Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Value of Free

Free Tools save you money...


RePhrase: Free Tools save you more money than you would have spent. Then the benefits of the free tool far outweigh what is possible with an enterprise solution. 

Believable, right? But allow me to clarify

Microsoft Office vs Google Docs
Go to docs.google.com. You'll see they offer what Word, PowerPoint and Excel give you. But for free. How much did you spend on MS Office? Do you really need ALL the features those three give you? Or are you using the basics?
What about your students? Do they have to buy MS Office? How much does it cost them? 
Then they have version problems. 
Then they have save-on-a-jump-drive problems.
Then they have version of the document problems (where did they make the change? at school? at home? on the jumpdrive?)

Google Docs is online. Everything is online. There is no download. The documents are saved online. So they can access the file from ANYWHERE. 

Google Docs is also shareable. You have to buy that functionality separately for Office. So a teacher can share a doc with a student, make comments as they write, leave notes to the side for review and re-writes. Have groups write essays together and track who wrote what. Have groups create "powerpoint" presentations together. They don't have to be together to work together!

You can't do that with MS Office. And why pay for a program that does more than you need and then locks you in to EVERYONE having to have it?

Now Google is integrating with Moodle. Why do you need to pay for anything? Pay for someone to run it, set it up, train one-on-one. Someone local. Someone in your community. Spend money on people not a huge corporation that can't or won't do what you can get done with something free.

Camtasia vs Jing vs Screencast-o-matic.com
This one is even bigger for me. Screen Capturing is the process of recording an area of you computer screen, often for training purposes. A lot of people could benefit from this, but they haven't come across the tools... or they only know of Camtasia. *cue thunder*
Off the idea of efficiency, I can work Camtasia, and I'm a talented editor (apparently I'm also humble... yikes) but I CAN NOT STAND Camtasia. Here's why...

Camtasia is incredibly expensive. It's incredibly clunky and un-user-friendly (this is now a word).
It's intimidating and yet the editing is a re-packaged version of Windows Movie Maker. Then they will up-sell you for separate call-outs... you know... in case you might want a cat pointing at something rather than a thought bubble.
Then, schools will pay hundreds, and even thousands, to have trainers come in and teach one and two-day seminars that are crash courses on Camtasia. Then the problem is that most people using Camtasia aren't using every feature every time or even very often. So it is IMPOSSIBLE to retain that information when the skills aren't applicable at the time they are taught. It's a huge waste of money.

Next, Jing. Jing has done a great job of advertising themselves. It's a free screen capturing tool that gives you five minutes of record time. A lot of instructors and trainers use and advertise Jing. Jing provides the ability to also take a screen shot instead of video (which is nice). If you pay $15 dollars a year, you can upgrade to unlimited time. 

Here's the problem. 5 minutes or unlimited. Seriously? If you plan to actually use it, you probably need more than 5 minutes (at least occasionally). 
With the free version, you can only download an .swf file. Meaning it's useless unless you use their services... or if you have Camtasia to edit. There's the problem. Camtasia makes Jing. And ultimately Jing wants you to buy, and eventually buy Camtasia. Nothing inherently wrong with this concept - that's business. The problem is that it's all structured so that it has the affect that you will have to buy because you are locked in by format and familiarity. Trapped. 

Jing is also a downloaded program. This effectively means that you are the only one who has access to it. And if you use different computers, you have to download it every time before you work. This also means that any changes or updates have to be downloaded... and then you've got that compatibility problem again.

Screencast-o-matic.com. They aren't trying to sell you. You can pay what has to be their overhead of $5 for a lifetime and get an hour of record time. But with the free part you have 10 minutes. 

Just go to the website. Click create. Click record. That's it. If you want to do more. Click done and you get options. It now adds a halo around the mouse. And it gives off an orb when you click. You can add notes of text to the video for more clarity. Then you have actual options.

Download the file as an .avi file (meaning not only can you play it with Media Player, you can also later import that file into most anything - including Windows Movie Maker for more editing) or a quicktime file

Or... Even better... DIRECTLY send it to YouTube. So it will upload directly into YouTube, and is ready to watch or stream immediately! With YouTube you can add in call outs that rival Camtasia and even include the call outs as links to other sites! It's really amazing. And it's free.

The added value. You can have students create content, share it on youtube, then on facebook, and anywhere else. 

An instructor in CADD has first year students in the afternoon class post their questions about the software on a forum. Then in the morning, the second year students answer the questions by using screencast-o-matic. There's no downloading. It can be used from ANY computer that accesses the internet. Which means students could actually answer the questions in a screencast from their home.

Free tools makes using the tools infectious - and infectious use is a HUGE key in learning. You get the functions you need with room to grow, and without the hassle that proprietary tools create by protecting their content.

Watch out E-College and WebCT... Moodle is going 2.0 and they are going to overtake you... Take a lesson from Microsoft v Google.


  1. I like Camtasia of course it's the world leading screen recording solution with cross platform over PC and MAC. The editing feature and specially visual effects are great. I have to give TechSmith thumbs-up as a screen recorder developer. The five-min limit won't make big problem because you can divide video into many parts, so Jing still rocks as a so-called freeware. Screencast-o-matic, a web-based screen recorder. Few people talk about it but I regard it as a great alternative to other screencast service online because I can save your screencast, and that's the hardcore.

    I work for Wondershare DemoCreator, a slide-based screen recorder which allows people to record, edit and publish their voice over screen video. We are on the event of free license gifting. If you are interested in it, please go to our event page to check out.

    Thanks and regards.


  2. I agree Camtasia is really good when that is all you do. But unfortunately not a lot people see the differences in training, teaching, and creating content. Maybe I should have put it differently, "I hate Camtasia" is a little strong.

    Often I've been in and seen others in a situation where they will not create content that could move them forward because they have to learn WAY too many skills that are built on top of other skills they don't have.

    And then people get caught up in technical skill and file formats when what they really need to do is much more simple.

    And when it's simple, they focus on their content and reaching their objectives. And then the "infectious" thing happens.

    I'll try out the DemoCreator. Thanks!