Outsourced Memory for the Screencasting Course

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This month,  I had the honor of working with a brave group of 15 Valencia educators who took on the challenge of learning screencasting during the final 2 weeks of the semester as part of  LTAD-3388-3326 – Screencasting. You may have seen Screencast Tag (another Circles Post), which was a part of that course. Anyways, long story short. I was blown away by the work those participants were producing by the end of the course. And towards the end of the course, a few of them asked me if I could make the content in that course available to them. So, here it is. This is the outsourced memory from the course. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. 

Introduction to Screencasting

A Screencast is a digital recording of a computer screen’s output. The screen recording is
often synced with a voice over or a music track and then shared in a video format. A Screenshot, on the other hand, is a snapshot image of all or part of a computer screen’s output. Click here to learn how to take screenshots on different devices.

Technically, screencasting got its start in the late 1960’s thanks to an innovative thinker and inventor by the name of Doug Engelbart. Click here for a quick video tour of the earliest days of screencasting. Of course, it wasn’t called screencasting back then. In fact, it wasn’t called screencasting until the term was coined by Jon Udell in 2004. Jon, a blogger and a columnist, invited readers to name the emerging technology, and while a variety of names were suggested, he settled on screencasting.

Types of Instructional Screencasts

Over the years, teachers have found a wide variety of uses for screencasts, and while the list is still evolving, here are just a few examples:

  • Send prEmails (video introductions sent prior to a first meeting).
  • Give guided walkthroughs of a hybrid/online course.
  • Teach content via a narrated slide share or screencasted demo.
  • Give step by step instructions for how to perform. skills online.
  • Assess students’ ability to perform skills online.
  • Provide contextualized feedback to essays, posts, artworks, or other videos.
  • Help students navigate problems within a course.
  • Allow students to contextualize and communicate problems within a course.
  • Assess students using think-out-loud protocols or teach-backs as part of online exams

I am often asked…

“Why should I take the time to learn how to screencast? Why should I change? I know how to teach, and I already give great instructions and feedback to my students. They, of course, don’t take the time to read my instructions or the feedback, but is that really my fault? Why do it?”

To that, I tend to say that while I am sure I don’t have all the answers, I do know that screencasting allows me to teach my students where they are, not where I want them to be; it allows me to provide feedback that will lead to better recall (at least according to findings from brain science), and, most importantly, screencasting allows me to produce dirty learning that is personal, contextualized, and relevant to their experiences.

In 1913, Thomas Edison wrongly predicted that books would become obsolete and that students from all disciplines would learn from his invention, The Motion Picture. Is it possible that Edison wasn’t technically wrong, that, perhaps, he was just off on how long it would take? Academics are, after all, very slow to adapt to change. By their very nature, they are the most educated, why should they change? Why should they learn something new? This type of thinking, of course, is why Google and other innovative companies are no longer hiring the best brains from the best schools.  Perhaps given enough time Edison’s predictions will eventually come to pass. But I digress.

So, where does that leave us? Well, ten years ago, in 2005, a small start-up by the name of YouTube changed the way the world experiences video. And If you are not familiar with YouTube, you might want to check out the A-Z of YouTube: Celebrating 10 Years and catch up on a little of what you have missed. YouTube was, as a result of its immediate popularity, bought by Google in 2006 and has since transformed the way we learn and experience our world. Students today no longer Google information expecting to find textual explanations, they look for training videos and have done so for most of their lives. In fact, Two-thirds of today’s students spend the same amount of time, or more time, watching online videos compared to TV. Next time you find yourself not connecting with one of your students, remember that today’s college freshman have been watching YouTube since they were eight years old, and most of them have no concept of a world before Google. So, moral of the story, if you want to teach them where they are, screencasted videos can help.

Brain Rule 10 Vision

When it comes to brain science and the science of learning in general, I have seen some really interesting books over the past few years (How We Learn by Benedict Carey, Make it Stick by Peter Brown, Made to Stick by Dan and Chip Heath to name a few) However, one of my all time favorites is a book called Brain Rules by Dr. John Medina, a molecular biologist and brain scientist from the University of Washington School of Medicine. In his book, he sorts through the medical and brain science research to identify 12 brain rules we know for sure. Rule 10 has to do with vision. Did you know that presenters can get six times better recall from information when that information is presented in a way that is simultaneously oral and visual. Rule 9 has to do with Sensory Integration. Our mirror neurons help us learn while watching simulations of what we experience. Simulation of real life experience? Content with simultaneous oral and visual presentation? Sounds like screencasting.

