This is the sixth in a fifteen part, weekly journal on my experience teaching a web class. Each post explores how things are going in the current week and ideas for future revisions of the course. For my first post, see Week 1 (Why do it, My class, Moodle, Message Board Worries and Drops). For my second post, see Week 2: Failures in Communication. For my third post, see Week 3: A comedy of Errors and a Silver Lining? My fourth post is titled Week 4: Cut and Paste. The fifth is Week 5: Grooving on Good Content. To see entries posted after this one you’re reading now, you can also just pull down the categories menu on the right and select the Web Teaching Journals category.
I had to record some screencasts this week for next week’s unit and, as always, it was a hassle. Don’t get me wrong. I like the program I’m using: IshowU. It is inexpensive and it works well. I am not qualified to judge it in comparison to other programs I have not used, and which may very well be better. But it’s a hassle to bring all the elements together: the power point, the written-out script and then the actual performance. I find that reading scripts can deaden one’s inflection, so I strive to be an animated “reader” of my own scripts. You may be asking: Why do I use scripts as opposed to just bullet points to guide me through my spiels? I do it just in case I ever have a hearing impaired student in my class that I need to accomodate. Anyway, as I was saying, as easy it is for me to screencast, it’s still annoying to bring all the elements together. For example, searching for images for my powerpoint is not always fun. Re-recording a film because I skipped a slide makes me crazy. Etcetera.
Anyway, this is where all of this is going: I am not very crazy about my films for week 8 and had thought I would re-record them to make them better. However, considering all of the above, I’ve decided to only write a script and present it as a webpage instead. I’m taking a break from screencasting! I’ve also decided to try to schedule a group meeting with as many of my students as possible, for a class excursion related to the class. At best, I expect to get 5 or 6 takers out of 30. We’ll see. I’ll report back here.
Screencasting is a valuable tool, no doubt, one that is central to my web teaching. Screencasting can also be invaluable to live teaching, as attested by my friend John Garrigus, who uses them to “teach naked” and enliven classroom discussion. However, I’ve been thinking that screencasts are not necessarily the centerpiece of the learning experience of my students. It’s just one element, among several, and as such, it is not always [gulp!] indispensable! If it’s indispensable to anyone, it’s indispensable to teachers who feel that they need to manifest a tangible presence in the class. I often feel that way: They need to see me and hear me, somehow, someway! Other forms of presence are harder to conceptualize and enact for teachers such as myself, so the ole screencast becomes centrally important, if not a crutch.
My friend and collaborator Matt Crosslin has blogged about related topics at Edugeek Journal, and I really think I need to start experimenting with proposals. Keep the ole screencasts, but start branching out and helping my own students branch out. His article is called “Adding Value and Battling Staleness in Online Classes”. I love the use of the word “stale” in his post title. That’s precisely what happens to screencasts: they become stale in a way that one’s live lectures rarely become. For dynamism, fluidity, and spontaneity, other forms of freshness abound. Check out Matt’s post!