Thursday, January 09, 2014

Screencasting with Screenmailer

Screenmailer is a new screencasting/screen recording tool for Mavericks on the Mac. It is easy to use, quick to render, and can be used as an on-the-spot solution for teacher or student screencasts!

As with any screencast, you should first plan your recording, get things set-up on your desktop, practice your script, and then start the recording. 

Setting up the screencast

Screenmailer runs on your Mac, and, once installed, allows you to log-in with Google credentials or create a Screenmailer account. You will need to be connected to the Web in order to use Screenmailer.

Once logged in
Sign in or create an accout

Once you log-in, as you seen above, you can see your previously-recorded videos, play them, delete them, email the link to someone, or copy the link. And, of course, you can begin a new recording by picking the record button.
You then get a choice of the audio input source and whether to record the full screen or to outline an area of the screen to record. The developer of Screenmailer recommends outlining an area rather than using the full screen option, especially if you have a hi-res screen.

You can record a video for up to 30 minutes and easily pause the recording to collect your thoughts or change what is on your computer screen. This comes in handy when showcasing different content during the screen recording. Also, you can see you can easily record yourself (or any other video) at the same time you are showcasing content.

The screencast is saved to the Screenmailer server, and you are provided with a private URL for sharing your video and you can email the link to students or colleagues. Any video you record and post will appear whenever you log-in to your accout, so you always have access to the private URL and can delete a video if you no longer need it. Here is the latest test video I recorded. (One tip: if you are planning to show a video during a class period, load and play it beforehand so it is buffered on your computer.)

One option that should be coming soon to Screenmailer is the ability to download the video either in the app or on the video play page. Until that happens, you can use the Firefox extension Video DownloadHelper to download the video to your computer for use in a presentation, putting into a content management system, or uploading to your YouTube or Vimeo channels. (Thanks to Tom Gavin for the find!) It has worked for me on my desktop with no special set-up. I suggest you pick .MP4 as the download format so it is compatible with many sites and programs.

If you have any ideas or thoughts for the developer of Screenmailer, his contact information is on the Screenmailer home page. He is very receptive to ideas for future features. And follow @screenmailer on Twitter to find out about any new features!

If you are going to be creating screencasts for students or having students create their own, I have a blog post dedicated to the idea, Screencasting for Educators, and a Web page, Screencasting in the Classroom, with links to successful practices, resources, and much more. 

If you create any screencasts for the classroom with Screenmailer, share the URL with me via email.  We can all learn new techniques for creating engaging screencasts from each other!

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Screencasting for educators

This article originally appeared in the Discovery Education blog "Kathy Schrock's Katch of the Month" in January 2014 and is re-posted here with permission.


We often have students creating a screencast to showcase their acquisition of content knowledge, but teacher-created screencasts can also play an important role in teaching and learning.
Screencasting (the act of capturing drawing and voice on a blank page) and screen recording (the act of capturing drawing and voice on top of an image or Web page) is easy to do and creates a powerful product for students to learn from. Oehrli (2011) conducted a literature review on the subject of instructional screencasts, and state, in a paper presented at ACRL11, that Oud’s (2009) research indicated the use of best practices when creating screencasts can make the information more meaningful to the students. These best practices include reducing cognitive overload and identifying the audience and goals for the video. She (Oud) offered best practices in terms of organizing videos for maximum learning, such as: “Focus on what the main points are, then organize and present these to make it as easy as possible for people to understand them clearly. Don’t include information that isn’t needed to convey the main points, even if it seems interesting or useful.”

Steps in Creation

The Screencast Academy wiki provides a practical overview of the steps to creating a good screencast.
1. Decide upon a clear purpose for your screencast.
  • Identify your audience as this can dictate many aspects of the quality and direction of your screencast.
  • Just like a good lesson plan, consider what you want your audience to know or be able to do after viewing.
  • Storyboard or pre-write your lesson. Double check the steps.
2. Prepare the stage
  • Think about what on your desktop you want to capture. Clear your desktop of distracting icons or windows.
  • Just capture what you want to show – crop off any extra real estate.
  • Don’t capture more than a person can fit on their monitor. (no more than 1024×768, but 800×600 is safer).
3. Tell the Story in Scenes
  • Identify the breaks, transitions, and connections within your screencast carefully.
  • Remember that you can start over if you need to.
  • Determine if you need multiple scenes (a video editing program)
4. Careful Narration
  • Run through the screencast with the script once or twice before recording.
  • Speak slowly and carefully
  • Follow the script. Don’t confuse the message by using asides.

