Teachers, administrators expand use of recording platform

When Jason Murray, technology coordinator for the Cornwall-Lebanon School District in Lebanon County, Pa., visited a fourth grade classroom in 2009, he was excited to see 10-year-old students using technology that had once been reserved solely for adults.

As part of a poetry unit, small groups of students were cycling through various activity stations where they completed different projects related to the unit. One of the tasks included reciting an original poem. But instead of performing in front of the teacher, students were setting up a Web cam, hitting “Record” on a computer interface, and recording their presentations for teachers, students and parents to view later.

This represents one example of unexpected uses teachers within the Cornwall-Lebanon School District have found for Panopto CourseCast, a platform for recording rich media, also known as a lecture capture solution.

When Murray first started looking for a lecture capture solution in 2007, his main goal was to help faculty members better understand classroom technologies, while decreasing the workload of the IT department.

With six schools located within the district, Murray’s department was responsible for helping teachers implement technologies at many different locations. This meant that many days the IT staff would spend valuable time driving to different schools - time which could have been used to help teachers with technology problems.

“With a small technical staff and six schools to service, we were greatly outnumbered. It was difficult to reach all teachers that needed us,” said Murray.

The distance between schools also made it difficult to hold technology workshops for teachers, as scheduling conflicts often made it necessary for IT workers to hold multiple training sessions at different locations. Recognizing the inefficiencies of this process, Murray began looking for a solution that would allow him to communicate with faculty members across the district.

After evaluating multiple solutions, Murray chose Panopto for its low total cost of ownership and media recordings that included video, audio and screen capture components. As a system that could run off a Windows 2003/2008 server and use simple Web cams for recording, Panopto could be deployed across the district with no special equipment required.

Following a successful installation by Panopto, Murray and his colleagues began sending video podcasts to faculty members in weekly e-mails. Each recording would feature a different classroom technology and would provide a demonstration on how to use it. Recordings also were posted to an internal Web site so faculty members could access them at their convenience.

“Previously when a teacher needed help, we would drive to the school and go over the issue in person. Now with Panopto, if a teacher forgets something like how to connect a data projector, he or she can go to the Web site, click on the link for that training session, and get the information at any time. The addition of Panopto has cut down on so many work orders that it is like adding a staff member to the IT department,” said Murray.

As faculty members embraced Panopto recordings for professional development, their interest in using the software for their students grew. So when a Cornwall-Lebanon student became ill and needed to miss weeks of school, his teacher approached Murray about using Panopto to record the classes the student was going to miss. Murray’s team agreed to help, and soon after, the first Cornwall-Lebanon teacher was trained and ready to record content for her students.

Mastering Objectives

The successful implementation of Panopto to help a sick student generated interest across the district. Murray responded to this interest by training teachers to use Panopto, and soon teachers from all six schools were using the lecture capture software in ways Murray’s team had not thought of. One use included a high school speech class where students recorded in-class speeches to help improve their public speaking skills.

“Students would read sentences, go back and listen to the recording, and find places where they heard a stutter or hesitation. Then students would note the timestamp where the hesitation was, along with the total time of the recording. After reviewing segments where they stuttered, students would rerecord the session and try to reduce their overall time in order to make the speech more and more fluent,” said Murray.

In the primary grades, Panopto’s one-click recording capabilities made it easy for young students to create recordings on their own without teacher supervision. This allowed students to record presentations of projects independently as they rotated through different activity stations, where one station would be set up with Panopto and other stations would include tasks designed to meet additional objectives.

Instructors could concentrate more on helping students in other group stations through guided practice sessions, instead of putting new material on hold for days while students presented projects. With this system, teachers could listen to student recordings and grade the presentations after class to help maximize students’ time in the classroom. This process helped students build autonomy while carving out more time for teachers to help students master key objectives. It also added an element of fun to the day as students looked forward to watching themselves “on television.”

“In the elementary schools, teachers have used Panopto to have students act out skits, recite poems, create advertisements that they show on classroom televisions and more. Panopto has really grabbed elementary kids strongly,” said Murray.

Panopto also has been popular among parents, who enjoy viewing recorded lessons and student presentations online. And the uses for Panopto have not stopped within the classroom. Faculty members unable to attend open house nights have used Panopto to broadcast virtual sessions to parents, and the school psychologist and nurse have created a series of health videos on timely subjects such as how to cough properly to limit the spread of viruses such as H1N1. Even the school superintendent has gotten involved.

“The superintendent currently is using Panopto for his online welcome address on the district Web site. He has created videos that we’ve put up that provide people with valuable information about the district,” said Murray.

Building a Virtual Academy

With more than 55 teachers currently using Panopto, the technology originally procured to ease the IT workload has morphed into a tool for faculty members, teachers, students and parents to interact and learn within the Cornwall-Lebanon community.

Wanting to foster this growth, the district has developed plans to increase the reach of Panopto among high school and middle school students through a program called Virtual Academy. This program will bring open-source course management system Moodle to the district so that secondary school teachers can record classroom material and post it online for students to access on-demand. The Academy also will provide students with a place to turn in recorded projects and assignments that use Panopto.

Since Panopto integrates directly to Moodle, teachers will be able to create and upload recordings to personal course Web sites instantly, without any intervention or setup time.

Murray notes that, “With Panopto, users can automatically download Panopto Podcasts to iTunes podcasting software. This is great for the Virtual Academy since a large majority of students use collection sites like iTunes and will now be able to access this material instantly and watch it on-the-go through portable media devices.”

The Cornwall-Lebanon IT team hopes to roll out Virtual Academy to high school students in fall 2010. Following a successful implementation, Murray notes that they will bring the program to middle school students soon after.