ToolboxA screencast is a digital recording of a computer screen, usually including audio narration.

There are a great many, readily available screencasts, tutorials, videos and presentations already online (You Tube claims over 72 hours of video are uploaded to the website every minute). But customizing your own or allowing your students to create their own screencasts are great ways to liven up a classroom or online instructional event. Podcasting and Screencasting points out students will incorporate skills such as:

  • Planning and research
  • Synthesis and evaluation
  • Writing (scripts, intro, body, conclusion)
  • Presentation/communication
  • Technology integration
  • Copyright consciousness
  • Teamwork.

Learn more about how educators are using screencasting at Practical Applications of Screencasting from the Screencast Academy. There are some great examples of student-created screencasts at HMSFLippingCMP’s You Tube channel. And a Sixth-Grade Science Volcano Project is as notable for its teamwork approach as it is for the students’ flawless pronunciation of the volcano Ejyafjallajokull. Khan Academy is probably one of the best known examples of screencasting in education; you might also have seen those quirky Common Craft tutorials.

Tutorials and examples in Lights, Camera…Engagement! Three Great Tools for Classroom Video on Edutopia are aligned with the idea of scriptwriting. High school teacher Ron Peck describes how to use Animoto, Common Craft Style videos, and Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) videos in the classroom.

Getting started

Getting Started with Screencasting:

  • What is a screencast?
  • How can I use it as a teaching tool?
  • How can it be used by my pupils?
  • What equipment do I need?

The author also discusses the pros and cons of web-based applications, tools to save, whether to embed or upload your presentation, and tips for beginners.

The tools

Six Easy Ways for Students to Create Videos Online highlights some of the many free and fee-based software programs that are available both online and for download. What you choose is a matter of personal preference and sometimes hardware (Mac/PC/tablet), but this piece reviews a few of the more popular programs.

Joyce Valenza links to tutorials and describes some interesting tools in Eight Ways to Create Screencasts and Slideshares. She highlights SlideRocket EDU, a free, cloud-based, collaborative Google presentation tool for educators and Helloslide, which allows you to type speech, which is then converted to audio for your PowerPoint slides.

Tutorials

For younger students, or just great tips in plain language, see Kids’ Vid. It is described as “an instructional website that gives teachers and students the tools necessary to implement video production in the classroom.” You’ll find tips on scripting, making, editing, and showing videos. The site also includes a Special Section on video production in the curriculum, which includes lessons on the shot, the scene, the how-to, scavenger hunts, pre-production, post production and distribution. Students can upload their videos and add advice for other kids.

Screencasting Tips and Best Practices by David Strom discusses software and hardware (PiratePad for editing, Audacity for audio editing, Camtasia Studio for video editing and screen recording, Wistia for video embedding and tracking, TubeMogul for posting videos to multiple sites, and WordPress to embed your videos). Some tips and best practices include:

  1. Write your script first. It will help you to visualize the images and audio you’ll need to go with it.
  2. Read your script aloud to make sure it flows.
  3. Keep the video simple. Zooming and special effects can be distracting.
  4. Keep it brief—three to five minutes (note: three minutes = 500 words). There’s an interesting chart that shows that more than 50 percent of viewers drop off by the three-minute mark.
  5. Decide where you will upload your screencast. Does your school block YouTube? Do you want to be able to filter where students can browse? Strom recommends 5Min.com, Vimeo.com and WonderHowTo.com.
  6. You most likely won’t go viral on your first attempt (though you might have 15 minutes of fame within your school or district community).

Narrated Slideshow- Screencast from Mapping Media to the Common Core reviews the basic definition, types and uses of screencasts and links to software for laptops, desktops, iPad, iPhone and web/browser-based software. There are also links to sample student screencasts and narrated slideshows.

The software

Mac users can learn about using Keynote (like PowerPoint), OmniDazzle (pen software that allows you to write on the screen – PC and tablet users can try SmoothDraw, a freeware download, or use the online tool or app from Sumopaint), and ScreenFlow (screencapture and video/voice capture). How to Make an Educational Screencast (Mac) provides a course to follow from script to equipment to software and final product. A recently updated article, Screencasting Apps for the iPad, includes full reviews of ReplayNote, Explain Everything, ScreenChomp and ShowMe. All of the apps allow you to:

  • Import a background image from the camera roll.
  • Choose pen colors for drawing.
  • Erase areas of the screen or the entire page.
  • Record voice along with what is happening on the screen.
  • Upload for online viewing.

