Screencasting is surprisingly easy to do (if you do not care about about making beautiful screencasts)

I am in the middle of finalizing my plans for next semester, but I am not quite ready to blog about them yet. In the meantime, I recently sent an email to several people on screencasting, and I am re-posting it here. This is nothing groundbreaking—other people have said it better elsewhere. But I’ll describe what I do anyway.

I started screencasting last semester, and it is surprisingly easy as long as you do not want too polished of a project. Here is what I did:

  1. I bought a Bamboo tablet.

    There were some screencasts that I wanted to look nice, in which case I created a Beamer presentation for the text. Most of the screencasts, though, were of the quick-and-dirty variety (which take less than half of the time of a Beamer screencast to create). A tablet works great for this.

    So you do not need this, but it can save you a lot of time.

  2. Get a free account for Jing and download it to your computer. This is the actual tool that creates the screencast. It is ridiculously easy to use (you need to click on roughly three buttons). You can store the screencasts easily on This is an online storage site that makes it really easy to store screencasts and get links to the screencasts. It is by the same people who created Jing (Techsmith), so your Jing account doubles as your account.

    One potential drawback is that you can only create five minute presentations. However, I actually l like this, since it does not cause me to worry about planning the screencasts too much (in particular, it is really not worth editing them, even if you wanted to) AND it matches with the attention spans of anyone who might watch the screencast.

  3. If your computer does not have a built in microphone, get one of those, too.

If you are interested in screencasting, I urge you to download Jing right now, play around with it for five minutes, and see how easy it is.

Extra credit: If you get Jing Pro ($15 per year), you can upload the screencasts to YouTube (again, one click). I just started this, and I imagine that it will make things a little easier for some students. It is easy to watch YouTube videos on a smart phone; it is less easy to watch them on Moodle, which is where I put the screencasts last year.

Here are several examples of screencasts. The first was done in Beamer, and the last two were done in Microsoft Paint with a Bamboo tablet I use . Note: it looks like I write like a second grader in those. This is because it is difficult to write neatly with the tablet. I normally write like a fourth grader.

The first example is to show you what it looks like with Beamer. The second example is a standard “whiteboard” screencast (note the use of different colors). The third example is to show you an example where I use a Java applet to supplement my whiteboard work. The last two examples are to show you a possible drawback of Jing: if you go over five minutes, you need to split it into two screencasts. Again, I don’t think that this is much of a problem, since I think students would probably prefer two 5 minute screencasts over one 10 minute one.

  1. Beamer Example
  2. Standard “whiteboard” Example (note the use of different colors)
  3. Java Applet Example (you can do more than just draw in Microsoft Paint)
  4. Two Part Example (Part I, which demonstrates a potential drawback with Jing—there is a five minute limit)
  5. Two Part Example (Part II)
  6. Intro to \LaTeX Example (Part I) (screencasts are great for these non-content things that the students need to know)
  7. Intro to \LaTeX Example (Part II)

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6 Responses to “Screencasting is surprisingly easy to do (if you do not care about about making beautiful screencasts)”

  1. Dana C. Ernst (@danaernst) Says:

    Good stuff. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Dana C. Ernst (@danaernst) Says:

    Bret, do you need something like Microsoft Paint to be able to do the whiteboard screencast? I’m on a Mac and I’m wondering what the right tool for the job is. Robert Talbert recommends FlySketch, but I’m not exactly sure what is necessary. Does the Bamboo Table come with software for annotating?

    • bretbenesh Says:

      Hi Dana,

      Yes, you need some sort of Paint-like program. Without such a program, the tablet is basically just a mouse.

      I use DeskScribble ( on my Mac at home (I sooooo wish that we were a Mac campus), but there are others (I haven’t used these, but Scribbles and Desktastic seem like they might work). I am sure that FlySketch works, too.

      I am pretty sure that the Bamboo tablet comes with Corel Painter. I have not tried it (I did not even install it, which is why I am not sure), but I am guessing that it works just fine.

      A free alternative would be GIMP ( I use this a lot for editing images. I think that it would work for screencasts, but I think that it would be clunkier than the other programs.

      I would suggest starting with Corel Draw (assuming it comes with the tablet) and seeing how you like it. Bret

  3. RIP Jing Pro | Solvable by Radicals Says:

    […] Pro was my favorite tool for making quick and dirty screencasts. I liked that it was easy to use, uploaded to YouTube with a click of a button, and had no […]

  4. Doceri vs. Explain Everything | Solvable by Radicals Says:

    […] I hadn’t read anything about this being an issue with Explain Everything; I imagine that it might be because Explain Everything has greater editing capabilities, so it stores more information. But this is not a feature creating quick and dirty screencasts. […]

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