Pen Interfaces and Screencasting

You may already be familiar with Khan Academy videos and their signature-style screencasts in which narrators write freehand using pastel colors on a dark background to teach short, focused lessons. Have you ever wondered how they create these videos? A member of the Khan Academy team provides insight into how he records his videos.

There may be times you need to explain concepts that are visual in nature, for which you might want to annotate or diagram ideas for your students who are not physically in the room with you. This can be the case, for instance, if you are teaching an elearning course or if you are using a flipped classroom model in your class. Both of these contexts present some interesting challenges, primarily because you must both find a way to depict the object you want to explain your students, as well as come up with a way to write or draw on top of that object. Khan Academy uses effective and relatively inexpensive tools to do this that provide flexibility for writing mathematical formulas, expressing scientific notation, diagramming grammatical structures, drawing shapes and annotating images.

Pen interfaces such as a stylus used in conjunction with a tablet, a Wacom board, or a Cintiq screen all give you ways to express ideas through freeform drawing. Digital pen technology, used in conjunction with software for drawing on a screen, and for recording what is on your screen can be used to effectively demonstrate and explain visual concepts. In the Khan Academy demonstration video above, the narrator shares his workflow for recording short lessons, but his explanation is primarily for PC users. There are equivalent cross-platform tools available regardless of whether you work on a PC or Mac.

Cross-platform Screen Recording
Screencast-O-Matic

Cross Platform Drawing
Sketchbook by Autodesk

For more full-featured editing capabilities we recommend using Camtasia (available using the UA key server) or CamStudio (open source) if you are a PC user. Screenflow ($99) is a powerful recording and editing tool if you are a Mac user.

Getting Started

I’ve recorded a quick tutorial to describe the process of creating one of these screencasts if you are working on a Mac. In it you can see how to set up the free version of Autodesk Sketchbook and get a feel for how the drawing tools work.

If you want to experiment with creating your own screencasts using a pen interface, UAF eLearning has a dedicated Cintiq recording station located in the office for you to use. Stop by during our Open Lab hours and let us show you the system and schedule a recording time for you.

There is a workstation available in the UAF eLearning office for faculty to use to create screencasts.