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Lessoncast PD Tools & ServicesLessoncast PD Tools & Services
Lessoncast PD Tools & Services
by Lessoncast learning LLC
GRADES / Elementary (Grades K-4), High School (Grades 9-12), Higher Education, Middle School (Grades 5-8), Pre-K
PRICING PLANS / License
PLATFORMS / Web Browser

Web-based software to connect professional learning and classroom practice through teacher-created digital resources

Overview

LessonCast is a tool that lets educators condense a lesson plan, instructional strategy, or academic or professional development goal into a three-minute slideshow-like video. The tool is used both by teachers (both pre-service and current) in graduate/training programs, as well as in schools and districts that are looking to create or reform their professional learning environment. Teachers use the tool to take a screencast of various artifacts that help explain what the lesson is, what they hope to accomplish and what is required to make the lesson happen and be successful. Individuals can use these lessoncasts to create personal teaching portfolios, and schools and districts can create communities that allow their teachers to easily digest information on their own time and make it more applicable to their specific classroom.

LessonCast has over 5,000 users, mostly in the greater Baltimore area where founders Nicole Tucker-Smith and Khalid Smith started the company. Nicole started the company in response to her personal experience as the professional development coordinator for Baltimore County. They have had a lot of success expanding into graduate level teacher preparation courses. They are working with K-12 schools like Henderson Hopkins to help develop materials around developing new blended learning models that they will use to help schools adopting their product get started.

Teachers using LessonCast in a graduate class pay $45 per semester for access to the editing tool, and they also get to keep all the lessoncasts that they create in a personal portfolio. Teachers can also browse the public lessoncasts that are in the gallery on their website. Schools or Districts buy into a year-long license that costs $99 per teacher.

  • Purpose: Support teacher learning
  • Primary Users: Teachers, Administrators
  • Cost: Courses for individual teachers range from $45 - $99 for a semester. Graduate students and teaching candidates pay $45 per semester for access to the service. Schools pay $99 per teacher for an annual license
  • Skill Development: Instructional Skills
  • On-Brand Use: Condense lesson plans or instructional strategies into a three-minute video that teachers or teaching candidates can share with colleagues, mentors, and administrators
  • Off -Brand Use: Use it to supplement the resume of a teacher; ESL teachers have used it to present lessons in multiple languages to students
  • Platforms: Web-based platform
  • Deal breakers: It takes new users between one to three hours to create a lessoncast. Although it is estimated to save time in the long run, there is a substantial initial time investment in order to capture professional learning materials into lessoncasts
  • Types of Schools Using It: K-12 elementary schools and graduate teaching programs

Product Brief

Value Added

LessonCast focuses on giving teachers tools to teach each other about the instructional and pedagogical strategies that they use. By allowing educators to teach concepts to each other, the company asserts that it can improve their retention of those concepts from 75% to 90%.

Most teachers adapt and change lessons in the course of teaching them. LessonCast gives them a way to capture their comments on what versions worked better or worse. Also, each slide is recorded separately, including audio, making it easier to change different parts of the lessoncast without changing the whole thing.  

Schools and districts can also use LessonCast to capture the teaching practices of outside experts and central curriculum advisors that run professional development workshops by asking them to create three-minute screencasts of their PD. Teachers can subsequently come back to these snapshots even after the experts have left, providing more “just-in-time” professional learning. By capturing these lessons and instructional practices, schools and districts can build their own professional learning libraries.

LessonCast can also inform hiring practices, allowing pre-service teaching candidates to demonstrate how and why they would teach a lesson (as captured in a three-minute lessoncast), rather than just a single written sample lesson or resume.

How Does It Work

LessonCast gives educators a template and the tools to condense a lesson plan, instructional strategy, or academic or professional development goal into a three-minute video-slideshow that includes the most relevant parts of the lesson. The “video” is a series of slides with recorded voiceovers, stitched together in a timeline format. LessonCasts can include attachments of presentations that will be used in the classroom, but the slides in the video are just visual aides to help explain how a teacher intends to present a topic to students.

Slides can include examples of problems, potential diagrams or drawings, lists of materials, experiment set-up and execution instructions, and model classroom dialogue. A teacher might also include a transcript of the voiceover. The tool is completely browser-based.

Depending on how much preparation an educator has already put into creating a lesson or presentation, creating a LessonCast may take an inexperienced user between one to three hours.

Educators can browse or watch the lessoncasts displayed in the ‘Gallery’ on the website for free by subject, grade, skills, etc. However, to create, edit or manipulate a video using the ‘Lesson Architect’ or participate in a course, they need to register and pay.  

Individual, school and district accounts are available. For instance, individuals can purchase the “how to” class, which includes access to the Lesson Architect and a personal portfolio of lessoncasts.

