Screencasts can be thought of as podcasts of a computer monitor. Podcasts are easy-to-make audio files that can be edited and distributed online. Screencasts capture the feeling of personal connection that podcasts provide, with the added benefit of video to see what is being discussed. And, like podcasts, screencasts can be easily distributed through blogs and other Web pages.
I found myself wondering, as we’ve been discussing visual literacy, if people are taking advantage of the simplicity and versatility of screencasts. One of my favorite podcasts, Chinesepod.com, was one that I listened to while living in Shanghai to try and expand my knowledge and ability with Mandarin (which is so painfully tonal and when you are tone deaf that makes life very difficult…and unfortunately Thai has even MORE tones than Mandarin, just my luck). While trying to learn more Mandarin-well, actually when trying to learn anything-I have found that seeing words helps me tremendously. I am a visual learner; I can learn other ways, but visual cues help significantly. Even when I’m trying to learn someone’s name, writing it down or asking how it is spelled for the mental imagery helps.
So, when trying to improve my Mandarin, I did like listening to Chinesepod.com, but I also found that having a piece of paper to write the words as I heard them helped me to retain more of the language I was learning through the podcast. I now find myself wondering if Chinesepod.com were to create screencasts in lieu of/or addition to their podcasts, if this might make the learning even more versatile for all of the auditory and visual learners out there? In my brief search, the only screencasts I found them using were in their help section with tutorials on FAQ, etc. Of course, if you pay for the subscription, you have access to more materials. My question is, if screencasts are so simple and easy to make, why aren’t those offered like the free podcasts?
On a positive note, I did find in my search a Thai language learning site, Learn Thai Podcast, that did offer some free Thai language lessons and included a written transcript with each lesson. Maybe that will help my Thai language learning (not likely, remember MORE tones than Mandarin? Sigh.) I do wonder if these sites will start offering screencasts in lieu of podcasts with the plethora of video iPods and iPhones and similar devices currently in use. Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person left in the world without an iPod/iPhone!
It will be interesting to watch and see if more of the people using podcasts begin to utilize screencasts…for visual learners like me, I know I’d like to see that happen!