Guest post by 7th grade Social Studies teacher Tom Hopper
Tom Hopper has been teaching 7th grade Social Studies in Okemos, Michigan for 13 years. He’s a big fan of Edmodo, the social learning platform that he found last year. It’s had a remarkable impact on his day-to-day teaching given the intuitive nature of the site. The Edmodo environment allows for safe and convenient delivery, facilitates discussion among all types of students, and is a motivator for kids hungry to learn more outside of the school day. His classes are more like learning communities now.
Tom’s also a screencasting pro, and he frequently puts video content on his YouTube channel or on Screencast.com. Students watch the lessons at home and school. This frees up class time for more activities and less lecture. Having the videos accessible via Edmodo is also nice in case students are absent or need to review in the future.
What do you like most about using Edmodo in your classroom?
For starters, my students write so much more than they did prior to when we were strictly writing on paper. The quality of their writing—and how they genuinely engage around the content is so much richer than what I’ve had in the past. I think that it helps them to write to an authentic audience. I made a video that goes into detail on this topic. I like how I can post something relevant and timely and they will give me all sorts of opinions and thoughts. As a social studies teacher it’s nice to be able to pull in current events and make connections to the concepts we’re learning about.
I love how it’s a “safe” environment. My classes are the only ones with access and it is automatically set up so that students can write to me or the whole group; they cannot directly communicate student to student which eliminates chatter that is purely social. I think Edmodo gives a platform to some of my students who rarely speak in class. It’s just a different medium and opportunity for all students to have a voice.
Another great thing is I can send individual students personalized, rich feedback through annotation. Using Camtasia Studio, I shared knowledge and tips on how to use this cool feature with thousands of other teachers through Edmodo’s built in networking feature in this tutorial video. My next venture will be to use Snagit to record audio feedback on important assignments for particular students. It’s richer than writing or typing, and it’s almost like I’m sitting there next to them giving them feedback in person.
How do you make your videos?
My tool of choice is Camtasia Studio. I like how it records the screen and my webcam so I can show the students real world content, and I just think it’s a little nicer when the students can see me. Camtasia Studio lets me add a little music intro and animated title opening. It looks fancy, but it’s no effort and really fun to be creative with. The other reason I like Camtasia Studio is that I can edit. If I’m recording a lesson and I mess up, it’s not a big deal because I can just edit it out. There’s no need to start the lesson over.
Snagit is a great way to get started if you are new to screencasting. Snagit does not have any video editing though so if you make a mistake, you’ll have to start over. Don’t worry about making “mistakes” though—just be yourself. Sometimes new screencasters worry way too much about little mess ups. Your students don’t care—you mess up every day in front of them live anyway. I guess a good way to think of it would be for you to consider what type of screencast you are looking to produce. Is it something that you hope will be viewed over and over again? Camtasia is your choice in that case. Is it really just a quick overview or maybe a lesson for when there is a substitute teacher? Then Snagit is a great way to go.
Do you have 1:1 access?
Currently in my school, I need to check out the COW (Computers on Wheels) cart if we’re going to watch videos in class. However, we are in the midst of a bond campaign which, if it passes, will put devices into the hands of every student in the district. The vast majority of the students currently have some kind of access at home, but it would be better if all did, all of the time. All the videos work on Smartphones too, so they can watch the videos one way or another.
Do you have tips for getting started?
I made an introduction to screencasting for teachers. Watch this first. I’ll introduce myself to you and explain how I use screencasting in my classroom and how it helps me teach.
Next, decide whether you want to record your screencasts with Snagit or Camtasia Studio. Both have fully functional trials so you can try both if you want. You can download Snagit here, and here’s the link to Camtasia Studio.
Once you have the software installed, watch these videos I made for you.
My YouTube channel has dozens of videos showing how to do certain things in Edmodo and using Google Drive. If you’re curious about Edmodo, Google Drive or screencasting in general and are looking for a place to start, I recommend my Getting Started with Edmodo video, or this one on Creating a Handouts Folder in Google Drive.
Teacher Tom’s Tips
- Just make a video. Just do it. Don’t be overly critical of yourself. After you make your first one, you’ll be so glad and will never look back.
- Have you tried Remind 101? It’s free and it lets me schedule and text students without using my personal number. I use it to send reminders as well as links to videos.
- While you can upload video files to Edmodo, I prefer to put them on Screencast.com or YouTube and post a link. It’s a better viewing experience—especially if students are watching on a mobile device.