Show! Don't Tell!

Whether you're creating short videos to explain specific software skills, getting your students to document their learning by capturing their onscreen actions, or building a lesson library aimed at flipping your classroom, knowing how to create a screencast by recording what happens on your screen is a truly useful skill for any teacher to have. Screencasting is a wonderful multimodal activity that greatly improves a presenter's ability to clearly, simply and quickly explain an idea.

In this hands-on session we will look at the various skills involved in producing an effective screencast, and investigate some of the tools for creating your own. During this session you will make your own short screencast on a topic of your choice using free screencasting tools.


Prepare your computer...

  • Clean up the desktop, remove distracting wallpaper

  • Decide what you want to capture and resize windows if necessary

  • Close unnecessary windows

  • Prepare the screens, examples and files you want to use

  • Turn off distractions such as message popups, notifications, etc


Prepare your physical environment...

  • Find a quiet spot to record

  • Avoid rustling papers, squeaking chairs, barking dogs, passing traffic, etc

  • Use a good desktop microphone, or headset/mic set if possible

  • If you include video of yourself, check for good lighting, framing, etc. Avoid backlighting!


Prepare yourself...

  • Design the lesson you plan to give! How will you take your audience from not knowing to knowing?

  • Think about what you will say and how you will say it. Keep it short, sharp and to the point

  • Your lesson should be as long as it needs to be, but no longer!

  • Use a script if you feel you need one

  • Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse!



  • Speak clearly and articulate your words

  • Find a speech rate that works for you, not too fast, but not too slow

  • Describe what you're doing on screen and match your descriptions to your actions

  • Keep your mouse still unless you're actually doing something with it

  • Be yourself!


Evaluate your recording

  • Watch your screencast back and evaluate your effort. if you think you can do better, do it again

  • Be prepared to do a couple of takes! It's rare to get it right first go

  • The real test: Does it hold your attention? Would YOU watch it?


How can you use this?

  • Ok, so you can screencast! Now how are you going to use this new skill?

  • Think about how you might use screencasting in YOUR classroom

  • Record a short 20-30 second video reflection (use the webcam) giving one example of how you might use screencasts with your students.

Getting Started


Screencastify is a great option for browser-based screencasting and an ideal starting point. It's a free Chrome extension that can be installed from the Chrome Web Store. Once installed, just launch from the Chrome tool bar.

Screencastify records whatever happens on your computer's screen, and can also capture your webcam if you choose. It's pretty simple to use!

There is a free version and a paid version of Screencastify. The main differences with the paid version are that you can record for longer, you get additional post-production options for cropping and trimming the video, you can export the audio and/or video to your computer, and the removal of the Screencastify watermark.

If you use it a lot, consider supporting the developer by buying it! Not only do you get some great extra features, you help support the future development of this tool.

Getting More Serious

Snagit (available for Windows and Mac)

Snagit is a fully fledged tool screen capturing tool you need to install on your computer. It has powerful options for annotating your captures, as well as basic editing tools for video captures. Snagit is not free, but has some good pricing options for educational institutions.

With Snagit, you can capture the full screen, just a window, just a menu, even the webcam. There are lots of options for annotating the captures, with boxes, lines, arrows, and dynamic numbering. The numbers are great if you want to show a sequence or order of something. Here's a (somewhat over-the-top) example...

Snagit can also do video screencasts as well. The big difference is that Snagit gives you an opportunity to do some simple editing of the video afterwards. Just select any parts of the video you don't want by dragging the green and red arrows and then cut out that section. It's much easier to get a more professional looking product when you can do simple edits.

Snagit has full Drive integration, and can also be configured to upload directly to a variety of other destinations, including, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, FTP, Email, Evernote and Camtasia. Overall, it offers a lot more features and options than Snagit for Chrome.

To trim a clip in Snagit, simply isolate the part you want to delete and click the Cut Button

Camtasia (available for Windows and Mac)

When you really want to get serious about video screencasting, Camtasia is THE tool to use. It offers a large number of recording and postproduction options. The Windows version is slightly more full featured than the Mac version but both are very good and will do retty much everything you need.

The big difference with Camtasia is the ability to not only edit the screen captured video but to add other video annotations, transition effects, overlays, etc. A key feature is being able to zoom and pan in the video in post production, allowing you to zoom into details like dialog boxes, menus, etc. This post production can be time consuming and tends to turn your screencast into a bit of a production rather than just a quick capture, however it is very powerful. It does tend to get easier the more you use, but it can be a little daunting at first.

See the video above for an example of what can be done with Camtasia, or my school YouTube channel for lots more examples. Actually, you see video screencasting everywhere these days with places like If you intend to start making screencasts, or getting your kids to make them, I suggest you watch lots of them first and identify the different presentations styles you like/don't like.

Other Tools

There are lots of other free and paid tools for screencasting that work pretty well too, including the simple but useful built-in tools in your operating system. I haven't tried them all, but if you like to explore and try new tools, Here are a few suggestions.

For the Mac

  • Shift-Cmd-3: Whole screen capture, save PNG to desktop

  • Shift-Ctrl-Cmd-3 Whole screen capture save to clipboard

  • Shift-Cmd-4: Partial screen capture using crosshairs to select, save PNG to desktop

  • Shift-Ctrl-Cmd-4: Partial screen capture using crosshairs to select, save PNG to clipboard

  • Screenflow: another nice screencasting tool from Telestream with some good postproduction options.

  • QuickTime Player: built right into the Mac, this app can also record screencasts

  • Debut - freeware screen recorder

For Windows

  • Snipping Tool built into Windows 7 and Windows 8

  • CamStudio Open Source Recorder

  • Jing: another option from TechSmith

  • Dozens of freeware and paid screen capture tools, just search for [screen capture tool windows]

For Linux

  • recordMyDesktop: Captures audio-video data of a Linux desktop session

  • Byzanz: Small and compact screencast creator

  • pyvnc2swf: Screen recording tool with Flash (SWF) output

  • xvidcap: Standards-based alternative to tools like Lotus ScreenCam

  • Istanbul: Desktop session recorder producing Ogg Theora video

  • Wink: Tutorial and presentation creation software

For Chromebooks

For Mobiles and tablets