Jun 29 2010

ISTE 2010: Kids Teaching Kids Through Screencasts

The Buzz Blog touches on the benefits of distance learning and kids teaching kids.

TechSmith helps people everywhere communicate clearly and creatively through screen capturing and recording software. Online learning companies like Lynda.com depend on TechSmith's software to deliver engaging multimedia presentations. I've used Snagit for screen capturing, and Jing for screencasting, but today I was impressed by how one middle school teacher disrupted class and moved his students from being merely content consumers to content producers. 

I met Eric Marcos, a middle school math teacher from Santa Monica, California. Eric teaches his students to use Camtasia Studio, a powerful, yet easy-to-learn, end-to-end software application for screen recording, editing, video production, and content sharing. The software allows you to create videos that clearly demonstrate a process, a product, or an idea. Simply record your screen, voice, webcam...add polish if you want to...and share it. It wasn't long before Eric and his students had created so many videos that he needed somewhere online to archive and share them with the world, so he started a website called Mathtrain.TV to host them all. Mathtrain.TV is a free online educational "kids teaching kids" project made up of actual student (and teacher)-created lessons and screencasts.

Eric says, it starts with a problem. For example, say a math student wants to teach the concept of subtraction with regrouping to another classmate. With a tablet PC running Camtasia Studio, students can work a problem out in real time, narrating as they go. The software records the pen strokes along with the student's voice, and then saves the movie. The movie can then be shared, as is, but what's particularly compelling to me is what kids can do to their video after their initial recording. Eric's students critically analyze their own screencasts and add little pop-up bubbles (reminiscent of the VH-1 Classic Pop-Up Videos). Each pop-up bubble can be placed on the screen at precisely the point where additional clarification would be helpful to a viewer. And students are doing this themselves! It's not like Eric needs to offer suggestions or tips like he did when he was piloting the program. Students are actually helping each other make their content better, and isn't that the kind of critical thinking we want to build in every student?

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