Thursday, February 28, 2013

Writing Conferences via Screencast
I love hearing about ways to do things better and more efficiently, especially when student learning is involved.  This is probably a large part of why I love Twitter and Pinterest (as well as face-to-face collaboration) -- I love to get new ideas that I can try out in my classroom.
With that said, I've been thinking a lot about a goal that I set for my teaching at the beginning of this year: to provide more timely feedback to my students on their writing. I have found that there is never enough time to conference with all of the students in a given class period...and inevitably, there are always students who are waiting to talk with the teacher about their writing.

So, naturally, I was checking Twitter on a typical evening (probably sometime around 11pm) for ideas that might help me with my goal of providing more timely feedback on student writing....when, lo and behold, I came across a blog post from Amy Mayer of +FriedTechnology talking about Video Grading Using Google Docs and Jing.  The article blew my mind.  It was exactly what I was looking for!

  • The basic idea is that you use a screencasting tool, such as Jing (free!) or Camtasia (free trial), to record video and audio feedback / comments to each student about a piece of his or her digital writing.
  • I don't rehearse or script out what I want to say because I conduct the writing conference as if I were sitting down with the student to read through his or her writing together.  Once I had done 3-4, I really started to get the hang of it and wasn't worried about making a mistake (it's more realistic that way!).
  • Upload each screencast to, which will create a link for the video.
  • Then, you post the link on their digital writing assignment in Google Docs using the comment feature.  

  • Students can watch the screencast of your feedback when they have time (at home, at school, etc.), make any necessary revisions, and share or submit their next draft.  
  • They can pause the video to make revisions or corrections to their work immediately, or they can replay the screencast at any time.
  • You've heard of flipped instruction?  Well, this is a way to flip your feedback to students, so that they can become more self-directed, efficacious and resourceful writers.
Here is what the screencast looks like when the student clicks on the link:

And, here are a few samples of what the videos look like: 

I am by no means an expert on screencasting, but it's been really cool to see the results of using video feedback with students' writing.  Students are excited to watch my video comments for them and they are very efficient at making corrections and/or revisions while watching the video.  I have also been using the video comments as a resource for follow-up writing conferences with students.

After completing several screencasted writing conferences on my 4th grade ELs' latest writing project, I have definitely honed in on a few areas of writing we're going to practice: organization, S-V agreement, complex sentences, and varying the beginning of sentences.

Screencasting has been a  really helpful tool for my students and I, and I'd love to hear about other ways people use screencasting in their classrooms.  Feel free to leave a comment below with your ideas, comments and questions!