#TryThis! Teach Technology and Save Class Time with Screencasting

The start of the semester is right around the corner. So I thought it’d be fun to do series of posts titled #trythis! on teaching tools and techniques I hope you will try this fall. The first is an invaluable tool I’ve been using for years that makes teaching technology more efficient!

Want to teach students how to use software or a web tool for an activity or assignment but don’t want to waste class time?

Try screencasting! It is a wonderful way to augment your teaching materials and ensure student learning. Plus, it is easier, and quicker than you might think!

Screencasting is a video of a computer screen and is used to demonstrate tasks on a computer. For example, I have used screencasting to show students how to set up social media accounts, edit wikis, complete complex processes such as on SPSS, and much more.

Benefits:

  1. Saves time in class – I already said this but it is worth repeating. Rather than stand before the class using valuable time to show 1 or 2 students how to do a task at the risk of losing the attention of the rest of the class, you can 1) point students to screencasts you’ve already made, or 2) tell them you’ll make a screencast after class and post a link to it on the class website.
  2. Visual component makes it easy to follow.
  3. Particularly useful for complex subjects – If a student is confused, he can pause, rewind, etc. I’ve had students comment that they were so thankful for a screencast I’d posted on using Spundge.com because the task I was requesting was rather complicated and they were having a hard time following paper instructions.
  4. Students can watch screencasts at any time
  5. Less time repeating the same instructions over and over in your office hours, via email, etc.
  6. Less excuses from students that they couldn’t complete the assignment because they couldn’t follow your instructions.

Here’s a video I made teaching students how to use Piktochart for an Infographics assignment:

See more Screencasts I’ve made on my Vimeo library. In fact, my old screencasts from when I first started teaching new and social media in graduate school are still on TeacherTube, a video-sharing site for educators!

Tips:

  1. Find a quiet place to record (of course!)
  2. Don’t be nervous – though you might be saying to yourself, ‘why would I be nervous!?” you may find yourself a little timid when you go to record. A lot of us don’t like the sound of their own voice or you may worry you are going to sound unorganized or say “um” too much. Just relax. Be yourself.
  3. Plan but don’t over plan – if you over plan every little thing you are going to say, you will come across rigid. In fact, I find it impossible to plan everything I want to say or do. Sometimes I am recording and in the moment I’ll think of something to add, or to show. Embrace that. Those little insights add value just like they do in the classroom. What I do to plan, is make a list of the things I want to cover in a video and have it in front of me.
  4. Don’t be afraid of doing a ‘redo’ – sometimes I get 5 minutes into a recording and make a mistake or forget what I was going to say and have to stop, delete, and start over. Because I don’t bother to edit the videos in order to save time, I end up having to do a redo now and again.
  5. Consider the video length – It is easy to get going and going when doing a screencast and quickly find 5-6 minutes have flown by. I try not to record videos that are longer than 7 minutes. I find students won’t watch a video if it is too long. So if I can keep it shorter by all means, I try!
  6. Shorter and more is best – Ideally, I’ve found a few short videos beats 1 long video. Students are going to fast forward in searching of the content they want anyhow.

How to Make a ScreenCast

To make a screencast, all you need is: a microphone, screencast software, and an account for a free online host like YouTube or Vimeo.

There is paid software with more advanced features. But the options I will show are free and will suffice for all your needs:

First, check your built-in or plug-in mic to make sure it is working.

If you have a Mac computer, you can use the free software QuickTime. Open QuickTime, Click File -> New Screen Recording. Click the red icon to start the recording. When you’re done, click the stop icon. The video will be created. Watch it to make sure you are happy with it. Export it for uploading by clicking “Share” from the menu. Select the account Vimeo or YouTube you are using and follow the prompts, including entering your username and password.

If you have a PC, there are a few options. One option is the online screencasting software screencastomatic. I used the free, open source software Cam Studio (http://camstudio.org/) to create the TeacherTube screencasts.  The software is easy to use. But getting it installed and working is easier explained through screencast. So, in the spirit of this post here are two great videos on getting going with Cam Studio:

Installing and getting started with CamStudio version 2.7

A detailed look at Cam Studio 2.7 Settings (for those wanting more guidance)

In sum, screencasting is a great supplement to any class where you need to teach students how to do things on a computer. Any educator who wants to improve the way they teach software and web tools to students can benefit from using this easy and effective tool.

I hope you will try screencasting this semester! If you do, stop back by and share your screencast and let us know how it went! If you currently use screencasting, what do you find it most effective for? What tips do you have for someone new to screencasting?

(photo CC: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stephen_d_luke/)

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