Last week I was watching Screenr’s Public Stream when I noticed a common theme in the screencasts:
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).
Greg Friese says
I have rarely deleted a Screenr recording. I like the single take for lots of reason, but the most important as I think some small miscues and corrections make the presentation more authentic. If I was teaching bomb technicians I might be more likely to make sure I got it right, but when teaching most software skills I think it is important to look around until you find what you need to do.
.-= Greg Friese´s last blog ..New retweet from @gfriese =-.
David Anderson says
Thanks Greg. I think the tendency for many people is to treat each screencast like it IS training a bomb technician. I think you hit on the key issue: “authenticity” which is sometimes lost when a screencast is too polished and rehearsed.
Dave Mozealous says
Great post David!
.-= Dave Mozealous´s last blog ..Upload and track an Articulate Quizmaker ‘09 Quiz in Dokeos =-.
Monica Rysavy says
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten started with a screencast only to start over again because I messed up what I was trying to say or clicked the wrong button. When I’m teaching in person I just correct myself and use it as a learning opportunity for my students so it makes sense that I should try the same thing with my screencasts. Great post!
.-= Monica Rysavy´s last blog ..Quote of the Day =-.
David Anderson says
Thanks Monica! If there’s one thing we can take away from the success of “user generated content” is that value is more important than quality.
Jon Peltier says
This is great advice.
I often teach programming classes, and part of it is writing and running code. Well, I can’t always remember every last thing I need, so I get errors during the class. This is helpful, because people in the class see how I track down the errors and fix them.
Often the students think I make mistakes on purpose as a learning tool. I never protest.
David Anderson says
@Jon Peltier Interesting point about “students thinking you’re making mistakes on purpose”. I guess that’s an advantage of mixing up our teaching approach. If we keep them guessing enough, they’ll focus more on their answers and less on our intentions:-)
For me the challenge is exercising patience when including mistakes. Too often my instinct is to rush to correct the mistake rather than providing the time for reflection.
Wayne John says
Wonderful stuff, subscribed too. I need to get more into “multimedia” stuff, I’ve been at the bit level for too long. Time to come out of that and have some fun and make some things.
.-= Wayne John´s last blog ..The poll results are in, web development it is =-.
Coleen Stanley says
A very valuable lesson for students to learn is what to do when they make mistakes. By deleting our mistakes, we steal those moments from them! Great advice!
.-= Coleen Stanley´s last blog ..VoiceThread and Twitter for eLearning! =-.
Love this post, David. I give myself a pep talk about this every time I record a tutorial. My perfectionist nature disagrees but she needs to chill and heed your advice 🙂