To create a lessoncast, users must log in and click on the ‘Lesson Architect.’ This tool decomposes the process of creating a new lesson into six steps: Areas & Grades, Key Skills, Standards, Assessment, Lesson Framework, and Groups & Tags. Users can select the relevant grades, subjects, key skills, and standards from dropdown lists. Then the tool generates a list of example assessment questions for students and colleagues.  

For example, imagine a kindergarten teacher wants to assess “Critical Thinking” demonstrated by her students. She could search on LessonCast for those criteria and come up with a plan to use “tangrams,” or shapes that can be reassembled into other shapes. Students working on tangrams demonstrate persistence—and the LessonCast unit provides the rationale for and ways to assess how this age-old game helps students build terrific contemporary skills.

Rather than just using an existing lessoncast, the teacher can create her own set of screencast slides in the Lesson Framework section. Prompts help guide teachers through the “why” process of the curriculum they are designing.  

The user then writes the introductory script of the lessoncast (essentially the narration of the video), noting any differentiation or interdisciplinary sections. Finally, users tag the lessoncast with the topics so others can find it.

Once a lessoncast is finished, users save what they have done. They can preview it and share it with peers and mentors for review before publishing.

When individual users publish a lessoncast, it immediately becomes publicly available in the Gallery on the LessonCast website. When someone in a school or district publishes a LessonCast within their licensed community, it becomes available only to the other people in that community.

The company provides rubric, which come with the tool, to help colleagues, mentors, and supervisors judge the completeness and quality of the lessoncast. The company also works with schools or districts to include customized rubrics.

All of the provided tags, prompts, and sample questions can be customized by a class instructor, school, or district to better reflect relevant goals, customs, and language.

LessonCast also offers a course through its website for paid customers called PD2020. The course helps users learn how to create an effective lessoncast, and includes published examples of effective lessons and teaching practices.  Other available LessonCast courses include “Literacy Strategies for Common Core”, and courses on personalized learning. All courses are self-paced but enrollment opens at certain times in the year.

How Is It Used?

LessonCast has a diverse set of applications from evaluating the effectiveness of pre-service teaching candidates to helping schools and districts change the format of traditional PD workshops.

For teaching candidates:

For teaching candidates, LessonCast helps mentors, professors, and peers review teaching techniques and lesson plans. Mentors can then provide actionable feedback, without having to sit through the whole lesson.

Some graduate teaching programs use LessonCast instead of asking students to create mock lessons. Candidates create their videos and post them to the website for review, and then mentors, professors, and colleagues can then provide feedback that get attached to the video. Users can continually revise their lessoncast as they incorporate third-party feedback and their own personal reflections. All of these comments and reflections can be viewed by anyone in the comments tab, giving viewers a better understanding for how it evolves over time.

Candidates can also add co-authors (professors or mentors) to add validity/credibility to the lessoncast. These lessoncasts are intended to provide a more in-depth means of assessing how well a candidate does in teaching real students. The tool helps candidates identify clear learning objectives and then iterate on various instructional methods until they achieve that result.

Off-brand teaching candidate use:

Teaching candidates can use the honed lessoncasts in their portfolio to supplement their resumes when applying for teaching jobs. The co-authoring functionality allows job references to add recommendations directly to particular lessons, providing specific and actionable insights.

For teachers and administrators:

Schools or districts can encourage exceptional teachers, content specialists, teacher leaders, and curriculum and instruction personnel to take the PD2020 course as individuals to get started. Once they begin publishing and sharing their lessoncasts it allows schools and districts to extend the reach of a small number of busy “experts” to all their teachers. They can then direct their staff to view the lessoncasts through the website.

As a second option, schools or districts can sign up for a LessonCast Learning community.  There are multiple levels of access that increase in cost as schools require more customization of the Lesson Architect, more starter lessoncasts, and more premium content.

The LessonCast community entails that all of the lessoncasts created by members of that school and can only be accessed by other members of that community.

They appear in the same gallery format as the publicly available lessoncasts, where any registered educators can browse them. When a new lessoncast is uploaded to the site, a notification goes out to everyone in that community, so teachers can better track what videos they need to watch. As of spring 2014, there are 87 lessoncasts in the public gallery.

Schools or districts can build a professional learning library of lessoncasts. This also lets schools capture insights from ephemeral PD resources, such as visiting experts and curriculum and instruction personnel, allowing teachers to remember what was said at the beginning of the year and access these insights when they need them.

