Jonathan Boyle gets acquainted with a new version of an old classroom favourite – 'Camtasia'
I have to be honest. I just adore Camtasia Studio 8. In fact, I've enthused about all of the previous versions too. Over the 12 years we've been together this software has matured into a fabulous thoroughbred, pushing forward the frontiers of screen capture and ‘better than PowerPoint’ presentations.
You use Camtasia Studio to record what happens on your computer screen, and add narration and basically anything else you want it to incorporate for your high-impact presentations. But you are only as good as your last presentation and Camtasia has really helped to keep my presentations ahead of the rest.
Staff and students alike respond very differently to a high octane Camtasia presentation rather than something pedestrian like PowerPoint. Take a moment to reflect on those occasions you have nodded off to presenters who had seemed interesting before they started to read from their own PowerPoint. Oh yes, I have seen them all. Static slide shows seem to suck the life out of the presenter and really only prove that they can read, use bouncing text and add the odd 'car screech' sounds. Audiences hang on for the final desperate last slide with those soothing words of relief: "End of slide show, click to exit." I too need to be entertained during a presentation and think carefully about not making the audience run away from me.
'Students can stream videos, rewind and pause to understand a process'
So what can Camtasia 8 do for you? I like to record my instructional videos in CAD/CAM (computer aided design and manufacture) live with my students and upload them to Screencast.com (the website provided by TechSmith for you to store presentations – 2Gb of free storage). Students then can stream each video in turn at their own pace, rewind and pause to really understand a process.
Using the slick timeline you can insert a question for students to answer before watching the rest of the video. If they get a question wrong, they get another change to go back to the original clip for another look before attempting the question again. It's very clever stuff indeed and this is just scratching the surface. If you like the sound of this then you can even ask the students to click on different parts of your video to find out more information by visiting websites that might be of interest.
Your educational videos can be incredibly interactive. You just have to see the call-outs, transitions and effects to get a handle on what it is all about. Having trained lots of teachers in Camtasia over the years, I have not found a teacher who needs more than about an hour in total to really get to grips with the whole package.
The timeline is where lots of the magic happens. The interface is visually engaging and you just feel as though something special is about to happen. Any video you have captured from your screen movements appears on here, or you can even bring in your camcorder footage or still images too. Very simple editing tools allow you to polish a full presentation within minutes. Choose to add narration or music tracks at will. If you have music stored digitally, feel free to drop this on to numerous tracks and edit as much or as little as you want. Anyone familiar with a video editing package will fly with Camtasia 8 and even those who are new to the package will learn fast too. I don’t read the manuals for any software so if it isn’t intuitive, it doesn’t rate with me. Time is precious.
One of the smartest features is the functionality of zooming in and panning around parts of the screen to draw the eye to what you want the viewer to really scrutinise. The software can do this automatically although I prefer to take over these controls to get the effect I want. The zoom and pan is so fluid and time intervals are adjusted easily for rapid or slow movement.
High-quality moving video titles and great soundtracks are included
High-quality moving video titles and great soundtracks are included. The range is just fantastic, and by careful selection you can have a very individual presentation that takes your audience with you. Further downloads are available free of charge from Techsmith.com if you need more. These bonus assets install automatically with no fuss for you to enhance further your work. Techsmith has also thrown in themed call-outs, arrows and titles to match the moving titles and background screens so that there is continuity in all of the features you choose to include.
Frequently, I get a time slot of so many minutes to present standing in front of an audience. No one wants to hear you talk over your allotted time, especially if there are several presenters. By rehearsing, you can publish your presentation to the exact time you have been given, so everyone is happy. Alternatively you can record your presentation with the voice-over already done.
I guarantee, there is so much potential for visual stimulation your presentations should go down in history when you put in the effort. A simple email link to the video stored at screencast.com is the way to go if you wish to make sure that your work can be referred to again. The playback of your videos is flawless with small file sizes that will stream beautifully even over the most modest broadband connection. They can also be stored on your school network without your network manager getting hot under the collar or needing to nip out to buy a few spare terabytes of hard drive space.
Take a look at the first Camtasia 8 presentation I produced recently for my staff at work (above). It starts to get interesting a few minutes in. I narrated to it live and had great fun presenting too. If it’s not fun and functional, it’s probably not worth doing it in the first place.
Ratings (out of 5)
Fitness for purpose 5
Ease of use 5
Value for money 4
Camtasia Studio 8
Screen-capture software with full range of multimedia presentational effects, education single user price £131.50 (multi-user discount £117, bundled with Snagit screen-grab, £146.40), Mac version for single user £55 (multi-user discount £51).
Techsmith Online Store
Camtasia promotional video with link for free 20-day trial
Jonathan Boyle is deputy headteacher at Madeley Academy
Douglas Stewart G252