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Assessing Common-Core Math Skills With Screencasting

The Common Core State Standards in math, specifically the practice standards, ask students to do more than just show their work—they ask students to explain their thinking, make sense of problems, construct arguments, and "communicate precisely." 

This type of performance can be hard to gauge as a teacher, especially when students are doing independent work. Sure, students can write in narrative form about their answers. But how can you know what a student understood or was thinking as he or she was solving the problem? Some would say this is the crux of good formative assessment, and also what makes it so very hard to do. 

In a blog post on Edutopia, teacher Monica Burns offers what I can't help but think is an ingenious solution for math class: screencasting.

Ever watched a pre-recorded webinar? Or a Khan Academy video? That's essentially a screencast.

With a screencasting app, students can create a video of themselves solving a problem on an iPad or other tablet. They can write and draw on the virtual whiteboard, and talk through the process as they do it. The screencast captures what they're doing on-screen as well as their narration. The teacher can watch the video and evaluate the students' skills at a later time. 

Nothing is as good for formative assessment as a one-on-one conference with a student, in which the teacher can ask follow-up questions and push the student to talk. But this seems to get pretty close. And boy does it save class time. 

Three years ago, I wrote about a teacher who used a screencasting app to get young students "storyboarding," or creating digital plays by speaking into an iPad microphone and moving the characters and settings with their fingers. I also know teachers use screencasts to explain procedures to their students (so they don't have to re-explain). And in some places teachers also use screencasts for peer-led professional development, explaining a teaching strategy for their colleagues. 

For more on how technology is changing formative assessment, sign into a live, online chat on the topic next month. 

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