Posts Tagged ‘Screencasting’

Doceri vs. Explain Everything

September 4, 2014

I create a lot of screencasts for my classes. I have evolved to mainly using screencasts to provide solutions to quick questions, of which I have roughly 400 this semester. Because of this, I can save a lot of time if I can import my PDF file of quiz questions to my screencasting software so that I do not need to re-write the questions.

It is not convenient for me to create videos at work. I have a Linux box in my office, but it is a bit unreliable for screencasting, and I do not have complete control over it to make it reliable. For instance, I had screencasting in my office figured out a year ago, but now my Wacom Bamboo tablet has stopped working. I do not have the permissions (I don’t think) to fix this, since we have a central Linux administrator (I also don’t immediately have the know-how to fix this tablet issue, although I think I could figure it out).

Another alternative is to use a Windows machine elsewhere on campus, but I don’t really like leaving my office.

Instead, I decided to start screencasting from my iPad at home after my family has gone to sleep. This has a number of advantages: there is comfortable furniture, I can see what I am writing on the iPad (as opposed to the Bamboo tablet), and there are tasty snacks.

The main issue me was deciding which screencasting app to use. I have toyed around with Doceri previously because it is free, but I was concerned that it did not support importing PDF files. I had heard great things about Explain Everything—it supports but I was wary of committing to a $2.99 price tag. I am merely a consumer of both Doceri and Explain Everything; neither company has paid me anything to write this post.

Because I have 400 videos to make, I decided that importing my PDF quiz file was important enough to spend $2.99. The file imported well, and I was able to create a couple of screencasts.

But the problem came in when I started uploading the files to YouTube. It was taking Explain Everything roughly 10 minutes to upload a two minute video. Because I have 400-some videos to create, it is simply unacceptable to spend 500% of the time I spend creating the video in uploading the video.

So I went back to Doceri. It turns out that there is a very easy work-around for import PDF files in my situation. I can open my PDF quiz file in Dropbox, take screenshots (press and hold the power button, then press the home button) of the questions I want to do, and then I can import the screenshots easily into Doceri from my Pictures app.

The great part: Doceri takes about 10 seconds—rather than 10 minutes— to upload a two minute video. This has worked extremely well—I was able to create 35 videos in two hours last night (as opposed to the roughly eight videos I would have been able to create with Explain Everything).

I was so happy with Doceri that I paid them $4.99 to remove the watermarking on my screencasts.

[Edit: Andrew Stacy and Dale Buske reminded me that I meant to write about the Explain Everything Compressor. This is a $15 app for a Mac (not the iPad) that does the compressing for you so that you can continue to make screencasts on the iPad while the Mac compresses. I was very close to purchasing it, when I decided to give Doceri another chance (Robert Campbell was very encouraging here). The bottom line: I get to save $15 and avoid having to use two machines by going with Doceri. Additionally, I found some reviews saying the compressor was mediocre, and I didn’t want to spend $15 on something that doesn’t work well.]

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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RIP Jing Pro

March 22, 2013

I am very sad to report that my favorite screencasting software, Jing Pro, has been discontinued as of February 28, 2013 (The non-Pro version of Jing is still availble, though).

Jing 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 advertising (it cost me $15 per year to upload to YouTube for the last two features; the regular version of Jing has advertising and does not upload to YouTube).

(Edit: Andy Rundquist let me know that I was mistaken about Jing having advertising).

But I have found an alternative that I like as much: Screencast-O-Matic (note: I have not been paid by the makers of Jing nor Screencast-O-Matic; I am just a happy customer). Here is what I like about Screencast-O-Matic:

  1. It is easy to use.
  2. It is easy to upload videos to YouTube.
  3. There is no download required! (an improvement over Jing)
  4. There are ads in the free version (a banner advertising Screencast-O-Matic at the bottom of the screen), but not in the premium version (like Jing Pro, this costs $15 per year).

One difference between Jing/Jing Pro and Screencast-O-Matic: the former has a 5 minute limit, and the latter has a 15 minute limit.

The main drawback: Screencast-O-Matic seems to take much longer to upload to YouTube than Jing/Jing Pro does—probably by a factor of 4.

I will eventually get a premium version of Screencast-O-Matic, but I will not have enough screencasts to do in the near future to justify getting it now.

One final note: I tried to use Camtasia. Camtasia would be great if you want screencasts that are not quick and/or not dirty. It was way too much for me, and I did not want to pay the price of really long upload times for higher quality video.

An Inverted IBL Frankenstein

January 19, 2012

I am teaching complex analysis this semester, and I have decided to merge the inverted classroom approach that I used last semester with an Inquiry-Based Learning (IBL) approach.

The inverted approach will follow this flow: the students read the textbook and watch videos before class. In class, we answer clicker questions (to get a conceptual understanding) and get practice on the basic skills (taking derivatives, doing contour integrals, etc).

The IBL approach is this: I give the students a list of problems (created by Richard Spindler). The students do the problems at home (they can work together), and present them in class. One of the main benefits (as articulated by Dana Ernst) is that students are more skeptical of other students’ work than they are of the professor’s work. So the students will need to wrestle with the presentations, since some of them will contain errors (much like my presentations, but students will care more).

The basic idea is this: the inverted classroom approach will be used to quickly give the students the basic skills required for the course AND an overview of the course. The IBL approach will give students a deeper understanding of the course material.

The first half of the semester will be 2/3 inverted and 1/3 IBL. We will be able to get through the entire textbook in this half, although the understand will not be as deep as I would like.

The second half of the semester will be about 2/3 IBL and 1/3 review of the textbook. This is where the deep learning will take place.

I am not thrilled with the course policies—in particular the homework policy—but I will post about this later.

The Value of Blogging

March 23, 2011

I enjoy blogging, but I have recently had some more tangible evidence of the value of blogging.

First, we recently went through the process of hiring a tenure-track professor. One of the applicants told my colleague at an interview that they had been reading my weblog. Because the applicant still decided to show up for the interview, I am viewing this as a positive effect (at least, not too much of a negative effect) of my blogging.

Even more concretely, I was recently put in contact with Andy Rundquist, a physics professor who is interested in many of the same pedagogies as I am (I believe that Jason Buell may have virtually introduced us; I am coming to believe that Buell is some sort of Gladwellian Connector).

Andy teaches at a college just 90 minutes from mine, and we had a chance to have lunch yesterday. I picked his brain on a whole number of topics, including how he creates his screencasts. Andy (and his children) were delightful.

But the point is…today is a snow day for us, so my classes were canceled. I had planned to give my students some definitions to use on some assignments, but I could not longer do so in class.

Of course, my conversation with Andy was still fresh in my brain, and so I decided to create my first screencast. It was shockingly easy to do, and I have already had one student email me to say how helpful it was (I just sent the screencast an hour or so ago).

The point is: if not for blogging, I would not have met Andy. If not for Andy, I would not have thought to create a screencast. If not for the screencast, I would have lost one day in an already-tight semester.

So thank you, Al Gore, for creating the internet.