Using ScreenFlow and the Reverse Classroom

Next Fall, I will probably try something new in teaching an intro Biological Anthropology course: The Reverse Classroom. This is an idea that is being increasingly applied in High School settings. The simplest version of this idea is that classroom lectures are converted to an on line resource that the students access on their own time, and what would have been study or homework time is done in the classroom. In reality it is a bit more complex than this, because a “lecture” converted to an on line resource may, and probably should, be very different than an in-class lecture, and the activities that are done in the classroom would not consist of students sitting by themselves reading or doing some sort of work. The on line “lecture” would be broken into smaller-than-lecture bits, and involve more interactive tools, and the in-class activities would involve more group activities and tutorials. Also, I don’t intend to create a fully reversed classroom; I’ll use this technique for parts of the course, distributed across the semester.

Pursuant to this, I’ve been looking at tools to help make this work, and on the advice of Peter Sinclair, famous for his most excellent climate science related videos, I’ve obtained a demo copy of ScreenFlow
icon. ScreenFlow works on an iMac. It allows one to specify a window or screen to capture, while at the same time (optionally) to record video and audio off of the hardware built into the computer. So, for example, one can make a Libra Office Impress or Keynote
icon presentation, then “film” oneself giving the presentation. Your head, talking, and your voice are then joined with the presentation you are running through. Your talking head can be in a little box in the corner, the box can be moved, or it can be made invisible. Aside from the presentation itself, one can add text box overlays or other graphic elements. There is even a facility to have a text-to-speech insertion, so I can have a computerized voice read off part of the presentation, though I’m not entirely sure yet why I would do that. Maybe I can make a virtual heckler.

One can also get entirely out of the “presentation” (read “PowerPoint”) mode as well, by simply recording the display of graphics via a file viewer, or for that matter, PDF’s. I’ve done this sort of thing as a lecture tool to some effect. Using this method, instead of showing a presentation on screen in a lecture context, you show your computer’s desktop on which there are various files, perhaps even folders of files. Then, as part of the lecture presentation one opens web browser pages, graphics using a file viewer, sections of spread sheets, etc. etc. Incorporating a window with Google Earth, especially including a pre-programmed fly-over is a nice touch as well. So, you show a web page with a recent news report on some site, use Google Earth to fly from the site of the campus you are on to the location of the site, zoom in, discuss terrain and geographical context, then using the file viewer show a handful of photographs of the site, then open a spreadsheet page with some data, pull up a few graphs, and finally display a PDF file of a published report on that site for a detailed discussion.

Then, ideally, engage in a live Google Hangout with the site’s excavator and one or two other scientists who want to complain about the excavator’s findings for a steal cage death match showdown.

That method … the desktop based meta-presentation … would also be ideal for capture with ScreenFlow. And my head can be there in a box down in the corner being amazed at it all. Though it would probably be better to get someone else’s head.

ScreenFlow allows for quite a bit of editing of the captured screen activity, combining of different sessions, etc. And, I just discovered (but have not yet tested) ScreenFlow’s ability to use a Green Screen. So, not only can my talking head be down there in the corner talking, but I can make myself appear to be somewhere I’m not. A few hominids tooling around in the background, a fancy laboratory setting, the Library of Alexandria for my Carl Sagan imitation…. the possibilities are endless!

Have you used any sort of screen capture software to record lectures or other presentations? Are you familiar with ScreenFlow? Want to take my class and see how it goes?

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7 thoughts on “Using ScreenFlow and the Reverse Classroom

  1. We call it the “Flipped Classroom” at NCSU. I’m about to get my Master’s in teaching science and I hope to be able to do this a bit when I am teaching high school.

    I’m also taking Mohammed Noor’s (Duke) Introduction to Genetics and Evolution class from Coursera. He uses Screenflow and it works beautifully (apparently Coursera provided a “kit”). He uses a tablet and writes oon the slides as he talks.

    Have you found any other programs like Screenflow that work with PCs? Most teachers I’ve seen use flip cams and white board sheets to do their lectures, I like what Dr. Noor’s been doing.

  2. I’ve not used Windows in a long time. It appears that ScreenFlow is so good that people run Windows in VM Ware or Parallels on a Mac and use ScreenFlow that way to capture their windows software! There’s lot of capture programs for Windows, but I don’t off hand know of one that does what ScreenFlow does.

  3. Oh, yeah, I should have added that Dr. Noor is going to use the videos for his in-person Duke class too. He’s spent a lot of time on Coursera, but it’s a win-win situation for him.

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