Collaaj for iPad – An Impressive New Screencasting App to Rival Explain Everything

Screen Shot 2013-08-20 at 3.24.09 PM Since I first saw Explain Everything I have been a fan – sharing it with teachers everywhere I go.  In my opinion it has long been the clear winner in the iPad screencasting space, which is also occupied by Educreations and ShowMe.   In my opinion, price aside, Explain Everything is better in almost* every way than Educreations and ShowMe.

Now… there’s a new kid on the block, turning heads – and recording it!

Collaaj’s compelling feature.

Collaj lets you record your webcam video at the same time as you record the screen!  As far as I know, no other screencasting app (on the iPad) allows this.  Explain Everything, ShowMe and Educreations allow you to record your iPad’s screen and your voice narration, but students can’t see you speaking to them.  in Collaj If you tap the camera icon in the sidebar, voila! your face appears in a little window on the screen.  This can be repositioned if it’s not in the place you want it.  You can even move it during the recording – if you want to write on the part of the screen occupied by the webcam video.  That is pretty cool.   I love this feature because I think one of the shortcomings  of the ‘flipped learning model’ is that video explanations can loose a little bit of humanity.   Our brains are hard-wired to respond to the human face.  Seeing the face of the person speaking to you somehow makes the experience of listening to an explanation more personally accessible.Screen Shot 2013-08-20 at 5.03.42 PM

That is Collaaj’s  winning feature.  It’s a very compelling one.   But in most* other respects I think Explain Everything is still ahead.  The two possible exceptions to this are in the price, and in the video sharing options.  The school context will influence your choice here.

Note: since posting this, a reader has pointed out to me in the comments (see below) that it is, in fact, possible to record your webcam in Explain Everything.  The process is a little more convoluted but it certainly works!  Thanks for that Reshan!

*Sharing your screencasts.

Explain Everything is great if you want to share your video via YouTube, Vimeo, etc as you can easily do this right from the app.  Collaaj, ShowMe and Educreations allow you to upload the video to a private server provided by the app, and then share a link with your students.  Personally I prefer to use YouTube, but in some schools YouTube is blocked and so the “in house” option may be preferable there.  Once you have recorded your video and saved it, it goes into the Collaaj library within the app and from there you can upload it to the Collaaj server and then share a link with your students.

Slide Number

Explain Everything allows you to make multiple slides and navigate through them while you are recording – much more like using an interactive whiteboard.  Educreations, ShowMe and Collaaj each allow you to record just one screen at a time.

Laser Pointer

One feature I really like about Explain Everything is the laser pointer tool.   When I am explaining a concept, and using a diagram or graph to do so, I don’t necessarily want to write on the graph – and doing so always feels just a little bit clumsy.  Oftentimes, I just want my viewer to look at a part of the diagram.  I find the laser pointer a much more efficient tool for this than simply a pen tool.  None of the other three apps have a laser pointer tool.

Zoom

Another great feature of Explain Everything is the zoom tool (indicated by a magnifying glass).  It lets you pinch-to-zoom on part of the diagram so that you can focus on just one feature, then zoom out to look at the whole diagram once more for context.  I really like that feature and wish that Collaaj would implement it.

Fit and finish

When it comes to polish, Explain Everything is still far and away the best of the three.  Educreations and ShowMe just look a bit to plain and basic, and lack functionality in comparison.  Collaaj is kind of buggy.  You can tell it’s new in this space.  As an example, while importing images from DropBox is apparently supported – I can’t get it to work for me.

Price

All these apps are free, except Explain Everything which is $2.99.

The Verdict?

I’m torn.  I love Explain Everything.  I love the finesse with which the tools work, I love the fact that I can upload my videos straight to YouTube,  I really love the laser pointer and zoom functions.  If only it had the ability to record my webcam video like Collaaj does there would be no question as to which to use!  in the meanwhile I’m really liking Collaaj because it brings something to the iPad that has been missing.

Edit: Again, thanks to Reshan’s helpful contribution, I’m back to Explain Everything.  :)

This is new! Record a video of iPad’s screen in any app

DEAR READER, PLEASE NOTE: The App Disp Recorder no longer works – BUT Great news! those of you looking for a way to simply record your iPad screen, iPad audio and your voice narration – rejoice! As of yesterday (10th July 2014) there’s a new simple way to do it – and it’s really fantastic.  I’ve written a follow-up post about it HERE – and here’s a short little video I made demonstrating it:


 

And here is the original post that you searched for (which is now obsolete but I have left here for posterity):

There are numerous options for recording a video of one’s computer screen, from the free and simple, but limited Jing to more powerful, and correspondingly expensive offerings like Camtasia or Adobe Captivate.  There are also a number of free Web 2.0 options such as Screenr.  On a Mac you can even use the built-in QuickTime player that ships free on every machine!  But until recently recording the screen of my iPad was limited to within an individual app.  Apps like ShowMe and LivePaper have been around for a while and the excellent ExplainEverything is far and away my favourite for recording a screencast from my iPad.  But even using these tools, one is restricted to recording the screen within that one app itself.   Sure you can import images or screenshots and doodle on them, and the app will record the screen and the self-talk you are providing to narrate. What they do not enable you to do, though, is record video of your home screen, or a tutorial on how to use another app like (say) a graphing calculator.

