As educators in the 21st century, one of our goals should be to design student driven experiences that offer flexible learning paths, using a variety of tools to meet the diverse needs of all students. Fueled by essential questions, technology is certainly a fabulous tool for facilitating these types of experiences, but with limited instructional time, loads of content to uncover and varied comfort levels with the technology itself, implementing these types of learning experiences can be overwhelming and can be an inefficient use of instructional time. If educators are going to effectively use technology as a tool for learning, than the learning focus has to be on the content, not the technology.
How do we keep the focus of the learning experience on content and avoid being consumed by teaching students how to use the technology? A tool that I've found to be particularly effective is the use of screencasts to create quick tech tip tutorials to help teachers and students use the technology to succeed. A screencast is a narrated video that captures what takes place on a computer screen. It can be used to provide demonstrations and tutorials to teach the "how to" of using the technology. The primary benefit of using this tool is the pause button. Users can pause the tutorial, and replay it as often as needed to learn the "how to", allowing the teacher to circulate around the room facilitating differentiated content based instruction through informal assessment, reteaching and enrichment.
There are plenty of screencasting tools available online. The free and user-friendly tool I have adopted is Screencast-O-Matic because of the simple push-button recording feature that allows users to easily create a screencast, publish it on YouTube, and make it available for teachers and students right away. A screencast created with this tool can be embedded into a blog, wiki, or website or linked to a Google Doc, so it is very versatile. Screencast-O-Matic has announced the addition of a new feature in February that will allow screencasts to be published right in a Google Doc.
Below I've embedded a snippet of an example from a lesson in which students used a Google Presentation template to construct knowledge. In this project, screencast tutorials were included right on the template to provide them with easy access to tech support.
Example: Using Screencasts to Support a Technology-Driven Lesson
Click on the images or links to access the tutorials.