What you will need:
One iPad (an iPad 2 or better)
The TouchCast App available on The App Store - free
One of the best things about the iPad is that it can be used it for so many things in the classroom From an interactive whiteboard to a grade book, and now it has another great use, it is a movie production studio for the “flipped classroom”. TouchCast is the best all in one video production application for the iPad that is currently available. In one app, the user can shoot and edit videos, and then add interactive interactive components to those videos. These video apps, or “vApps” allow the video creator the take his/her video to a new level of interactivity. As an added bonus, TouchCast also hosts videos by other video creators, in essence creating a great database of videos that cover a huge variety of topics. Finally, it is free! That price is music to an educators ears.
I am always looking for Apps that are easy to use. The more complex the promised outcome, the more complex the App inevitably turns out to be, luckily that is not the case with TouchCast. This App is surprisingly easy to use. The user is offered two choices upon opening the App either “Touch” which allows the user to view videos that have been created by other TouchCast users and are stored on the TouchCast server. The other choice is “Cast” which allows the user to create a interactive videos.
Lets start with “Touch”, this side of the App allows the user to access videos created by other users. Users will find a wide variety of useful videos, please note these are not all educational videos. I searched a few common 11th grade English titles and found videos of varying qualities on all of the title I entered into the search bar. (In case your interested: The Hobbit, The Great Gatsby, Slaughterhouse-Five, Romeo and Juliet etc.) All of the videos I watched shared one thing, creativity. There are some really great resources that could easily be used in the classroom. More useful to me, there were videos produced by students. These videos were created to complete assignments in other classrooms. These videos are a great source of new ideas. If a user were do do nothing but watch these videos it is worth downloading the App. TouchCast is a treasure trove of ideas and inspirations.
The “Cast” side of the App offers the user several simple video themes to use as creative templates. Depending on the theme of your video titles, colors and “vApps” will be set up automatically. You can customize each of these themes to suite your needs. From here you can record your video. Videos are limited to five minutes, which is perfect, because anything over five minutes will cause your audience to lose focus. There are a number of really incredible options within the TouchCast recording screen such as the ability to turn the screen into a recordable white board, use an included green screen option for effects, or add more “vApps”. . The TouchCast App also includes an integrated teleprompter that works very well.
I know this sounds complicated, but throughout the video creation process there is a question mark in the bottom left corner of the screen that will lead the user to a comprehensive set of tutorial videos. These videos are great, and if you find yourself confused just click the question mark. At this point, I won’t go into a detailed explanation of every production option available to a user because these tutorial videos do a much better job than I can do here.
Up to this point, everything that I have mentioned is available in other Apps, of course not in this type of neat integrated package, but they are available. What makes TouchCast different from the other editing software is the “vApps”. These “vApps” are interactive applications that a user can embed in his/her video. There are twenty-five different types of “vApps” as of this writing. Users can embed supplementary videos, webpages, or documents within the video. The student viewer never has to leave the TouchCast App. This is great in a one to one iPad environment for maintaining classroom focus. Users can also embed interactive polls and questions. TouchCast also includes the obligatory “vApps” for social media such as Facebook and Twitter. Again, there is so much to talk about here that I cannot do it justice. Please take some time and explore.
Once your video is complete you are given the option to broadcast it to your students. You can email, tweet, or just post the provided link to your website. The students can consume the content on PC or Mac. The TouchCast videos play on Safari, Internet Explorer, and Chrome with no issues. I have also run the videos on a variety of mobile browsers and they work quite well depending upon the limitation of the device being used.
TouchCast does it all. I use this App to create simple and complex videos for my “flipped classroom”. I can embed documents that I want my students to read and even get real time feedback from the embedded questions and polls. I also use a “FlipGrid” question link embedded via a “vApp” to monitor in real time how many of my students are watching the videos and get feedback from the students on the content I have created. (Check out my previous blog post for my review of “FlipGrid”.) Outside the classroom, TouchCast offers a simple way to create professional development videos. Regardless of how TouchCast is used, the interactive aspect of the “vApps” changes the relationship the viewer has with the video. Instead of passively watching a video, your students are called upon to interact with the content. This is a nice upgrade to the “flipped classroom” model. One safety note, if your school uses software to block objectionable content it will also filter access to certain “vApps”. For example in my school district Facebook is a restricted site. That means that the TouchCast “vApp” for Facebook is also blocked. This is a nice feature because it prevents the students from trying the circumvent the safeguards that are in place on a school’s computer network.
What you get:
The App is free. Let me say that again, this comprehensive video creation tool and hosting service is free. As of this writing the App is only available for the iPad. It works best on the iPad Air, but it also works on every iPad back to the iPad 2. There are some limitations with the older iPads due to the hardware limitations of those machines. Currently, TouchCast is running a beta on PCs, but not Mac. Which I just don’t understand. I am keeping my fingers crossed for a Mac release in the near future. If you are looking to incorporate video into your classroom , this is a simple and inexpensive way of doing it. The ability for students to view this video content on virtually any device makes TouchCast an obvious choice for teachers in mixed platform schools. TouchCast is a great way of starting to reach your students outside the classroom. Oh yeah, in case I forgot to mention it this is all FREE!