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Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. He can be found at www.petermdewitt.com. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

5 Reasons You Should Use Touchcast

By Peter DeWitt — February 08, 2015 4 min read
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A few years ago I began flipping my leadership, which is the flipped learning model at the leadership level. I wanted to change the way we did our faculty meetings, so I sent out links to blogs, articles or videos from You Tube or the Teacher Channel before the meeting so we could dive down deeper into the topic when we were all together.

Staff should not only know what is on the agenda, but be a part of creating it. I think it was George Couros who said the smartest person in the room is the room. Our collective ideas make us better, and that was certainly how I felt about working with my staff.

The flipped idea moved on from using it with just the staff to involving parents. It was some amazing idea I had or anything, we just happened to be experiencing two really big initiatives (Common Core, Dignity for All Students Act) and I wanted parents to have the information before Open House so we could spend the few minutes we had together discussing bullying and what we knew about the common core at that time.

Little did I know that it would change my perspective and how I communicated with parents. We had Edline, and most parents signed up when they knew I would be sending home videos about the typical day into the lives of a Poestenkill student or information about initiatives and mandates.

Donna, our school secretary and my right hand woman, and I created a one page refrigerator page to send home important dates and news. We found that most people didn’t read the pretty 5 page letters we were sending. The Refrigerator page was widely read...or at least hung up on refrigerators, but I wanted to keep exploring the flipped idea.

However, I was using a program to create videos for parents and staff that didn’t seem to work well. I could only create them at home because I needed a camera and microphone, and the application was expensive and not very user-friendly. When I started recording I had to get it right the first time or I was forced to start over again because there wasn’t a pause option.

...and then I found Touchcast.

Curt Rees, a principal I knew through my Twitter professional learning network (PLN) Tweeted out that he used the free app on his iPad. I instantly started to play around with it and I was floored by how easy it was to use. It changed the way I communicated with parents and teachers...and here are five reasons why.

User-friendly - Touchcast has “How to” videos but you probably won’t need them. Download the app and it helps you walk through what you need to do next. Leaders and teachers are busy and they don’t need to spend hours trying to figure out a new application. Touchcast is something you can figure out in less than an hour, and in my opinion it’s fun!

Green Screen - There is a green screen option that allows the user to put pictures in the background so the viewer doesn’t have to see the face of the Touchcast presenter. Once you begin using pictures, you can store them in the app for future use.

Teleprompter - I use to write what I wanted to say in a Word document, print it out and keep it close when I was using the other application. No longer was this an issue! I would still use the Word document but cut and paste it into the teleprompter which is positioned right next to the camera so it looks like the user is just talking into the camera.

On-line Support - Hundreds of educators around the world are using Touchcast and here are just a few examples of the videos they created. There is also a Google group that Touchcast created so that users can share resources, ideas and ask for help.

Visible Learning - Touchcast will help any leader or teacher open up their school walls and let parents in on the secret lives of students. Many parents may think that school has not changed since they attended, and the truth is there are many teachers and leaders trying to change the way school looks, even if the brick and mortar on the outside stays the same. A 5 minute video will help open up dialogue around learning instead of newsletters that only seem to focus on monologue. Sending out a link to parents in a way that they can respond through e-mail with feedback or questions will help open up the lines of communication.

In the End

I’m not a paid spokesperson for Touchcast. I just really believe in the power of using this free app. As a practioner and former principal and teacher, I know how busy we all get with everything under the umbrella of school. This app is easy to use and will help educators communicate differently with their students (flipped learning) and parents (flipped leadership).

Touchcast recently began an ambassador program, which I’m proud to be a member of, but if you click on this link you will see some awesome examples of practioners who are helping to change the way we think about school through their use of Touchcast.

Download the app, give it a try and see how easy it is to use. Michael Fullan says that technology should never be the driver or change, but good pedagogy should be, and if educators keep that in mind they can use an app like Touchcast to be the vehicle to focus on great pedagogy.

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The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.