Augment discussions with video technology: Let’s Recap

When one hears the term “let’s recap”, one immediately thinks about summarizing or reviewing what was shared or what was said. For the team at Swivl, an educational technology company originating out of California, Recap means far much more. recap appRecap’s mission is to re-introduce meaningful enquiry and productive engagement in the realm of dialogue and discussion. Developed in 2016, the application uses video technology to enhance classroom based and other kinds of discussion,  by infusing questioning as a means of encouraging curiosity, deepening dialogue and solving problems.  But what really is Recap?

The Exchange of Knowledgequestion
The team at Swivl describes the Recap app as a “question-led chat tool augmented by the power of video”. It is especially useful in the classroom and training contexts, as it provides an opportunity for teachers and students to engage in moderated discussions around questions,  and allows respondents to contribute via text, video, audio or a combination of all three.  Users can download the app on a mobile device or access it from a computer, and no sign-up is required to answer questions. The beauty about Recap is that with the aid of internet connectivity, a discussion can be accessed from anywhere and at any time. The result is that participants experience deeper levels of interaction through extended dialogue.   Unlike popular social media tools, Recap is considered an edchat, with specific focus on dialogue for educational purposes. The software supports users of all ages and levels and is a hit among K-12 students.  Teachers love the application as they can use the ‘journey’ feature to collate all the responses (video, text and audio) into one video collage that can be use as resource material. These resources can then be shared on other platforms including Learning Management Systems like Blackboard and Moodle.

The Value of Conversations

To understand the true value of the Recap tool, there needs to be an understanding of the value of the discussion in the teaching-learning process.  discussionIn a day and age where critical thinking, creativity and problem-solving skills are established societal needs, the instructor-trainer would do well to leverage the knowledge construction possibilities of dialogue.  Well managed discussions engage, empower and equip participants to contribute in meaningful ways to personal and societal challenges.  It is for this reason the Recap app, while just over a year old, already has close to one million users. Instructional conversations are also used to monitor and assess learning and are used to redistribute the power relationships in the classroom so that learning is owned and shared by all.

To Recap

The Recap App can be found at , signing up is simple and use of the application is free of cost. Discussions can be started in text or in video formats and responses can either be made public to all the members of the group or restricted to viewing by the moderator only. recap2Students find the video response feature convenient, easy to use and fun. Teachers find the journey feature time-saving and useful, as discussion can be shared across other platforms and embedded in online learning spaces. Students can create their own Recap accounts and engage in their own inquiry based discussions. Access to a group’s discussion is very restricted and requires either a sign-in pin or individual invitation.

Mentimeter: Breathing New Life into Old Presentations

It is not uncommon to walk into a classroom or a presentation room all excited about the what is to be delivered, only to experience the slow death of droning words that accompany a million slides of content.  That experience is commonly referred to as “death by PowerPoint” and unfortunately it is very much a part of how lessons and presentations are delivered today.  As communicative beings, humans become easily put off by these things. Whether the setting accommodates five or five thousand, the best presentations allow for reflection, interaction and collaboration. It was for these purposes that Mentimeter was created.mentimeter


Resurrecting the PowerPoint

Mentimeter was launched in 2014 and is a presentation software that allows the facilitator to make his/her presentation more interactive. This online application lets presenters ask various types of questions to their audience and allows the audience to respond via their internet enabled hand held or mobile devices.  Responses then instantly appear in the presentation itself for all to see. The result is lively interactive sessions that provide participants with opportunities to share ideas and opinions, vote on issues and see what others are thinking.  The facilitator is also enabled to capture these thoughts and ideas right there in the presentation and has an opportunity to revisit those contributions long after the presentation is made. The implications here are significant. It means that teachers, speakers, presenters no longer have an excuse to bore students and participants to death.  Face to face presentations can be reflective, interactive and fun.


