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Creating a screen-capture video to offer feedback on writing

What is a screen-capture video?

A screen-capture video allows you to record your computer screen as you narrate what you are seeing. When a written text is on your screen, a screen-capture video allows a reader to follow your thinking and your interaction with that text.

Why make a screen-capture video for a student writer?

The efficacy of audio feedback on student writing has long been supported by research. Many students report that audio or audio-visual feedback helps them better understand a professor's experience as a reader of their writing, offering them deeper insights not just about what to revise but also why. Additionally, hearing critical feedback delivered in a supportive tone of voice encourages student writers to experience revision as a necessary and normal learning activity, rather than as punishment for being a poor writer who didn't get something right the first time.

When teaching online, a screen-capture video helps establish a one-to-one relationship between instructor and student.

For some introductory examples of screen-captures of student work used for teaching, check out the following:

How do I make a screen-capture video?

There are many tools that enable people to make screen-capture videos. Many computers come loaded with the ability to make screen-capture videos through simple tools. 

Snag-it is a robust tool available for purchase that we recommend if you are committed to utilizing screen-capture videos in your pedagogy. Currently, you can get a 15-day trial for free to try out this tool. Purchasing an affordable educator's license allows you to download the software to two machines. 

Depending on the platform you choose, you will be able to find guidance online about how to utilize that tool. Snag-it offers a variety of online tutorials

What content should I include in my video of a student paper? How do I prepare to make the video?

As with all teaching decisions, consider backwards design. What learning outcome do you seek? Design your commenting approach to reach that goal. 

Here are a few use cases:

  1. An instructor has noticed students tend to misinterpret a complex text they are assigned to write about. Students then build entire argument-driven essays around those flawed ideas. As a first draft, the instructor has students write a short, critical summary of the text and submit it. In her video of each draft, she talks through how well the writer has interpreted the text, correcting any mistakes the writer has made and recommending further work as needed.
  2. An instructor in a writing-intensive course wants to focus on teaching students to write with clarity. In each student's draft, they highlight the most clear and least clear paragraphs. In the video, the instructor talks through the strengths that make the clear paragraph work well and then the limits that impede clarity of the weaker paragraph. The instructor also shares and discusses a model paragraph from another text that exemplifies the qualities they wish to see in the student's work.
  3. A professor has students writing three proposals for research they will undertake later in the term. Students submit the proposals for instructor feedback, and the professor ranks them, explaining what makes the best proposal stronger and offering ideas for how to plan and begin the proposed research.

How should I start the video? How should I end it?

Start the video with a friendly greeting to the student and explain the purpose of the video. For example, you might say, "Hello, Shannon, this is Professor Chang, and I just finished reading the first draft of your research proposal. In this video, I am going to highlight the strengths of the proposal as well as my priorities for your revision."

End the video on a positive note that will encourage the student's further work, as well as an invitation to reach out to you with questions or for further discussion. When teaching online, be sure to indicate the best way for a writer to reach you for further discussion.

Should I make myself visible in the video?

Some screen-capture tools may allow for a "talking head" video of the speaker to be recorded along with the rest of the screen. It's your choice about whether to use that feature. Since you want a student to focus on the text you are discussing, an image of you is not necessary to the success of the video. 

What if I make a mistake while talking?

More robust screen-capture platforms allow editing. However, editing is time-consuming, and it's generally unnecessary in this context unless the error was of a grave nature. The video is meant to offer a student insights into your thinking about their work. As you talk, you may realize you misread something or change your mind about something you said earlier. It's fine to simply discuss the mistake or change and to narrate what, if any, lesson the student might take from your misunderstanding. 

How do I share the video with students?

Choose a FERPA-compliant platform for sharing the video. At present (3.17.2020) IMSS is working on a platform we can use at Caltech to share videos with students in a secure and simple manner. Box and OneDrive can be used in the near-term, but they are not advised for long-term use for this purpose.

Because uploading videos can take some time, we recommend getting each student's video completed, saved, labeled, and organized into a folder on your desktop. Then, upload all the videos for your class at once by dragging that folder into the platform you are using to share the video.

What other considerations should I keep in mind?

Once you record a video and give a student access to it, a student could share the video further. Just as with written comments, don't put anything into a screen-capture video that you would be uncomfortable having a student share with others.