Tag Archives: screencasting

The Power of the Micro Screencast: How Educators Can create GIFs to Save Time and Enhance Learning

Everyone loves GIFs. As I’m sure you  know, you can now easily search Twitter for GIPHY.com Gifs to share. They seem to be everywhere.

But how can GIFs enhance your job as a professor and help your students learn more all while saving you time?

By creating micro screencast GIFs using Recordit or a similar desktop app.

These micro screencasts are perfect for demonstrating brief tasks (I’ve found 10 seconds or less is ideal). And they can be pasted just about anywhere an image can. No embed code. No video player required.

Recordit is free and works for Mac and Windows.

Example of a micro screencast (click image to see high res):


Here are 3 quick ways you can create these micro screencast GIFs to enhance your teaching:

  1. Lab Guides with GIFS

I’ve written in the past about how I like to create lab guides in Google Docs for my students. I titled that post: “Are Your Classroom Handouts Stuck In the Last Century?

If  you missed that post, here’s a quick run down:

I began creating Lab Guides which are Instructional Handout with Multimedia (IHMs). I tend to create IHMs when  teaching students how to use a piece of software or complete a task online in instances when the steps are clearly defined and need to be followed in a specific order. They contain instructional material, embedded images, icons, links. Examples include: How to use Moviemaker, Blogger, Netlytic, etc.

In the past, these have contained lots of screen grabs demonstrating a process.  Not anymore.

Enter Recordit.

The newer lab guides I’ve been creating contain lots of GIFS of steps in a process, cutting down on need for lots of explanation and multiple still images.

For example, here’s a lab guide I created to get my students started with the basics of Netlytic.com – the free, web-based social network analysis site. The lab guide combines GIFs created in Recordit and screen captures created with Skitch (I’ll talk more about Netlytic in a post I plan to write next semester).


Using Recordit is easy. You choose the part of the screen you want to record, then record the video. As soon as you’re done, you get a URL to the video or GIF online. Which leads me to…

2. Answer a student question/email with a GIF

Because Recordit automaticaly generates a URL, you can quickly share the video or GIF via email, over social media, you name it.

I often get student emails asking me for clarity on how to do something for a class assignment. Or, there are those emails from students who can’t find where something is on the course webpage.

It is far more time efficient to make a quick video or GIF and email them back the link to it than to type a lengthy description that feels like a technical manual that the receiver may not be able to follow through every step.

Time saved! Yes!

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3. Enhance your presentation slides with GIFs

No matter how hard we try to make a presentation that pops, we can find ourselves limited by Powerpoint. And soon, the audience is… well…

today presentation af powerpoint

Want to show how something on screen works to your audience?

In the past, I’ve often relied on screen grabs. But some things are better conveyed through dynamic visuals.

Creating a GIF is great for showing a brief process on screen.

For example, I’m using Recordit to show simple steps one can take in the messaging app Slack in my upcoming presentation on Slack for class teams the PRSA Educator’s Academy Super Saturday in Indianapolis this October.  I’ll be on a panel with two of my favorite social media professors, Karen Freberg and Ai Zhang. Hope to see you there!

The clips are 3-5 second loops showing how certain commands work in Slack (see example of micro screencast above and below).

Example micro-screencast (click image to see high res)


How do you embed GIFs into Powerpoint?

Well, you can’t cut and paste the image from the web like you can a still image. Instead, create it or download it from the web and save the GIF to your computer. In Powerpoint on Mac, go to Powerpoint, click insert->photo->photo from file. It’s that easy. 🙂

I hope these quick tips help you see how GIFs can do more than create a laugh or a sense of nostalgia. They can be quick and easy teaching tools.




Are Your Classroom Handouts Stuck In the Last Century?

A little while ago I posted about just how useful screencasting is for teaching students how to use tools and software on the computer/web. I also recently posted on a favorite image screen capture Chrome add-on that makes it super easy to grab screenshots from the web.

Here is another great tool I love for teaching providing students instructions on tasks they need to complete for assignments while incorporating visuals: the Lab Guide.

I opt for these over screencasts when the steps are clearly defined and need to be followed in a specific order.

I use Google Docs and Awesome Screenshot Google Chrome add-on to create these.  Here’s why I like Lab Guides:

I used to give a lot of handouts with instructions. They were a waste of trees. And black-and-white text… boring!

I realized something: We want to create content that grabs attention, that is easy to digest, easy to follow, yet we don’t seem to do a great job of doing that with our students!

More and more, i find images and multimedia are great additions to or supplements for words. But color-printing is expensive. I also felt limited by MS Word and wanted to be able to provide a URL, not a file for students to access so students could click links on the handout to access videos, additional articles, etc., without being bogged down by the cumbersome process of loading a link via a Word document.

And so, I began creating Lab Guides which are Instructional Handout with Multimedia (IHMs)

IHMs are easy to access via a short URL (e.g., Bitly) from anywhere on the web.

They contain instructional material, embedded images, icons, links.

And, they are super easy to create!

Here is a lab guide that utilizes a variety of multimedia examples to help students. This lab guide shows students in the intro class, Comm and New Media, how to create and edit their podcast assignment.


Here is a long and involved Lab Guide I created that walks students through the complex process of coding XML files for data collection using the Open Data Kit (ODK). Students in the (Applied) Research Methods class will be collecting survey data using iPads and Android Tablets.  Students will be creating their own surveys and programming them into XML to be hosted on FromHub.com. With the tablets, students can go out into the field and have people complete the survey on the tablet and the data is uploaded in real time to FormHub. Students can then download the data for analysis when complete with data collection.


