Saturday, March 18, 2017

Screencasting our Train of Thought (GUEST POST)

In my role as a Digital Learning Coach, I have the privilege of working with teachers ("fellows") supporting them in finding ways for technology to improve / enhance the lessons they teach with the goal of better & deeper student learning. Several fellows have taken the leap to blog about their experiences and share specific lessons with all of you. I hope you benefit from reading about their journey.

This is cross-posted from

Guest post by Ms. Tala Pirouzian, High School ELA Student Teacher

My name is Tala Pirouzian and I am a student teacher in the English department at Beckman! As a former student of the school, I love reflecting on the educational changes that have occurred over the past few years. One change that I find to be powerful, valuable, challenging, and engaging is the role of technology in the classroom. As my mentor teacher, Erin Thomas, and her tech coach, Crystal Kirch, discuss when and how to bring the tech into the classroom, I am continuously reminded that the purpose of using technology is supposed to be to support students’ learning by making instruction more engaging and effective. Thus, I have found it to be a form of litmus test in that before a teacher uses a tech tool they determine: what purpose does it have? is it the right tech? how are students going to experience and learn from it? how is instruction going to be enhanced?
One lesson that I am eager to share with others involved using a new (new for me and my students this year) tech tool, “Screencastify,” in order to analyze author’s craft. As students develop and practice their close textual analysis, we added a new layer to their annotation and analysis by asking them to use the “Screencastify” extension. This tool was supposed enhance student learning in that as they “draft talk” their way through their analysis, they will be better equipped to write about it.
First, I posted a model screencast (about 5 minutes) in which I commented on why I annotated specific parts of the passage and then authentically verbalized my analysis of the passage.
Here is a screenshot of my sample. Feel free to listen to it here.
During the lesson, my students students selected one of nine passages from the text to annotate using Google Drawing or Kami, and then they used the “Screencastify” tool to make their “thinking visible.” This is one of the most significant and valuable parts of this lesson in that the tech tool gave all my students the opportunity to voice their thoughts and understanding. Furthermore, they were all using the content language as experts in the discipline would! As I watched and listened to their screencasts, it was like a window into their reading minds. Sometimes we highlight or mark the text without taking the time to rationalize and reflect on it, which also leaves the teacher asking why did you annotate what you did? Or what made you think that? This tool asked students to explain what they were highlighting or marking, and why.
Here are some sample screenshots of students’ annotations, which they provided a screencast of:

The screencasts range from 3-5 minutes. Following this, the students used their annotations and screencasts to write a short close textual analysis.
Here is a sample written work (with peer feedback):

As I reflect on this lesson, I realize that such technology not only serves to improve students’ digital literacy but also enhances their content skills in that they are annotating the passage using Google Drawing and Kami, communicating their interpretations and organizing their analysis via the “Screencastify” extensions, and then creating a written product. This offers students a chance to demonstrate their learning in different ways.
I definitely recommend this tech tool to others because it truly does make thinking visible in an innovative and effective way. I am so eager to try out different technology in the classroom and read about the ones you all are using!

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