Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Introducing Google Screencast for ChromeOS

Chromebooks have had a screen capture tool for quite awhile which allows you to take a picture or record a video of your screen. 

Well now Google is rolling out a new more powerful tool for Chromebooks called Google Screencast.

With Google Screencast you can:
  • Record your entire screen or portion of your screen
  • Record your webcam and your voice
  • Annotate on the screen while you are recording
  • Generate an automatic transcript of the recording
  • Translate the transcript to any language
  • Edit the screencast by skipping portions of the transcript
  • And much more!
This is an easy way for teachers to create instructional videos, and for students to make recordings to demonstrate their understanding. Let's take a look at how Google Screencast works! 

See below for my 13-minute tutorial video where I do a hands-on demonstration of this new tool, as well as a longer 41-minute interview I did with Andy Russell, Product Manager for Chromebooks in Education, where he talks more about Google Screencast and another new tool called Cast Moderator.

▶️ Tutorial Video (13 minutes)

▶️ Interview (41 minutes)

🚀 Launching the Screencast App

First to use the new Screencast tool you will need to be using a Chromebook with version 103 of the operating system or higher. Version 103 should roll out to the stable channel for Chromebooks by the end of June 2022, but is already available if you switch your Chromebook into the beta channel.

If so, you can start the Screencast tool from the ChromeOS launcher.

This will open the Screencast app where you can access your existing recordings, watch some "Getting Started" videos, or create a new screencast.

🔴 Recording the Screencast

To make a new recording click the "New screencast" button. Before you start recording though, you can make a few settings choices.
  • On the Screencast toolbar you can choose how you want to record the screen including:
  • Record full screen
  • Record partial screen
  • Record window
  • You can also click the settings gear to:
  • Select the microphone you want to use
  • Select the camera you want to use
  • Or even turn off the camera if you only want to record the screen

If you do leave the camera on you can:
  • Click and drag the camera video to any of the four corners
  • Click on the camera resize button to switch between large and small sizes for your camera video
When you are ready to start, click the "Record" button on the screen.
  • After a countdown timer, your screencast recording will now begin.
  • At this point you can say and do whatever you need to provide instruction as a teacher, or to explain your understanding as a student.
  • If you would like to annotate on the screen while recording, simply click on the marker button in the bottom right corner.
  • You can now draw on the screen as needed.
  • To change the color of the marker, right click on the marker button and select a new color.
  • To clear what you have drawn you can click on the marker button to toggle it off, or you can double tap the screen with two fingers.

  • Also, to improve the automatic transcript it is helpful to pause in between each of your sentences when speaking.
  • If you make a mistake while recording, no worries. Just pause for a moment and then say that information again. Later you will be able to easily edit out the incorrect line.
  • When you are done recording, click the recording button in the bottom right corner to stop.

✂️ Editing the Screencast

After you have recorded a screencast you will find it on the home screen of the app. Do note, it may take a little while for the recording to finish processing.
  • When it is ready, click on the recording to preview and edit the screencast.
  • You can click the "Play" button to watch your recording.

  • You can rename your screencast by clicking on the temporary name in the top left corner.
  • On the right side of the screen you will see the automatically generated transcript for your video.
  • If there is an error in the transcription, you can click the 3-dots button for that section and choose "Edit text" to make any needed changes.

  • You can also use this panel to edit your screencast
  • If there is a section where you made a mistake, or just a portion that is not needed, you can click the 3-dots button for that section and choose "Skip section". 
  • That portion of the video will not be shown when the screencast is played.
  • If you need to add that section back in later, you can click the "Undo skip" button for that section to include it again.

🔗 Sharing the Screencast

When you are ready to share your screencast, you can let other people view it if they are also using a Chromebook. Here's how:
  • First, click the "Share" button in the top right of the screen.
  • This will open the "Share Screencast" pop-up window.
  • Click on the "Share with others" button so other people can view it.
  • You can now click the "Copy link" button to copy the link for viewing the screencast.

  • You can now give this link to anyone else using a Chromebook and they will be able to watch your screencast.
  • You can share the link in any way you prefer such as in Google Classroom, or in an email, as a link on your website, as a QR code, as a shortened link, through social media, and more.

👀 Viewing the Shared Screencast

When a Chromebook user clicks the link you shared, it will open the Screencast app. Here they can watch your recording using the controls at the bottom.

The auto-generated transcript will display in a panel on the right, and has several helpful features:
  • As the screencast plays, the transcript will highlight each section as it is spoken.
  • The user can also click on any section in the transcript to jump to that specific spot in the video.
  • The user can also click the search button in the top right to find specific words in the transcript. This can be useful in a longer screencast to be able to find the content you are looking for.

  • The user can also click on the language menu at the top of the transcript, where they can select a language to automatically translate the transcript
  • This can be especially helpful for someone who speaks a different primary language to follow along with the content.

💻 Sharing with Non-Chromebook Users

At the moment you have to be using a Chromebook to be able to create recordings with the Screencast app, and to be able to view recordings in the Screencast app. But what if you want people who are not on a Chromebook to be able to view your recording?

The good news is that the raw video from your screencast is saved in your Google Drive as a WEBM video file, which can be shared in many ways with others. You can find all of your recordings in a folder in your Drive titled "Screencast recordings":

Keep in mind though, this is the raw video, so it will not have several of the benefits of viewing in the Screencast app. For example:
  • Any sections you chose to skip will not be skipped in the raw video.
  • And the raw video file will not have the auto-generated transcript, so the end user cannot use that to jump to different sections, or search through the transcript, or translate it into another language.
Having said that though, it is the full recording of your screencast with the recorded screen, your webcam, your voice, and any annotations you drew with the marker tool.

So what can you do with the raw video recording?

One option is to simply share the file from your Google Drive.
  • You can share the file as normal, just like any file that is stored in your Drive.
  • You can share the recording with specific people, or you can share the file as a link that anyone can view.
  • The recording is saved in the WEBM video format, which is a format that can be viewed by anyone using Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, or Opera.
Another option is to download the file and then share it through another service such as YouTube.
  • Simply download the recording from your Google Drive.
  • Then upload the video to your YouTube channel.
  • YouTube is able to process and play WEBM files with no problem.

💭 My Thoughts on Google Screencast

So in conclusion, what are my thoughts on Google's new Screencast tool for Chromebooks?

There are many great benefits to this tool:
  • It is super easy to use for anyone, whether teachers or students, and whether recording or viewing.
  • It automatically generates a transcript which can be used for navigation, searching, and translating.
  • It allows for intuitive video editing by letting you simply skip sections in the transcript.
  • And it is built right into the Chrome operating system, so for schools that have restrictions on using third-party apps, this provides a Google-made screencasting tool right there on the Chromebook.
Having said that, I do think there is still room for the tool to develop and improve more:
  • First, it would be great if this was not restricted to just Chromebooks, but could be used in the Chrome browser on any computer, as well as a mobile app for mobile devices.
  • If however the recording has to be done on a Chromebook because the tool is using features of the Chromebook for the recording, at least the ability to watch the recorded screencasts should be available on any device whatsoever.
  • There are also lots of amazing screencasting tools already out there that have been innovating for many years, so there are a lot of features that would be great for Google Screencast to add later such as a quizzing option, detailed viewer analytics, a more robust video editor, and more.
All in all though, I am very happy that Google is launching the Screencast app for Chromebooks. I consider it a positive anytime there is a tool that makes it easier for teachers and students to express themselves, be creative, and have a voice. I am excited to see how schools use this tool and how the tool continues to develop over time.

Post by Eric Curts
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