It’s not fair to compare

While presenting in Mentimeter does on allow the user the same kind of graphic options as if one were using PowerPoint, the ability of the software to capture live and real-time responses in the actual presentation (whilst it is being delivered) is definitely a game changer.  Participants can be polled, quizzed, questioned, given points and declared winners during a presentation. Responses can be shared anonymously or participants can be identified and linked to response. Responses can be exported and stored in other formats such as Microsoft Excel and used to inform other presentations. Questions placed on the Mentimeter platform can be reused in other presentations and data collected can be added to responses given in previous sessions. Mentimeter can analyze the data collected to identify trends and patterns and data collected against a question can be erased to facilitate the use of selected questions.  The most exciting feature of Mentimeter is that presenters are not limited to the use of the online platform. Mentimeter has a plug-in that can be downloaded and integrated into PowerPoint so that users enjoy the graphics and animation elements of Powerpoint while at the same time utilizing the strong interactive elements of Mentimeter. The software requires no downloads or installations, but is accessed by simply creating an account at  Participants and students are given a specific URL and a code to access the portal and from there submit their responses to questions posed.


Shifting the ParadigmParadignShift

There is no denying that tools like Mentimeter are redefining the way presentations are made today, just like the PowerPoint did 1987. They represent the next phase in the continuous move away from a “banking approach to education” as explained by Paulo Freire, to an approach that recognizes the value of the experience of the student. Mentimeter enhances communication, collaboration and feedback in the delivery process. It also rekindles active reflection, competition and gamification in the learning process while reversing boredom and predictability.  There is strong doubt that any tool will ever make the PowerPoint obsolete, but Mentimeter surely breathes new life into it.

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Techno-Tools for the Classroom: PowToon Beta

The phrase, life is a cartoon has never had greater meaning than it has today. Mans’ fascination with the cartoon can be dated as far back as 1843 when an Englishman called John Leech shared his comic-like satire, Etchings and Sketchings, with the world. By the 1960s, the cartoon was labelled as the perfect teaching tool – representing with simplicity the complexities of human life. Cartoons have remained popular for many reasons, including their ability to engage readers, manage  large amounts of information and effectively  facilitate learning and memory. But the greatest attribute of the cartoon, has been its ability to adapt with the times and keep apace with modern technology. This has not been demonstrated better than with the mid-September release of PowToon Beta.

Living in Toon Times

Frequent users of the internet encounter from time to time, teaching videos primarily illustrated by cartoon figures and supported by animated icons and objects. The recent release of PowToon Beta has added a whole new set of dimensions to the creation and use of the cartoon, both inside and outside the classroom. Since its inception in 2012, the software has become a huge hit with users from all walks of life. Students use PowToon to support school-based presentations and to share animated video content on various social media platforms. Teachers create PowToon videos to engage their students, share content and teach specific skills. To date, over 43 million videos have been created with the PowToon software and it is said that a new video is created every 3 seconds.

The Cartoon Re-kindled

But what is different about PowToon Beta? The improved version of this popular tool, give teachers and students a larger gallery of animated characters, images and icons from which to build their own cartoons.  The improved features are of great help in creating animated stories or for presenting information in a way that is appealing yet succinct. The software itself is much more user-friendly and can support even young learners as they use the tool to share their own ideas. User created images and sound files can be added to the PowToon to give it the personal touch and make the content presented more authentic. Most importantly however, is that this new PowToon gives users the ability to include live action videos into the cartoon and further animate them to create added effects. For example, users can upload video clips of themselves into the cartoon and add animated images and icons that fuse the real world with the cartoon – making life more like a cartoon!

With this improved version of the software, students can create their own content and share it with each other. Teachers can create their own teaching videos and host them for their students and the wider public, or browse the PowToon gallery for useful videos created by others. The gallery also carries templates that can be easily modified and incorporated into lessons and the traditional cartoons can be substituted for more interactive versions. Teachers today use PowToons to introduce themselves, introduce and summarize lessons, teach specific topics, share classroom rules and assess students.

The basic features in PowToon Beta are free to the public and can be found at Naturally, more advanced features attract a cost, but what one can do with PowToon cartoons is truly invaluable.