Tom Starkey's world of ed tech
Screencasting - or, as it used to be known, making an instructional video for your pupils to access online - has become a prominent idea in education. You can, of course, use established websites such as YouTube to find something ready-made (and half-decent) covering the subject that you want to explore. But if you're a control freak like me, you won't want to let anyone else hog the limelight - and there are plenty of online options that allow you to make your own videos.
A couple of my favourites are Screencast-O-Matic (free, easy to use and with a straight-to-YouTube upload option) and Jing (free, downloadable with registration).
All you need to start is a computer and a microphone, which are available from as little as pound;5 and can be plugged straight into the mic jack or USB port. Then simply choose the area of your computer screen that you want to record (a PowerPoint, browser, document and so on) and check that your microphone works. And away you go, commentating as though you were presenting the final of the snooker.
It may seem tricky to start with, but after a quick play you'll be making videos of a decent standard. Soon after that you'll be behaving like a proper Hollywood diva, demanding that no one in Class 4 makes direct eye contact with you and refusing to create your masterpieces for anything less than a new set of biros with all the red ones removed.
Admittedly, creating videos can be time-consuming. As with anything, you'll have to weigh up whether it's worth the investment - and whether you can stand the agony of listening to yourself drone on and wondering if that is how you sound in real life.
But I prefer this approach because it allows me to personalise and tailor the content. The videos can consolidate learning, save time when giving feedback and allow students to dictate the pace of the lesson as they stop, rewind, watch again and so on. And the kids get to laugh at your mumbled delivery in the comfort of their own homes, hopefully learning a little something while they're at it.
Is it a miracle cure for engagement? Is it heck. Student motivation doesn't miraculously change just because they're sat in front of a screen rather than your tired mug. They still have to watch the videos - and if they don't pay attention in class, they probably won't at home. Saying that, I have had success using this technique with students who experience problems with social interaction, as it takes the pressure off and allows them to set their own pace.
So, if you fancy bolstering your lessons with some audio-visual supplementation there are ways and means. Let me know how you get on. I'll be sitting in my trailer waiting for my close-up, darlings.