Skill number 2 of the top 5 essential computers skills for the non-tech savvy professor is (drum roll please) ... screenshots and annotations. Working with both online students and instructors has given me multiple opportunities to hone my verbal description communication skills. Through all of my experience in explaining computer use via email or phone, I've discovered the time-saving power of taking and annotating on a clear screenshot.
The ability to take a picture of your screen and add annotations makes any digital communication become instantly clear. Instructors are able to show, not just tell their students about a website, online tool, and digital steps for instructions, for crystal communication. As instructors, this is skill we all need since we want our students' brain power to be used in critical thinking about the concepts, not deciphering our text instructions.
Ok, now that I've put taking screenshots on the online instruction pedal stool it belongs on, let's talk about the basic features found in this tool.
2 Common Tools
The following 2 tools allow you to take screenshot on an Apple or PC computer without downloading any software at all. I am a big advocate of self-education and support the use of YouTube as a means of learning what you need, right when you need it. Click on the links below to watch a quick (2 mins. or less) video of exactly how to take a screenshot on the computer operating system (OS) of your choosing.
1. Screenshot (Apple Computers - iOS)
2. Snipping Tool (PC Computers - Windows OS)
Using this Skill in Higher Education
As you read this post, I know you already have that one assignment in your head that would really benefit from adding screenshots to the instructions. You know, that one assignment that you get a load of student questions on each term. Yep, that's the one. Use screenshots to provide crystal clear communication to your students.
Students Submission Type
Reverse the situation. What screenshot can your students provide you as a submission to an assignment? For example, in the computer applications course I teach, I utilize a free training module provided by Microsoft as an interactive formative assessment. This training tool is on a website outside of our learning management system (LMS), so how do students submit this to me in the LMS, you might ask. My students take screenshot of the completion portion which shows their name and total score. They save the screenshot image and upload the image file to the LMS assignment, just as any other file submission.
Everyday Digital Communications
What will you do with all your free time you gained from inserting an annotated screenshot to clearly explain/answer a student or colleague question? Since taking a screenshot is a 5-10 second process, you can image the amount of time saved by showing your answer vs. using words/text to fully explain it. Just try it out. I promise you'll never go back to just plain text answers.
Relying on Face to Face Communications Too Much
In my years as an instructional designer and educational technology trainer, I've come to realize the extreme importance of providing clear digital communication. When I can't meet with any instructor due to geography or scheduling I have to think of the best way to communicate my training or support in order to truly help the instructor.
During this time, I have also experienced those instructors who rely on face-to-face communication too much. Whether it's an instructor who feels that teaching online will be too difficult because she needs to explain material or assignments in-class, or an instructor who refuses to learn something new on the computer without a support person physically standing next to them, relying on face-to-face communication too much can be extremely limiting.
Here's the thing...the world we live in can't always wait for face-to-face interactions. You'll miss the train if you insist on waiting to have a person in front of you. Our students are communicating digitally multiple times a day. It's not new for them to engage in an online space where video, images, and text come together to create a space of learning.
If this still feels pretty foreign to you, start small. Take screenshot of an image of something you're passionate about and share if with your students as a means for them to get to know you more as their instructor, a real person. Then, observe the reaction you get from this visual means of digital communication and connection.
We'll tackle this world of online learning together.
Make sure you didn't miss skill #1 - Web conferences. This one skill alone can make your online course feel not so distant after all. Watch for the next post in this 5 part series, skill #3 - Screen Capture.
Nicole Mace believes that distance education is a true game changer. She has spent close to a decade in education and spends her free time reading anything she can get her hands on about online learning.
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