Goodbye Word; hello floating islands, dolphins and rainbows by Dr Emma Mayhew

So you’re a lecturer at Reading and you find yourself going over and over information in handbooks, course outlines, books and journals with students-anything from tricky academic concepts to essay writing and ECFs. Of course it’s difficult in an age of information overload. Really important stuff gets lost and sometimes it’s hard to make our voice heard amongst all of the noise surrounding students. What’s the solution? Maybe written information isn’t the only vehicle of choice. We know that students respond brilliantly to visual information. A few of us at Reading have been focusing on exactly that. We’ve started using incredibly simple and entirely free ‘screencapture’ software, like Jing, to record what we’re doing on our screens. We’ve added audio to these short videos and occasionally even webcam footage of our Emma Mayhew1faces. Some of us have even moved beyond PowerPoint and had a huge amount of fun (yes….fun!) with new, massively eye-catching and versatile presentation tools like Prezi (and this is where the floating islands, dolphins and rainbows come in) or Powtoon-and the makers really aren’t overselling their product when they describe it as “awesome”.

 

But will students engage with information delivered in this way? Yes they will and I know this because last Autumn I made a suite of ten 3-5 minute screencasts using Prezi on a whole range of topics-writing a great essay, marking criteria, academic and pastoral help, pre-arrival information and more. They have been viewed over 2,300 times by our students and I’m not even counting my staff training screencasts, one minute module summaries, animated quizzes, video essay feedback and conference paper summaries which bring my views to nearly 4,000 in the last 12 months…and it’s not just me! Cindy Becker and David Nutt have also seen a great response.

We’re so passionate about screencapture that the three of us have just launched the TLDF funded ‘GRASS’ project to support colleagues who would like to try this out for themselves. If you’d like to know more please click on the floating island below to watch our 90 second clip, visit or subscribe to our new website which is full of examples and ‘how to’ videos http://blogs.reading.ac.uk/grass/ , come along and see us all speaking at the CQSD showcase on 19th November at 13:00 but most importantly, book on our first ‘Lunch and Learn’ session via Employee Self Service on Friday 28th November at 13:00 in Palmer 103. We’ll be outlining our experiences and offering training at this event which includes a free buffet lunch and range of our own HOMEMADE CAKES! Goodbye Word and hello exciting, creative possibilities.

Emma Mayhew2

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