Tools for Teaching: Screencasts

I was just listening to this excellent podcast about creating screencasts (from the Cult of Pedagogy) for online or remote learning, and thought I should share it with my readers. The wonderful thing here is that it’s mostly not about the tech itself: it’s about the (minimum) use of tech in the context of research-based teaching techniques. Take away notes: screencast videos are good, make them short, make them personal rather than perfect, show stuff on the screen but keep it aligned with what you say, and embed checks for understanding if possible. Note that Jennifer Gonzalez and Kareem Farah, who are on the podcast, are mainly talking about K-12 education rather than college, but a lot of the same ideas apply.

Along with that, I thought I’d share my own setup for screencasting:


For my main computer, I use an old-ish Lenovo T450 laptop (13″ screen; i5 processor) with extra memory. It’s pretty bomb-proof, it rarely crashes, and I love it, but there’s no touch screen, so recording any written stuff is tough… and I do a lot of writing in my teaching. So as an input device I use my ancient Samsung Galaxy Note 10, which I have plugged into my computer. It has a stylus, so I can write on it. I wish I had a paper-like screen surface so I could write and draw more accurately, but I can’t find ones on sale anymore for such an old tablet.


My main recording tool is Panopto. UW has a license, it’s nicely integrated with Canvas, students know how to use it, it’s fairly flexible, it does auto-captioning and simple editing, and it even allows in-video quizzes (which I have not used yet). On Panopto, I record my PC screen and my voice – I don’t usually show my own face, except in introductory videos. I mirror my tablet screen on my PC using scrcpy, which is open source. It’s a bit kludge-y but it works.


I typically planned my flipped in-person classes by looking at a set of content standards I identify at the beginning of the course. These are things like “be able to solve quantitative problems in which Gauss’s Law reasoning is necessary” or “be able to calculate the radius and period of circular motion of a charged particle in a magnetic field”. I then do the detailed planning for each class in two stages: first, I’d identify a set of questions related to the day’s standard(s) that I’d like students to be able to do during class time. I split these into conceptual or semi-quantitative questions (which I used to do in Poll Everywhere, but now do as Zoom polls) and quantitative questions (which I have students do together). Then, I’d put together a video explaining the concepts and demonstrating skills (including simple examples) that students would need to complete the in-class questions. I struggle with the length of these videos. They are generally less than 45 minutes, but the research says to make them shorter. In the future, I expect to divide them into pieces to “chunk” for shorter attention spans. Students do generally appreciate them, though.

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