Another new feature, called Smart Player, eliminates the need for users to create different versions of videos for each screen type, TechSmith says. Now, videos will be encoded so they’ll look their best on whatever device they are played, automatically. The program also detects if a device or browser supports Flash, and if not, it plays videos using HTML5. What’s more, formatting with the Smart Player ensures that viewers can see and use features such as quizzes, links, and video search on any device they use.

Videos can be published straight to YouTube or TechSmith’s free hosting site, Screencast.com, for sharing with others.

While Camtasia has many advanced features, there are also several free or low-cost tools for creating and sharing video presentations, said Kim Darche, a teacher at Chicago’s Tarkington School of Evidence. In a conference session called “Taking the Plunge,” Darche shared some of her favorites with attendees:

Educreations, a free app for computers or iPads that lets you create and share video lessons with your browser.

ShowMe, another free iPad app, but not as robust.

Screenr, a free tool for creating and sharing computer screencasts. Darche showed how she used Screenr to capture a virtual online tour of Anne Frank’s house and share it with her class.

Removing barriers to school video production

As educators aim to boost student engagement through project-based lessons, many have found that video production can give students real-world skills, while also offering a valuable service to their schools.

For instance, many schools are building high-quality video production studios to give their students valuable experience in recording, mixing, and producing video broadcasts—from live coverage of concerts and athletic events to student-run news programs.

Using professional-grade video equipment in these efforts can be costly, but several companies have come out with products designed to make video production easier for education.

WeVideo is an online video editing platform that uses a drag-and-drop system that teachers can use to incorporate video in their classrooms. Educators are using WeVideo in various ways, including…

• Students create video trailers to share book summaries with their literature classmates, “commercials” highlighting interesting geography facts about their state, and interactive interviews with historical characters.

• A group of students collaborate on a video orientation to the school’s library; another group shares highlights and lessons learned during a science field trip.

• Teachers record and edit short, compelling video clips to “flip” their classrooms.

“For a long time, we’ve understood that producing video is a highly engaging activity that helps students to develop critical thinking, problem solving, and collaboration skills. In recent years, the availability of inexpensive video cameras and video-enabled cell phones has helped make it easier for students to capture video at the front end of the process,” said Michael J. Curtin, director of curriculum and instructional technology at Edgemont Union Free School District in New York.