Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Amherst Students Creating Screencasts for Summative Assessment

I've never been a huge fan of taking or administering final exams.  As a teacher I completely understand the need-- as good teaching requires you to gauge what somebody has learned at the end of a major unit or project, in order to inform future instruction.  That makes sense to me.  However, I just feel that one-size-fits-all bubble sheet testing never really gauges true understanding of content.  Sure they make assessment convenient, especially when you have hundreds of students on your roster like I do.  But I'm convinced that with the many technology options now available, there has to be a better way for teachers to verify what students know!

Screencasting is often defined as "a digital recording of computer screen output, also known as a video screen capture, often containing audio narration."  In other words, it's a video anyone can make, and anyone can watch, at a time most convenient to make or watch, where somebody narrates and elaborates on anything you can view on a computer screen.

For the past few weeks in my classroom, our 7th and 8th grade students have been involved in an authentic learning project.  They are learning how to use a variety of digital tools to create proposals on how they'd spend a fictitious $30,000 to design and construct the "Ultimate Dream Bedroom" (see introduction here).   The project involves using Edmodo to conduct group brainstorming, Google Spreadsheets to calculate final costs and potential room sizes, Google Forms to create classmate surveys, 3D Floor Planner app (free within Google Drive) to create a virtual walk through, and finally TechSmith Relay to create a summary screencast that showcases all of their work over the past few weeks.

Embedded below is an example of such a student produced screencast:

Can't see the video?  Watch it on YouTube.

Since my students are using TechSmith Relay to create these videos, they have the option of creating screencasts on their home computers instead of having to record in class.  Simon chose this option as you'll see in the video above.  Sometimes having 25+ kids recording videos in a computer lab can be a bit intimidating, so kids appreciate having that opportunity to record in a more quiet and familiar location.  Before we had TechSmith Relay this option wasn't as possible unless the parents purchased some decent screencasting software themselves, and obviously I as a teacher cannot require that for every child!

So now I'm happy to say that we've discovered yet another alternative to the bubble sheet final exam.  If your students have the capability of creating screencasts, why not use that option for your summative assessment instead of the one-size-fits-all assessments that have existed since before I was a student decades ago?  It gives the student voice and choice to demonstrate not only what they've learned, but more importantly an opportunity to say it in their own words- literally!

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