Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Teaching Screencasting Through Flipped Learning Cycles: a post Camtasia Workshop Reflection

Camtasia Studio 7.0.1
Camtasia Studio 7.0.1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A colleague and I led a workshop on Screencasting through Camtasia. The premise of our workshop was to organize the full day workshop in a 5E Learning Cycle of Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate and Evaluate.

The purpose of this first segment was to generate interest in screen casting and demonstrate why participants should want to learn to use Camtasia. I handed out my son's karate belts and demonstrated how to tie them and asked participants to do the same. Immediately, the limitations of live direct instruction were obvious - different participants got lost at different spots. This introductory activity led to a nice discussion of how videos can be helpful when teaching concepts. Participants understood that sharing a video showing how to tie a karate belt would have been more helpful because participants would've been able to rewind, pause and rewatch at their own pace. 

The next phase demonstrated what can be done in screen casts and identify best practices for screen casting. I shared one of my first (and flawed) Camtasia screen casts with the group and tasked them to provide feedback (eg regarding clarity, color scheme and sound quality.) Participants submitted feedback and questions via a Google form and we used those responses to brainstorm a list of best practices, which included the need for contrast between text and background, keeping videos short and asking questions throughout the video, to name a few. We also briefly touched on some crucial pedagogical issues: how videos are part of a larger learning cycle, why you should avoid spending too much time perfecting the videos, the limitations of recorded lectures, etc.

The Explain phase included direct instruction where we led a quick orientation and walk-through of Camtasia. Participants followed us in real time to record a short screen cast with the webcam enabled.

The bulk of the workshop was the elaboration (or application) phase, where participants worked at their own pace to edit and/or create videos. We shared a Zip folder with editable Camtasia files, which all had a flaw that could be corrected with a specific skill, like trimming, annotations, zooming, etc. We shared a document outlining the task for each video along with a link to the TechSmith tutorial demonstrating that particular important skill. In addition, we also shared the link to the entire TechSmith library of tutorial videos.

Participants spent four hours spread out in different rooms working through the guided assignment and/or creating their own videos. 

We provided access to a Google Drive folder for participants to upload their videos or provide links in a Google document of their videos hosted elsewhere. We spent the last hour of the workshop showing the videos created by participants. We all commented on the videos and ended the session with final thoughts and participants provided feedback about the workshop via a Google Form.

Final thoughts: The feedback was unanimously and overwhelmingly positive! Participants appreciated how we framed the activities through a learning cycle and used screencasts to teach screencast creation. The powerful thing about our decision to use videos was that it allowed for participants to work at their own pace and to select what they wanted to learn, which only reinforced the strengths of screencasting in education. We've all been in technology workshops where the presenter elected to run a synchronous live tutorial: the advanced participants get frustrated waiting for the novice stragglers to catch up; and of course the moments when the presenter pauses to troubleshoot for the one or two folks with tech related problems. Leading the workshop only strengthened my resolve to continue developing my flipped course with elements of asynchronous learning and content organized into learning cycles. Hopefully, some of the participants were convinced by their experience in our workshop that flipped learning and screencasts can add wonderful elements to their courses.