Asynchronous instruction, which is when you aren’t teaching your students in real-time, has quickly become the new reality for many teachers and districts. It’s necessary for safety, but teachers now have to figure out the best way to get their content out to students that they can’t see.
Fortunately, most teachers have been able to rely on platforms like Canvas, Blackboard, SeeSaw, and Google Classroom to push out material to their students. While written assignments and instructions are fine, students still need to hear and see you on occasion. There’s just no replacement for that. That’s where recording comes in.
Before we get into what programs to use, let’s talk about some best practices.
- The best length for instructional videos is anywhere from 5-10 minutes, depending on how old your students are. Seriously. Don’t go longer than this. Nobody will be paying attention.
- Chunk your material to stay within the time frames.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Is there dirty underwear on the bed behind you? Is your spouse going to walk by naked on the way to the shower? Take a minute to take inventory of what your students will be seeing.
- Lighting is so important. Natural light is great, but make sure you don’t have a window behind you. You’ll probably end up a dark and ominous silhouette. Aim for the light to be coming from in front or at least from the side. If you don’t have enough, move a lamp over near where you are recording. If you want to get fancy, you can even invest in a more professional setup like a ring light. You’ll notice that lots of YouTubers and Insta Celebs record from their cars because the lighting is so great, but I feel like it’s not very realistic for teachers. If you make it work, show me how!
- If you’re teaching from a whiteboard or a piece of paper/textbook, please make sure your camera is close enough and in focus so your students can actually see what you’re doing. If you’ve got a document camera, use it. Most have some sort of built-in recording functionality. If you don’t have a document camera, I’ve seen some cool hacks online involving placing a compact mirror over your camera to get the same effect.
- You don’t need to buy a fancy microphone to be heard. Whatever is built into your computer or webcam is probably just fine.
- Speak clearly and at a conversational rate and tone. We all tend to go into robot mode when it comes to recording. Pretend you’re talking with your students in person.
- Be prepared. Having an idea of where your lesson is going will help you stay fluid. The silence is magnified on a video when you get lost, and the number of times you say “umm” becomes so much more noticeable. Have a script or outline, or at least practice beforehand.
Now, let’s talk about some programs you can use. I’m only going to go over a couple, but this is by no means an exhaustive list. These are just the two I prefer.
I’ve used Screencastify for years and absolutely love it. It’s an extension for your browser that allows you to record whatever is on your screen and/or your webcam, so you can choose to have one or both recording for your students at the same time. Here’s a breakdown of the features you get:
You’ll notice that the free version limits you to 5 minute videos, but you don’t want to be recording much more than that anyway. My favorite feature is the fact that any video I make is automatically saved into my Google Drive account, so it’s one less step for me. You also have the option to download it to your computer. The unlimited version has some extra editing features and unlimited recording length, which might be worth it, depending on your needs. They’ve discounted it down to $29 for teachers. You can find more information here https://www.screencastify.com/buy
Loom is another browser extension that works in a similar way to Screencastify. You can record what’s on your screen or your webcam, or some combination of both. Videos you create on Loom are stored on the Loom website, so you can send links to them or download them to your device. You can’t annotate using the browser extension like you can with Screencastify, and it doesn’t automatically save to Google Drive.
Teachers get access to the upgraded version of Loom for free, forever, which is a pretty sweet deal. You get unlimited recording, and more editing features. To sign up, go here https://www.loom.com/education.
My two cents
I’m not sponsored by either of these tools, and I’m offering my opinion here as a person who has used both. For me, Screencastify beats Loom. While I appreciate that Loom gives the free upgrade, I’ve had more issues with it acting buggy for me. I get an error the first time I use the extension every day, and have to start over whatever I’m recording. Loom has a desktop app that offers more features, but I gave up trying to use it because it kept making my computer crash. Maybe it just doesn’t get along with my device and you may not have these issues. You’ll have to leave comments and let me know.