The PALibrarians Wiki includes both the rationale for teachers to create a screencast as well as a list of things to plan for when creating a screencast.
Why would a teacher create a screencast?
  • Create a tutorial for clarifying complex topics.
  • Create a training video to capture critical procedures students need to know.
  • Create a demonstration to convey your expert knowledge.
  • Create sample exemplar student assessments if students are creating screencasts as an assessment.
How does a teacher go about creating a screencast?
  • Identify the prior knowledge required and the learning goals.
  • Decide how to chunk the information and introduce small bits at a time.
  • Develop a sketched storyboard of your ideas.
  • Write the script out, with your notes to yourself included.
  • Gather all the URLs and images collected before you begin.
  • Practice to get the timing and voice right.
  • Determine how to host and distribute the completed project.
There are times when it may be easier to create the video component of the screencast first and add the audio later. This allows you to concentrate on each component separately. In addition, many teachers who create screencasts report that ten minutes is the longest a screencast should be to make sure students stay engaged with the content. Here is a link to some screencasting best practices.

Samples of teacher-created screencasts

A training video screencast:

With some of the newer screencasting tools, a teacher can mark up a student work and provide audio feedback at the same time.
Here is a sample of that:
The Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy includes an article here entitled Talking with Students through Screencasting: Experimentations with Video Feedback to Improve Student Learning. The article includes the positive aspects of adding video and audio feedback to a paper and the increased engagement factors and the additional revision of work completed by students after they receive the feedback.

Here is a content-based screencast created by a teacher for his students.

A first grade teacher created this screencast on symmetry.

Below is a screencast created by a teacher dealing with advanced searching in DES.
And here is a professional development screencast dealing with how to become a DEN STAR.

Tools to use for the preparation/production of screencasts

Storyboards and Scripts

Screencating tools for iOS

Screencasting tools for Android

Online and computer-based screencasting tools


When developing a screencast, it is often useful to look at rubrics created by others to make sure you are on the right track. Here are a few to take a look at.

Additional resources

The Screencasting Handbook by Ian Ozsvald is now available as a downloadable PDF under a Creative Commons license. It is intended for professional screencasters, and is a few years old, but there are plenty of tips and tricks for any screen caster included!
Have you created screencasts for your students? Please share the URLs in the comments! Thanks!


Oehrli, Jo Angela, Julie Piacentine, Amanda Peters and Benjamin Nanamaker.  “Do Screencasts Really Work?  Assessing Student Learning Through Instructional Screencasts.”  ACRL Annual Conference, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  1 April 2011.
Oud, Joanne. “Guidelines for Effective Online Instruction Using Multimedia Screencasts.” Reference Services Review, 37 no. 2 (2009): 164–177.

Addressing the CCSS with the Use of Infographics

First published in the AWSA Update Bulletin, October 16, 2013. 
Some information has been updated below.


