I have been following the Promoting Learning and Teaching thread, and it has brought out a question that everyone here can help me answer.

In the past week, I have been contemplating starting to use screencasts to teach Moodle to some of my new teachers who are excited to get started and want to start trying features on their own. I had previously been planning to do written instructions with a series of screen shots, but started to suspect that a screencast might be a decent alternative.

I started thinking of screencasts because, like Elizabeth, I have been using screencasts with my students so that they can review my instructions at a later time. I have noticed that it has helped many students to be able to watch the instructions independently, or to seek out a piece of information that they may have missed the first time.

I know that screencasts work with my students, and I suspect that they will work with my teachers, who will also be functioning in a blended learning environment. My question is, would you prefer to learn a piece of software from written instructions (with pictures) that you could read on-screen or print, or would you prefer a narrated video of how to use the software?

Here is my personal answer to my question: I have discovered that when I first learn about software I prefer video to show me what it can do. When I am just learning but want to explore features in-depth I prefer writing (often printed, depending on the software) so that I can work more at my own pace and in my own order. Once I know a piece of software but want to learn a new feature I prefer on-screen written instructions because they are searchable.

Which way do you learn best?

Tags: development, instructions, learning, professional, screencast, software

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I agree. I think screencasting helps me in the beginning to understand how to use an application better than written instructions. But once I'm familiar with a tool, I prefer to refer to written instructions which takes less time.

I have also learned in creating screencast videos that it is best to keep them short. Tackle one piece of instruction at a time. I made a bunch of instructional videos on how to use Mozilla composer for my students and I find they work best when I am only teaching one small task: how to add links, how to add a table etc.

It would also probably be helpful if the software I use for screencasting was easier to edit and mark with chapters. I use SnapzPro and I can't edit within the program itself. It takes much longer to bring it into iMove and make edits, plus I loose quality. But, I don't know of any better software for Mac OSX for the price.
I don't want *any* instructions. I wanna mess around with it.

Later, when I have some idea of what I'm looking at, I might want a tutorial in how to do X. Or some information on how to do Y better.

Eventually, I *might* look for something like "getting the most out of your toolbox."

I do not watch screencasts, ever.

I *will* use an online tutorial -- text and screenshots with highlighted areas -- but only after I've explored the software a bit first.
Totally agree with nlowell. I hate watching videos. I hate reading a manual or tutorials. I don't care how well they are written. I'd rather play around with stuff. If it's something simple, it had better be obvious how to do it, or I won't remember the next time I use it.

If it's complicated, I just want to find "how do I..." kinds of help.

The point is probably that there is never any "right" answer, for adults or for kids. So how do you handle that?
Yes, Screencasts guide somebody to a new tool. Later on this person could read more on a written document.
I agree: for me screencasting may deliver only a very initial overview of a new software. Then, like nolwell, I generally try to use it on my own, without any instruction. Finally, for mastering specific topics, I rely on manuals. However, especially for OSS, there are little or no manuals... in the best cases, online help and online user communities are the best sources..
Anyway, I'don't like (and dont' watch) long screencasting claiming to show you any details...
I find that a very good way to learn new sw, is also to WRITE a piece of documentation on it: for OSS it can be an useful shared resource too!
Sorry, I did leave out the software learning style that seems obvious to me. I love to explore new software on my own, and I imagine that many people on Classroom 2.0 feel the same because that is probably how we managed to get here in the first place.

If I use screencasts they will be less than three minutes long. Each screencast will simply show how to do one task in Moodle. I am thinking of screencasts because I am afraid that, like Alja's teachers, my teachers will not be willing to put the effort into reading any lengthy instructions. I don't really know this for sure, so I thought I would get some more opinions.

I agree with many of you that both methods together would probably be best, but I am the only person working on teaching Moodle in my schools and I simply don't have the time necessary to build redundancy into my resources.
Theres already a Moodle course that teaches Moodle using Moodle. It's been done by the people who know Moodle best. I know the temptation to create your own is strong, but why?
Oh DUH on me! Of course! I'm good at overlooking the obvious!
I am a huge fan of much of the Moodle documentation. I use it, and the Moodle community, quite often. I have learned much from the online Moodle resources, but Moodle can be overwhelming at the beginning, and if you don't know where you want to start, it is easy to become overwhelmed by these things.

I can get very technical very quickly, but often when I am searching for answers to my Moodle questions I come across developers who get far more technical and cause me to feel like I am in over my head. If I can feel out of my depth, I am not sure I feel comfortable sending my teachers out into the wild to search for their own answers. Most of them have told me quite explicitly that they would like their hands held, and I want to shelter them for a while until they understand the basics and start actually using Moodle.

I do feel that they should eventually be sent out to find the answers to their own questions, but I think that if I do that right now many of them will lose interest.
Now remember, those of us using the Ning network love to play with the stuff, that is why we are here in this environment. Many of our students would feel comfortable as well I would guess, but teachers are another story. They may attempt to play with the new software/tech and the first roadblock that appears confusing they say forget it. ...Not worth my time learning this stuff..... So would the written word be any better maybe but doubtful.

When a teacher asks me about how to use Moodle in their 4th grade class, what they are not asking me is how to input students, or how to make the first page look easy to understand, or how to add comments, or technical stuff. ....what they are asking me is what do I do with a Learning Managment program for the first 5 days. What do I do Day 1, do I ask the students questions, how do they respond, what do I do with the responses, or where do I take it on Day 2. They may not know that is what they are asking but I figure this out after its too late...when I see them glaze over after my teaching the tech of it.

So I would suggest that whether screenshots or printed word the conceptualization of the learning needs to be clear and focused on where the teacher is at not where I think they should be. This does require some analyses of the audience which we (maybe I should say me) don't do effectively. My teachers come to my trainings with some skills and some without skills. That sounds so obvious doesn't it. But we need to figure this part out. Once we differentiate the learning style of our teachers then put the best medium at their fingertips that will take them to true understanding.
So Begininers - screenshots, pdfs and podcasts of Day 1-5 unit with examples, Intermediates - design of instruction with Learning Management Systems - same tools, Advanced - same tools but very customized to the learner.
Now remember, those of us using the Ning network love to play with the stuff, that is why we are here in this environment. Many of our students would feel comfortable as well I would guess, but teachers are another story.

This difference is one of the diagnotics of "immigrants" and "natives" and one of the characteristics that drives me to tears. If there is *one* traning we need to do, it's to get people over this prissy-ness. I'm totally clueless as to how -- but it's the key.
I enjoy your posts/replies very much nlowell but no one stirs me up more than you do! (This is my second reply in one week; good for you!) I understand your frustration but I'm not sure it's "prissy-ness". The bottom line is that not everyone learns in the way you do; for many people, me included, technology is not intuitive or logical; it requires an unbelievable amount of time to navigate my way through the wonderful messiness of it all. Thankfully, the desire to gain a deeper understanding of these technologies overrides the steep learning curve for me; but not all teachers feel this same gravitational pull towards technology. Convincing those who are tech saavy and/or open minded is a piece of cake; the true heroes of the Web 2.0 story will be those people who discover the key to helping the most resistant teachers understand the potential of these powerful tools.



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