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Here’s how students are driving, retaining learning with visual tech

Screencasting has taught me that visuals are a powerful axle, on which student wheels will turn


Seeing is believing–an idiom that never rang more true in education than it does now. As a technology teacher in a project-based, middle school classroom, I always felt that lecturing wasn’t the best way to deliver new content to a room full of eager students.

And certainly not a way for material to sink in and ultimately, stick. My students come to class to do hands on “stuff” – design, build, fix, tweak, you name it – so I was on a mission to identify a way to not only “digitize” myself so I could make that happen, but also to find a way to put my students in the driver’s seat. I saw screencasting as the perfect vehicle to make this transition happen.

I know firsthand what it’s like to read a bunch of text instructions and have to envision what you’re supposed to do next. Similarly, in the traditional lecture model of education, kids have just one shot to internalize what is presented live on the spot. It is hoped that they’re able to retain the information when it comes time to use it on a project, which could be days later.

Watch how Tech Smith Relay works.

(Next page: how screencasting works and why you should use it)

But with screencasting, you can set a strong expectation, knowing that video-based education is more effective than reading text alone. The good news is that the evidence is on my side. When you combine visual messages with verbal communication you increase the retention rate of content to nearly 50 percent – a 400 percent increase.

As a teacher, nothing is better than students initiating their own education. From my screencast-based lessons, my students have the opportunity to learn anytime, anyplace and most importantly, at just the right moment. While live demonstrations are great motivators, retention is only good for a short while and less effective if the student is using the skill demonstrated days down the road.

Visual, verbal and written content caters to all learning styles but also brings the application of knowledge/skill closer together. Not to mention, it validates the importance of content being relevant in any classroom today. If kids cannot make the connections to the outside world, then school feels like an artificial place that gives you something to do to shorten the day.

One of my ultimate goals is to ensure that students have meaningful experiences when working together on projects they design and create. For this to be possible, it’s simply a matter of doing the dirty work outside of school – watching videos, absorbing content – and coming to class prepared and engaged. And when it comes time to apply the knowledge, I am a stones-throw away, ready to help. Or better yet, students collaborate with one another, striving to grow and push one another’s education.

With that model, my students have become increasingly more comfortable knowing that in a student-centric classroom they are in control. Not only has their role changed but so has mine. As a teacher I am transformed from a class director to a coach, and thanks to screencasting I have enabled a flipped mastery classroom. No more saying, “that’s enough for today, let’s continue tomorrow.”

Watch how Snagit works.

Having the ability to learn anytime, anyplace via screencasts is really the way to make every minute count. Not only for me, but for my students too who in turn are accountable for their successes and failures.

For teachers out there who are unsure about adopting screencasts into their daily routine or are nervous about the difficulties of producing tech-enabled content, don’t be. Personally, I use Snagit and TechSmith Relay on both my Mac at home and on our Windows-powered school computers. I rely on screencasting for teaching my students, and they rely on it for teaching themselves. This experience has taught me that visuals are a powerful axel, on which student wheels will turn.

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Rob Zdrojewski is a technology teacher at the Amherst Central School District and adjunct professor at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York. Rob can be contacted via his blog at or @MrZtechTV on Twitter.  

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