They were all perfect.
Now I don’t mean perfect in terms of audio quality, lesson structure, speaker preparedness or even content relevance. They certainly covered the range in those areas:-)
By “perfect” I mean perfect in that they didn’t show any mistakes.
There were no major wrong turns, do-overs or common pitfalls we all make from time to time.
The only mistakes were some “Umms” or “I meant to say…” type trip-ups.
Now I’m open to the possibility that all those screencasts were recorded in one take. It’s possible. But I suspect most screencasters are clicking the Delete button more than once before getting their screencasts “just right”.
If that’s the case, how many learning opportunities were lost by restarting the recording?
Sure it’s important to model correct behavior in training, but isn’t there just as much we can learn from each other’s mistakes and internal conversations for navigating wrong turns and common pitfalls?
This is where the principles of improvisation can help us accept screencasting mistakes and turn them into learning events.
Improv and the Principle of Agreement
If you’re familiar with improv, you’ll know that while improv is unrehearsed and incredibly dynamic, there are some guiding rules actors follow that enable improv to work.
The most common principle is the principle of agreement. It’s often referred to as the “Yes, and…” principle.
The “Yes, and…” principle states that what’s offered by one actor, must be accepted by the other actor. This acceptance, or agreement, is the building block of the skit.
For example, if one actor hands another actor an invisible object and says, “I’m giving you one million dollars”, the other actor must accept that a million dollars was offered. The second actor would follow up with something l like, “Yes, and it’s all in pennies” <insert laugh track>.
It’s when an offer is rejected that the skit dies.
For example, if the second actor had said, “No, it’s not a million dollars, it’s a bag of rice” the skit grinds to a halt because the offer was rejected and now a new scene must be established.
By focusing on the concept of agreement, the skit continues moving forward regardless of what each actor offers to the other.
Applying “Yes, and…” to Screencasting
Screencasting is a lot like improv. Each time you make an error, consider it an offering. OK, so you’re offering it to yourself, but nevertheless it’s an offer. It’s up to you to accept it or reject it.
How do you reject it? By clicking Delete and starting over. End of skit.
But if you accept the offering, you can turn your mistake into a learning moment for your viewers. You don’t have to keep going with the mistake, just acknowledge the error as a reality of the moment and demonstrate how to back out of it and keep the lesson moving. You can always record your sanitized version later.
Consider keeping a note pad and tracking major undos or mistakes during your projects. In fact, you could even develop a library of common mistakes professionals make in a particular application.
Here are a few possible phrases for using the “Yes, and…” principle in your screencasts:
- “Did you see what just happened? (Yes) I accidentally deleted the masking layer and here’s the steps for restoring the masking layer so we can select and delete the adjustment layer.”
- “So yeah, we animated the slide object to the left and here’s how we reverse the animation to animate it to the right”
- “After previewing our slide we can see the annotations aren’t syncing with the audio and here’s how we can fine tune those in the Audio Editor.”
- “If you’re seeing this dialog window, it means you selected the wrong keyframe on the timeline and you’ll need to click Control-Z two times to go back two steps.”
The thing is to accept the mistake as an offer and an opportunity to share your process for correcting the mistake with your learners.
Here’s an example of a screencast I did a few years ago showing a mistake and readjusting the lesson: Fireworks Masking Tutorial (:45 into the lesson).