Khan Academy – Style Videos? Explore Your Tools and Find Your Own Style

KHAAAAAAAAN!
KHAAAAAAAAN! (Photo credit: rutty)

A faculty recently approached me asking how he could produce Khan Academy – style video lessons. He was looking for an Android tablet equivalent to ShowMe, the iPad app that lets you write freehand, record your voice, and post videos online similar to the familiar Khan style. The bad news is that Android does not yet have an equivalent app. (Try ClariSketch!) The good news is that you don’t need a special app or device to produce similar videos. If you think carefully about your needs, the way you like to work, and how you want to use the resulting videos, there are A LOT of ways to produce video lectures. 

Sal Khan himself doesn’t use an iPad– he uses ordinary PC screen capture software, free sketching app SmoothDraw, and a Wacom tablet to produce the Khan Academy videos— probably because…

A) those are the tools he had on hand, and

B) that’s how he likes to work.

He demonstrates his process in this video.

Before you run out to buy all new tools or mimic Khan’s presentation style, let’s explore some different ways you can produce your own narrated videos in your own style.

Take a step back, though, and know yourself before you try to be like Sal Khan. Recording your handwriting and speaking in real time is not for everybody– I’m left handed and have a hard time writing on digital screens because they pick up the touch from the side of my hand. Also, my handwriting is not always gorgeous, and I can produce better results when I type my presentation slides ahead of time.

I don’t get good results when I talk and write at the same time, so I prefer to make “animated” presentations in Apple Keynote with all the text and images timed to appear when I want them to— then I can just record my voice right into the Keynote, export a video, and upload to Vimeo, YouTube, or Canvas. Here is a recent example of this type of video. I think the results are as good or better than Khan’s, and they let me incorporate images, sounds, video, and text in a way his hand-drawn videos can’t.

If you like hand drawing your notes and recording your voice, another solution many people like is to use a LiveScribe smart pen to create PenCasts—online recordings of your handwritten notes and discussions. These produce a finished product that is very similar to ShowMe or Khan Academy videos, while allowing you to use the familiar interface of a real pen and real paper.

Alternately, online meeting software like Adobe Connect or Google Hangouts lets you upload your PowerPoint slides, draw on them, and record voice and video narration over them. If your school already invests in webinar software (or even free tools like Hangouts or Skype) you may have all the tools you need to record lectures.

Finally, the “too simple to be obvious” option is to just record video of yourself writing on a whiteboard or piece of paper using nothing more than your phone or tablet’s video camera. This solves many problems because it does not require you to learn any special software or hardware, and the resulting videos can be easily edited and posted online. You could even get a little tripod for your phone to point it down at your desktop to capture your writing surface. (With some decent preparation, your results can be better than the sloppy example below).

 

In fact, one of the best series of instructional videos on the web IMHO is Lee Lefever’s CommonCraft show, where he uses hand drawn paper cutouts filmed on a tabletop to illustrate concepts like social media, twitter, and RSS. You can set up a smartphone camera on a tripod opposite your desk or whiteboard to create excellent results.

 

As you can see, there are many approaches you can use, and a lot depends on the way you like to work and how you want to use the finished product. Ultimately, you will need to find a simple, workable set of tools that let you be creative quickly and efficiently, and produce good, comprehensible results. Experiment with different methods of getting your words, images, and voice into the computer, and see what’s comfortable for you. How you get there can be personal to your own style– what really matters is that your videos are clear, easy to understand, and appealing to your audience.

 

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