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Screencasting: From Concept to Video

In our increasingly virtual world, one of the biggest challenges we face is succinctly and effectively delivering ideas, concepts, and richly detailed knowledge to those with whom we collaborate and connect over great distances or in the school across town. One easy, inexpensive and fun way to do that is with screencasting, an amazingly low cost method of imparting high quality knowledge to those who need it.

Used for many years in computer based training and video production, recording activity on a computer screen used to require very expensive scan convertors in order to record screen activity and merge it with voiceovers, ultimately ending up as a video. 

The great news is that tools have emerged that are either low cost or free and quite easy to use. Along with these new tools are the rapid developments in broadband deployments, computers with the horsepower and capability required to deliver screencasts (even in HD), tools for capturing what's on your screen and editing it into a video, along with services like YouTube for free delivery of that video, means that anyone who is a communicator is now in the sweet spot for leveraging screencasting. 

Why would you use screencasting and why now? 

Because of accelerating change. There are so many processes that have changed already, tools and resources available online that people need to see in order to understand, that it is hard for someone like me -- a guy who makes his living staying on top of technology shifts and trends -- to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to know what's available, let alone trying to communicate to others the rapid changes taking place. Screencasting is an amazingly simple and powerful way to deliver the essence of what people need to understand.

I've experienced screencasting used effectively to tutor newbies through getting in to, and using, the virtual world Second Life (SL). For someone who hasn't experienced it, getting up-to-speed is pretty daunting and making ones avatar character and getting to the first island is frustrating. Someone accomplished and knowledgeable can quickly walk people through the steps necessary to use SL by delivering it as a video for that newbie to view, rewind, replay and learn from as they figure out how to use it.

I create tutorials all the time for my staff and can walk people through a workflow in a screencast in 15 minutes that would take me a couple of hours to do if I grabbed a screen image for every step, typed in text and embedded the image within each step, and delivered it as a .doc or PDF.

Screencasting is also highly useful for us since we utilize sophisticated cloud-based web applications in our business and often run in to befuddling technical problems. Recording the issues we're having, so tech support can see exactly the problems we're experiencing, often removes ONE DAY from the sort of cross-communications that occur in a typical interaction like, "You said "X" but did you mean "Y"?" which would cause us to respond, tech support to understand, and then get back to us. With a screencast of the exact issue, an all-too-often 2-3 day interaction is reduced to one day. 

We also screencast for our client's teams when they need to wrap their heads around a high value concept that would be quite time consuming for them to read about and grasp and the same thing as that tech support example occurs: it reduces the cycle time of our interactions and delivers high value concept information that is much easier for people to understand. 

Not only do these (and many other) uses of screencasting communicate concepts, ideas and knowledge more effectively, it's significantly faster and is a differentiator for us as an organization!


On the Macintosh, the most popular tool is Screenflow and on the PC it's Camtasia, but there are many tools available with new ones, like the hosted web application for Mac, PC or Linux called Screentoaster, that enable any user to create and publish screencasts to an intranet, website or in a blog post without having any software loaded on their computer.   

Here is an excellent list of screencasting tools by Dr. Stephen Ransom, adjunct professor of instructional technology at Nazareth College:

Compare Tools

There are also thought leaders who've embraced screencasting as a method for imparting their knowledge and making it a part of what they offer on their website or blog. 

One example of its use in packaging up knowledge in to a video container, is the video below created by Paul Andersen, one of several educators who run The Bold Standard, an "experiment in educational collaboration" and this video (done with Screenflow) is a nice mix of him using an approachable, conversational tone along with good solid knowledge delivery. Andersen also effectively communicates since he gets to the point and undoubtedly has his audience in mind as he records: 


I'll wager you can come up with a list of ten or more uses for screencasting immediately. When you think of how many teachers or staff ask the same questions over-n-over again, waste time hunting for information or learning a process that could be reduced by having a screencast at their fingertips, and ways in which your tech support folks could make parent access to the portal (which is usually a pain-point for both support and for parents due to complexity and infrequent use) easier and simpler for both parties.

With the need to communicate internally and externally growing by the day -- and the complexity of what needs to be communicated accelerates -- screencasting is an inexpensive and powerful way to go from concept to video quickly and efficiently. 


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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Accelerating Change are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.