Thursday, 29 September 2011

CPD23 - Thing 18 - Screen Capture and Podcasting

How to summarise Thing 18 to an IT illiterate person?

Podwhating, indeed!!!

Initially both words sound very odd and confusing.  In essence, both are simply about using online web tools to communicate.
Depending on the context both tools are very appropriate for my work in engaging with business about export control (and I am sure they can be helpful in your work or personal context too if you can think creatively). I've actually considered using podcasting already, so Thing 18 is definitely helpful in sparking ideas of how to take things forward in reality.

What is 'screen capturing'?

"If you can see it, you can capture it" is the slogan of a piece of screen capture software.
This is the functionality or process of capturing or recording a person's interactions on screen. Screen captures are sometimes referred to as screenshots but in fact they are a short video which some people confuse wrongly with video editing (ie involving a camera). However screen capture does not need a camera - just you and the relevant software (either free, bought, online or downloaded).

It is useful for recording what you might do to navigate a series of website screens (which might be a great alternative to providing a lengthy text description - instead you can share a short video which can be uploaded to YouTube or another website who to actually use a website or piece of software online).

Overview of Picasa - Screencapture video

To demonstrate what you can do with this type of functionality, I produced a short 'screen capture' about using Picasa, a brilliant image organising software tool.
This is exactly the type of short instructional video that is potential useful for my work in explaining how to use websites and databases. It is a real great alternative to a standard text guidance document.

I used Screencast-o-matic, a free online video recorder, for this and found it provided:
  • clear instructions - countdown to recording - 3,2, 1, go! 
  • stop and start buttons clear
  • logo on free version not very obtrusive
  • has option to restart recording 
  • adjustable screen capture window
  • good clear audio sound recording
so it quickly and very easily did the job I wanted. The trick in preparing a screen capture video is to prepare a properly drafted script (to avoid embarrasing UMs and AHs and random pauses) particularly if the video is to be uploaded onto a professional website and this might take a bit of practice.

Ultimately good instructional videos using screen capture tools also hinge on a good audio ie obtaining a proper microphone rather than an inbuilt PC mic.

What is 'podcasting'?

noun -- a multimedia digital file made available on the Internet for downloading to a portable media player, computer, etc..
verb (past and past participle podcast) [with object] - make (a multimedia digital file) available as a podcast.
(Oxford Online Dictionaries definition) -

This is the process of producing a series of audio broadcasts which are published online. Some people confuse a podcast by associating them with single one-off audio programme or recording. However the key feature of podcasts are that they form a number of episodes which can then be updated and shared via a feed (which people can subscribe to receive online).

There are 4 stages to producing a podcast
  • pre-production (ie planning what to say)
  • production (ie recording)
  • post-production (ie editing)
  • publishing (ie upload to website and alerting people to the information where they can find it) 
As with screen capturing, good podcasting hinges mainly on the pre-production statge in preparing a well-drafted and thought out script (beginning, middle, end). I therefore am aware that podcasting is potentially beneficial in schools and teaching settings in helping in language, comprehension and communication skills.

Podcasts and Government Communications

Podcasting is also a great way for governments to communicate (admittedly one-way but in a manageable and potentially more engaging way rather than via screens or pages of writing). Podcasting's biggest asset is that it uses the power of talk.

Some great examples of UK public sector organisations and departments already using podcasting are:
However, this is just the tip of the iceberg and there is certainly scope for the UK government to use podcasting more strategically. (Note: I can't locate a single consolidated list of all government podcast feeds although the Australian government do helpfully provide a listing!)

Back in 2008, Simon Wakeman, who works in communications and marketing at Medway council, reported that approximatly 32% of local councils were planning to use podcasting in the next six months. I would presume this figure would have gone up somewhat in the intervening years, however, from my own experience there are plenty of untapped opportunities for using podcasting (or indeed other forms of social media).

The trend towards greater use of e-media tools (such as podcasts) is already more obvious, given the financial cuts and is long predicted in IT and media circles.

For instance, the professional service firm, Deloittte produces an audio news podcast called Global Insights which looks at issues affecting the global business community. One of this series has focused on E-Government trends which are seen as moving from an option to an obligation. Deloitte predicted that in 2011 (and I am sure beyond as well) that e-government tools would increase significantly. One of these tools is undoubtedly the podcast itself, which offers a cost effective way to communicate online with a wide range of audiences.
The UK's People and website helpfully give some practical examples of podcasting's potential uses in a public service context - such as recording council meetings, interview leaders, audio tours of city, explanation of business services, highlighting case studies.

It highlights the advantages of podcasting for government (locally and nationally) as a cost effective communication mechanism (using at minimum a microphone and some free software). However, to work effectively in the long term podcasting really needs to be thought about in the context of other communication methods.
The challenge for government organisations (across marketing and policy teams) is to ask:
  • what is the value of audio communication?
  • how does a podcast fit with other communication methods?
  • how will we manage any issues surrounding use of tools eg queries about cost? senstivity of topic matter?
  • who is the target audience?
  • will a podcast on particular theme generate sufficient interest?
  • how does podcasting change our communication with our audience?
  • is business doing something similar or better and are we wasting our time?
  • how will we measure and evaluate its success and compare with other communication methods?
  • what skills do we need to make podcasts?
    • Oral and Communication Skills - writing, listening, questionning, drafting, reviewing
    • Teamwork Skills
    • Presentation Skills - preparing structured information designed to meet audience need
    • Analysis Skills
    • IT Skills - editing software

Just part of the communications mix....

Screen capturing and podcasting are not rocket science (damn - just done myself out of a job!). However, I'm sure that most people are not aware of these communication mechanisms (and need handholding). There is therefore a lot we can do as information professionals to educate our colleagues and push forward with some practical examples of how these tools can help share the messages we want to communicate collectively for the benefit of our organisations and our customers.

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