In raptures over screen captures

28th May 2004 at 01:00
Jonathan Boyle hails a software tool that creates 'how to' videos

Camtasia Studio 2

Single-user, pound;87.95

SoftJam, PO Box 19390, London W4 3FF

Tel: 020 8994 5555

Computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacture (Cad-Cam) can be a challenging area for teachers, no matter how well prepared they are. In 13 years of teaching Cad-Cam, I have enjoyed success with my students through a range of media, such as instructional booklets and materials on the school network. But booklets pose difficulties for students wishing to press on with advanced tasks and for those trying to keep up with the rest.

How can we differentiate for a mixed-ability class and advance their independent learning?

For four years I have been producing Damp;T video resources as a technology fellow with the Gatsby Technology Enhancement Programme (

This has heightened my awareness of the need for opportunities for all students in Damp;T, and especially in Cad.

A Damp;T curriculum rich in multimedia content is a super learning vehicle.

Professional filming, lighting, narration and editing are essential.

Wolverhampton Academy students are used to watching high-quality programming, although the teacher is essential for success. School networks can now stream high-quality video over the intranet.

For students to enjoy greater autonomy and a differentiated curriculum, there is now a fantastic screen-capture solution that lets you record exactly how you created something (a wire-frame model for example) and then share it with students and colleagues.

Camtasia Studio 2, from Techsmith, captures desktop video and audio and is a fully fledged editing package - one of the best pieces of software I have used. It enables you to record all your mouse actions, and then add an explanatory voice-over. For example, it can be used to demonstrate how to generate a three-dimensional photograph in Delcam!s ArtCam software and then import the image into MiniCam. You may wish to record how students can save their work or how to print an image. If an instruction is missed, the student simply presses rewind and watches again. A range of effects ensure that the pointer, on playback, is readily identifiable. Even the click sounds can be recorded. Video playback is perfect. Capture is initially as an AVI file, allowing for conversion to a range of formats, including Flash. All my Cad-Cam projects rely heavily on this kind of screen capture.

With practice, there is little need for editing. Audio can be recorded synchronously using a microphone.

One of the most exciting aspects of Camtasia Studio 2 is its ability to add interactive hotspots. For example, you may ask the student to look for and click on a paintbrush tool. The video will not move on until this has been done. And it is easy to include written help on screen before producing the final Flash movie.

It does not end there. You can add copyright-free music to a second audio track and your original track can be altered, say, to replace an odd word or sentence. There is plenty of help. A CD-Rom can be generated in two minutes, complete with interactive buttons and backgrounds generated by a nifty wizard. This can be placed on your network CD-Rom stack and accessed by students on the intranet.

Flash videos can be collated, again via a wizard, and integrated directly into your online resource. Techsmith has consulted a wide variety of educators to get this product right.

After years of use and assimilation into my everyday work, Camtasia and I are inseparable. After a video launch at the interactive whiteboard and a demonstration or two, the students hit the step-by-step tutorials. It is a pleasure to watch a class devour the tasks at a pace suitable for each individual. They provide an opportunity for the least able to watch and listen to sensibly paced objectives and work independently. You can see the enhancement of self-esteem in those who find this subject a challenge. And the teacher develops a powerful resource for the next class.

Cad-Cam is not easy and the curriculum changes rapidly, as does software and hardware. Teachers have to react to these changes. Camtasia Studio 2 gives us the opportunity to produce quality content and make this subject even more rewarding.

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