Show as opposed to tell

Welcome to Learning Event 7 (#LE7): Show as opposed to tell.

(Need more info about Learning Events in general? Visit theLearning Commons for a full description of this series.)

Learning Event 7 (#LE7) focuses on the creation and use of screencaptures, screencasts, and instructional animated GIFs to show as opposed to telling in courses. 

Our learners spend much of their time utilizing digital, social spaces for personal and professional purposes. Educators in today’s classrooms must be able to use and integrate both current and emerging technologies for instructional purposes. One of the keys to teaching effectively in current and future contexts is identifying opportunities to balance traditional pedagogical methods with effective uses of technology to foster learning.

As educators integrate instructional technologies into courses, it can sometimes be a challenge for us to work with students or colleagues in multimodal environments. Simply assuming that your students will be able to quickly pick up and use a new technology or digital space is very problematic. You need to be explicit about how you want them to use these digital texts and tools to avoid them getting lost.

Training your students to use these technologies should not be feared, or time consuming. Instead of providing linear, textual directions to students, you can develop and share multimodal content (images, video, audio) that delivers the same information. Once you initially create this content, you can then share the same multimodal directions in future courses that learners can watch, watch again…and watch again.


Digital texts can be used to create instructional materials that supplement course content. One of the easiest ways to think about this is to identify opportunities to explain and share content that is currently on your computer screen. There are two major types of information we will be capturing as we capture, build, and share these materials: static images (screencapture) or video walkthroughs (screencasts).

Screencaptures. A screencapture is a static image taken of your computer screen. You can annotate this image and share it out with others by attaching it to an email, or embedding it on your website. Screencaptures can be used to direct students to a particular web environment and then show them how to navigate and interact with the environment. 

Examples of this in a class could include:

  • Step by step tutorials showing how to use equipment or software necessary for the course;
  •  Annotated explanations and clarifications of course content and concepts;
  • Essential questions to prime discussion on course content for students prior to a class.

Screencasts. Screencasts are video walkthroughs of content on your screen. Screencaptures can be great teaching and learning materials…but you need to stitch a bunch together and add text for longer form directions. For these use cases, I recommend recording a screencast. Screencasts can be used as a lecture capture tool, or as a means to capture instructor think-alouds to scaffold students as they work in online and offline spaces.

Examples of this in a class could include:

  • Providing student feedback on assignments by talking through the feedback as you review student work; 
  • Record lectures and share with students before or after class meetings;
  • Break up longer lectures into smaller segments and provide more emphasis for support.

Check out the materials presented below to learn and engage more!


Ways to use screencasting in your teaching – Bonni Stachowiak. “There are many ways we can use screencasting in our teaching: Here are just a few ideas to get you thinking: Answer a question, record a lecture, give feedback on student work, demo how to use an application, build a course trailer.”

Using Screen Recording Platforms to Increase Instructor Presence in an Online Classroom – Seanan Kelly, Charles Banaszewski. “Screen recording tools can address limitations of asynchronous exchanges and enhance instructor presence by providing the ability to communicate feedback in a more effective manner to “help facilitate meaningful learning.”

Screencasting to Engage Learning – Michael Ruffini. “Screencasts enable teachers to create a digital recording of any instructional activity performed on a computer screen, and they can be used as learning resources, learning tasks, and learning support.”


Simple Screencasting – 10 Minute Webinars (12:37)
Richard Byrne’s Favorite Tools for Creating Screencast Videos (4:58)
10 Great Ways To Utilize Screen Capture Technology (20:01)


How can you use screencaptures and screencasts to support students learning in your courses?


Create and share multimodal content (images, video, audio) to support students as they engage with content and tools in your course.

Make it happen:

Creating screencaptures and screencasts on your device is very easy. Once you start, you won’t want to stop. 

There are a number of free and premium (paid) tools that can be used to create these materials. Many computers (PC, Mac, & Linux) come pre-installed with programs that will help create these materials. There are also apps and programs that you can install and use on tablets and mobile devices. Your institution may have certain products that they purchase or recommend for educators. There are also numerous resources online to support you on YouTube as you try new tools and use them in your workflow.

If you want to get started with creating screencaptures and screencasts, Nimbus Capture is a great, free tool to get you started. It is a plug-in (a small program) that runs in your browser (Firefox, Chrome, Opera). You can use it to create annotated screencaptures and screencasts. Loom, Screencast-o-matic and Screencastify are also great tools to use in your browser to create screencasts. 

Best practices:

To make a stellar screencapture or screencast, follow these guidelines:

  • Identify your tool of choice, install it, and test it out by using it. You learn best by doing.
  • Prepare yourself and tidy up your screen for recording. Clear that clutter off your computer desktop, and close your office door so you can focus. 
  • Aim small, miss small. Enlarge your screen size, and select small chunks of your screen real estate for images and/or video. Your beautiful widescreen display may not look as beautiful when a student views your materials on a mobile device.
  • Try to make screencasts brief, or chunk more complex information into several screencasts.  This makes it easier for students to digest your content, but also makes it less challenging for you if a recording doesn’t work.  This also allows you to rearrange content more easily later, and get rid of or add in new pieces.
  • Make adjustments if needed. If you try it and it doesn’t work…delete and try again.
  • Save and share your work with others. Embed or link your content from one document to keep track of it, or embed it on your website.

We would love to hear about what you created or implemented as a result of this Learning Experience! Please send an email to if you have something to share!