Thursday, September 27, 2012

What I've Been Using Lately - Screen Casts

I know I know, screen casts are nothing new.  I've been teaching middle school students how to use them for several years now.

Usually at some point during the year, almost every student in one of my tech classes wants to share with me about a new tool they have found that they are very excited about.  Enter - screen casting! This is really an ideal time to show them how to screen cast, and then have them create a screen cast showing off their new tool, and describe how they are using it.  They share these with their class mates, post them on their blogs - fun all around.

I don't know why it's taken me so long, but last year it finally occurred to me that I was spending way too much time searching around YouTube and Vimeo for the perfect short instructional videos to post on my course sites.  One day that bell went off in my head and I said, "Duh, make your own!" I have been a screen casting fool ever since. Here's an example of one of my Hollywood-worthy screen casts about adding a gadget in Blogger.

Why is screen casting better than making a regular instructional video?

One word - time.

I've made plenty of regular instructional videos over the years using my camera and iMovie, and I love them and reuse them at every opportunity.  However, the main downside is, they are more time consuming to make.

It takes very little planning to make a good screen cast. Here are the stages for making a basic screen cast:
1. have a general outline of talking points - if you don't, a lot of your screen cast will be sounds of you going, "aaaaand, uuuummmmm, sooooo," and so forth.
2. Have the pages and tabs you are going to use already open. No sense wasting screen cast time waiting for your lethargic browser to load a page.
3. Keep it short - focus your screen cast on ONE thing.  This is infinitely more useful for students, and far more flexible for you in terms of being able to use the screen cast over again.

What to use?
Nowadays I primarily use Screencast-o-Matic, because it's easy and free.  However, there are other good tools out there. Two others I have used quite a bit are Jing and Screenr - both very easy to use.

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