For example, a Maryland curriculum specialist designed lessoncasts for their “Primary Talent Development Program,” which involved building skills in their youngest students. In practice, this effort turned into lessoncasts about teaching persistence, how to assess perception, how to help students be more inquisitive, etc. Questions like “What does it mean to have rigor in the classroom?” were condensed into a three-minute lessoncast, accessed by the intended teachers at every school in a district, and then discussed by groups of teachers around how to implement that idea specifically in their classroom.

Lessoncasts can be used to “flip” traditional PD by allowing teachers to watch and respond to the videos on their own time and then use the time they have together to collaborate. This also allows principals and teachers to understand all the objectives and activities in a district without attending every workshop.

Making a lessoncast does require a significant initial investment—particularly from those  who are normally on the hook for developing and delivering professional development, including curriculum and instruction personnel, department chairs, instructional coaches, mentor teachers, etc. Using—or essentially just viewing—lessoncasts is easy. Most of the people who use LessonCast are teachers who watch them.

Off-brand Use:

LessonCasts were designed to be presentations used by teachers or administrators to share the “why” as well as they “what” of doing a lesson. Even so, some ESL teachers have used the tool to create collections of pictures and recording in multiple languages. One teacher found she could condense her lessons into a three-minute chunks and help introduce a particular unit to all of her students, regardless of their language ability.

Who’s Using It?

As of September 2014, LessonCast has over 5,000 users. The most successful segment has been teacher preparation. As of late 2013, LessonCast was serving three education graduate programs in Maryland. In these graduate programs, LessonCast initially starts with two to three professors at an institution who each have hundreds of teaching candidates.

Also in late 2013, LessonCast was serving three public charter schools in Maryland, Henderson Hopkins which focuses on experimenting with different personalized learning approaches.

LessonCast also partners with organizations that do PD consulting or provide those services, as well as partnering with the Maryland State Department.

Content, Content, Content

The premium content is developed by the company in conjunction with the pilot schools in Maryland. Much content is focused on online modules that discuss best practices and implementation of approaches such as blended and personalized learning, one-to-one instruction, flipping the classroom, etc.

Training

In addition to the “how to” course that LessonCast offers, the company provides  on-the-ground assistance for school communities to help get them started. Additional ongoing support is offered through Olark, Google+, or Skype.

Tech/Cost/Credit

Tech

LessonCast runs completely in the browser and as of late 2013 did not offer any native mobile apps.

Cost

LessonCast is free for graduate program instructors. There is a fee that enables pre-service teaching candidates and graduate students to create lessoncasts for $45 per semester. That fee gives them access to Lesson Architect and their own portfolio of videos.

Courses for individual teachers range from $45 - $99. Schools pay $99 per teacher for an annual license.

Credit

LessonCast doesn’t currently offer any official courses for credit.

Competitors

There are a number of emerging platforms that aim to help teachers share video snippets of their teaching practices; there are also platforms that share full lessons. Those that share video that captures full lessons include BetterLesson,  LearnZillon and the Teaching Channel. A number of PD tools (including Talent, SmarterCookie, and Edthena) let teachers capture small segments of larger lesson.

By contrast, LessonCast encourages teachers to focus on why they are doing a lesson and then to boil down the lesson to its core elements. Those elements get captured in the three-minute long presentation that turns static slides into a video (with a teacher’s voice over explaining the elements). The end product (a LessonCast) is useful for other teachers; it’s helpful for judging how on target young teachers are as they present material, and it can be a smart collection of prompts and PD summaries that can be shared by a community.

EDUCATOR REVIEWS

Case Studies+
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Summit Reflections 32
Technology Integration Teacher and Liaison Full starFull starFull starFull starFull star
School Type: Elementary School

At this point I am super excited about this product and I am really hoping my county would consider purchasing this for our teachers to use. Until I have actually created and explored making casts on my own I don't have any other impro...

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EDUCATOR REVIEWS

Technology Integration Teacher and Liaison Full starFull starFull starFull starFull star
School Type: Elementary School

At this point I am super excited about this product and I am really hoping my county would consider purchasing this for our teachers to use. Until I have actually created and explored making casts on my own I don't have any other impro...

Justin Full starFull starFull starFull starFull star
Science Department Chair. School Type: High School, Low Income Population

needed a clearer pict...

PRICING PLANS

License

School or District PD Community - Schools or districts purchase a customized web-based community to host PD modules tailored to their instructional framework and build a custom library of digital media resources showcasing effective instructional practices.
Can be purchased by School Leader or District Administrator.

TECHNOLOGY PLATFORMS

This product is accessible via a web browser -- Requires Flash.

PRODUCT ATTRIBUTES

Standards

Common Core Aligned Common Core Aligned

Audience

For Teachers For Teachers

Characteristics

Lesson Planning Lesson Planning
Online Course Delivery Online Course Delivery
Video Instruction Video Instruction