Answering the Question I’m Asked the Most – Practical Ed Tech

Lisa R. Parker

At the end of almost every weekly newsletter I remind readers to feel free to reply to ask me questions. Throughout the school year there is one question that I am asked more than any other. In fact, I was asked this question three times on Friday. The question is, “what do you use to make your instructional videos?”

Screencast-o-matic is the tool that I use to make nearly all of the videos that appear on my YouTube channel. I use the “deluxe” version of it which costs roughly $50/year. As someone who makes hundreds of videos each year, Screencast-o-matic is worth the cost.

If you don’t make as many videos as me, don’t need all of the editing tools that I use in Screencast-o-matic (truncated resumption of recordings is one I use almost daily), or don’t want to spend any money (I’m thrifty, too) then there are plenty of good free options including the new Chrome OS screencasting app. The following are my go-to recommendations for teachers who are looking for a free and easy way to create screencast instructional videos.

Loom

Loom is a popular screencasting tool partly because it offers a generous list of free features for teachers and because those features work really well. Perhaps my favorite of those features is the ability to record a screencast directly from your Gmail inbox or from anywhere else in your Chrome browser. Loom also offers automatic transcript generation, viewing insights (get notifications when people watch your videos), and a tool for suppressing background noise in your recordings.

Loom lets you download your recordings and MP4 files and share your videos directly to a variety of places including YouTube. Here’s a demo of how I used Loom and Google Jamboard to make whiteboard videos.

Chrome OS Screencast App

If you use a Chromebook and your students use Chromebooks for all of their school work, then the screencasting app that was added to Chrome OS back in June is a good tool for making screencast instructional videos. The obvious benefit of using the built-in recorder is that you don’t have to install any third-party extensions. Additionally, your recordings automatically save to your Google Drive. And because the video is saved in your Google account, it is incredibly easy to share your videos with your students. The best aspect of the built-in Chrome OS screencasting tool is that your video is automatically transcribed for you and your students can have that transcript translated into the language of their choice.

The shortcomings of the Chrome OS screencast recorder are the limited drawing tools and limited editing tools. But the biggest shortcoming is that the videos can only be played back on Chromebooks.

Screencastify

Until a few weeks ago Screencastify was at the top of my list for free screencast video creation options. Unfortunately, at the start of October Screencastify introduced a bunch of new limitations to their free plan including a limit of only ten videos and removal of the option to download your videos as MP4 files to use outside of the Screencastify environment. That said, if you only need to record a screencast video every once in a while, Screencastify does work well and has some nice editing tools available in the free plan.

A note for Mac users

My friends who are reading this on a Mac might be thinking, “what about QuickTime?” QuickTime is a good option for making a brief screencast video. It doesn’t have the editing features of the tools listed above, but it’s still a free and convenient option.

Animated Explanations

Last week I announced a new course that I’m teaching in November. It’s called Animated Explanations and I’m excited to teach it in a new format for the first time! The class begins on November 1st. If you’re interested, you can learn more here and register here.

50 Tech Tuesday Tips!

50 Tech Tuesday Tips is an eBook that I created with busy tech coaches, tech integrators, and media specialists in mind. In it you’ll find 50 ideas and tutorials that you can use as the basis of your own short PD sessions. Get a copy today! I’ll host a free webinar for any school that purchases ten or more copies of my eBook.

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