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Screencasting — a cautionary tale

June 26, 2007, 1:28 pm

Today’s big plan was to make my inaugural screencast and then post it up here at CO9s for everyone to view and critique. I scripted it out last night and had a couple of hours with no kids around to work on it this morning. As you can see, though, it ain’t here. What happened?

1. Mouseposé wouldn’t stay open for longer than five minutes unless I purchased a license. This, after the documentation said that it would work fine without a license but some nonessential (for me) features wouldn’t work. So, I’m out $15.

2. Then Mouseposé wouldn’t work when I had Snapz Pro X running. I resorted to a lot of distracting mouse-waving during the screencast.

3. Then my carefully constructed script turned out to suck. The ‘cast went on… and on… I realized halfway into the ‘cast that I could do this in half the time with the same amount of content if I just threw the whole script out and redid it.

4. Then a normally-innocuous LaTeX preamble command, which I use in every single LaTeX document I make, started giving me an error message when I compiled the source. Since at that point in the screencast I was trying to demonstrate the use of a preamble command, it sort of ruined things.

5. Then, after finishing the whole 25-minute (argh!) screencast and having my Macbook spend about that much time again rendering the video, I played it back on Quicktime only to find out the audio was missing (or at least totally inaudible).

Tomorrow’s big plan is to make some brief recon screencasts to get all the pieces working, then try again with a different script.

So the lesson here is that screencasting, being a specific combination of technology used in a certain way, is just like any other kind of technology in that there are a lot of unforeseen and inexplicable screw-ups when you try to use it. And the thing to do is take its use in little steps and iron out the component parts first, then put it all together later. And don’t be afraid to throw the whole mess out if it screws up too badly, learn your lessons and try again later.

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