SMART Board users should watch the tutorial SMART Board #7: How to Use the Screen Capture Tool. This video goes over the area capture tool, the full screen capture tool, the window capture tool and the free hand capture tool. You’ll learn how to import images, full pages, your entire screen or irregular areas you’d like to use as images. You might also be interested in the other eight SMART Board tutorials in the series from RadfordEducation.

If you elect to use Screenr, you can view the screencast tutorial How to Make Fantastic Screencasts Using Screenr. You might want to skip over the introduction by going to the two-minute mark. The tutorial is actually a screencast of a screencast embedded in a Typepad blog.

Animoto allows educators to apply for a free Animoto Plus account. The Plus account allows unlimited videos, automatically analyzes your video, allows you to include text, lets you spotlight specific images, and allows you to share videos via email, on your blog/website, on YouTube or downloaded to your computer.

WikiHow has step-by-step instructions at How to Record a Screencast with Screencast-O-Matic or watch a video tutorial at Screencast-O-Matic – Start Recording. You can find the software at Screencast-O-Matic. If you decide to use the popular Jing software, you can watch a tutorial.

Comparing 12 Free Screencasting Tools compares, well, nine of the most popular screen capture tools. As with many share or freeware programs, many start out with good intentions but fall to the wayside or are no longer supported. There’s a helpful chart that compares the file formats (conversions), how to share files (uploaded, web-based, stored on your computer) and editing capabilities. The comparisons include: Jing, Screenpresso, Screenr, Screencast-O-Matic, Screencastle, Webinaria, CamStudio, Faculte and Debut. The author concludes that Jing, Screenr, Screencast-O-matic, Webinaria, and CamStudio are worth a second look for their availability of desired features.

Seventeen Free Tools for Creating Screen Capture Images and Videos reviews Vessenger, Snaggy, Monosnap, Szoter, Explain and Send, Pixlr, Screenr, Screen Castle, Screencast-O-Matic, Quick Screen Share, Show Me Whats Wrong from Screencast-O-Matic, Webpage Screenshot, Jing, Awesome Screenshot, Bounce, Skitch (iPad), and AirDroid.

Techie alerts

Master Screencasts in Seven Steps quotes movie producer George Lucas: “Sound is 50 percent of the movie-going experience.” You don’t need an expensive audio recorder/editor. Audacity is a free program that will allow you to edit your sound clips and place them on a track with your images. The article has suggestions for creating music templates, naming files, including trailers (using Camtasia – see Tutorial 2.0 – Teaching the Public and Training Staff with Online Screencasts), tips for voice narration, and samples of some of the “best screencasts in the world.”

For more audio tips, read the article or listen to the podcast Five Tips to Sound Great With ANY Microphone:

  1. Get close to the mic.
  2. Don’t get too close to the mic.
  3. Talk past the mic.
  4. Don’t touch the mic.
  5. Avoid noise around the mic.

Students and teachers can download over 370,000 tracks of free music (jamendo), royalty-free music for educators, and royalty-free music loops, classical music, or sound effects.

Image quality

Here’s a Simple Screencasting Tip That Will Save Time and Frustration suggests that image quality will suffer as you try to go from larger image to small PowerPoint window size and then try to display on a big screen. You’ll need to figure out what the proper dimensions are for a 4:3 aspect ratio that is 1,096 pixels wide. You can calculate the 4:3 aspect ratio using the 1,096 width by using aspect ratio calculator. A 4:3 aspect ratio starting with 1,096 will be? Answer: 822. See the article for step-by-step instructions for creating images and a bonus tip on creating a branded image for your PowerPoint.

Students can download free illustrative and inspirational movie clips at WingClips. Free, copyright-friendly images sorted by category are available at Pics4Learning.

Patricia Bruder, president of Linchpin Solutions LLC, consults for the Educational Information and Resource Center (EIRC) located at the South Jersey Tech Park at Rowan University, Mullica Hill. EIRC is a public agency specializing in education-related programs and services for teachers, parents, schools, communities, and non-profit organizations throughout New Jersey. Learn more about EIRC at www.eirc.org or call 856-582-7000. Contact Patricia Bruder at linchpinsolutions@gmail.com.