Infographics are everywhere! We see them on the Web and in our professional journals.    Students see them on Facebook and on advertiser’s pages. How can the use of infographics be used to address the Common Core State Standards?
An infographic is a visual representation of information. It differs from a poster in that it usually includes graphs and charts of information. Not all infographics include data, though. There are quite a few types of infographics, as listed below.
  • Statistical infographic: includes a summation or overview of data
  • Timeline infographic: shows the progression of information over time
  • Process infographics: demonstrate a process, whether linear or branching
  • Informational infographic: similar to a poster, but with some data included
  • Research-based infographic: compares unlike items with a known data set
  • Interactive infographic: a Web-based infographic that allows the user to have control  and modify the infographic
There are two basic ways infographics can be used to support teaching and learning. The first is showcasing already-created infographics to support a specific content area. For example, a health class might use an infographic entitled “A Tale of Two Meals” or an English class might use one called “A Literary Map of Manhattan” which includes clickable links to the places in Manhattan where famous literary characters resided.
The second way infographics can be incorporated into teaching and learning is by having students create an infographic as a formative or summative assessment. By creating an infographic, students are conducting research and gathering assets to use for their infographics (information literacy) working with color, fonts, and layout to impact their audience (visual literacy), presenting their infographic to persuade, convince, or inform (media literacy), and using technology tools and data visualizations to create the infographic (digital literacy). In addition, of course, they are demonstrating mastery of content knowledge with the content-specific information they include in the infographic.
Infographics Rubric
The rubric below can be used for both of these purposes. When analyzing infographics, students should pay attention to the topic of the image, the type of infographic and whether it is appropriate to the information display, whether the pictorial elements of the infographic and the data visualizations are understandable, if the color, font, and layout add to the presentation of the infographic, and that bibliographic citations are included to allow access to the original source of the information. When creating their own infographic, students need to consider all of these same items while, at the same time, considering the purpose and audience for their infographic.

Common Core State Standards and Infographics
The Common Core State Standards do not specifically mention “infographics”, but there are many standards, both content-based and literacy-based, that can be addressed with both the analysis or creation of infographics by students. Here are a few from both the CCSS ELA Standards and the Standards for Mathematical Practice.
ELA Common Core Standards
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.7 Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.5 Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.7 Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.7 Integrate quantitative or technical analysis (e.g., charts, research data) with qualitative analysis in print or digital text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-8.7 Integrate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text with a version of that information expressed visually (e.g., in a flowchart, diagram, model, graph, or table).

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.9-10.7 Translate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text into visual form (e.g., a table or chart) and translate information expressed visually or mathematically (e.g., in an equation) into words.

Standards for Mathematical Practice K-12
  • Represent a mathematical situation with symbols
  • Use objects, drawings, & diagrams to create an argument
  • Map relationships using tools such as diagrams, two-way tables, graphs, flowcharts
  • Find digital content and use it to solve problems and use technological software and tools to do so
  • Graph data and search for regularity and trends 
Creation of Infographics
Infographics can be created with any software program that allows layer-based image editing, which simply means images and text can be placed on top of other images. There are commercial packages, such as Adobe Photoshop Elements as well as online and downloadable tools that allow this layer-based editing. Some of these include:
•       Google Drawings (
•       Pixlr (
•       Inkscape (
•       Sumo Paint (
•       Sketchpad (

In addition, presentation programs such as Microsoft's PowerPoint, Apple’s Keynote program, and Google Slides allow layers of images and text on a slide, so these tools can also be used for student creation of an infographic. 

There is also an iPad and Android tablet app that helps students create infographics on their mobile devices called iVisual Info Touch Light (iOS) and iVisual Touch Free (Android). The full-version of the app allows students to bring in their own images and other features. (Added 1/27/15: And there is a great iOS app that includes many publishing formats, and includes infographic creation, called Canva.

There are interactive, online tools available that are meant specifically for the creation of infographics. Each tool includes templates to edit and the ability to add data or graphs to the template. Students need to have email accounts to sign-up to use these tools. Some of the online tools include:
Introducing Infographics to Students
When introducing infographics to students, teachers should first showcase what data visualizations look like. A great site for students to become familiar with the  different types of data visualizations is the Periodic Table of Data Visualizations ( When students have collected their data, they can then use Chart Chooser ( to determine how best to present their data.
Students should study the infographic rubric and then, in small groups, evaluate infographics on the Web or in print. By looking at infographics with a critical eye, they will gain some insights on to how best to create their own infographic.
The use of infographics in support of teaching and learning is a natural fit. Students practice with many types of 21st century literacies. The completed infographic projects meet many of the Common Core State Standards. And students learn the important skills of meeting the needs and interest level of their intended audience by choosing the right type of data visualization. You can find more information and links to resources here: