Thursday, March 20, 2008

Are You Jing With It?

Some of you might be reading the title of this post and saying...?HUH? So, if you are interested in capturing and sharing any part of your computer screen, then read on...

For those of you that need to or just like to explain how something is done on the computer, Jing just may be your answer. Jing is a program that instantly captures and shares images and video…from your computer to anywhere...your local hard drive, an ftp server or, the company (TechSmith) will host your files for you on TechSmith, by the way is the same company that created Camtasia and SnagIt - two high-end, high-priced screen capture programs. Yep, I paid for and use these programs because they were what was available at the time and they are relatively easy to use.

One positive thing - Jing works on both PC and Mac, which is good news for those of us that are bi-platform.

Secondly, it is easy to use and has more functions available than just your computer's built-in print screen. Jing lets you do a live crop of the area you are trying to capture - after invoking the capture command, your cursor turns to cross-hairs and you select the area of the screen you are interested in capturing. After that you choose whether to capture an image or a video.

When you are done, you can click the stop button and you have the option of sharing the file on, uploading it to an ftp site, or saving it as a file. By default, it uses the date and time as a file name, but this is easily changed. TechSmith is really encouraging users to upload to so that they can see how people are using it.

Another positive - which for some of us that do a lot of video tutorials is HUGE - Jing captures the menus unlike a lot of other capture programs.

The final positive element of Jing is its price - currently it is free. For educators, that is a must.

I did a little research on Jing and found that there are a few limitations. Currently it only captures at 10 frames per second which is not a good rate for capturing streaming video, for example grabbing a YouTube video. It does work well however for illustrating the steps in completing a task in an application or walking through an interactive website.

Another limitation is the capture time is limited to 5 minutes and the file sizes are a bit large. The video is captured into a .swf file (Flash). This is nice because .swf is a format that is widely used.

So, it is easy to see how someone such as myself (Technology Integration Specialist) could use this program and be a better person for that...but how can we use this in the classroom?

One idea - I would love to take quick screen shots of websites I use with my students as visual reinforcement of a concept we are covering. There are a lot of animations on the web that I would like to have saved to my computer...for example the water cycle or plate techtonics. Once you find a really good animation, you want to keep it.

Another idea - When I introduce a lesson that integrates technology, I can capture my actions on the computer for creating a project to help the students learn that skill. For example, I can teach the students how to create a character analysis document in Inspiration or teach them how to download an image off the Internet, insert it into a PowerPoint...and copy and paste the web address for citing my source.

I will be using Jing to create some video tutorials. If you are interested in what a finished product looks like, visit the Technology Tutorials section of our website and click on Tutorials in Flash.