Saturday, 14 June 2014

Screencasts, Misconceptions & the Benefits of Reflection

Explain Everything & Doodlecast Pro - Fantastic Screencasting Apps

Screencasts are amongst some of the most powerful and potentially transformational digital tools we have, and it's great to seeing them being used regularly, whether on the Mac with Quicktime, or arguably more easily, on an iPad with one of the plethora of screencasting Apps that are available.


 A digital recording of activity displayed on a screen

Screencasts are also a powerful way to get students to articulate their thinking, even if the only person who ever gets to see the screencast is themselves, their parents, or maybe a friend.


ScreenChomp Subtraction SMc from UWC South East Asia on Vimeo.

"students learn more deeply from reading a science text if they are prompted to explain the material to themselves aloud as they read." p162 (My emphasis)
Pellegrino J W, & Hilton M L (Eds) (2013). Education for life and work: Developing transferable knowledge and skills in the 21st century. National Academies Press. 

Reflection is critical

Cited in Black & Wiliam's pivotal 'Assessment and Classroom Learning' (1998),  a review of European research by Elshout-Mohr (1994) pointed out both that students are often unwilling to give up misunderstandings—they need to be convinced through discussion which promotes their own reflection on their thinking—and also that if a student cannot plan and carry out systematic remedial learning work for himself, he or she will not be able to make use of good formative feedback. Both of these indicate that the kind of self-assessment fundamental to reflection is essential. Similarly, Hattie et al (1996) argue that direct teaching of study skills to students without attention to reflective, meta-cognitive, development may well be pointless. Pointless.

A more recent study entitled 'Learning by Thinking' (Stefano et al, 2014) focuses on the importance of reflection as one of critical components of learning; reflection as "the intentional attempt to synthesize, abstract, and articulate the key lessons taught by experience".  In short, if you want your students to retain what they have learned long term, you have make time for students to reflect on what they have learned (not just what they have done) in fact far from bring a 'maybe if there's time' option, this is something you can't afford for your student's NOT to do.
"... individual learning is enhanced by deliberately focusing on thinking about what one has been doing. [...] Further, we find that the effect of reflection on learning is mediated by greater perceived self-efficacy. Together, our results reveal reflection to be a powerful mechanism behind learning, confirming the words of American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer John Dewey: “We do not learn from experience...we learn from reflecting on experience.” (p29)

But,

Yes, you knew there was a but coming.

I see them used only for summative and not formative assessment, where the student creates a wonderful screencast that demonstrates mastery of the content... Which just leaves me wondering, well where was the learning? Did they already know how to do this? If not, where is the 'journey', you see I find teachers habitually orient to capturing summative demonstrations but rarely, if ever formative ones, specifically capturing mistakes, misconceptions, errors. This seems to 'run against the grain' of  teaching instinct.

Worse still, if a student 'gets it wrong' the tendency is it to ask them to scrap it and try again.

The truth is, misconceptions are a fantastic opportunity for a great lesson using a two stage screencast, stage one, the misconception, duplicate to another and overwrite with a correction. As John Hattie explains:
"A safe environment for the learner (and for the teacher) is an environment where error is welcomed and fostered – because we learn so much from errors and from the feedback that then accrues from going in the wrong direction or not going sufficiently fluently in the right direction." p23  (My emphasis)
Hattie J (2013). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. Routledge.

All you need is to set an activity that is focused on a common misconception that you know students often have, here's an example adapted from a recent article by Jan Chappuis Adapted from "Thoughtful Assessment with the Learner in Mind" (Educational Leadership, March 2014)

"The challenge with misconceptions is to correctly identify them and then plan lessons to dislodge them. Misconceptions are stubborn: They can't be corrected by papering over them. To illustrate, let's look at a misconception that's common in middle school science. Newton's first law of motion states that a force is not needed to keep an object in motion, yet many students (and adults) will tell you that if an object is in motion, it will require a force to stay in motion, which seems like common sense. (Aristotle thought this, by the way.) Memorizing the principles of the first law—“an object at rest will stay at rest” and “an object will continue with constant velocity unless acted on by an unbalanced force”—is generally not enough to counter what our senses tell us about force and motion: If you want a book to keep moving across a table, you have to keep pushing it." 

So, having given the class Newton's first law of motion, the teacher could ask the students to create a screencast that explains the forces that are in motion in order for them to, for example, make a ball roll slowly along a floor, and to describe the forces are that in action that could affect it and why...

While the students are engaged in this activity, the teacher is actively monitoring, as a keen observer, the teacher is constantly watching what students do, looking for clues about their learning progress, and asking for input from students about their status, what have they learned, and more importantly what do they need to unlearn. The teacher walks among their students as they work, listening for clues about their understanding, asking questions that probe their thinking... Looking for any evidence of misconceptions that will fuel the next intervention or episode of teaching. Having established the extent of understanding, the next steps will be to teach to correct. Depending on the extent of the misunderstanding, correcting this could be a 10 minute clarification, or maybe require a series of lessons and activities designed to explore this issue thoroughly.

