Breaking the Essay- Some additional tools and tricks: Screencasting

Posted on November 16, 2011

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I wrote a couple of days back about replacing paper essays with websites and I would just like to spend a few more moments on that idea, mainly on the details. The problem with any time you deal with computer software, internet programs, or coding in general is that not everything works. Creating a paper essay on the other hand  is hard to screw up, not impossible, but at the very least someone can write out by hand a paper essay. There is no such luxury with making a website.

Of course someone can write an email saying, “hey teach, I have X problem when I do Y. Help!” The problem with this is that with a software/internet there are usually multiple steps involved and by nature a very visual process. Both factors that do not lend well to trying to solve problems over email or even using the phone. Of course it would be a good idea to have some sort of tutorial or lab time for people to come and sort out problems in person but what happens if a problem occurs after this in person session? Enter in screencasting. As described by wikipedia-

“A screencast is a digital recording of computer screen output, also known as a video screen capture, often containing audio narration.”

Basically, a video of what you do on a computer.

If people get stuck have them run through the process they did while recording it using screencasting software, then have them post the video to Youtube so you can look at it (most videos will be too big to email). This way you can see if they miss any critical steps, what they entered in wrong, etc. Now this is not a fool proof method (if people can’t get the screencast software to work) but it can really help deal with some problems that arise. Wikipedia has a pretty good comparison list of screencast software programs – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_screencasting_software

Screen casting is also good for distance learning. As always feel free to take these ideas and make them your own.