Biology Teacher Engages Students with Classroom Capture, Multimedia

Can a high school biology teacher record his lectures, post them online, and get thousands of hits to his site in a year?

Apparently so, if Okemos High School's Kelly Carrier is an example. The Michigan public school science teacher uses TechSmith's Camtasia Studio to capture portions of his biology and physical science classes, then posts them online so that students can review them later. At five sections a day, with 30 students per section, he teaches 150 students a day--and then reaches them again and again via the online content, if the Web numbers are any indication.

"The Internet has exploded with [science] content, so that there are tons of diagrams and pictures that I want to share with students," Carrier said. "But it's hard [to show that content] with a whiteboard or overhead projector." Using a tablet computer connected to the Internet and an attached projector, Carrier can visit Web sites during a lecture, and mark up diagrams found there on his tablet PC while the illustration is projected on a large screen for students to see. He can also include video or Flash animations. With Camtasia running on the computer, everything he says or does is recorded to a file that he later posts online.

Carrier can make the resulting video files available via e-mail or on his site, using various formats, including the common .AVI or .WMD. He has experimented with a video iPod format and has gotten students to download videos onto their iPods. "The kids are listening to [the lecture] and watching it while they're riding the bus," he said. "They're listening to it and watching it while they're sitting out in the hall on break."

Using a tablet computer, he said, "just ties everything together. You have a projector, you have a tablet, and you can write, you can put up content from the Internet, you can do all kinds of things."

Although Camtasia can also record video if a digital camera is in use, Carrier chooses not to do that, since he prefers not to show student faces on the Internet. And when he's making a Camtasia recording, student questions and comments are recorded, but no student names are used.

Otherwise, making a recording is straightforward. Carrier uses a tablet PC he purchased himself, along with an inexpensive wireless microphone and the $130 Camtasia Studio software, which he also purchased himself, to make the recordings.

His Web site received some 38,000 hits last year, he said--indicating to him that his students are using the lectures repeatedly after class, as well as sharing the site with other students, and perhaps parents who want to know what their children are learning.

Last year, Carrier said, he experimented with Flash-based quizzes created with Camtasia's editor. In creating the quizzes, he embedded text in the video so that while a student is watching a video lecture, a quiz might appear: "These are the parts of the cell cycle. Select which are true."

Students can take the quiz on their computer or mobile device, then be told if they've answered right or wrong. If they miss an answer, they can skip to the part of the video that explains the concept they just missed.

Carrier records a video at least once a week if time permits, and said the popularity of the classroom videos is obvious.

"There have been times ... when I haven't been able to do a video. The kids will just go nuts: 'Why didn't you put anything up there?'"

Carrier, who has been teaching for nine years and said he isn't especially technical, originally started putting notes online, since in his view, "kids don't take great notes. No one teaches them to do that." He graduated last year to using Camtasia to record lectures.

Camtasia includes editing tools, but Carrier said he performs minimal editing. "I really want to emphasize: It doesn't take much time to do this." He guessed that now that he understands the technology, he is spending "30 minutes, and I'm done. It's posted on the Web; I've done a review; I've added video; I've added any animations; it's rendered, and I've posted it; I'm done."

With PowerPoint, Carrier said, Camtasia can create a table of content based on the slides that lets the student skip anywhere within the lecture. "It's my writing and my voice up there," he said, "but it's the hardware and software that really makes the magic happen."

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About the author: Linda L. Briggs is a freelance writer based in San Diego, CA.

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