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Create Simply Brilliant Digital Lessons

Every once in a while, I come across software that is so simple-stupid to use that it makes me appear brilliant. Camtasia by TechSmith is one such software. Many educators have been using it for years, as well as other screenshot-video makers out there to create how tos and digital lessons. But recently, I was reminded of how crazy-easy Camtasia is to use—for everyone—and not just the techno pilots in your schools and districts. Sorry, after teachers try this, tech specialists will have to look for another magic trick.

I needed to create some digital lessons using a computer and a document camera, so I downloaded the free trial version of Camtasia. I actually like to see what happens on different platforms, so I downloaded Mac and PC versions for comparison. Once you figure out what you want to do on the screen, and in my case, show under the document camera, you can begin creating lessons in moments. You can choose how the audio happen—internal or external mic—and whether you want a video image of YOU in the screen capture movie. I was able to do it all—operated the simple recording dashboard, manipulate objects, and present. You can choose to show the cursor or not, depending upon what kind of video you’re doing. There are also shortcut keys for making starting and ending a movie easy, and when you’re done, many options for saving. The user interface will make you a star, if only with your students, but sharing with the world is still at your fingertips.

I’ve tried using a video camera to shoot my digital lessons and demonstrations, but discovered the quality suffered with blue and blown-out screens. I know that teachers aren’t after an Oscar, but the better the quality you start with, the better the quality you end with. After I had created all the clips I needed, I was then able to transfer those saved clips—importing them into my video editing software. I used Final Cut Express, but I’m sure it will work with whatever one you use, and if you don’t want to do any additional editing beyond what you do in Camtasia—you’ll find your clips are just fine—as is. If you’ve avoided creating your own digital lessons, start with a free trial to see what You Can Do—I think you’ll be amazed. And then, you might do what I did—upgrade beyond the trial version for more creative options.

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34-year veteran educator, ed tech author, and education marketplace reporter.

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