Following this, the teacher asks the students, to continue their screencast, not to delete or amend the initial misunderstanding, but to continue the learning 'story', to identify the misconception and contrast it with the correct interpretation.

"Finally, when students are able to do so, have them explain why the misconception is incorrect. Misconceptions, whether in science, social studies, mathematics, language arts, or any other discipline, require an intentional approach tailored to the nature of the misconception because the teaching challenge is to cause  conceptual change—to have students give up the inaccurate conception they currently hold in favor of an accurate one." p24

Another but...

But this leaves another problem; what do you do with the 20 to 30 short videos? 

Watching them all could take maybe an hour, and that's without feedback, that could be time worth spending considering the richness of the data it contains, arguably a better way to spend your time than 'marking'. Alternatives include, peer assessment, or 'P2P' (Pupil 2 Pupil). Name stick random checkups, choose 5 to view carefully (don't tell them who it will be, use name sticks near the end of the lesson).

What do you do with the kids who on the first attempt were able to show that they understood the situation well, no misconceptions evident? 

Well the short answer is differentiate, other suggestions could include...  Promote them to 'teacher assistants', as 'assistants' they are invaluable in helping determine whether the 'corrected' screencasts of the other students are actually really correct. Challenge them to find another misconception to set the class (in the same area of learning) see if it can 'trick' the class? Create another screencast to explain why the misconception exists?

7 powerful ways to use screencasts

Black and Wiliam describe 7 indicators of understanding in their seminal work, Assessment and Classroom Learning (1998), and it just so happens these exact same indicators are fantastic ways to focus the ways you ask your students to make screencasts.

These indicators of understanding are especially relevant in terms of the kinds of evidence that screencasting is uniquely equipped to capture, ask students to use screencasts to make their learning visible - explicit by creating a screencast that models the following: extension, modification, pattern finding, shortcuts, explanation.

Tacit indicators will be persistence and enthusiasm.

"After studying and discussing video extracts and transcripts of lessons, seven 'indicators of understanding' emerged [...] as a series of potential clues to the level of the student's understanding,
  1. extension of a concept: students who have understood something often take the idea further on their own initiative; 
  2. making modifications to a pattern: students who understand, spontaneously start making their own modifications, while those who don't understand imitate or follow rules; 
  3. using processes in a different context: students who have understood a particular idea often start seeing the same patterns elsewhere; 
  4. using shortcuts: only students who are sure of the 'big picture' can short-cut a procedure so that thinking up or using a short-cut is taken as evidence of understanding; 
  5. ability to explain: students who have understood something are usually able to explain it;

    Tacit indicators
  6. ability to focus attention: persistence on a task is taken as a sign of understanding."
  7. changes in demeanour: students who had understood were 'bright-eyed' while those who had not appeared half-hearted; 
(p 57)

I'd argue that the reverse is true as well, namely, if a student does not show any of these indications, then it is likely they don't understand it, so capture their attempt, teach into their struggle, and then get them to capture a later more successful attempt.

SAMMS - Transformation with Tech
Social: A great way to manage a class load of videos such as those generated by a class full of students creating screencasts is to ask the students to post them on a class online platform, such as a Google Site or blog.

Access: They can search for clarification on specific elements they find confusing, maybe particular vocabulary, or inspiration for their demonstration.

Mutability: In response to feedback, students can easily duplicate and revise their screencast and post a second screencast that shows clear evidence that relevant criticisms have been resolved.

Multimodality: Of course this entire medium is multimodal, combining image, drawing, audio and video.

Socially Network & Situate: Now it is online, you can facilitate a P2P homelearn* activity. Assign assessment buddies to feedback on each others screencasts at home, of course the teacher can now easily monitor the quality of these online interactions, and interject, support, clarify, redirect as necessary.



Looking for inspiration for misconceptions? Google it... "common misconceptions students have" or something similar, will give you plenty of material to get you started.

For example ... http://www.apa.org/education/k12/alternative-conceptions.aspx 

*as opposed to 'homework'.


Paul Black & Dylan Wiliam (1998): Assessment and Classroom Learning, Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 5:1, 7-74

Elshout-Mohr M (1994). Feedback in self-instruction, European Education, 26, pp. 58-73.


Hattie J, Biggs J, & Purdie N (1996). Effects of learning skills interventions on student learning: a meta-analysis, Review of Educational Research, 66, pp. 99—13

Di Stefano, G., Gino, F., Pisano, G. P., & Staats, B. R. (2014). Learning by Thinking: How Reflection Aids Performance. Harvard Business School NOM Unit Working Paper, (14-093), 14-093. Chicago