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Teaching Tech

Using Jing to Annotate Texts and Produce Screencasts

Because of the increasing integration of new media platforms (blogs, wikis, content management systems), tools (software for composing, designing, and editing), and projects (assignments that use these tools to create compositions on these platforms) into composition courses, you might find yourself spending an increasing amount of your time in front of your class walking students through the technical aspects of all of these things. However, since you’re still teaching a writing course, you are also still probably spending a lot of time working through texts, pointing out the features and tropes, strengths and weaknesses, of various examples of writing. Jing is a free and simple too you can use to more easily and efficiently accomplish both of these goals.

Jing is is program for capturing and annotating screenshots of documents on your computer as well as to produce and narrate “screencasts”–digital videos of activity on your computer screen (such as web browsing or typing in a word processing document). If you want to create and edit long or complicated screencasts, you may want to use Camtasia Studio, a software available on a number of computers in our offices, in the Writing Center, and as part of the department’s mobile audio-visual cart; but if you’re looking to quickly annotate an image or record a live screencast, then Jing will serve your purposes just fine.

You have to download Jing to the desktop of the computer you would like to use to create screencaptures and screencasts, but the advantage of doing so is that the Jing control tool–the “Jing sun” you’ll see below– will then always be on your desktop awaiting use.

From there you can quickly capture an image on your screen (by clicking on the top “point” of the sun) or record everything you’re seeing on your desktop (the middle “point”). Using the tools function (the final “point” on the Jing sun), you can highlight parts of a picture and/or draw shapes around them, as well as add arrows and text. Shown below is an example of a screencapture I made with my students in class this week to introduce the practice of identifying rhetorical techniques within a text (click for enlarged image).

Jing is also a fast and simple way to create instructional videos demonstrating the use of any kind of software or web tool. If you have a microphone attached to your computer you can also simultaneously record audio of you explaining the various steps of your demonstration. Our colleague Whitney Hardin made own recently that teaches her students about their course wiki (watch it here).

There are tools that perform many of the same features as Jing, but few are free and none are as easy to use. Try it out and I bet you will find that you and your students are producing quality screencaptures and screencasts in mere minutes.

Jeff Pruchnic is an Assistant Professor in the Department and has served as Assistant Director of Composition (Technology). His research focuses on rhetorics of science, technology, and new media and he regularly teaches English 1020 and English 3050 in our writing program.

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