My Favorite FREE Screencasting Options

Greetings from Sage Educator!

Technology is expanding at an amazing rate. New programs and Web 2.0 tools are ever increasing. It’s hard to imagine what new tools will be available to increase students engagement with literacy in the next few years. The Horizon Report presents the technology trends in education and anticipated changes that are immediate, within a couple of years and within five years. This report is updated annually and quite extensive.

Screencasting, one of the emerging popular web tools, has tremendous potential for teachers and students. You might be wondering…What is screencasting? Simply stated, screencasting allows you to capture a video of  whatever you are showing on your computer’s desktop as you talk through the information.

How might teachers use screencasting?

  1. Demonstration: One of the major reasons I use screencasting is to show my students how to do somethingA picture is worth a thousand words and a screencast is worth even more words! For example, when I wanted my graduate students to use VoiceThread, which is a collaborative tool that incorporates digital, video, typing and drawing features,  I made a quick video to showing them the features of this Web 2.0 resource. The ability to record visually and comment specifically for your students makes this a very engaging and efficient strategy.
  2. Showcasing: Screencasting is a great way to celebrate your students’ work. For example, a teacher might have a virtual tour that highlights students’ work. Imagine a fourth grade classroom has created an Iroquois village and the teacher has collected a number of pictures of the projects in various states of completion. These pictures could be narrated as a presentation of class works and posted on the classroom or school’s website.
  3. Presentation: Screencasting is a great way to produce quality videos that explain content. Suppose you want parents and community members to understand the your program goals. You might make a PPt and also want to illustrate with some examples of former students’ work. You could easily move among open programs to develop a rich presentation.
  4. Rich Digital Media: Many teachers make podcasts (audio files, typically mp3); screencasting enriches an audio file by combining a visual file too. That way, the online viewer can hear AND see what you are talking about. The end result is that you are more likely to engage the viewer.
  5. Development of Students’ Digital Literacies: Today students need to be able to work individuallly and collaboratively with a variety of Web 2.0 tools. Screencasting allows students can produce short, high quality multimedia reports. The NYS Education Department is revising the English Language Arts Standards to include both visual and digital literacies.

What are the best FREE screencasting options? My two favorite free programs are Jing and Screencast-o-matic. Jing was developed by by TechSmith (I love anything they produce! If you are a PC user, you may know TechSmith as the developers of Camtasia, a video editing software program.) and you can host your Jing videos for free at their associated site–Screencast. Jing videos are limited to 5 mintues, so you or your students are forced to produce short, concise videos. (I like that Jing really keep ‘rambling’ to a minimum due to time limits!) Screencast-o-matic allows you to capture your desktop and voice for up to 15 minutes. Frankly, this limit is about the maximum for keeping online viewers’ attention and I find it works well for most purposes.

Both Jing and Screencast-o-matic are quick and easy use. Jing requires a download (both Mac and PC versions; there’s also a paid pro-version, but I don’t think it’s necessary) and has many attractive features. When you use Screencast for Jing video hosting, you can control who has access to your videos, which is an important consideration. On the other hand, Screencast-o-matic does not require a download because your videos are hosted for free (I just love free!) on their site. You can create channels and export as Quicktime movies. I particularly like Quicktime because viewers can see them in their media player (you have this already installed on your computer) and  pause these videos at any point–many other videos formats do not allow pausing.

There’s free and then again you get what you pay for! While I have been extolling the virtues of Jing and Screencast-o-matic, I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you the one drawback that I see. You can’t edit–so you are likely to end up with a few ‘ahs’ and false starts. So, if your school district has lots of money for software you might want to consider purchasing video editing software. My personal favorites are Screenflow for Macs and Camtasia Studio for PC, but at approximately $100 and $300 these can be quite expensive for school districts.

Want to learn more about Jing and Screencast-o-matic? Here are some recommended YouTube videos (actually, they are really screencasts turned into videos!) to get you started.

  1. Jing Video
  2. Screencast-o-matic Video

I hope you find my recommendations helpful and I look forward to hearing from you. If you have screencasting options you like better, please share. I’m always interested in learning new content and getting ideas from others. A couple of weeks ago, for example, I  learned how to use Screenr, a free screencasting tool for Twitter, from a colleague I met in an online course I took in July. I am still considering how Twitter might help me as a teacher…more on that another time!



Kathleen A. Gormley, PhD

Director of Online Teaching Excellence Programs at Sage

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