Jonathan Boyle visits BETT 2011 to catch up with an old favourite and meet a new one
Appearing again at the Bett Show 2011 was Techsmith, in from the US. The company first appeared on the scene some 20 years ago and has been enabling users to capture images on their screens in a multitude of ways ever since
I attended the Snagit and Camtasia Studio demonstrations. I confess that I've missed a trick with Snagit after not really investigating what it could do – and promise to use it from now onwards, honest!
When creating online content for school and students I go through a series of unnecessary hoops to get images into an online curriculum. You know the routine; start with the "prt scr" (print screen) button to get your screenshot, paste it into Photoshop to crop, scale, save and then import into another application. It pains me, but I have been doing this since I ditched the BBC Master and Commodre 64 and got a half decent copy of Windows in the later 1990s.
Ay BETT 2011 I learned how Snagit does this, essentially in one go, and even puts it into your desired other applications. For example, I witnessed a grab of a pyramid that then imported itself into an awaiting PowerPoint presentation in about six seconds – and on the correct page. I kid you not! (See YouTube video below.)
The chap on the microphone was swift and possessed the hands of a conjuror, but I too could see the benefits kept up with him. Just imagine all that time I could have saved over the past 13 years? The walks I could have gone on, the places I could have seen.
Well, there was only one thing for this. After the demonstration we were invited to try out Snagit. Within a minute or two I think I mastered all I needed to know. I had the kind of desire to want to phone my friends and tell them about Snagit. Fortunately, I remembered why my friends now avoid me, having done this kind of thing once too often before. However, I know you will be on the edge of your seat.
Snagit £38.95 incl VAT
I was also treated to another piece of software, this one extremely familiar and called Camtasia Studio. Now this is real class and I have been indulging in producing video-rich content for some 11 years with Camtasia. Even now I see it as perhaps my most important find on the planet, apart from my wife and children of course.
Camtasia Studio is better than a PowerPoint product. You can simply record what you do on the screen and then share it, including putting it on the web. Simple as that really. However, there are other features that make this simply incredible.
When launching Camtasia, it's almost impossible to not know what to do next. I am the type of teacher that lives by intuitive interfaces. If I need to press help, I usually drop the software like a hot potato. Camtasia steers you into recording your tasks for today, Computer-aided design (CAD) lesson or discuss a web page.
The only extra hardware you might need is a microphone. I buy mine from a shop that sells all its items for a pound and it even comes with earphones. Good, you know where to go.
'You will be hard pressed to put it down'
Once you get a taste for recording your screen captures you will be hard pressed to put it down. Practise and be concise to capture the attention of your students. Soon you will be capturing your mouse action like a crazy thing and talking to the students with such confidence that your learning objects will possess impact and vast learning potential. What a tool for creating learning objects! Camtasia is really slick when zooming in and out of areas of the screen that you are working in giving a new dimension to your recordings.
Nice tricks in this release include the speec- to-text option which adds captions to your productions to really get the message across. Furthermore, beautiful animated introductory clips and music add quality assurace standards to encourage the learner to hang on every word and movement. Build quizzes, add hotspots and indulge in a vast range of distributable media including the now ubiquitous smart phone. YouTube and Screencast connections give immediacy in getting your content 'out there' and linked to.
If you wish to edit your movie and import video camera footage into your presentation then this is child's play too. Anyone familiar with a video editor timeline will know what to do and if you don't then it shouldn't take too long to pick up. Simple editing tools are readily available to cut out any slip-ups – tools to enhance the pointer, transitions between clips and adjust the audio can be simply accessed.
Any educator involved in computer-based learning, either at the chalk face or by distance, is surely going to need something like this. My professional life has certainly changed direction since I started out with Camtasia and is still being enhanced by it now.
Camtasia Studio £230.50 incl VAT