More GRASS success!!!

A couple of weeks ago I presented a paper on screen capture, Technology Enhanced Learning and the Teaching Excellence Framework at the British International Studies Association (BISA) annual conference. I called this one ‘TEL: TEF’s Flexible Friend-How digital technology can support high level metric performance in the TEF.’

The 7 hour train journey from Hampshire to Edinburgh and back starting at 5.30 am each day was worth it!

The panel was well attended and the other papers presented in T&L group sessions were great including one on the use of Twitter in lectures by fellow Reading lecturer Mark Shanahan.

The HEA and BISA also, very kindly, awarded me their annual national prize for excellence in teaching. The panel awarded this in part because of my work with screen capture and also for the work I have done disseminating good practice across the HE sector.

So more GRASS success just ahead of project end!!


BISA prize


GRASS reaches Malaysia!

Yesterday saw the first screen capture training session for staff based at University of Reading Malaysia. This followed the same structure as our Reading ‘Lunch and Learn’ sessions although at 8.30 am, was more like a ‘Breakfast and Learn’ session!

Using Lync, I ran through why so many of us have started to use screen capture to enhance our teaching and learning provision and all the very different ways in which screen capture has been used across campus from Languages to System Engineering, Typography to Chemistry.

Grass Malaysia

David then offered a more interactive ‘how to session’ using Lync desktop sharing before a final Q&A session.


We appear to have generated some excitement among Malaysia based colleagues from the Henley Business School, Psychology, Law and ISLI. We very much look forward to seeing how screen capture might be used to facilitate learning in new, innovative ways over in Malaysia.

GRASS goes to Bilbao!

GRASS went international for the first time on Sunday as David and I jetted off to Bilbao for the day. We were leading a workshop on screen capture at a major conference on teaching and learning in Spain run by the Academic Association for Contemporary European Studies.

Bilbao 2

The talk and interactive workshop was a great success with a lot of interest from the audience and some great follow on questions.


We were immediately invited to give a longer workshop at a central university in Estonia. We were also asked to speak at another European teaching and learning conference in Brussels.

The rest of the conference gave us a chance to network with like minded colleagues from across Europe who are just as keen as we are on teaching and learning innovation.  Many of these focused on the use of social media and other uses of Technology Enhanced Learning in practice across European states.

David even managed a spot of sightseeing before we headed back to the UK!

Bilbao 3

GRASS is Growing!!!

As we move towards the new academic year it’s a great time to reflect on another enormously busy Easter and Summer term for the GRASS team.

We started off, in March, with an interactive talk to colleagues in Agriculture (complete with donuts and squash) and another at the Henley T&L conference on the use of screen capture and video feedback.

I was then lucky enough to win both a national teaching prize-the Political Studies Association’s Bernard Crick prize…

Emma Mayhew PSA 2

…and a RUSU Excellence Award for technology, in part, because of my use of screen capture. The RUSU award gave me the opportunity to talk to 80-100 interested colleagues about video feedback at the annual T&L showcase in 3sixty.

We held the second of our termly ‘Lunch and Learn’ sessions in March which attracted 20 colleagues. This one was far more interactive so colleagues were encouraged to bring their own laptops and follow along. Many thanks to Richard Mitchell for sharing his experiences at this event.


Building on this success the GRASS team were then invited to give short talks at another five School Board of Studies or School T&L Committee meetings to demonstrate how versatile screen capture technology can be and encourage even more use around the University.

As well as launching his new eye tracking project, David ran an interactive workshop at the IFP InForm conference in July and I presented at the major BISA conference in Tower Bridge-no mean feat in a conference room with absolutely no technology at all!!!

We’ve also been liaising with colleagues working on other new projects-both new TLDF funded projects and major new IT developments like TALIS and Grademark as we start to think about how screen capture can be used to disseminate information to our students on exciting new ventures.

