Students as Newscasters


Teaching kids how to use technology to research, evaluate and effectively communicate information is a critical 21st Century skill.  One of the best ways for students to demonstrate these important skills is through digital storytelling.  There are a number of great options for creation of video, but one of my favorites is Touchcast, a free iPad app or PC download that allows users to create videos that mimic a professional, television newscast.  Features include a teleprompter, whiteboard, templates for title banners, sound effects and more.  Dynamic content can easily be added using vApps.  The use of this App has spread quickly in our high school as a unique way for students to demonstrate their learning.  Steps for creating a Touchcast are similar to those for any student-created video project:

– Script Writing:  Students typically worked in groups of 2 to 4 and used Google Docs to collaboratively write a script for their newscast.  They were encouraged to take advantage of the format and create high-interest, easy to understand news reports.
– Storyboarding / Image collection:  Students chose a template from Touchcast including title banners, found and added relevant images, pasted in their script to the teleprompter and saved their projects in preparation for recording.
– Recording:  Touchcast does not allow for editing of the video so students had to successfully record their newscast in one take.  They have the option to pause the recording or delete the video and retain the template contents (teleprompt, images, etc).
– Sharing:  Students upload video to Touchcast site and share public link to newscast with teacher.

Touchcast features:


– Teleprompter:  Allows students to paste in their script or type it in directly.  The speed of the teleprompter can be adjusted and helps students to look directly at the camera while maintaining a good pace when speaking.
– Title banners:  Gives the video a professional look and allows kids to customize what appears at the bottom of the newscast.  Students can have multiple banners that change when they switch between speakers or locations.
– vApps:  Are dynamic content widgets that allow you to add a variety of items to the newscast.  These include a live, streaming news banner that scrolls a the bottom of the screen, Twitter feeds, images, and more.  Images have to be toggled between manually by students tapping the screen to switch from one image to the next.  We found that it helped to add a note to the teleprompter to remind kids to switch images while recording.
– Greenscreen:  Touchcast has a greenscreen feature which can be used to make it appear that students are recording “on location”.
– Whiteboard:  During the newscast, students can write on the screen which is helpful in highlighting part of an image or location on a map, for example.
– Recording:  It’s worth pointing out that you cannot “edit” Touchcast video recordings.  For example, if a student made a 2 second mistake in the middle of their video, they could not delete that out.  While it would be nice to have this type of functionality, there is an advantage to not being able to edit.  It forces students to rehearse their newscast, reinforcing presentation skills.  In addition, it helped limit the amount of time we spent on recording.  Students were only given one class period to record their video.  When editing is available, I have found that kids can spend lots of time hyper-focused on unimportant aspects of their projects and waste lots of class time.  Individual Touchcasts are limited to 5 minutes and our projects were typically limited to 3 minutes so kids have many opportunities to re-record during a class period to get the desired result.

Additional Resources for Teachers:

– Detailed instructions which were provided to students as a reference.
– Student work examples:  Genetics Research, Culture Research, Forensics Lab Report
– Educator resources from Touchcast
– Touchcast website & links for iPad App & PC Download

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About jennjudkins

Jenn Judkins is a Certified Google Trainer, 2015 PBS Digital Innovator & Digital Learning Coach at Lynnfield Public Schools in MA.
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  1. This is just amazing. Am wondering if you have plans for a Mac or Chrome version?
    Can’t wait to play.

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