appealing Apps for Educators: Screencasting Smackdown – Videos in the Classroom

by Jennie Magiera

Video lessons have become the newest trend in education. From Khan Academy to iTunes University, more and more teachers are capturing instruction on video to “flip the classroom.” Screencasting apps are cropping up right and left, allowing anyone to author their own digital content and become video instructors. Moreover, they are expanding the opportunities to reach more students and meet more needs, and, when turned over to the students themselves, encourage deeper metacognition and problem solving.

As a teacher, I’ve created over 50 video lessons in the past two years to differentiate learning in my classroom. Very few of my students have access to an Internet-connected computer at home, so while I can’t utilize the flipped classroom in the traditional sense of the term, I am able to “clone the teacher.” I do this by deploying several video lessons at varied levels of difficulty or accessing different learning modalities. Students are given differentiated playlists based on their daily assessments and needs. Meanwhile, I’m able to meet with students in small groups to give them live support. This has been instrumental in supporting more students on an individual level.

While I’m proud of my 50+ videos, my students have me beat. In two years, they have created over 2,000 screencast videos. Some are lessons that they have created for peers or to show mastery of a subject. However, the majority are live problem-solving screencasts demonstrating their metacognition and problem-solving skills. Instead of solving a problem silently using paper-and-pencil, or reading a book silently, they do so while narrating their thinking orally using a screencasting app. I can send them math story problems, or excerpts of a text. Then they highlight, annotate, draw and write while voicing their metacognition. My video lessons have been a great way to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of my instruction, and this use has redefined assessment and student agency for my classroom.

Explain EverythingWhile all of these strategies have been successful, they have relied heavily on the quality of the tool: the app. I’ve run the gamut when it comes to screencasting apps. I began my journey with ScreenChomp, then moved on to ShowMe, from there hopped to Educreations, then Explain Everything and now we’re back with Educreations and looking to return to ShowMe. Why the app flip-flopping? There were so many features in each to consider, and no clear “best in show.” Moreover, the apps are constantly changing. Hopefully the list below will share some of the (current) pros and cons of each and help you make your own screencasting app choice with less meandering.

Summary: It seems that Doceri reigns supreme for teacher creation of videos while it’s a tie between ShowMe and Educreations as to which is the best choice when it comes to student creation:

Explain Everything ($2.99)

Can be shared with: Camera roll, YouTube, Email, Dropbox, Evernote, Box, WebDAV

Pros:

  • Pointer feature (highlights where your finger is tapping as a virtual laser pointer)
  • Layered approach to editing - ability to have layers of images, annotations and even PDFs
  • Slides enabled: ability to progress to and from slides
  • Varied options to share screencast videos

Cons:

  • Not easy to use as a student: lots of features that may be confusing to younger kids
  • No central way to push videos out to students
  • Cost

Educreations (Free)

EducrationsCan be shared with: Educreations website.

Pros:

  • Ease of use: Very simple for students of all ages to operate
  • Slides enabled: ability to progress to and from slides
  • Ability to move pictures to “animate” images
  • Easy upload process
  • Can create a class of students and push videos directly to either your class or the whole school

Cons:

  • Only includes thre basic creation tools: colors, type, pictures – no highlighter, laser pointer, shapes or eraser
  • Cannot organize the videos once uploaded (nor can you search videos by keyword)
  • Currently student lesson creation is disabled. Must create a master “class log-in” so that students can create video lessons (this is how we did it last year and it worked well)

Doceri (Free)

Can be shared with: Camera roll, Facebook, YouTube, email

Pros:

  • Slides enabled: ability to progress to and from slides
  • Can change the quality of video to alter file size
  • Most video editing features: video stop points to auto-pause the lesson, speed up/slow down lesson, add audio post-recording
  • Can go back and re-record a portion of the video without restarting the entire lesson.
  • Ability to overlay screencasting on the computer from an iPad using Doceri Desktop (so you can edit, control and annotate your computer desktop from the iPad)
  • Can organize the screencast videos into folders for ease of use

Cons:

  • Not easy to use as a student: Cannot upload to a central website or location – must use email, YouTube or Camera roll in school
  • Not easy to use as a student: lots of features that may be confusing to younger kids
  • No central way to push videos out to students
  • No text / typing feature

Teach by Knowmia (Free)

Teach by KnowmiaCan be shared with: Knowmia website

Pros:

  • Slides enabled: ability to progress to and from slides
  • Pointer feature (highlights where your finger is tapping as a virtual laser pointer)
  • Full set of drawing and creation tools
  • Uploads directly to Knowmia website for student access to lessons.

Cons:

  • Not easy to use as a student: Must have a teacher log-in
  • Not easy to use as a student: upload requires five steps
  • Not easy to use as a student: lots of features that may be confusing to younger kids

ShowMe (Free)

Can be shared with: ShowMe website

Pros:

  • Ease of use: Very simple for students of all ages to operate
  • Easy upload process
  • Ability to organize the screencast videos once uploaded to the website

Cons:

  • No slides enabled: Must erase the whiteboard to continue, and cannot return to an erased whiteboard.
  • No text / typing feature
  • The website has been temperamental recently. It often shows a “This service is temporarily unavailable” message. Hopefully this is quickly resolved.
  • No ability to move pictures to “animate” images
  • Currently student lesson creation is disabled. Must create a master “class log-in” so that students can create video lessons (this is how we did it last year and it worked well)