Finally, do watch out for my first GRASS inspired peer reviewed journal article to be published in European Political Science in the next few months-‘Play-back feedback: the impact of screen captured video feedback on student satisfaction, learning and attainment’.

It’s been hugely busy but, as ever, hugely rewarding to be part of the project as we draw towards the end of our first year. I can’t wait for year two!!!

GRASS is spreading!!!

As a team we have been enormously busy over the last couple of months around the University and around the country talking about screen capture.  It has been brilliant to see such enthusiasm, particularly in Reading, on the use of this enormously versatile technology to improve T&L provision.


Our mini tour started back in November. After a quick CQSD showcase event I went up to the University of Leeds as an invited speaker. As soon as I got back we ran our first Reading Lunch and Learn session for 33 colleagues who all enjoyed our famous home-made cake buffet.

Grass 2

I then headed off to the University of Bristol before returning home to talk to 26 highly enthusiastic ISLI colleagues for an hour long lunchtime meeting in February.


Grass 3

The following day we had the opportunity to outline the use of screen capture to provide feedback to another full room at a CQSD training session. Just a week later Cindy was able to outline our project at the School of Humanities Board of Studies meeting and at the School of Language and Literature T&L meeting.  David and I delivered our first ever interactive session during an hour long meeting with 10 colleagues from the School of Biological Sciences. With at least 8 more internal meetings and one external visit planned from now until June we will certainly be keeping ourselves busy!

Of course one of our key events is the second GRASS Lunch and Learn in Carrington 101, on Friday 27th March. The event will run from 1 until 3 but colleagues are welcome to leave earlier. This is an interactive event so if you would like to actually make a screencast on your own laptop whilst eating some of these…


…as part of another cake buffet (including David Nutt’s millionaire’s shortbread and Susie Newton’s chocolate brownies), please sign up by clicking on Employee Self Service and finding TEL: Screencapture: Grass lunch and learn.


Lunch, learn and homemade cake!!!

The GRASS project team are very excited to announce that our first ‘Lunch and Learn’ event will run on Friday 28th November in Palmer 103. We’ll be outlining our experiences and answering questions from 1 until 2. Those of you who like to stay on and receive one to one help are very welcome to stay until 3. We’ll have a buffet lunch and a range of HOMEMADE cakes including lemon tarts, chocolate brownies and butterfly cakes. Just sign up via Employee Self-Service or e-mail me to confirm your place!!

If you need a reminder about why we’re all SO enthusiastic about screen capture have a quick look at our 90 second summary screen cast by clicking on the floating island below… we hope to see many of you at our first major event!!!

SC at Reading for event

GRASS is growing!

More good news for GRASS! I’ve just managed to finish making six brand new explanatory screencasts for the ‘How to’ section of the website. So if you’ve ever wondered how we’re making the screencasts on screencast bank but you only have the odd 60 seconds of spare time, head on over to this new section to watch one of our range of one minute screencasts. If you want to get started with Camtasia, Prezi, Powtoon, and video feedback, these videos will not only tell you, but also show you, step by step, in lightning speed! OK so I did go a little beyond the 60 second brief in ‘How to make a screencast in under ten minutes’ but I literally do make a screencast from start to finish in only four minutes to prove how quick and easy this technology really is. I’ll be making lots more of these over the next few weeks so watch out for more fast-talking squeezed into just one minute (ish)!How to cam

Actually PowToon really is packed full of “awesomeness”

OK so I’m normally pretty sceptical about the claims made by companies about how brilliant their new software is but……PowToon really is absolutely awesome. This is a relatively new animation package which allows users to create a combination of a standard presentation and a cartoon. It’s actually surprisingly different to other forms of visual presentation software like Prezi and VideoScribe. Prezi’s USP is the zoomable feature and whole range of easy to import templates. VideoScribe is brilliant if you love trying to guess what the pen or hand drawn picture is going to be. For me PowToon is just fantastic for the enormous range and quality of the animation available. Like Prezi, it’s totally free and like VideoScribe it’s entirely intuitive and unbelievably easy to grasp. Just to prove this I made the one minute PowToon below two hours after I first opened my free account on Wednesday night AND (this is very unlike me) I didn’t even watch the tutorials….

