Screencasting First Impressions

I love the idea of assigning lectures for homework (since listening is pretty easy to do alone) and then solving problems in class (where you have the benefit of teamwork).  Andy Rundquist of I’m Not Watching TV makes it look easy and has already done all the legwork of evaluating software/hosting.  This took away my last shred of an excuse not to do  it.

So last night I made a screencast of a 5-min lecture segment.  It was a humbling experience.

1.  It was weird talking to myself.  It took 3-4 takes before I could stop fumbling my words.  In my first attempt, I actually misused basic technical vocabulary and apparently forgot the rules of grammar.  This is partly because I was learning the software.  But mostly, the lack of student feedback disoriented me.  Whose eyes are forward?  Who’s frowning?  Pencils on paper, or poised in the air confusedly?   I guess it’s good that I’m tuned in to those cues; at the same time, being unable to work without them made me wonder if my internal compass is overly reliant on my students.

2.  I wanted my white board markers.  I experimented with lots of ways of annotating diagrams, and none were satisfying.  In the end I made a Word document, screen-copied it into Paint (stop laughing), and left another instance of Paint and Word open so I could paste new elements in as I needed them.  I kept realizing that I needed some bit of text that I hadn’t anticipated, and it threw me off that I couldn’t grab a marker and add it in.  Solution: pause the recording, go make the visual bit, then continue. If I’m going to do this I guess it’s time to buy a tablet.  I’m also thinking back to previous experiments with software like Prezi and a freeware package for Wiimote whiteboard called GiantBoard (I think — can’t find it at the moment).

3.  The 5 minute limit imposed by Jing is a great idea.  It forced me to be really clear about what point I was trying to make.

4.  I think I prefer screencasting to videocasting.  As a viewer, I admit I prefer to see the presenter’s face;  but as a presenter, it creates all kinds of problems.  What’s in the background?  Is it distracting?  If I’m prepping for class in the evening, do I really want to broadcast to my students the inside of my house?  I have to think about my clothes and appearance, since they become part of the record.  With screencasting, these things aren’t an issue, and I have more control over the focus of attention.  Plus, screencasting encourages me to type my annotations, which is an improvement over my messy handwriting!

5.  Like Andy, I will use the school’s servers for hostingScreencast.com seems to work well and looks good, but I like being able to tell who watched what when.

There were a few technical issues too.  I started off using CamStudio, but found that the video gradually lagged more and more behind the audio.   Also, file sizes are huge.  The Jing recorder resolves these problems, and imposes a 5-minute limit, which I think will improve my organization.  In fact, the practise will probably improve my in-person explanations.  Also, my mic level is too high (although I love my Freetalk wireless headset — Skype sells them at a better price than Futureshop).  But if you are trying screencasting for the first time and want to make yourself feel better by watching someone else goof up, here are two of my early takes.  Even in the later take, I’m not happy with the organization (the title should reflect the change in focus of the content, etc.) but I think it’s an improvement, and I’ll keep working on it.

3 comments

  1. Sorry I missed this post when you first put it up.

    Thanks for sharing so much about the details of pulling this off. I had a couple of things to share
    1. I now use screencast.com for a couple of reasons. First, the single-button push to publish in Jing is great. In principle you can get a single button to ftp the file over to a local server but only with Blackboard did I get the viewing statistics and I couldn’t figure out a single button for that. Second, I like to reuse stuff and with screencast.com it’s simply a matter of putting the link wherever I need it.
    2. I really love my Bamboo pen tablet. It’s the best $70 my department has ever spent. I love that I can do screencasts at home and at work since it’s so portable and simply needs a computer with a free usb port.

    • Hi Andy, interesting point about screencast.com. I’ve been posting the screencasts to Sharepoint and it turns out that it is way more difficult than it should be to track who’s accessed what. I may revisit this. As for the Bamboo tablet, I agree — I’m sold. It makes posting equations fast and easy. I’ve switched to Bluebeam Revu for annotation (more on that one of these days). The combination of tablet and Revu makes great use of handwriting recognition. Now if only Windows would recognize Greek letters…

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