Enter* Disp Recorder.

The Good:

Disp Recorder lets you easily record anything that happens on the screen of your iPad: navigating through the Home screens, changing options in the Settings app or working in another app such as GarageBand or Google Earth.  It will even record a Keynote presentation complete with the virtual laser-pointer etc – an option for having students record a presentation of their work to share with their peers.

While recording, you can leave the Disp Recorder app and open another app.  When you do this, the menu bar pulses red.  Tapping that red menu bar at any time takes you back to the Disp Recorder app, where you can pause or stop recording. It’s very similar to what happens when you are are on a phone call, and navigate to another app.

The recorded video can be saved to the iPad’s Camera Roll, or uploaded directly to YouTube.

It’s a universal app – it works on the iPhone, too.

The Not-Quite-So-Good:

For CPU intensive GUI-goodness like turning a page in iBooks, I have found that the video can appear a little jerky – even on the new iPad, but for most operations, it works remarkably well.

In applications where the menu bar is visible at the top of the screen (Eg. the Home screen, iBooks) the menu bar pulses red while recording, and this pulsing is recorded too.  I think this is a bit distracting when watching the video.  This is not an issue in apps where the menu bar is hidden (Eg. GarageBand).  It would be nice if there were an option to turn that red pulsing menu bar off.

I also think the $10 price tag is a little high – but on the other hand it’s the first app to offer what it does, so it really has no competition, and I don’t mind paying $10 to support an innovative developer who is extending the functionality of the iPad.

*Thanks to Shane Williams at Hunter TAFE for showing me this app.

[  September 11, 2012  10:19 AM:   Since writing this post, there have been a number of people who have said that they don't think it would work - that the app is a scam and doesn't do anything, etc.  (see one such comment below).  All I can say is that on my iPad 3, which has never been jailbroken, and is in Australia with the region code set to Australia, it works as advertised for me.  Here's a video I recorded with it this morning. https://dl.dropbox.com/u/4495191/11.09.2012%208-04-14%20AM-521.mp4  It seems that most of the people who are saying it won't work, have not actually tried it.

It is worth mentioning that there was apparently another similar app called DisplayRec produced a few months ago (no longer available) that did not work outside the USA (or at least the iPad's region code had to be set to USA for it to work).  I am not sure if this app is made by the same developer as that one.  But this one does work.  Some people have suggested that it is likely to stop working after the iOS 6 launch.  That remains to be seen.  I'll add a note here at that time to let you know. :)  ]

Update

Having now installed iOS 6,  I can confirm that Disp Recorder is still working.

Update

As of the 8th December 2012 this app is no longer available at the App Store.  If you already downloaded it though, it continues to work on your iPad.

Less is More: Why audio podcasts are more powerful than video for flipping a class

It’s counterintuitive.

Most of the talk around flipping classrooms assumes the use of video.  That’s understandable.  One would intuitively think that a vodcast or screencast is more effective than a humble audio podcast, but that is not my experience.

I have been flipping my classroom using audio podcasts (see example) since 2005.  Then, as screencasting tools became increasingly user-friendly, I started in 2008 to make e-podcasts and screencasts (see example) – thinking that the visual element would augment the effectiveness of my out-of-class tuition.  I was wrong.

The response my students gave me was quite unanticipated!  Almost unanimously they said that they preferred the audio podcasts!  While this was initially unexpected, their reasons actually make sense, and highlight a fundamental advantage of audio podcasting.

One boy explained that he likes to listen to the podcast while working on the farm on the weekend.  He could no longer do that now that he had to watch the screen.  Another said he likes to listen to the podcast while working out at the gym.  One of the girls said she likes to listen to the podcast while soaking in the bath, another on her morning walk.  Yet another student said she just likes to sit on the bus after a long day at school, shut her eyes and listen – without having to look at anything.

We all have daily activities that preclude us from watching a screen: driving, washing the dishes, walking the dog, shopping or mowing the lawn.  An audio podcast fits perfectly in that space, allowing a student to focus his mind on biology (in my students’ case), while using his hands and eyes for some other mundane chore.  It’s a win-win.  The Podcast makes the chore less boring, while the chore makes the learning feel like a good use of time!

A video on the other hand, can’t be multitasked with anything else.  It competes for time with reading, traditional homework, watching TV and in fact, with most of our other daily activities.

There are of course, some topics that can’t easily be explained in an audio-only podcast (think: calculus, fine art or in my case, genetic pedigree analysis). That’s where video is the right, and only choice.  But in my experience, when there’s an option, audio podcasts have proven more effective and certainly more popular with students.

As an indication of their relative popularity, my weekly 90-minute biology podcast gets more than 1000 downloads per day on average.   Even my most popular 10-minute YouTube screencasts might only get 1000 views per month.

Have others found this too?