The most important reason I choose to embrace screencasting as a tool in my classroom is because of the connection it gives me with my students. Back in 2009-10, I did some action research with my students, specifically looking at screencasted feedback to essays. In addition to helping my students better recall my comments, I also noticed a pattern in the type of feedback I got from my students. “Dr. May, it is like you are right there with me.” From their perspective, it was like I was sitting right there with each one of them going over their essays with them. I, of course, was in my office screencasting, but they didn’t see it like that. I will admit, it was Dirty Learning in the sense that it was done impromptu with no planning or scripting. But because of the added personal connection, it was also Dirty Learning in the more traditional pedagogical sense, and I believe that is where the power is. In his 1993 book, The Children’s Machine, Seymour Papert contrasted behavioral and constructivist teaching by drawing an analogy to how the character Baby learns to dance in the movie Dirty Dancing. In the text, Paper describes clean learning (behavioral learning) like this:

“Clean learning reduces dance to formulas describing steps, and clean learning reduces math to formulates describing procedures to manipulate symbols. The formula for the fox-trot box step is strictly analogous to the formula for adding fractions or solving equations (Papert, 1993, p. 135).”

The way Patrick Swayze’s character taught Baby, on the other hand, was Dirty learning. It was emotional, complex, and intertwined with the learner’s social, cultural, and cognitive context. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but it motivated her to learn. Do your students need perfectly scripted videos, or will they be thrilled and engaged by anything personal you are willing to share with them? Let’s take a look at the differences.

Impromptu vs. Planned Screencasting

There are good reasons to make both impromptu (spontaneous) and planned screencasts. Here are some of them:

Impromptu screencasts

  • can be quick and easy to make
  • can provide formative and summative feedback and allow you to highlight good and insufficient parts of student work
  • can provide a way to give feedback without typing
  • can be directed at one person (e.g., giving feedback to one student on a paper) or at a group (providing feedback for a group project)
  • may not require captioning or transcripts

Planned screencasts

  • take more time because they are planned and usually scripted ahead of time work better if you make one or more practice versions
  • get rid of “ums” and “ahs” you often find in impromptu screencasts and videos
  • can be used to make a video resource that you may want to use in multiple sections or courseswork
  • better for demonstrations and explanations rather than formative or quick feedback
  • usually require captions or a transcript

In the end, it will be your call. As you get started practicing with screencasts, you may find that you are doing more impromptu videos. However, as you begin to see patterns in what students need and want from you, you will likely want to increase your production level and clean things up a bit by planning your screencasts. When you are ready to take it to this next level, here are some links to some handy tips for planned screencasts:

Screencasting: Beyond the Basics

In the Introduction to Screencasting, you learned what screencasting is, you made a few screencasts of your own, you learned why screencasting is good for teaching today’s students, and you discussed your thoughts for how screencasting might change the way you teach and assess students. Now you are ready to go beyond the basics.

And, given that you are starting to walk the walk, let’s make sure you can talk the talk! For example, Do you know what a one-shot video is? What about a mash-up? And what about captioning? Not yet? That is ok, here is a video to get you started thinking about all three. As you watch the video, see if you can figure out what is meant by one-shot, mashup, and captioning. If the video below doesn’t play for some reason, click here.   

A one-shot video is an action video shot continuous in time and space from the perspective of a single camera. Kurt, Victoria, Max, and the team do an amazing job of this in their 2012 Maroon 5 Medley video. (I wonder how many takes that took?) Most of your impromptu and planned screencasts will be one-shots. A mashup, on the other hand, is something created by combining two or more elements from two different sources. In the music video, Kurt and the team are mashing up a variety of Maroon 5 songs, but mashups don’t have to be about music. Throughout this course, you may have noticed how I have mashed up text, links, videos, and images, and I have had them all play inline like you are reading an ebook. That too is a type of digital Mashup, and now that you know how to screencast and embed, I am sure you too will be using more mashups and inline displays of content in your courses (To learn more about designing inline content click here). Another type of mashup is a video mashup; did you know that with YouTube, your smartphone, and your favorite screencasting tool, you can mash up just about any type of video? For example, what if you wanted to mashup a video taken with your phone with a screencast from one of your online courses? Below you will find a quick sample video of that. If the video below doesn’t play for some reason, click here.  

