Using ActivInspire to Make Screencasted Videos

If you have a Promethean interactive whiteboard at your school, the chances are you will have ActivInspire installed on the teacher computers too. It’s the software you use for building and teaching lessons with tools for drawing shapes, handwriting, placing images, writing text, etc.

It also comes with a useful screen recorder that you can use to create videos of anything that takes place on your screen, while you narrate. I’ve been using it for a couple of years to make teaching videos for my pupils, such as these:

Comparing Fractions|
Short Division|

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Here’s a quick video on how to use it and some extra help can be viewed here.

These are my top tips:
1. Record using the highest audio quality possible. To change the quality, click on the M button of the screen recorder toolbar and click on the audio button. It will give you different codecs. Trying each one in turn, click on the ‘Recording Quality’ drop-down list and look for the highest number of kb/sec. Anything close to 200kb/sec gives good sound reproduction. Anything less than 100kb/sec sounds too crackly.

2. Record a test video each time you go to record a new one. That way you know all the settings are working.

3. Don’t limit yourself to recording what you do on ActivInspire. The screen recorder will record whatever is on the screen so if you have a PowerPoint you really want to use or a website then flick over to that before you record.

4. Rehearse what you’re going to say. Record a few times if necessary until you get a good version you’re happy publishing.

5. Be accurate as the world’s most pedantic people make pick your work apart. Use correct terminology and make sure your workings are correct! The number of times I’ve been corrected in the comments is too embarrassing to mention.

6. Speak slowly and clearly and in a friendly tone, like you were speaking to your gran.

7. Uploading from the school network on to YouTube is much quicker than uploading from home and you can use the interactive pen on the board at school. (If you want to record from home and still want the option to use the pen, buy a graphics tablet. I recommend the Wacom Bamboo.)

8. Use a corded microphone with a 2m+ cable so that you can walk around comfortably in front of the IWB.

9. Record on a quiet room, put your mobile on silent and disable email pop-up notifications. 

10. Don’t be afraid to use the videos in your lessons. While you may not like the sound of your own voice, it’s engaging for the pupils and by pausing at useful moments you can set up a dialogue between the class, you and your recorded self. “What did he just do? Why did he do it that way? Are there any other ways he could have done it? What do you think happens next? Can you see where he went wrong?!”

It might sound strange but it can be used to good effect.

11. Don’t just make videos of you handwriting. Take advantage of the other tools in ActivInspire such as the ability to move objects around, the Reveal tool, the Spotlight and Drag A Copy.

12. Lock objects in place so that you don’t inadvertently move them around while you’re recording.¬†While you’re at it, move the little Screen Recorder toolbar out of the way of the recording area – it doesn’t add anything to your video when you watch it back.

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13. Choose to use a video camera instead when the time is right. Some things are still best recorded using a video camera. The times I use a camera instead of ActivInspire are when I want to model using some physical resources. I set up a small tripod with the camera pointing down at whatever it is I have on the desk – think of the way Tony Hart used to do his sketches on Hart Beat. Here’s an example ->

14. Let your colleagues know about screenrecording in ActivInspire. While maths lends itself well, there’s no reason why humanities, MFL or English couldn’t make a video. In fact, while you’re at it, find some time for pupils to make videos for their peers… These are extremely popular.

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