BFD powtoon

I admit that I did use part of a PowToon template to make this one but creating this was so quick that I grabbed a bit of spare time yesterday to see what I could do on my own. I loved the animated characters so I stuck to this theme for an American Government module summary. Having played around a bit with whole animated families, transitions, the use of props, flipping images and backgrounds I made this 50 second PowToon in about two hours and I had an enormous amount of fun along the way!

AMG summary

I admit that this is really cartoon focused but PowToon is perfectly capably of making much more ‘grown-up’ presentations using much more ‘business like’ animations. The range of characters, backgrounds and transitions is huge so the range of styles the user can adopt is massive and this makes PowToon a real winner for me. But that’s just me!!! I haven’t been an actual undergraduate for a long time now so I really wanted to find out what my students would think. It’s how to get their attention that interests me. So I’ve e-mailed all my personal tutees with three very different types of one minute module summary to see which they like best and why. On offer were:

1. My PowTooned American Government summary:

AMG sum2

2. My VideoScribed British Government summary:

BFD summary

3. My Prezied Work Experience Year summary:

WEP image

I’m just starting to receive replies so I’ll update the blog as soon as we have a winner! In the meantime I’m back to PowToon to see what else I can muster up over the weekend!

‘Screencast Bank’ is up and running!!!

BankMore exciting news-The ‘Screencast Bank’ section of our website is now populated with a whole range of different screencasts. Head over to this section on the titles bar and you will find a variety of UG and PG student information and support screencasts, staff training, module summary and screencast project overviews.

I created the majority of these last Autumn for staff and students in my own School of Politics, Economics and International relations. Most of these have been made using screen captured Prezis but one or two are screen captured VideoScribes.

Together they have registered 1,924 views since November 2013. The vast majority of viewers are Reading students although surprisingly Google Analytics tells me that my screencasts have been seen in Sydney (12 views), Florence (5 views), Alexandria (2 views) and Monrovia (3 views). I’m actually registering views in almost every continent!

This ‘Screencast Bank’ should be a useful place to start if you are thinking about different ways of incorporating screen capture in your teaching or student support provision.

Just finally-there are no prizes for spotting that, at last, I bought myself an actual microphone a few weeks ago rather than relying on the internal microphone on my laptop. The sound quality on the floating island screen cast overview is infinitely better. At last it sounds like I have left what might have appeared to be a noisy tin room! Exciting times!

Hugely exciting weekend with VideoScribe!!!!

With the end of term last Friday and the end of another unbelievably busy exam season I found myself with a few spare hours on Saturday morning. At long last I had some breathing space to find out more about an intriguing piece of software a colleague from Modern Languages showed me all the way back at the start of June-Sparkol’s VideoScribe. Having failed to find the software the first time around (because I was spelling it incorrectly on Google) I was thrilled to finally find it and….oh my goodness….it was worth the wait! Thank you Enza Verruccio. You were right. Videoscribe really is fantastic. Like Prezi, VideoScribe is incredibly simple to use, highly intuitive and is accompanied by user friendly, short video tutorials. Within half an hour I had a made short video and by the end of the weekend I had created a two minute piece of animation.

I was already looking for a way to create 1-2 minute module summaries for the benefit of prospective and current students.  Screen captured Prezis were the obvious answer but, having used Prezi all year, VideoScribe gave me a new avenue to explore-new graphics, new animation possibilities, a new style of student support material. I had to e-mail this to Cindy as soon as it was finished…and here it is!

BFD summary

I’ll be improving my VideoScribe skills as I create a whole suite of around 15 module summaries over the summer but what an exciting way to start the post-term period!