Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Jarnal (vs the Gimp) for screencasting

I've been putting more thought and research into better ways to do my screencasts/lecture capture and I've stumbled onto Jarnal.  It's a straight-forward whiteboard editor but it comes with some handy extra features (see below).  For screencasting it's biggest downside is that it doesn't have a pressure-sensitive option for the pen tablet I'm using and at first I thought that would be a deal breaker.  The reason is that with the whiteboard feature in Elluminate I always thought my handwriting looked awful, especially compared with how it looks when I use the Gimp to capture my writing.  Here's a comparison of a simple equation done in Jarnal and the Gimp:

Notice how the Gimp is lighter but also crisper.  The strokes look just like my handwriting on paper while the Jarnal one looks darker and blockier.  That's due to the lack of pressure sensitivity.  Now, of course the main point is that they are both legible!  So, even though I think it looks uglier after using it for a while, the other features that Jarnal bring to the table have convinced me to go with it for screencapturing in my courses this coming spring.

The first feature I really like (compared to the Gimp) is the ease to add extra pages as I need them.  In Jarnal it's a simple mouse click; in the Gimp it's a whole bunch of mouse clicks that generates effectively a different file.  With the Jarnal approach I can make a single document and upload it along with any screencast I make.  In the past I could do that in principle (and in fact I did on rare occasions) but it always was a little bit of a hassle to save, keep, and upload all the files.  Jarnal exports a single pdf file that I can easily share with my students.

Jarnal also greatly reduces the tool choices from the mammoth set that comes with the Gimp (remember, that was designed for photo editing).  I really like the simple pen and highlighter choices and the small list of color choices fits me just fine.  It's also easy to draw straight lines and to paste in photos (both of which can be done in the Gimp but it takes more mouse clicks).

Jarnal's big selling point is that it's great for annotating PDFs.  I have started to use this feature when commenting on student papers.  You can mark right on them just like you would with your red pen.  Also, it's really easy to add in extra pages, which I've done both for adding in a quick drawing to get my point across, and for adding in the rubric pdf page along with my scoring of the paper.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Teaching Naked

It appears I didn't try enough different search terms a year ago to look into resources for my new way of teaching.  I stumbled on this July article from the Chronicle of Higher Ed thanks to a tip from my buddy Jim Bonilla.  He and I were in a meeting to address technology in teaching and after I shared how I taught Modern Physics last semester (and plan to teach two courses this coming spring) he mentioned the concept of "Teaching Naked".  The article he pointed me to was published back in 2006 and is a great read along with the Chronicle article (and video!).

It seems that Professor (Dean) Bowen has worked with former colleagues at the University of Miami of Ohio on the concept of using class time to enhance the educational experience rather than to provide content.  He's a music professor (which might explain how I didn't find him last year --- "screencast physics" was a common search term for me) and he gives lots of examples of how he's changed his teaching style to move in this direction.  One of the things that he talks about that resonates well with me is the comparison with fully online teaching.  There both content and interaction have to be done outside of the classroom but in "Teaching Naked" you provide content outside of the class and then, usually, run discussions in class.

One of the disappointing things about finding this is the negative response in the Chronicle comments.  It reminds me of some of the conversations I've had with my own colleagues.  But, on the bright side, it's great to find someone with such a similar philosophy to mine and who has been successful implementing it.