Summer of screencasts

Besides the Reconnect conference, there was another nifty potential summer project that I didn’t mention here because it was not certain it was going to happen at the time. I applied for a $600 internal technology grant to buy hardware and software to make screencasts for our calculus and precalculus classes. I just got word that the grant was funded in its entirety, which means now I can buy cool Mac toys get to work on these.

I plan on making screencasts that show how to use some of the technology we use in classes such as our computer algebra systems and Excel, which will free us profs up from spending time in class covering these things. The idea is that students will go watch the screencasts and work some exercises at their own pace, and then we will start using the technology in class after we’ve given them a reasonable amount of time to watch the ‘casts. I could also make screencasts for going over test or homework questions so that students can watch them whenever and however often they want.

I’ll be purchasing Snapz Pro X as the main screencasting software; I demo’d it earlier this year and it was very nice. I’ll also be purchasing Parallels because some of the software our calculus-and-below students use is Windows-only. I also budgeted $200 for a nice, big external hard drive to store all the video I’ll be creating.

But the main item in the grant is this Wacom Graphire4 tablet. It’s a 6×8-inch writing tablet that connects to the Mac wirelessly via Bluetooth. I’ll be using it to hand-annotate items on the computer screen and hand-write solutions to problems during screencasts. I can also use it to hand-annotate Keynote presentations or Maple output or whatever it is I am presenting to the class, and I can do it while actually teaching because the Bluetooth has a 30-foot range. It can also be used as a general-purpose wireless input device (in place of a mouse). Rudbeckia Hirta over at Learning Curves has been playing around with a Wacom tablet lately and I’m excited to get one of these myself.

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