George Lucas Educational Foundation
Technology Integration

The Simple Power of a Screenshot

August 5, 2013
Photo credit: ibm_media via flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Sometimes it's the little things that can prove to be powerful. The quick and easy action of taking a screenshot can transform how you use technology in your classroom. A screenshot is simply a picture of what is on the screen of your device. On the iPad, users press the home button and power button at the same time, and a snapshot of the screen is sent directly to the Camera Roll. Taking a screenshot is the perfect way to capture student work on mobile devices.


Whether students are solving math problems on a virtual white board or drawing a story map of a book they've read, a screenshot can show you what they've accomplished during a class period. Use this tool as a daily formative assessment by having students snap a picture of their work, send it to you in an email, or upload it to a class file sharing site like Dropbox. With a quick glance, you can see who's modeling decimals correctly using virtual base ten blocks, and who needs extra help highlighting words in an eBook.


Screenshots can also be used when displaying student work. Educators are moving farther and farther away from the days when file folders of student work would grow as the school year progressed. As everyday lessons and projects are going virtual, keep a collection of student work by saving screenshots of activities completed on a mobile device.

Common Core Rigor

One of my favorite ways to use screenshots in the classroom is as a starting point for writing. Students should be able to explain their thinking in words, and teachers can ask them to write about what they accomplished during a lesson that took place using a mobile device. If your students drew a factor tree on their iPad screen, have them write an explanation of prime factorization using their screenshot to support their writing. If your students found an image of a primary source document in social studies class, have them take a screenshot and explain what the image tells them about a period of history. An action as simple as a screenshot can be used to push students toward deeper thinking about the work they are doing in your class.


For teachers, a screenshot can be a powerful tool to demonstrate best practices and review assignments with students. Use a screenshot from inside a new app you're introducing to demonstrate the steps students must follow to complete an activity. It's an easy way to model expectations and show students how to navigate a new app. With screencasting apps like Educreations and Doceri, students can use screenshots they've taken of their work and record their voice as they describe what they accomplished. This might be screenshots of the steps used to solve a math problem, or images from different steps of the writing process when completing work on a mobile device.

How have you used screenshots in your classroom? What other ways do you capture student work?

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