23 April 2014

Quicktime + iMovie for Easy but Powerful Screencasts

If you're on a PC, hands-down I recommend Screencast-o-matic for free screencasting. No need for explaining, it's just simply the best option out there.

However, I haven't had the same success with Screencast-o-matic on my iMac. Then recently I realized I didn't need to. Quicktime has a built-in screen recording feature, just open it, click File>New Screen Recording.
In case you had a hard time finding File>New Screen Recording.
The screen recording feature has a few options. I'm pleasantly surprised by how well the iMac's built-in microphone works. The little bar at the bottom of the little window will show volume levels from your mic so you can see whether anything is working. You can also choose to add a little animation anytime you click the mouse, but I didn't like it.
Who the heck knows what Soundflower is.
When you hit the record button, a message will tell you to either click to record or drag a box to select the area you want to record. This is a nice way to hide all the other windows and tabs you have open while you record.
I don't want my viewers to know about my Pandora addiction. Also, what's with my banner? Who let this happen? I should fix that...
To stop the recording, there's a little square inside a circle (your basic stop symbol) in your menu bar, or use the command-control-escape shortcut.
On the far left, next to my endless array of cloud storage options.
Simply save the video, and if you're happy with your performance, you can upload it straight to your favorite hosting site. (I prefer Vimeo mostly because it isn't blocked whereas YouTube is. Well, I also like their interface a lot more.) But if you want to cut anything out, add a title, boost the audio, import it into iMovie. I won't tell you how to edit, but I will tell you to get rid of the cropping that iMovie really wants to do. Open up the adjustment settings on the clip, go to crop, and select "Fit" from the options.
Normally I'm all for getting rid of black bars on videos, but in this case it's a necessary evil.
As for myself, in my latest round of screen recording, I added titles and intro/outro music to my videos before uploading to Vimeo. As for that, iMovie makes it easy. Just click share, then select which form of sharing you want to do.
CNN iReport? Never heard of it.
That's all. iMac+Quicktime+iMovie=quick and easy screencasting.

07 January 2014

Why I Don't Like Traditional Grading

I'm not a fan of the traditional letter grade system, but I have a hard time describing why. Hugh O'Donnell did it for me in his post, Go Back to "Traditional" Grading? Some points I particularly agree with:
The teacher isn't concerned that another teacher in the district, the building, or just down the hall, who is teaching the same subject, has different grading criteria. Your child could get an A in one class, and a C in the other class—for the same level of actual achievement. (#4)
Kids don't learn from mistakes—they get hammered for mistakes. (#7)
The teacher’s most effective tool – feedback to the student about learning – is compromised by attaching “credit” to everything a student does. (#10)

06 January 2014

Student Opinion of Blended and Pathway Learning

A very literal representation.
What's Blended Learning?
I have a computer lab, so I created a course in Canvas and put assignments with video descriptions that students could watch whenever they needed to. Students would work at their own pace but I was available to help out in person during class.

Choose your own adventure.
What's Pathway Learning?
With the flexibility of the blended course through Canvas, I created multiple modules that students could choose from, essentially making their own path through my class.

Survey Results: Blended Learning
99% of students prefer blended learning to the traditional setting, according to the anonymous survey. Here's the actual breakdown:
  • 40% Loved it/way better than regular class
  • 47% Liked it/better than regular class
  • 12% It was OK/slightly better than regular class
  • 0% Didn't really like it/worse than regular class
  • 0% Hated it/way worse than regular class
  • 0% Absolutely no opinion
I gave the students a place to write any feedback they wanted. This quote demonstrates the biggest reason I wanted to try blended learning, because it gives them more time to learn by doing:
This class is so fun! Its not like you are sitting and watching a teacher say boring stuff! You're actually doing it yourself!
Next is very good feedback regarding the implementation. Not every assignment had a tutorial video attached, and some assignments were described in more detail than others.
he needs to explain hands on and show us or make a video. It would also be helpful if he in the description of the project would be more precise, not just make this
Apparently it simply works better for some students than others:
Sometimes even after watching the video it is still hard or confusing to do the assignments.
I liked the videos a lot and how they explained how to do the assignments... 
Survey Results: Pathway Learning
81% of students prefer pathway learning to the traditional setting. Here's the breakdown:

