How to Capture and Annotate a Screenshot

You may sometimes need to share certain things on your screen with students or colleagues. Taking a screenshot has never been easier. You can even edit it in a variety of ways. Here are a few methods:

For instance,

  • iDevice: If you use an iPad/iPhone and you would like to capture an image on the screen, hold the power button, and then press the home button once, and you will hear a click indicating a photo has been taken. This photo will be stored in your photostream (look for the camera icon). You can use the edit function to edit the photo, for instance, to crop it to the area you will need.

  • Mac: If you use a Mac, hit the keys “Shift”, “Command” and “4” at the same time, and then release it, you will be able to see the cursor turn into a cross/target icon, and then you can use your mouse or trackpad to drag this cursor over the area you would like to capture. Release your finger from the mouse or trackpad when ready. A file will be saved on your desktop with a file name starting with  the word “screenshot”.

  • Jing: If you use the Windows operating system which does not come with a screen capture application already, you can use “Jing” to capture what is in your screen and highlight, point or annotate. You can then save it on your computer to use in another application. Jing is an application you will need to download to your computer (Mac or Windows). You can even use to capture a screen video (up to five minutes).

  • Phraseit: If you have a photo you use and you would like to add some “speech/thought bubbles”, use “phrase it”, a web-based photo annotation tool. Upload the photo (it has to be 640 px x480 px in resolution”) and then you can add speech or thought bubbles as you would see in a comic strip. Keynote and PowerPoint may also help you to accomplish the same if you insert the photo in a slide.

Teaching from Your Screen: Screencasting for Your Class

I don’t know about you, but whenever something at home breaks and I am not aware of a good solution, I go to YouTube to see if someone can show me how to do it.  My children do this too, going to YouTube when they practice their musical instruments to see how others play a particular piece.

Instructional videos can help learners to spend extra time on learning something, and such extended time on task has the potential to improve learning outcomes. This is one of the many reasons professors are increasingly “flipping” their classrooms to post instructional videos online while reserving classroom time for group work, interaction, discussions and other such activities.

You have probably seen many of your peers using something called “screencasting” to teach. Screencasting allows you to record what is going on on your screen which you would like to show to students. For instance, you can go through your PowerPoint slides, demonstrate the navigation of your class sites, or show how to use a software your major requires students to learn.

Here are a few options for producing screencast sessions:

  • Camtasia is a professional screencasting software which you can use to record. It has really powerful tools for editing. It is not free, but we still have a few licenses left if anyone is interested in using it.

  • Jing is a free application which you can use to record screen sessions for up to five minutes. One great benefits of this software is that instantly generates a URL that you can copy and share with students. You can use it to document a problem you encounter and share it with the Adams Center or IT. It may be more efficient than describing the problem in text. We found it to be the most convenient way to record quick demo videos you do not intend to reuse anyway.

  • Screencast-o-matic is another free web-based application that you can use to record up to 15 minutes of content. Its strong advantage is its ability for you to add a video of you talking alongside to add a personal touch. It also offers some basic tools for editing. Its disadvantage is that it is not yet possible to use with Google Chrome. Screencast sessions produced with Screencast-o-matic can then be published to YouTube or downloaded to use locally.

  • Quicktime player also has the option for you to record screen sessions. Videos thus produced can be downloaded locally or uploaded to a host of web storage sites. This is an application you can use right now, as you probably have the software on your computer.


  • Consider limiting the length of your videos. Many screencast services provide free recording for a limited time, such as five minutes or fifteen minutes. However, it is desirable to break down long lectures into shorter units anyway for reasons related to attention span and possibility of technical issues when longer sessions are produced.

  • Focus on producing sessions around concrete concepts or activities. This will help you to index, categorize and reuse some of these sessions, and help your students to search and retrieve them if you tag or name them based on the content you have discussed. Though this does not seem to be a big deal at the beginning of your use of screencasting sessions, you will soon find that your content adds up and you do not want yourself or your students to get lost when trying to find a particular screencast video you have previously recorded.

  • Find the time and space for recording. Interruptions during recording can be annoying. Try to do so when you have a quiet environment, or find a time when few people are around, or put a note on your office door saying that you are recording.

  • Test before you record. You do not want to get in a situation when you found that the entire 10 minutes of your recording was done while you have not turned your audio or video on. Always start by recording a short test video, and play back to make sure everything works before you record the real video.

  • Prepare your computer for recording. It is a good idea that you stay focused on your recording with minimal distraction from your computer. Before recording, make sure you organize your desktop to move items away from the recording screen. Keep a clean desktop. Move items to a folder that cannot be viewed directly and try to use a clean, non-distracting background. Before recording, you should also close programs that may show pop-up content such as calendars reminders, mail notice and any other programs that may push notifications to your recording screen.

  • Make your video “timeless”. If you intend to produce a high-quality video that will be re-used semester after semester, try to avoid references that are specific to only the current semester, references like “last week we discussed…” “tomorrow we will cover…”. Recording a good video takes time and lots of preparation and such investment will bring greater return if you can reuse them in future semesters.

Do you have any other suggestions for screencasting?  We’d love to hear them.  Share your experience in the comments!