I have been following the Promoting Learning and Teaching thread, and it has brought out a question that everyone here can help me answer.

In the past week, I have been contemplating starting to use screencasts to teach Moodle to some of my new teachers who are excited to get started and want to start trying features on their own. I had previously been planning to do written instructions with a series of screen shots, but started to suspect that a screencast might be a decent alternative.

I started thinking of screencasts because, like Elizabeth, I have been using screencasts with my students so that they can review my instructions at a later time. I have noticed that it has helped many students to be able to watch the instructions independently, or to seek out a piece of information that they may have missed the first time.

I know that screencasts work with my students, and I suspect that they will work with my teachers, who will also be functioning in a blended learning environment. My question is, would you prefer to learn a piece of software from written instructions (with pictures) that you could read on-screen or print, or would you prefer a narrated video of how to use the software?

Here is my personal answer to my question: I have discovered that when I first learn about software I prefer video to show me what it can do. When I am just learning but want to explore features in-depth I prefer writing (often printed, depending on the software) so that I can work more at my own pace and in my own order. Once I know a piece of software but want to learn a new feature I prefer on-screen written instructions because they are searchable.

Which way do you learn best?

Tags: development, instructions, learning, professional, screencast, software

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I don't know.

To me it tends to be fear or no fear but that is often based on understanding some of the conceptual roots. I'm not sure it's intuitive to anyone, kids included, unless they put in serious time. Now if you've had a computer since birth and have used it fearlessly, it will appear you magically know it all but that knowledge has accrued.

I often get the "you just get it" comment but I didn't initially. I remember quite clearly floundering and getting horribly frustrated. I spent years getting to the point I am at with technology and to pass it all of as intuitive is somewhat insulting to my effort/work and lets people who opted not to spend the time off a little too easy. The learning curve is steep but it gets easier.

I don't believe in immigrants and natives, no more than I'd believe you can't become fully literate if you learn to read when you are an adult. It's all a matter of effort, time and practice.
Just like you: sometimes I want a quick-start video to show me some high-level concepts. But to really dig into it, I often prefer print.

Actually, it would be ideal to offer your training in BOTH ways! Print for those that prefer; video/audio for those that prefer.

I'm actually thinking about doing some Moodle training just with audio. The teacher could start the audio stream, and hop over onto a new tab and follow along as they listen.
Like many others here, I seem to shy away from screencasts until I come into a corner that has no exit for me, and then I figure, what the heck, maybe someone has figured this out. I don't honestly know if this is a good trait or bad, since clearly, someone has done some legwork with a program or idea and put in time to share with others.
But there is something to be said about jumping in, hands on, doing it, and moving forward. It is also a way that people innovate, since if they can't figure out A, they might figure out how B does A better than either A or B was designed to do (or does that make it C?)
Did I miss reading the written documentation?
I guess I don't do that enough, either.
Kevin
I actually wrote a little article on this topic that appears in the "Learning Connections" section of this month's (April) ISTE journal, "Learning and Leading with Technology": http://www.iste.org/Content/NavigationMenu/Publications/LL/Current_...

You have to be a member to read it and I don't think I'm "allowed" to share it digitally. But if you do subscribe you can check it out. It's my first "published" (how do we define this now?) article.
-Elizabeth
I don't mind a fast paced intro movie to cover the basics in three minutes or less and then I start using and usually rely on google to find help if I get stuck (but someone had to write those).

I have complaints about screencasts from the teachers who tend to need them the most (this is not an age thing, it's more of a mindset in my opinion). They always want text/graphic based directions so they can be printed out and then filed.

The more fear they have the more directions they will want and video will not satisfy these teachers. I tend to end up doing both but making written directions with screenshots takes an inordinate amount of time compared to how often they are used. I'd keep that in mind, although it sounds pretty pessimistic.
On the whole I prefer to learn by doing, however I often read the help files, actually printing them out, as I simply don't like to read on the screen. If things are really difficult I will watch a video too, but it has to be self paced. I do think it is a case of learning styles, as I see my students choices vary.
As far as creating screen casts and print outs "Wink" Tutorial and Presentation creation software, will create a PDF from your screen cast, thus cutting out a lot of extra work. http://www.debugmode.com/wink/ Not web 2.0 but still useful
This is timely for us here at Ning. We've been introducing new releases every few weeks with a lot of new stuff in them. I've been writing emails and forum announcements, but I think something gets lost in the translation.

As many people here on this thread have said, there's really no substitute for playing around with something. It's the getting people to play around with something that I find a quick screencast or video might be really effective.

We'll see. We're working on a screencast now for the new features and improvements we're releasing tomorrow. The good news about the Internet is that you can do screencasts and written instructions relatively easily and fast.
I don't think that the video way would help me much. As someone had mentioned it is probably cool for intro, but a step by step "visual guide" seems to be the best way to step me through something that I might want to know about, because it does allow you to go at your own pace. Working to help other teachers learn new software, it seems to be the most productive way that I have experienced.
Something that hasn't come up yet, but really needs to be considered is accessibility.

Screencasts are great. I use them frequently. It's important though, if you are going to use them, that you make sure that the information is accessible to users of different abilities. Without closed captioning, or a text alternative, screencasts are useless to users with hearing issues. Also, many screencast players are not friendly to users that cannot use a mouse. Try to start (or stop) a YouTube video using your tab key.

Compatibility also needs to be considered. Most screencasts play in Flash, which is great because it's on something like 95% of all machines. But, if you don't "embed" the screencast correctly in your web-site it may only work in Internet Explorer (or only in Firefox, or only in whatever browser). Embed is in quotes because the embed tag is dead, you have to use the "object" tag instead. Eventhough YouTube and Google Video both give the embed tag to use on your site, it's not correct and will not work across browsers, ask a Safari user.

Let's not forget about our students on dial-up. I know their numbers are dwindling, but if you want to make sure that all of your students have access to your content it's something to keep in the back of your mind. A text alternative gives your students access to your content, fast.

Having accessible text alternatives anytime you offer a screencast is the best way to go. It not only meets the needs of all of your students it allows them to pick they way which works best for them. That, to me, is a key component of Classroom 2.0.
I agree that written directions can be more useful at times, but I find that it takes me much less time to create a screencast, than a written document with screenshots. I also use screencasts to give directions to my 7th and 8th graders, so I don't have to stand up in front of them and explain what to do (they aren't great listeners). They are still resistant "just tell me what to do," but if I force them to use the screencasts they do find them helpful. I don't have any hearing impared students right now, so that isn't a factor for me this year.

I just started using IShowU for my screencasting. Wow! This software is amazing. It is easy to use, cheap ($20), you can pause while you are working if someone walks in, you can use a USB microphone and it renders the video in seconds. I used to use SnapzPro and this is way better for less money. I can't remember who told me about this software - I heard about it here on Classroom 2.0 - but thanks! Unfortunately, for you PC users, I think it only works on a Mac.
We can improve screencast videos using audio commentary.
Computer generated audio commentary can be used effectively
to prepare standard videos with good audio commentary.
In this regard, please read Task No.4 in http://one-task-at-a-time.tripod.com
If anyone likes this idea, please share with us.

- Seshagiri

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