If I was told at the beginning of this week that I’d be attending two state/region wide technology conferences on behalf of BHS in a matter of 6 days, I wouldn’t have believed it. Still recovering from an amazing experience at Edscape, I was blown away by all of the technology showcased at MassCUE. Here at Burlington, we feel that we are in the know on all of the educational technology out there. But as a matter of fact, there is a whole world of educational technology that BHS is yet to be exposed to. At MassCUE, I learned about several innovative technologies tailored to education, some of which were in use at BHS and some of which were still foreign to our 1.1 environment. Companies such as Canvas, IDEO, and ThinkGate have significant technologies to offer to every advanced educational environment out there, and it’s only a matter of time until BHS expands even further into the realm of the educational technology. But in the meantime, I think it’s safe to say that we have enough technology at BHS to maintain a more than efficient learning environment for the student body.
Things are up and running with Xcode here at BHS, where the software has been approved for download on select Help Desk iMacs. So far this week, we have been able to familiarize ourselves with Apple’s comprehensive app-builidng software, and to our delight, have found that Xcode makes app-building significantly more manageable that it first appeared to be. The software allows us a choice of several pre-made templates that features key elements of any given application genre. After confuting a series of mini test-projects, we have narrowed down our choice of templates to TabbedApp and Master-Detail, both of which offer certain features essential to our project. The TabbedApp template allows us to install several tabs on the storyboard of an application that permits users to move easily from one feature of the app to the next. The Master-Detail, on the other hand, provides a drop down menu on the side of the storyboard, that allows the user to sort through a decent amount of content relatively easily. The question is: Do we want our application to be small and simple, or comprehensive and multifaceted? Stay tuned for next week’s update to see our progress!
Screencasts are an essential tool for a 1.1 school like BHS, where students and staff alike are expected to keep up with the constant updates of an ever-changing technological environment. But what is a “screencast”? Why, I’m glad you asked. A “screencast” is a digital recording of a computer screen output, also known as a video screen capture, often containing audio narration. Screencasts are often used to give online tutorials showing viewers their way around the newest programs and softwares.
Though they seem fairly complex, screencasts are relatively easy to make, provided a person has access to the proper tools. Screencast-O-Matic, for example, is a free online screen recorder for PC that allows instant screen capture video sharing. The Mac equivalent of this program, QuickTime, similarly allows users to create screencasts with just the push of a button. In addition tools such as SmartClose can be used to kill all the software programs running on your desktop, in order to prevent any pop-ups/messages from interrupting the screencast. If you are recording with just one window, the Sizer utility can be used to ensure that the window fills the entire recorded space.
But that’s not all it takes to make a high quality screencast. Good screencasters make it seem like they just press record and start talking. But that’s usually not the case. It just looks and sounds that way. When you write a script, write concisely, but try to keep it sounding like it isn’t scripted. It may seem like it takes longer to script a screencast in advance, but the more prep work you do, the faster the actual production. And remember: practice makes perfect. To ensure that my own screencast will be of high quality, I plan on writing a script, reciting my lines aloud in the process in order to make sure that my language flows and does not sound too formal. I also plan to do several practice runs of my screencast to make sure that I am comfortable with the process. After that, with any luck, I should be ready to record.
Embedded above, you’ll find a screencast that I felt did an outstanding job of demonstrating the use of Revision History on Google Drive (Chris McQueen). Even without voiced narration, I felt that was a high quality screencast because the feature in question was explained properly, and in a very short span of time. Faint music and editing made the screencast fun and easy to follow. Stay tuned for my own screencast on the IOS 8’s new Safari upgrade.