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Screencasting Apps for the iPad

Teaching ourselves, our students and other educators how to use screenshooting (images) and screencasting (video) tools is a relevant skill to have that integrates in so many areas. Think Tutorial Designers (A role from the Digital Learning Farm) or the Flipped Classroom model. Being able to create, share and take advantage of readily available screencasts touch upon so many of the skills (create, communicate) and literacies (network, media, information literacy).

Maybe you have never heard about screencasting, have not paid much attention to it and/or have never tried to create one of your own. Or maybe you have plenty of experience in creating  your own screencasts and incorporated screencasting into your lessons or assessments before. Maybe you feel screencasting to be a basic, one of the most important or an essential teaching and learning skill for you as an educator or for your students to have.

I agree with many others who say that:

Screencasting also has taken on an important role in the area of an emerging trend which is the Flipped Classroom Model.  You can read more about it here and here.

Screencasting software ranges from basic to elaborate, from free to expensive. Alan November mentioned in one of his presentations about the Digital Learning Farm this summer that he would recommend Jing Project (free) and make it the FIRST software to teach to EVERY students. (Take a look at his Screencasting handout)

My favorite Screenshooting software for the mac is Skitch and SnagIt (which is also available for the PC). Now that I am using my iPad more and more, I am eager to transfer the screenshooting and screencasting abilities to my mobile device. It seems that I am not the only one, since over the last few months three apps for the iPad have emerged. Rumor has it that Skitch is coming out with their own app for the iPad soon.

The first one, I tried out was Show Me App (free). You can read my review on my post titled ShowMe App for the iPad- Good Tutorial Designer App?. The developers are really listening to their users and are constantly updating and upgrading the app. Features that I felt were missing when I beta tested the app, have been included in their updates. I still am missing options of being able to export my final movie anywhere else, but upload them to the ShowMe site.

The next one to appear in the iTunes store was ScreenChomp (free) by TechSmith (Same company than Jing and SnagIt)

Just as with the ShowMe app, this one allows you to import images from your Photo library and use them as the background to your screencast. You can choose from an array of colored markers (just hold down your finger on one of the markers to choose a different color)

The app automatically uploads the video file to the screenchomp.com site and gives you a link that you can share, email or tweet. There is no need to create an account to be able to upload (as opposed to the ShowMe app), but there is also no (easy) way of deleting a video that was created and uploaded. There is an option to contact the company and request to have inappropriate or offensive content deleted.

The third app that I have tested out is Explain Everything. This one comes at a cost of $2.99, but also gives me more options.

The first options that I immediately liked was

  • The button to choose arrows, shapes, and lines to include in the screencast (Customize with colors, thickness and border)
  • The ability to type (not just use handwriting)
  • Have  the build-in ability to crop (design your own crop by drawing the lines around the area, instead of a traditional rectangular cropping area)
  • Importing images do NOT have to solely come from the iPad Photo roll, but can also be imported from the camera, Dropbox and Evernote.
  • The different pieces you draw, type or import become objects that can individually be manipulated (resized, deleted and are treated to be a on a layer that can be send to back, front, etc)
  • The app is set up to create different slides (just as PowerPoint or Keynote), move the order of the slides and give me the opportunity to use it in presentation mode.

  • Import ability of images, PowerPoint and Keynote files that can be opened via your email, through Dropbox and Evernote.
  • Export features: I am not forced to upload the video file to the company’s site. I have CHOICES! I can export a screenshot of the slide I created to my Photo Roll (this feature is huge for me, since I can now import the movie file directly from here into iMovie on the iPad and make the screencast part of a larger movie), via e-mail, to Dropbox or Evernote.

ExplainEverything uses the word “workflow” on their support site, but it is what I called “iPad Fluency“, the ability to easily move between apps, bring in files and send them on to other apps that I might be working with or have access to on my other devices.

I am willing to pay for an app, if it supports my fluency!

A feature that is still missing from all three apps, is the ability to record my screen as I am using the browser or other apps on the iPad. I know I am able to take individual screenshots of what I am doing, then import them into the app to create the screencast, BUT that hinders my fluency. It adds an additional step, that I am accustomed to not having to take on my laptop.

I am thrilled that screencasting apps are becoming available for the iPad and can’t wait to be able to use them with students AND teachers to work on 21st century skills and help empower learners.

Here is my first attempt of a screencast with the Explain Everything app : Upgrade to the 21st Century Skills/Literacies/Digital Learning Farm template. (Download the templates as a PDF)

The Teacher as a Conductor of an Orchestra

Should Teachers Be More Like Conductors? This bog post from 2009 took me to the following TED talk by Itay Talgam.

Although I am not a musician, nor listen to much classical music, I was mesmerized. This TED talk was geared towards organization leaders, but I so agree with Tania Sheko, that it seemed to directly speak to me as an educator.

