Video for education (or Really Simple Video)

I had some fun putting together a screencast recently to showcase an internal Yahoo! technology that my team is working on. I downloaded Camtasia, wrote a short script and then produced what turned out to be somewhat high quality video production with surprisingly little effort.

All you have to do is turn on the Camtasia recorder and then click around on your screen while you talk. It records everything and then outputs a prefab web page with the embedded flash video. The time I spent building it probably broke down like this:

5% – downloading software and setting up a quiet space in a conference room.
5% – learning Camtasia.
30% – preparing. I mean writing the script and practicing.
50% – recording. admittedly, I ran through the script over and over again to get a few stutters and ums and uhs out of the monologue.
5% – output and posting the page
5% – telling people about it

I think it took less than 3 hours in total, but I got lost in the process a bit, so it could have been much quicker. The most interesting thing to note about the process here is how little time was spent dealing with production issues and how much time was spent on content.

Camtasia is actually advanced enough for you to do more sophisticated editing if you wish. But it served my need just perfectly. I wanted to show people what was happening on my screen, and I wanted to post that as a video on a web page. They perfectly isolated all the functionality I needed to do that with as little user interface overhead as possible.

Jon Udell has been pushing this concept as a really important educational device for a while now and has demonstrated some interesting ways to apply it. It’s not just the ease with which a person can do high quality productions that he finds powerful. It’s the inherent sharability of the output. When people start to see that sharing video can be about more than entertainment and exhibitionism, then they may turn to screencasts to share what they know with the world. The format is particularly well suited for demonstrations and how-to types of educational video.

It’s just so simple, there’s no reason not to try it.