Screencasts Do’s and Don’ts

Teachers everywhere have begun creating screencasts and are seeing the positive effects of how replacing whole group lecturing opens the door for more student engagement. Screencasting lectures are often the first step teachers take in flipping their classrooms. Students begin to receive the lecture that was once done in school in the comfort of their own home, friends house, internet cafe, etc. and use class time to complete the type of work that was once given as homework. The type of work now given in class often has the students practicing new skills that were covered in the screencast. Both teachers and students benefit from the new set-up. The students benefit from having the teacher there to help address any questions or concerns. The teacher can now get a more accurate assessment of how the students are performing.

So the question becomes…

What Makes a Good Screencast?

A good screencast can have a tremendous impact on student learning; however, the opposite is also true. Below are my tips on what makes a great screencast. Feel free to comment below to share any you think I left out!

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  • Make your own – students enjoying seeing their teacher present new information vs. some random person on Youtube. You creating your own screencast personalizes the learning experience.
  • Outline what you will be talking about – Trust me. No one likes someone who rambles about nothing. I have caught myself rambling in the past and it is not good. If you want to expand on a topic, then do so! Just have a plan for what exactly you are going to share and do.
  • Keep it simple and short as possible – One of my favorite ways to present new information is to do a screencast of our digital textbook that has an audio recording of the text. I play the text and pause periodically to add notes, commentary, or whatever else I feel is relevant. In the past, this would be done in a lecture setting that could consume nearly all of a 40 minute period. In a lecture, you can only go as fast as the last student to write in your notes. Screencasting allows me to reduce that time to 1/4 of that while still giving students to work at their own pace by being able to pause and rewind the video when needed.
  • Have a definite purpose- What is the one thing you are trying to accomplish? Make sure your one thing is a present theme in your screencast. Please note that not all screencast need to be aligned with a curriculum standard. I often will make one giving an example of how to turn in an assignment or how to change the share settings on a Google doc.
  • Have everything ready to go on your computer- Most screencasting programs have a feature that will allow you to edit or trim your video, but save yourself as much hassle as possible by having everything prepared on your device. I can only imagine how LAME it would be for a student to watch his/her teacher search for a particular document or file.
  • Hide all personal information – Close all of the tabs and programs you are not using in your screencast.
  • Practice – Do a dry run on your presentation before you hit publish. Check to make sure everything is working properly and look for areas where you can trim down the length.
  • Se the appropriate screen size- True Story: The First screencast I made was perfect…if you were an ant. I somehow manage to record it in a small window and my students could not see any text when they tried to view it on their Chromebooks. I recorded a PowerPoint presentation using only the preview window instead of viewing the slideshow and adjusting my screencasting window to the full screen. So, do not be like me and remember to adjust the screen size appropriately.
  • Speak clearly – See below

  • Eliminate Distraction(s) – This would be one I have learned the hard way… multiple times. So, silence your cell phone, put the kids to bed, put the dog outside, and mute the TV.
  • Use Humor – I enjoy making seriously corny jokes throughout my screencasts. Think dad jokes of Science. Don’t worry, I will save them for my students and not expose them to you. Another fun way to mix things up is to randomly show a weird image or video. This will typically get a laugh and also “wake them up” a bit. I have been known to throw in a certain 7-second video of a screaming goat during longer screencasts.


  • Worry about your filmmaking ability. Whatever you are capable of will be great!

Quick Tip

The internet is full of screencasting programs. Many are super expensive. I personally use Screencast-o-matic. It is super easy to use and also has basic editing capabilities. The link below will lead you to their page. Many teachers can typically use the free version. I personally paid about $25 and have not been disappointed.

Click HERE to visit Screencast-o-matic.


What do you do to make a great screencast for your students?


The 411 on Learning Management Systems (LMS)

Learning management systems are the latest craze taking over the educational landscape. Keeping things as simple for the students as possible as you begin to use more and more technology and online activities is imperative. You have a hard enough time teaching your students the content of the class. Why would you want to add obstacles along the way?

The internet is full of wonderful activities to enhance student learning (#pinterestforthewin), but it can also be difficult for both teachers and students to remember how to access specific content.

For example, I might have students in my room working on different online activities. When I first started, I used to print out a piece of paper with the URL address written on it, but this did not go well as students were constantly misspelling words or skipping a number in the URL which meant valuable instructional time was being wasted as I made my way around the room typing in the correct URL. I then started to send out emails to the students with the links, but then I had students “lose” and/or delete the emails. That is when I realized something absolutely paramount to successfully flipping the classroom.

You need a place to house what you are doing. Keep it as simple as possible for the students. You do not want them to have to remember a bunch of passwords and add unnecessary steps to what you are trying to accomplish. You need a system to manage the learning taking place in your classroom. Enter the Learning Management System (LMS).

Behind the Scenes of Building Great Lesson Plans of a Flipped Classroom


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LMS 101

“A learning management system (LMS) is a software application for the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting and delivery of educational courses or training programs.” – Ellis, Ryann K. (2009), ASTD Learning Circuits

What Exactly Does an LMS Do?

There are hundreds of LMS systems available. A good LMS will allow you to do at least the following:

  • Give online assessments that can be graded automatically and easily format the data in a user-friendly way to analyze. This is a great feature as it eliminates human error in grading and is a substantial time saver.
  • Ability to complete and submit assignments.
  • House links to external sites like Youtube, BrainPOP, etc.
  • Create Modules – I will devote a blog post specifically on how to create an effective module in the future.

Where Do I Start?

First, find out if your district is paying for an LMS.

Second, start small by figuring out what the is the one thing you could do on the LMS to better serve your students?

Plan and brainstorm online with friends with the free mind mapping tool MindMeister. Click HERE to sign-up!

My Suggestions on How to Begin

A google doc to house links for questions of the day, youtube, links for screencasts, pdf copies of handouts and other materials you use can be a great start.

This can be done by sharing a single doc with the students and posting to your LMS. Even if your school does not have an LMS, you can still share the doc with your students at the beginning of the year and use it throughout the year. I recommend showing the kids how to create a folder in their email for your class and housing the doc there. Then each day the students would open up the doc to access your materials for the day. See the pictures below for help.

Check out this link if you want more information regarding lesson plans.

Want a copy of this or need to see it a bit bigger? Click HERE or the image above.
Want a copy of this or need to see it a bit bigger? Click HERE or the image above
Want a copy of this or need to see it a bit bigger? Click HERE or the image above

LMS Recommendation

My district uses the LMS Canvas. I strongly recommend them as they are constantly adding features and becoming more user-friendly as time goes on. The impact Canvas has had on my teaching is nearly impossible to put into words. Canvas is dependable, has given me the ability to enhance the learning experience of my students while also helping make my dream of flipping the classroom a reality. Click HERE or the image below to learn more about what Canvas has to offer.

Click here to learn more about Canvas!

Tricks and Tips

Whatever you do keep it simple and easy for both students and families to understand. You do not need to make it look fancy. Just provide a practical way for your students to access the information and materials of your class.

Your Challenge

Find the best way for you to house the magnificent activities your students are doing.