  • 38% Loved it/way better than typical class style
  • 29% Liked it/better than typical class style
  • 14% It was OK/slightly better than typical class style
  • 15% Didn't really like it/worse than typical class style
  • 1% Hated it/much worse than typical class style
  • 0% Absolutely no opinion
Pathway learning didn't start until the second term. First term was very directed; every student was basically working on the same assignment/project and got a taste of every subject in the class. Second term, having tasted a little of each subject, they picked which subjects to explore further.
i like on first term you show us all of the stuff and on second term you have us pick what we like.
Here's one of my fears of pathway learning:
...I am a horrible decision maker and can't decide what modules to use.
Another problem with pathway learning is that you have to create a lot more content than normal, which means that some modules or assignments aren't as fleshed out as they should be:
I didn't like pathway learning as much because some of the stuff I wasn't that great at and if I had a video and I would know expectations just a little more then. I think I could have learned a little more instead of figuring it out on my own.
Pathway learning makes it hard for students to know what they're supposed to be doing and where they stand grade-wise:
[it] was a good idea but it was easier to waste time cause we never really new where were supposed to be.
Some of pathway learning's problems could be the LMS. I chose not to use Edmodo partly because it's very linear, as in it basically showed the most recent assignments at the top, whereas Canvas let me organize my modules however I wanted. But Canvas has its own limitations. I still haven't figured out how to set it up to make it easier for students to know what they have and haven't done:
sorry but I prefer to be told what to do for school projects, and when to turn it in so I can stay on track. When you give me to many options I often end up behind because i can't decide what and when to finish and I can't keep track of what I have done.
Sometimes it was hard to see where you were and compared to where you should have been with how many modules being completed.
Of course, one of the main reasons to try pathway learning is summed up in the following:
A lot of the assignments were fun but some of them sucked. 
Reflection
Basically, if I have a computer lab, I will implement blended learning. Students can get way more done during the limited class time, plus it gets me out of that pesky classroom management stuff I'm so terrible at. If I don't have a computer lab, I'll probably consider the flipped model or beg for a class set of devices that students can watch videos on. To improve it in the future, I need to be more thorough and more specific in assignment expectations.

As for pathway learning, despite the fairly positive outcome in the survey, my gut feeling is that it's not worth it. I really like the idea of offering choice but too many students choose based solely on what looks easiest, not on what looks most interesting. A better way to offer students choice without losing them to indecision would be to basically set up the class to follow a single 'recommended' path, with other options available for students who actually care.

11 November 2013

Factory Teachers

I'm currently pursuing a masters degree so I don't find much time to blog. I don't have much time now, so I'm just going to pass along this passage from my textbook, How People Learn:
In the early 1900s, the challenge of providing mass education was seen by many as analogous to mass production in factories. ...Children were regarded as raw materials to be efficiently processed by technical workers (the teachers) to reach the end product (Bennett and LeCompte, 1990; Callahan, 1962; Kliebard, 1975). This approach attempted to sort the raw materials (the children) so that they could be treated somewhat as an assembly line. Teachers were viewed as workers whose job was to carry out directives from their superiors—the efficiency experts of schooling (administrators and researchers).
The emulation of factory efficiency fostered the development of standardized tests for measurement of the "product," of clerical work by teachers to keep records of costs and progress (often at the expense of teaching), and of "management" of teaching by central district authorities who had little knowledge of educational practice or philosophy (Callahan, 1962). In short, the factory model affected the design of curriculum, instruction, and assessment in schools.
So... has anything really changed? Does it even need to? Is my rhetorical questioning getting my opinion across well enough?

That's all for now.

01 November 2013

Initial Conclusions

Today marks the end of the first term of school for me. This year has seen a very significant change in how my class works, i.e. blended learning, but at the moment I'm short on time. Instead of sharing my own initial impressions, here's an article that talks about an entire high school of blended learning:

Initial Conclusions of Hybrid High's First Year

I've come mostly to the same conclusions, and I'll share those later.