Electronic Eye December 2015

Screencasting in the Library : Using Online Video Creation Tools with Young Adults

Kathleen Meulen

Sunday nights find me at home with my ChromeBook, creating slides with book covers of all the things that I’ve read over the week and now want to book to my 1,200 students in grades 9 through 12.  Having teachers schedule visits to the library for book sharing time, while not unheard of, is challenging for teachers. I’ve come up with a way to reach my broad audience that works for my teachers.  I screencast.

A screencast is a recording of a computer screen. Often, it contains audio narration. Several teachers have embraced the screencast as a simple way to create a video that teaches or introduces a concept.  It is a hallmark of the flipped classroom concept, where a teacher will assign lecture material for students to watch as homework, allowing time in class to be used for more hands on activities.  In the library, screencasting can be an efficient way for librarians to promote books and reading.

This column focuses on how a librarian can harness tools for screencasting as well as online tools for video creation that can also be used by young adults to create and collaborate on videos.   The three tools that I have chosen to review have free versions, along with greater functionality if the user wishes to pay.  In general, I’ve tried to just review the product’s free version to see whether it can be used effectively enough to make it worth a user’s time.

Screencastify Lite

https://www.screencastify.com/

Screencastify has become my “go-to” tool for creating my weekly screencasts.  I was looking for a way to not only show what was happening on my screen but also to embed a thumbnail video of myself in the corner.  It runs as an extension in the Chrome browser.  Chrome is Google’s web browser and users can personalize this browser by installing extensions and apps onto it.  This means that Screencastify can be used on ChromeBooks as well as desktop and laptop computers.

After  a user chooses to install the Screencastify extension, a small black filmstrip icon appears on the toolbar of the browser.  To record using Screencastify, a user clicks on this icon. A drop-down menu appears allowing a user to choose to record the image on the Web browser’s tab, the entire desktop of the video, or to just record the video from the device’s web cam. Users can also choose to embed a small thumbnail of the user’s image from the Web cam.

A somewhat distracting preview window can also be opened up, allowing the user to see what the video will look like.  I consider it distracting because I find it hard to watch myself talk.

There are also several tools that a user can access in order to make their screencast more useful, including a pen to draw on the screen and an eraser to wipe it clear.  There is also a tool called the “focus mouse” which turns the pointer into a small brighter circle that highlights the targeted part of the screen.

When a user clicks on the “Start Recording” button, the black filmstrip icon in the browser’s toolbar displays the red recording circle.  The user clicks on the same icon to stop recording.

The video quality is fine for my screencasting needs.  The frame rate is 30 FPS.  It’s okay.  I’m not making an IMAX movie here.

The video that is created is either temporarily stored in the user’s Google Drive or on the local drive of the computer.  Users can then choose to upload it directly to YouTube, to share it from Google Drive, or to download it onto a computer.

Users can upgrade to the fuller version, which gives one greater opportunities to edit the video. Including cropping out the parts at the front and at the end.  The makers of Screencastify are German, so the upgrade costs 20 Euros.

The benefit of this tool for me has been ease-of-use and the ability to record on any device that I have available, which makes me more likely to take some time on a Sunday night to reach out to my teachers and students.

While I haven’t crunched my statistics to see whether my weekly screencasts have improved my circulation statistics, I can say that I experience a great deal of gratification when students run down to check out the books that I featured on my screencast.  This week, I get to teach my first class of students to make their own book themed screencasts.

TechSmith’s SnagIt

(https://www.techsmith.com/snagit.html)

TechSmith is a leading company in the screencasting business.  Their Camtasia Studio is a full-blown screen capturing and also video editing suite.  Their SnagIt is a simpler solution that also can also run as an extension in the Chrome browser.  There are several additional features that SnagIt has over Screencastify. For instance, a user can choose to capture an image from the screen as well as a video.  Users can also use a few tools to draw on the image itself.  One can also make short animated gifs with SnagIt.

Like Screencastify, SnagIt also saves videos and images seamlessly into Google Drive.  They are placed into a folder called “TechSmith.”  A user could then choose to share the content in a variety of different ways or even choose to use another video editor to put clips together.

WeVideo

(http://www.wevideo.com)

We Video’s new slogan is “Easily Create Outstanding Videos” and they are not entirely wrong on this. The young adults will tell you that the secret to their success is the embedded themes which make every video look like it is ready to take a turn on the Oscar screen. Using a theme adds a title screen, background music, and also overlays a color.  For instance, “Icy Blast” turns the colors of the screen slightly blue. With theme names like “Punk Rock,” “White Wedding,” “Fashionista,” “Vintage,” and “Undercover,” it is easy to see why themes appeal.

But what I like was the fact that several teens could collaborate together on one video using their separate accounts, which allow people to keep passwords nicely private from one another. Often when young adults are asked to work together, only one person’s account is storing the project or the users have to agree to share a password.  Not good. I also value the fact that WeVideo allows users to authenticate using either their Facebook, Google, Yahoo, or Office365 profiles in addition to making a separate account with WeVideo.

There are many different ways to  import clips from different social networking sites like Facebook and Instagram or web storage solutions like Dropbox.  Users can also upload clips directly from a computer.  Once a user or a group of users have a collection of media clips available for their project, the real fun begins–video editing.

There are two methods for video editing and users can go back and forth between the two.  Users can choose either “Storyboard” or “Timeline.”  Storyboard is a little bit simpler with clips being placed in order.  The timeline editor is more detailed and also a little bit more technical to learn.  The screen switches to a running timeline at the bottom and several tracks are lined out.  Users can clip and trim video and add additional music or narration as well as title screens, subtitles and transitions.  The top right quadrant of the screen always presents the preview window.

As with the other video tools discussed in this column, WeVideo allows users to enjoy some things for free and other things require purchase.  A user can finalize a video using 480p and 720p HD but a higher resolution like 1080p costs extra.  Also extra is the chance to publish your video without the WeVideo watermark.  In addition, while WeVideo allows for users to store a certain amount of video clips, this amount of storage is finite.  One can upgrade to add more storage space.

I have used WeVideo with young adults to create movies to share with our school.  My tweens and teens were able to learn how to use storyboard and themes with great ease and then they learned to work together on the challenges of using timeline.  I will say that they really enjoyed the process and it was not something that we needed to spend several sessions on in order to learn.  A savvy young adult librarian could run a two to three hour program with WeVideo.  The teens would come away having enjoyed themselves and produced something awesome to share.  90 Second Newberys are perfect for WeVideo.

The added value is that a librarian wouldn’t need to know everything about the tool in order to help the students towards success.  Finally, a library wouldn’t need to invest in very expensive equipment.  I have literally used a ChromeBook just now to work on my latest WeVideo.

The opportunities for working with young adults and video just keeps on getting easier and easier.

Meulen headshot, used with permissionKathleen Meulen Ellison has been a teacher librarian for over two decades in both New York City and the Pacific Northwest.  She can be reached at kellison@bisd303.org

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