Thursday, August 6, 2009

Google Maps Excitement II: The Screencast

Here's my world debut as a screencaster. In case the written description in my recent post wasn't clear enough, I try in this video to demonstrate how to use Google Maps Street View to help students and myself get a visual understanding of the natural regions of Texas and other geographical areas we want to study.

Although I practiced a number of times and did a number of takes, I managed to omit a couple of points. I should have noted that as soon as you remove Mr. Street View, aka "Pegman," from his perch, the map lights up with blue lines indicating where the Google Maps camera crews have snapped. I misspoke in saying you can alight anywhere you see the green circle.

I also want to say that I am particularly eager to see what my/our students will come up with using Google Maps and Street View. The creative possibilities are myriad. My narration seems quite a bit more "top-down" and teacher-directed than I intend for the classroom. Google Maps has been useful in several learning activities; I'll delineate these in a future post once we reach those lessons during the school year.

Screentoaster is really cool. It's free and easy to use. All I needed beside the computer was a microphone. (I used a headset with mic.) In case you want to use Screentoaster, be aware that your video will be limited to around 20 MB. For my first couple of run-throughs, this worked out to around four minutes. When I added the bit showing the PowerPoint map of the regions, it reduced the time to around three minutes. I found myself really pressed for time in trying to make the main points I wanted to make. As a highly imperfect perfectionist, I finally decided to go with Take #191. I hope it works for you.

Please do make suggestions. I purposely left the "production" a little clunky (for example, showing the starting and stopping clicks) for two reasons. First, I wanted it to be instructional, to demonstrate Screentoaster for people who might be using it for the first time (which of course included myself). Second, the instructions say you can go to the window you want to start at and then use Alt-S to start and stop your recording. That worked fairly well with my Windows-based PC (until Java crashed and froze my computer), but none of the relevant keys worked that way with my MacBook. The MacBook did, however, a flawless job of recording the presentation.

I wish I had noticed and been able to point out that I alighted in Perth, Scotland and then near Perth, Western Australia. Oh, well, maybe next time.

Wikipedia has an interesting article on Google Maps Streetview here.

Anyway, I look to improve and, as I said, would appreciate suggestions and ideas you might have for anything involved here: Google Maps, studying geography, screencasting, perhaps even the making of toast.


  1. @Mikeh- so happy to have made your acquaintance on TeachersTeachingTeachers this evening. Your blog is really helpful. I would like to learn more about the use of collaborative white boards -I think how you plan to use Google Earth is great. I didn't know about the "pegman" feature. I definitely plan to share your blog with the social studies teachers in my middle school, and I hope you'll post about the project you do with the kids on using primary sources for their biographical project.
    As for Screentoaster, that's a neat tool. I am fortunate enough to have a SmartBoard in my lab, and I use the record feature in the Smart Notebook 10 software to do my "screencasts" - I used to just call them movie tutorials.
    Your blog is very conversational, much like mine, where I share what I'm learning with my staff. I just wish more would take the time to read and respond.
    I haven't posted lately, but here is the address:
    Looking foward to more conversations with you. Perhaps we can connect some of your students with some students in my social studies' teachers classes here in CT.
    Carolyn Stanley (aka carolteach4)

  2. Thanks so much, Carolyn, for visiting myour blog and for your kind comments. (As you may have noticed, yours is the first and only comment so far, so double thanks.) It was a pleasure meeting you, too, at EdTechTalk. I just got back from an hour or two at your excellent blog and benefitted hugely from the wealth of information and insight there. I would love to continue sharing and would very much like to connect some of our students.

  3. @myour-a mutual admiration society - how nice! Thanks for adding my blog to your blog roll, for your comment on my blog, and for your critique above. So often I feel like I'm just spinning my wheels, but I'm glad when some folks appreciate my ramblings as I, like you, experiment, learn, and share.

  4. You're spinning out lots of very useful information. If I ever get anymore visitors here, I'm sure they will find it useful as well. :-) "We belong to a mu--tu--al. . .,"etc., etc....

  5. Hello,

    Just as a random note - I found your blog looking at academic blogs and I also have recently started using screencasts in my classes - even with the similar goal of introducing online engines or material (our librarians and I have started to think about online tutorials for things like JSTOR, which we imagine as working a lot like your example here.) Anyway, I found your comments and watching your casts helpful as I'm working on this, I just wanted to say that I've also had good luck with screen-cast-o-matic. The "pro" version only costs 12$ (granted, that's not free, but not pricey either) and allows for videos of up to around 2 hours and some basic editing capacities which I've found useful.

    Anyway, just a thought - thanks for the helpful blog.

    Adam Franklin-Lyons
    assistant professor of history