Over the last three years, the teachers and students in my school have created over 500 videos with our green screens and the free iPad app, Touchcast. We have four green screens in our library, three others around the school in classrooms and countless green tablecloths that go up in hallways and classrooms when we’re doing a big project. Several teachers now have their own channels. Some students even create their own videos at home, for extracurricular projects and of course, just for fun. This has fundamentally changed our school. The specific app isn’t what matters; it probably could have been any app. However, I do think Touchcast is the very best choice; not only for student projects, but also for flipping your classroom, school news shows and MakerSpace-style video creation. It is easy and fun to create videos that promote future ready libraries for every school. You can include video apps including polls, quotes, and pop-up images as evidence, all the while using green screens to create backgrounds such as news shows and of course, school libraries.
Many students come back on their own time, before school, during academic support, after school, to create their own videos. Our selfie-loving students love creating videos. Some examples: writing and recording an original birthday rap as part of a copyright lesson in my library skills class, possibly the most popular lesson of the year, an eclectic 6th grade news show featuring guest speakers and fun costumes that students record before school every day, and a video on how to wear a hijab as a visual addition to a social studies project. Three boys have even taken it upon themselves to start their own rap group; all their songs are about Boston sports teams. This is completely extracurricular for them, but their teacher is so pleased to see them engaged in something that she has even let them use class time to film. I love seeing kids get passionate about creating their own content.
I do take time to explicitly teach students how to use the app. At the end of 6th grade after a unit on media literacy that involves analyzing ads from the Ad Council, students create 30 second video PSAs about digital citizenship topics. Last fall we took that project one step further and showed the six best PSAs at an event that featured the documentary Screenagers with a red carpet for our star videographers. Touchcast has made it possible for my students’ voices to be shared in an authentic way with their peers, their parents and our community. And that has been so powerful.
Touchcast is giving students a voice in our school for so many classroom assignments. From projects on countries in 6th grade, to weather projects in 7th grade science (which completely took over the school for a week), to Myth in a Minute videos in 7th grade social studies where students had to summarize and analyze a Greek myth in just one minute. Our 8th graders have more choice in their platforms, but we often find that the students who use Touchcast create the most engaging, high quality projects in their class. One such awesome project was one on Newton’s Laws, which used the video App capability of Touchcast to its full effect. Both the Newton’s Laws project science and the Pythagorean theorem project in 8th grade are also examples of projects where we make the students not only the content creators, but also the instructors. We give no instruction on the topic and ask students to work in groups to research and then create a product that explains the concept to their peers in a creative way. Touchcast has been an excellent medium for this.
Whenever we create videos, we of course find that we get our best results when we are clear about our expectations. We use the PV-LEGS rubric, which stands for poise, voice, life, eye contact, gestures and speed to help our students improve their speaking skills and we create rubrics for each project to guide students to tell a story, use interesting effects, keep their presentations concise and collaborate effectively. We have structure, but within that structure, students are encouraged to be creative. So far the balance is working.
Our students are creative, funny and smart and they love a chance to express themselves on camera. Touchcast has been a good way for us to give our students an authentic voice both for projects and for fun and I’m excited that this creation is happening in the hub of our school, the school library.