Touchcast is an exciting, free iPad app that allows students to create interactive videos. Described as a “TV studio in a box,” Touchcast is an app that will challenge students to think critically and creatively, work collaboratively, and develop their communication skills. Since the fall, many teachers throughout Burlington High School have been allowing students to use Touchcast. From Psychology and Spanish to Modern America and Digital Literacy, Touchcast has been added to the list of choices many teachers offer to their students to demonstrate their learning.
Tips for Getting Started:
Before filming a Touchcast, I would suggest allowing students at least two class periods to plan their Touchcasts. Depending on the complexity of their topic and the requirements of the assignment, planning and organizing the elements of a Touchcast is crucial. Teachers may also want to consider making the creation of a storyboard a requirement of the project. The planning process will involve:
- Selecting a Touchcast theme– themes include a Business, News, or Sports cast, A How to, Review It, or Travel Diary
- Writing a script and determining if the teleprompter is needed. Students can adjust the speed of the teleprompter and because of where it’s positioned in the app, students will be looking at the camera. I recommend having students practice reading from the teleprompter several times before recording so that they are comfortable with the speed and the overall flow of the Touchcast.
- Select and position the Vapps (video apps) – Students will need to locate the images and other elements they want including intheTouchcast (Note: video can only be embedded asaVapp in the iPad 4) Some of the more interesting andinteractiveVapps include Twitter feeds, Google maps, and interactive polls. Students can alsouseInstagram images and Facebook pagesasVapps which incorporates the use of social media into an educational setting.
- Select a location for filming (or try the green screen- see update about the green screen at the end of this post)
- Decide which titles they want to use- the main title stays on by default for the entire Touchcast, but students can adjust the type of title show in the Touchcast, as well as how long the title will remain on the screen
Practice, Practice, Practice…Make Perfect…
The most important piece of advice for students is that they must rehearse. Rehearsing the Touchcast, especially the placement and the timing of the Vapps, is critical to producing a high quality product. Common mishaps I’ve seen with Touchcasts include an unsteady iPad, poor lighting and/or audio, and students’ faces being covered by the Vapps (most often images). To avoid these mistakes, students should be prepared to do several takes or run throughs of their Touchcast. With sufficient practice, they should be able to share a finished project that’s ready for assessment. Finished Touchcasts can be private, or they can be shared to various social networks. I’ve uploaded my students’ Touchcasts directly to my YouTube channel. In terms of drawbacks, Touchcasts are limited to five minutes of recording and students cannot stop the recording and then record over.
A Walk Through of Touchcast
In the video tutorialt below, Help Desk Junior Danny Piotti provides an overview of how to use some of the major features of Touchcast.
Earlier this year, I sat down with several teachers and they shared with me how they had used Touchcast in their classes. I also interviewed several students and they too shared their thoughts on the advantages and disadvantages of the app.
Ideas To Get Started:
1. Students in Mrs. Carey’s Social Studies class used Touchcast to create Civil War on the spot news reports. Students had to report on a particular battle from the Civil War. Their newscast had to have lots of visuals as well as:
- At least 4 different primary source descriptions of the battle (this would include photographs, letters, diary entries, etc.)
- The number of casualties and interesting facts about the battle/strategies
- The outcome of the battle and the effect the battle had on the course of the war/war strategy
2. Mr. Whitten’s AP World History classes used Touchcast to create promotional videos. Students were placed into groups and had to create promotional videos designed to:
- Recruit Spaniards to the Central/South American continent as colonists.
- Recruit Europeans to the North American continent to settle.
- Recruit Portuguese to the South American continent as colonists
3. Students in my Digital Literacy course created Touchcasts on the various elements of Digital Citizenship. In the example below, seniors Joey and Jake report the news on Digital Health and Wellness. In their broadcast they include:
- The definition of Digital Health and Wellness
- Signs of digital addiction
- Tips on how to balance on and off screen time
4. Students in Mrs. Dacey’s Spanish class collaborated in order to record various Spanish conversations using Touchast. Their video can be seen by clicking here.
5. In Ms. Fischel’s AP History class, students collaborated to create a Touchcast on child labor in Burma. In the example shown below, students used iMovie in conjunction with Touchcast.
An Added Bonus: The New Green Screen
Thanks to the folks from South Portland High School in Maine, who visited our Help Desk program several months ago, a green screen has been added to the Lower Library. Students can now add another level of creativity to their Touchcast and other video projects and many are taking advantage of the new community green screen. We hope this trend will continue and as always, if students or teachers need a classroom demonstration of Touchcast, Help Desk students are available periods 1, 3, 4, and 7. In addition, the Touchcast website features tutorials, ideas, and inspiration from educators across the country on their Educast channel. Students can even submit a Touchcast about their favorite teacher, but they must act quickly, as the deadline is tomorrow!