If you are wondering how difficult it is to do that, Good News, it is actually surprisingly easy to do. All I did was shoot a video with my phone, make a screencast with Screencastify, send both videos to YouTube, and then make the Mashup using the Free Youtube Editor.  Below you will find a quick video tutorial for how you can do the same, or perhaps even challenge your students how to do the same. And for those of you wondering which apps are best for shooting video and sharing to Youtube, here is a link to a Circles of Innovation post showcasing that informationIf the video below doesn’t play for some reason, click here. 

Ok, so now you know what a one-shot video is, and you have learned about mashups, but what about captioning. Some of you may have noticed that the Maroon 5 Medley leaves some students Marooned (Pardon the Pun) because it lacks proper closed captioning. I am hoping that by the time you read this that Kurt has accepted my captioning of the Maroon 5 Medley video, but something tells me he is a busy guy, so, no worries! I have another trick to show you how you can caption any video on the Internet for use with your students. However, before we discuss that, you should know that as professors at a publicly funded institution, we are required by law to make sure videos are accessible for all learners. Now, if you are making a personalized video for one student, or a small group of students, and you know the student(s) doesn’t (don’t) require closed captioning, well then you don’t really have to worry about captions. However, if you are making a training screencast or an orientation screencast that you plan to use every semester with students, then you should embrace Universal Design and you should caption it, you may also want to think about planning and scripting it as well. Click here to learn to learn more about planning and scripting your screencasts.

Now, If you are like me, and you prefer to make impromptu screencasts, you won’t have a script. However, if you are making content that you plan to use semester after semester with students, you will want to caption it. The good news is that captioning is a lot easier than you might think. If you take another look at my mashup video above, you will notice that the video is closed-captioned, and it only took me a couple of minutes to make it that way. Here is how I did it. And this is a trick every screencaster should know. If the video below doesn’t play for some reason, click here.

Captioning that video was easy because I owned the Mashup video and could access it on my YouTube Channel to add the captions. What if I hadn’t owned the video? Is there an easy way to make videos I don’t own accessible? The answer is…Absolutely! And the technique is also a lot easier than you might think. Especially if you are willing to crowdsource the work. Even if you want to do it yourself, Amara makes things easy.

TEACHER TRICK: If you have videos you would like to have captioned, consider asking your students to caption them for extra credit. You will be surprised by their willingness to take part in a service learning type activity that serves the greater good, especially if they are getting extra credit.

The video below gives a quick demonstration of Amara – A free website for making video globally accessible. You should know that Amara is the tool used by TED, the National Archives, Udacity, Scientific American and many other organizations to crowdsource the work to make their content accessible. Click here, if you would like to learn more about Amara.org.  If the video below doesn’t play for some reason, click here.

And Finally, just to round things off for you. Below you will find a link to the Amara-Captioned Video of the Maroon 5 Medley. As I mentioned above, I have sent Kurt and the team an email requesting that they accept the captions I made for them, but as the owners of the video it is their choice if they want to make it accessible. However, as a teacher, if I plan to use the video or any other YouTube video with students, I need to make sure it is accessible. Amara is our current best option for making that happen. However, because of the way Amara’s embed code works, it doesn’t play nicely with Blackboard. So, to get it to play inline, you can use the same teacher trick I use:

1) Take a screenshot of the video (You may remember learning about screenshots earlier in this course. If not, click here to learn how to take screenshots on various devices).

2) Upload/Embed the screenshot as a picture into your post/page (like I have done below).

3) Using the link tool, link the screenshot image to the Amara URL with the video and have it open in a new window (if you would like a training video for how to do this, Just Ask!)

4) Wait for students to click on what looks like a video, it will open the actual video in a new window and they will know what to do. Go ahead, click on the video below and give it a try.

amara captioning image

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