21 March 2016

TouchCast...better than iMovie?

Today, I have the opportunity to share an extremely cool technology, called TouchCast.  I came across TouchCast a few years ago when they were still beta testing the program. What I saw blew me away. And they have gotten much better since then. TouchCast is a video recording app (now available for download on PCs) that, in many ways, blows iMovie out of the water.  Big words you say?  Well don't go deleting your iMovie just yet, as it is still the benchmark recording tool. However, TouchCast does bring many new options that might just tempt you away from iMovie.  For those teachers who have been living under a rock for the past few years, the new catch phrase of the moment is flipped teaching (or flipped learning, flipped lessons, or any other "flipped" phrase that you can think of).  Flipped teaching is thought of as complicated by some technophobe teachers, but it can be described as simply as "a method in which teachers record mini-lectures that students watch for homework." These lectures provide students with a foundation of content knowledge and ipso facto, allows teachers to spend more class time on activities and critical thinking.  That's basically flipped learning in a nutshell (and if you are an expert flipped teacher, try not to bite my head off for simplifying it too much!).

TouchCast allows the creator to film short video clips (I found out the hard way that the limit is 5 minutes). Simply set up your iPad or iPhone in a well lit area and film your lecture.  For those who are camera shy, you can also use a photo from your files and set it as a background throughout the video (or use one of the many stock backgrounds offered by TouchCast).

Firstly, some of the highlights of TouchCast:

1. It has a teleprompter (why Apple hasn't included this in iMovie yet is beyond me, but I have read that they have filed a patent for a teleprompter option so keep your ears open).  You simply type in the text that you want to say and the teleprompter automatically scrolls (vis-a-vis the opening of Star Wars) down while you are recording.

(As you can see, the teleprompter shows up on the left.  The viewer will not be able to see it, as it is only designed to be seen by the video creator.  You can also adjust the speed in which the teleprompter moves.)

2. You can choose a filter.  While not as many options as an InstaGram, it's still an option that iMovie does not have as of yet.  This option is cool, but many of the options simply look blurry or dark. Other effects that you can add are sound effects, music, and a green screen (see below).

3. Green screen!!!  If you really want to get fancy, set up a green screen behind you and TouchCast lets you look as if you are giving the lecture from whichever place you like.  This option is amazing! However, it takes some work to master so make sure you watch the TouchCast tutorial about green screen videos.  You can even upload a video and give you presentation from inside the video.  Very cool option!!

(You can see the sound effect options at the bottom of the screen)

(The bar at the bottom of the screen shows the various effect options you have.)

4. Interactive whiteboard!!!  What can I say?  This option is fantastic, especially for the artistically inclined. Now you can annotate your lecture while you give it.  You can use one of the stock backgrounds (whiteboard, chalkboard, or crosslined paper), write on a map, picture, or even over your video.  You can also add text anywhere in your video.

5.  Finally, the most innovative aspect of TouchCast by FAR is the ability to embed interactive apps (seen as a smaller box within the video) within the video itself.  Known as vApps, these additions to your video will really help your video get students' attention.  So just what are these vApps and how do they work? See below for the list:

  • Web Page--Insert an interactive web page directly into your video.  If you are covering Andrew Jackson, you can insert a webpage of his bio that the students can click and link directly to (when inserting any vApp, you should choose the option to pause playback when user interacts, pausing your lecture while the student explores the content on their screen).
  • Hot Spot--A box with a blue trim is inserted anywhere into your video.  The viewer will not be able to see it but when the time is right, ask your viewer to touch (if on iPad or iPhone) or click the screen where you tell them and they will be whisked away to another page of your choosing.
  • Photo--directly insert photos into your video (you can even use the whiteboard to draw on them).
  • Some other options--Insert a multiple choice question directly into the video.  Students click the answer they think is right and are given immediate feedback. Insert a Google map into the video. Embed a poll to gauge audience response to a question.  Show your social media handle (ie. Twitter handle).

(The vApp option screen)

Overall, I would rate TouchCast a solid 8 out of 10 in regards to its applications in education. If you are interested in seeing TouchCast in action, check out the demo of some of the TouchCast features above. Enjoy!


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