I like handouts where all the info is organized and students can follow along. It takes time to create. But I feel it saves me a lot of time on the back end with emails, time wasted in class, etc. Most importantly, the students find it helpful and it helps us move more quickly through the “must do’s” so we can get to the real learning!

Follow these tips for making your Google Doc Lab Guide to share your students once you’ve created it

Log into Google Drive or create an account.

1) Create the docs and make sure they are set up so EVERYONE can edit them. Here’s how:

After creating the document, click “share” (upper right – it is a blue icon). Next, click “Change” next to the field asking who can do what with the document….: Choose “Anyone with the link” and in the Access section, keep it as View”

2) Sharing the Document with Students – The URL for Google Docs is annoyingly long, not good for sharing. So use your favorite URL shortener to create uniform links for the assignment. I like Bitly but any works.

For example, if there are 4 teams and I set up the documents, each will have a URL something like:


That way, each team just types in the short link into their browser. Just note that Bitly links are case-sensitive. Be sure to test your link!

What tips do you have for creating effective handouts for students?

#TryThis! Teach Technology and Save Class Time with Screencasting

The start of the semester is right around the corner. So I thought it’d be fun to do series of posts titled #trythis! on teaching tools and techniques I hope you will try this fall. The first is an invaluable tool I’ve been using for years that makes teaching technology more efficient!

Want to teach students how to use software or a web tool for an activity or assignment but don’t want to waste class time?

Try screencasting! It is a wonderful way to augment your teaching materials and ensure student learning. Plus, it is easier, and quicker than you might think!

Screencasting is a video of a computer screen and is used to demonstrate tasks on a computer. For example, I have used screencasting to show students how to set up social media accounts, edit wikis, complete complex processes such as on SPSS, and much more.


  1. Saves time in class – I already said this but it is worth repeating. Rather than stand before the class using valuable time to show 1 or 2 students how to do a task at the risk of losing the attention of the rest of the class, you can 1) point students to screencasts you’ve already made, or 2) tell them you’ll make a screencast after class and post a link to it on the class website.
  2. Visual component makes it easy to follow.
  3. Particularly useful for complex subjects – If a student is confused, he can pause, rewind, etc. I’ve had students comment that they were so thankful for a screencast I’d posted on using Spundge.com because the task I was requesting was rather complicated and they were having a hard time following paper instructions.
  4. Students can watch screencasts at any time
  5. Less time repeating the same instructions over and over in your office hours, via email, etc.
  6. Less excuses from students that they couldn’t complete the assignment because they couldn’t follow your instructions.

Here’s a video I made teaching students how to use Piktochart for an Infographics assignment:

See more Screencasts I’ve made on my Vimeo library. In fact, my old screencasts from when I first started teaching new and social media in graduate school are still on TeacherTube, a video-sharing site for educators!


  1. Find a quiet place to record (of course!)
  2. Don’t be nervous – though you might be saying to yourself, ‘why would I be nervous!?” you may find yourself a little timid when you go to record. A lot of us don’t like the sound of their own voice or you may worry you are going to sound unorganized or say “um” too much. Just relax. Be yourself.
  3. Plan but don’t over plan – if you over plan every little thing you are going to say, you will come across rigid. In fact, I find it impossible to plan everything I want to say or do. Sometimes I am recording and in the moment I’ll think of something to add, or to show. Embrace that. Those little insights add value just like they do in the classroom. What I do to plan, is make a list of the things I want to cover in a video and have it in front of me.
  4. Don’t be afraid of doing a ‘redo’ – sometimes I get 5 minutes into a recording and make a mistake or forget what I was going to say and have to stop, delete, and start over. Because I don’t bother to edit the videos in order to save time, I end up having to do a redo now and again.
  5. Consider the video length – It is easy to get going and going when doing a screencast and quickly find 5-6 minutes have flown by. I try not to record videos that are longer than 7 minutes. I find students won’t watch a video if it is too long. So if I can keep it shorter by all means, I try!
  6. Shorter and more is best – Ideally, I’ve found a few short videos beats 1 long video. Students are going to fast forward in searching of the content they want anyhow.

How to Make a ScreenCast

To make a screencast, all you need is: a microphone, screencast software, and an account for a free online host like YouTube or Vimeo.

There is paid software with more advanced features. But the options I will show are free and will suffice for all your needs:

First, check your built-in or plug-in mic to make sure it is working.

If you have a Mac computer, you can use the free software QuickTime. Open QuickTime, Click File -> New Screen Recording. Click the red icon to start the recording. When you’re done, click the stop icon. The video will be created. Watch it to make sure you are happy with it. Export it for uploading by clicking “Share” from the menu. Select the account Vimeo or YouTube you are using and follow the prompts, including entering your username and password.

If you have a PC, there are a few options. One option is the online screencasting software screencastomatic. I used the free, open source software Cam Studio (http://camstudio.org/) to create the TeacherTube screencasts.  The software is easy to use. But getting it installed and working is easier explained through screencast. So, in the spirit of this post here are two great videos on getting going with Cam Studio:

Installing and getting started with CamStudio version 2.7

A detailed look at Cam Studio 2.7 Settings (for those wanting more guidance)

In sum, screencasting is a great supplement to any class where you need to teach students how to do things on a computer. Any educator who wants to improve the way they teach software and web tools to students can benefit from using this easy and effective tool.

I hope you will try screencasting this semester! If you do, stop back by and share your screencast and let us know how it went! If you currently use screencasting, what do you find it most effective for? What tips do you have for someone new to screencasting?

(photo CC: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stephen_d_luke/)