Student in a Flipped Class? Cut homework time in half using this tip!

Most of us read much faster than talking speed yet still comprehend what we read. In the same way, it’s possible to listen much faster than your teacher can speak. But many of us have never thought about that, because in real life, we only hear words as they are uttered. (In the classroom, the speed your teacher can move her mouth is holding you back!)

But If your teacher makes screencasts, videos, or audio podcasts, try playing them at double speed. You’ll be amazed to find that you can comprehend what you are listening to just fine. In fact, after listening for a while, you’ll discover that it starts to sound surprisingly normal. After listening at double speed, if I slow a podcast down to “normal” speed, it sounds comically slow!

So how do you do it?

With an audio podcast it’s easy. Almost all podcast players have the option to adjust playback speed. My favourite is Overcast. To my ears it does the best job of speeding up voice while preserving clarity. Plus it has some really innovative features like “Smart Speed” which reduces the length of the pauses between words; shortening the total listening time, without speeding up the words themselves. Brilliant!

Swift Player

For videos or screencasts on your iPhone or iPad, try Swift Player. It lets you speed up any video on your device, or online (YouTube, Vimeo, etc).

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.  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. 🙂  ]


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


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?