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Teacher Feature: Benjamin Cogswell (EdTech Trainer): 1.0

proxy-image-1Name: Benjamin Cogswell

School: Alisal Union School District

Province: Salinas, Monterey County, California

Job Title: TOSA-Technology Trainer

How do you Doceri? 

Doceri is hands down my favorite app to use on the iPad. It was a game changer for me. I always enjoy sharing its awesomeness with other educators.

Doceri has allowed me to do many things: It draws attention and brings reflection to my own teaching through screencasts. Students gain voice and agency over their own learning. With Doceri Desktop, I have been freed from my desktop to roam around the classroom while still connected to my whiteboard. I can pause and hand a student my iPad as s/he works through a math problem while the class watches. My teaching becomes a rewindable and reviewable lesson that can follow students home.

What have been the reactions of your students, other staff, admin, parents to your use of Doceri?

“Amazed” is the reaction of staff and admin when I am able to annotate a YouTube video while in the back of the classroom. Parents love the fact that difficult lessons can be sent home to be replayed over again in the comforts of their home. Students love being able to approach their learning in a more creative way. It gives them a sense of pride and ownership when they get to see their video on the big screen.

One of the schools I worked with loves Doceri so much that it is on every single student’s iPad (K-6), every teacher’s iPad, as well as every teacher’s computer. Kindergartners have gone home with recorded videos of sight words, while sixth graders have made a video outlining the Hero’s Journey as referenced in The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan.

What was your experience getting students started on creating their own screencasts?

My students and I learned a lot lot that very first year of screencasting.I had just gotten the iPads and decided to jump right in. At first we tried to cover too much content by recording and writing at the same time. We learned to draw first THEN record. It was a humbling process as teacher and students grew side by side.

This process also changed the way I thought about assessment. Instead of grading a whole page of math where I couldn’t see the students thinking, I was now able to identify mistakes by having them do a single problem and articulate their thinking as they went through the problem describing each step as they wrote it. Furthermore, students were able to learn from each other during class. After discussions on constructive peer feedback, students were able to watch their classmates’ videos to help identify mistakes or learn from each other’s models. Student learning became visceral, rewindable, and transparent for both the teacher, the student, the student’s peers, and even sometimes the student’s family.

Not only have I engaged with students making new screencasts. I have also used it as a tool at home. My daughter has even used it to review for her Chinese class. Doceri is a very effective tool because when writing Hanzi, stroke order is very important. Doceri allowed my daughter to practice and review the characters that were on her test. Here are some of the videos that she made:

How has Doceri changed how you interact with your students during lectures/ presentations/ small group instruction?

When I used to make notes on the whiteboard in the front of the class with my back turned to the students, I was just hoping that they were engaged and following along. I would do my example on the board and paused to check for understanding along the way. Of course as soon as I erased the board to start the next example, a student would raise his or her hand and ask a question about the previous example. 

So, how has Doceri helped?

Doceri gave me freedom as a teacher. I ditched my desk and can directly instruct in the back of the classroom or go stand next to a “squirrely” student using the age old technique of proximity. When a student has a question about a previous example, I can reverse the timeline to review the problem. I can even have another student explain the previous problem as it plays in real time.  For small groups, if a student is having trouble with a particular concept, I can make a video that the student can watch and rewatch again and even pause to work and think.

Have you flipped your classroom?

I have not flipped my classroom but prefer a blended approach. Creating content takes time, so I focus on the concepts that students really struggle with. Sometimes I’ll make videos and introduce concepts in class, and then let the students take those videos home as a reference.

In addition, I have found the benefit of making the screencasts is it helps give my lessons more focus. Since I am recording at home, and not in real time, it lets me really cogitate on how to scaffold student learning.

Doceri has also been useful in developing my own child’s learning. As a homework assignment, my daughter was supposed to watch a math video on a very popular instructional site. I loved the concept, but thought the video was above my daughter’s head. She was only a second grader. The video was made to meet a fourth grade standard. I decided to take matters into my own hands, but instead of explaining the concept to her, I made two videos that she could watch to fulfill her assignment.

Do you have any advice for teachers new to using Doceri, creating screencasts, or integrating tech into their class routines?

Start small. Building skills with new tools takes time. Pick a small project and stick to it. It always takes longer in the beginning, but once you learn the tool, it moves much faster.

Don’t try to flip everything at once. Focus on projects and screencasts that will get the most bang for their buck. Pick concepts that are difficult for students to grasp.

“Perfect is the enemy of complete.” This is my work motto. Every video I make seems to have some kind of error.  Play around with the app. I think one of the reasons children supposedly pick up technology faster than adults is because of their innate curiosity and the ability to play. Be like a child and just have fun with the app.

Stick to the basic concept and keep the videos short. I definitely tried to stick too much content into my first videos, which can be overwhelming for both the creator of the video and the students who are watching it. And just enjoy the journey!

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