Click to enlarge image


I am quoting the following passages that made the connection to teaching and the classroom for me:

The magical moment, the magical moment of conducting. Which is, you go on to a stage. There is an orchestra sitting. They are all, you know, warming up and doing stuff. And I go on the podium. You know, this little office of the conductor. Or rather a cubicle, an open-space cubicle, with a lot of space. And in front of all that noise, You do a very small gesture. Something like this, not very pomp, not very sophisticated. And suddenly, out of the chaos, order. Noise becomes music.

Carlos Kleiber clip:

But what about the conductor? What can you say the conductor was doing, actually? He was happy. [...] he’s spreading happiness. And I think the happiness, the important thing is this happiness does not come from only his own story, and his joy of the music. The joy is about enabling other people’s stories to be heard at the same time.

You have the story of the orchestra as a professional body. You have the story of the audience as a community. Yeah. You have the stories of the individuals in the orchestra and in the audience. And then you have other stories, unseen. People who build this wonderful concert hall. People who made those Stradivarius, Amati, all those beautiful instruments. And all those stories are being heard at the same time. This is the true experience of a live concert.

Richard Strauss clip:

Did you see him turning pages in the score? Now, either he is senile, and doesn’t remember his own music, because he wrote the music. Or he is actually transferring a very strong message to them, saying, “Come on guys. You have to play by the book. So it’s not about my story. It’s not about your story. It’s only the execution of the written music, no interpretation.” Interpretation is the real story of the performer. So, no, he doesn’t want that. That’s a different kind of control.

Herbert von Karajan clip:

[The players] look at Karajan. And then they look at each other.  [...] And after doing that, they really look at each other, and the first players of the orchestra lead the whole ensemble in playing together.

And when Karajan is asked about it he actually says, “Yes, the worst damage I can do to my orchestra is to give them a clear instruction. Because that would prevent the ensemble, the listening to each other that is needed for an orchestra.” [...] Meaning that you know you have no authority to change anything. It’s my music. The real music is only in Karajan’s head. And you have to guess my mind. So you are under tremendous pressure because I don’t give you instruction, and yet, you have to guess my mind. So it’s a different kind of, a very spiritual but yet, very firm control.

Carlos Kleiber clip 2:

I’m opening a space for you to put in another layer of interpretation. That is another story. But how does it really work together if it doesn’t give them instructions? It’s like being on a rollercoaster. Yeah? You’re not really given any instructions. But the forces of the process itself keep you in place. That’s what he does. The interesting thing is of course the rollercoaster does not really exist. It’s not a physical thing. It’s in the players heads.

And that’s what makes them into partners. You have the plan in your head. You know what to do, even though Kleiber is not conducting you. [...] And you become a partner building the rollercoaster with sound, as you actually take the ride. This is very exciting for those players. [...] It is very tiring. Yeah? But it’s the best music making, like this.

Carlos Kleiber clip 3:

What happens when there is a mistake?

Again you see the beautiful body language.  And now there is a trumpet player who does something not exactly the way it should be done. Second time for the same player.  And now the third time for the same player. When it’s needed, the authority is there. It’s very important. But authority is not enough to make people your partners.

Carlos Kleiber clip 4:

Kleiber not only creates a process, but also creates the conditions in the world in which this process takes place. So again, the oboe player is completely autonomous and therefore happy and proud of his work, and creative and all of that. And the level in which Kleiber is in control is in a different level. So control is no longer a zero-sum game. You have this control. And all you put together, in partnership, brings about the best music. So Kleiber is about process. Kleiber is about conditions in the world.

Lenny Bernstein clip:

You need to have process and content to create the meaning. [...] Lenny Bernstein always started from the meaning [...]  you can see the music on his face. You can see the baton left his hand. No more baton. Now it’s about you, the player, telling the story. Now it’s a reversed thing. You’re telling the story. And even briefly, you become the storyteller to which the community, the whole community, listens to. And Bernstein enables that. Isn’t that wonderful?

I am preparing a pre-conference workshop for Building Learning Communities Conference in Boston at the end of the month. The title of my workshop is: Orchestrating the Collaborative Classroom

Collaboration is one of the most sought after skills in the 21st century. How do you transform your classroom into a collaborative community where each student is empowered to contribute and to take ownership of their learning? How do you become the conductor of an orchestra full of “unique instruments and musicians”?

This session will share examples from the classroom where students take on “jobs” to become part of that orchestra. We will look at and play with different “instruments” that are uniquely tailored to encourage collaborative work. Participants will explore how they can use classroom time as rehearsals in order to prepare their students for a 21st century concerto.

I think snippets from the above video will spur some great conversations…

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