As educators, we are all aware of the power of student reflection.  Opportunities where students can reflect on their learning enhances meaning and promotes insight and complex thinking.  The majority of student devices (both personal and school owned) are equipped with built-in microphones and cameras, making is easy to both capture, and share student reflections to a variety of audiences.

For these reasons, I was very excited upon learning about Recap (http://www.LetsRecap.com).  Recap is a web based platform launched last Spring by SWIVL, the company best known for the Swivl Robot, which records lectures with a mobile device, by following an educators motion.

Proof of concept

The idea behind Recap is pretty simple.  The website allows a teacher to pose a question(s)to their class, and students respond that prompt using the built in camera on any iPad, laptop, or mobile device.   Each video response can be limited to specific duration of time to ensure a concise and succinct reflection.  After submissions are turned in, an educator can view all of the video responses to assess the degree of learning and provide feedback – either written or through a recorded video of their own.

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ABOVE:  Recap’s Daily Review Reel automatically creates a composite video of student responses.

Recap makes the actual process of creating and collecting student recorded reflections easier and more organized than traditional methods.  But the most promising feature is The Daily Review Reel – a method to automatically compile all of the student recordings (or so I thought) together into one composite video featuring some music, beautiful title slides and transitions.  If you’ve ever tried to edit together a video of student recordings, you know what a huge undertaking this can be.  For this reason alone, Recap could be an extremely valuable tool for educators.

To access Recap, students can either create their own accounts or they can join without logging in through a class access code.  Once the class is all set, it’s easy to create your own assignments (aka Recaps) and assign them to the appropriate class thanks to an easy-to-user interface.

Here’s where it kind of goes downhill

But while the concept behind Recap is excellent, from my own personal experience of using this platform with students, I found the Recap to unfortunately be somewhat lacking.   And here’s why…

I was able to set up my class in Recap and created my first assignment, which went smooth.  However right before the students went to record their Recap, the majority of the class received an error on their stating “We are experiencing network problems.  Please wait a while till recovery”   Does that mean the problem with our school network?    Or is the problem on Recap’s end?  I still have no idea.  It wasn’t just a one-time occurrence either. This message was so prevelant that out of a group of 25, only about 5-7 students were able to record their Recap as advertised.  The rest of the group kept receiving that message as they waited, refreshed, and logged off and on again.  With time running out we had to resort to a Plan B to ensure that the 2/3 of the class were able to complete the assignment.

Afterward, I googled the error to see if there was any solution I could find but with Recap being fairly new, I wasn’t able to find anything on this specific error.  I also checked the Recap website, and while their is a support section, the FAQ’s/troubleshooting section is very limited.  It does not include possible errors that users such as myself might recieve. As a last ditch effort, I even tried sending a tweet to Recap on Twitter both in the form of a public tweet and a direction message.  Neither were successful at getting a reply.   A quick check of their Twitter mentions revealed that atleast one other educator encountered the same error.  They also never received an answer to inquiries.

As I stated before Recap is a fairly new site, so I can completely understand why errors such as this would occur.  Maybe the “network error” was a one-time issue and it works perfectly now?  Maybe the error was completely on our school network?  But there’s no way for teachers like myself to know – because there’s no documentation surrounding error message.    If issues like this are going to occur, then it would be helpful if the company was able to provide more support for users – either through answering questions on social media or providing support article or forums which detail why these error messages may be occurring.

Totally Random…Literally

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The Daily Review Reel only highlights up to 6 students and doesn’t even allow a teacher the ability to select which responses get selected.

Aside from this, there’s a few other features that Swivl will need to improve on to maximize the value of Recap within instruction.  Remember that Daily Reel that I told you about?  An educator has absolutely no control of which reflections make the reel.   Instead of automatically taking all the recaps and making a composite video, it creates a “reel” by selecting a random number of videos to include.  It’s randomly decided by Recap.  So you could have all 25 of your students create a Recap, but when you click Daily Reel, it might only show a reel featuring 2 students.  Some reel huh?  On a positive note, it appears that this is a temporary issue that Swivl is working to resolve.

The other feature that I would like to see in Recap is the option to download or export the recordings to third party cloud storage.  For instance, let’s say that you might want to edit together a number of individual student responses from three different Recaps together.  You don’t have any way to download the reflections (outside of using a screen recording tool) to use within editing software.  The download feature would be useful, especially given the fact that a user has such little control over what ends up in The Daily Reel.  As a student you can login to Recap using Google, so it would seem that creating this option for teachers to send video files to their Drive wouldn’t be terribly difficult.   In fact, integration for both Google Apps for Education and/or Microsoft Office 365 would be tremendously helpful for schools as well.

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Recap allows a teacher to share the weblink to an individual response, but there’s currently no option to save or to connect to cloud-based storage.

 

The final verdict

So the question you may be wondering is “Is it even worth it to try Recap in my class?”  To that question, my response is “absolutely.”  Explore Recap for yourself.  Perhaps you won’t run into any of the technical glitches that occurred with my classes.  Yes, there currently are some limitations of the current release but I’m optimistic that the Recap development will continually add better functionality to their platform so it works more efficiently in education.  From time-to-time there Swivl publishes the newest updates to Recap.  You can also learn about some fantastic experiences that other educators around the country have had using Recap

I think that the concept behind Recap is excellent, and if some improvements are made to this platform, I feel it has the potential to be a valueable tool inside any classroom.  And if you have feature suggestions like me, Swivl has an option where users can suggest new features.

So go ahead, check out Recap and share your experiences in the comment section.

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