Been There, Done That, Will Return

The wait is over. The event is over. The drive is over. But the enthusiasm is not over. In fact, less than a day has passed since I attended my first Screencast Camp, and I’m already thinking of ideas for sessions next year!

As I explained in my blog post “Two Weeks till Screencast Camp,” Screencast Camp is an annual event sponsored by TechSmith, creator of such innovative software as Camtasia Studio, Snagit, and Coach’s Eye. The weekend-long camp implements the “unconference” model: sessions are not predetermined by some committee before the event occurs; rather, attendees express which topics interest them when they arrive, and if the group of 100 attendees shows sufficient interest, a session is scheduled on a large whiteboard grid for the following day. Anyone can facilitate a session, and sessions are as diverse as attendees want them to be. Although some sessions focus specifically on TechSmith software (for instance, a session highlighting animations in Camtasia or using Snagit in education), many others look at concerns that are not software specific, like creating digital content, best practices in creating a green screen effect, and flipping the classroom.

TechSmith initiated Screencast Camp in 2011, and I’ve wanted to attend each year, but, for various reasons (including the fact that TechSmith is located in Okemos, Michigan—230 miles from my home in Berea, Kentucky), I didn’t make it the first two years. In 2013 I was determined to go, and, being the nerd that I am, Screencast Camp became one of my top two destinations for the summer.

How did it turn out? Did I learn anything? Would I do it again? Here’s my take on this three-day camp of everything screencasting:

I'll be attending Screencast Camp in early August!
I attended Screencast Camp August 2-4, 2013, in Okemos, Michigan!

Screencast Camp is one of the best conferences I’ve ever attended. Why? One major reason lies in the fact that we, the attendees, had the voice in determining the content of sessions, and enough participants of varying expertise attended to make sessions interesting and educational. Another reason was that, even when I sat in sessions that weren’t quite what I’d envisioned, the conversations spurred me to think more deeply about the topic, so that now I am considering how to address these topics in my current work. A third reason I enjoyed the conference is that I was finally in a group that found the topic of screencasting as “thrilling” as I do. Rarely do I meet others whose eyes light up when the term screencasting is used and who can go on for hours about recording a computer screen, how to create callouts and animations, and which software tool is best for performing a given task. A fourth reason I enjoyed the conference is that TechSmith and its employees were so gracious and welcoming. From all appearances, TechSmith cares about its customers, its potential customers, and its employees on a higher scale than most companies and organizations out there, and this is reflected in the actions of its employees.

Did I learn anything? Definitely, and on various levels. For instance, I realized that my personal use of Camtasia Studio’s asset library for creating and saving my own templates is sorely lacking; I will be building up that library so that future Camtasia projects are more efficient. “Flipping the classroom” was a hugely popular topic for teachers at the event, and this is making me consider possibilities in my role as instructional designer at a regional university: if I can work with professors in the education program there to flip their own classrooms, they can model the concept for up-and-coming K-12 teachers so that the flipped classroom becomes much more a standard and accepted teaching approach.

Would I attend this conference again? Absolutely! As I said in my very first paragraph, I am already thinking of ideas for sessions next year, and I’m hoping to facilitate one or two of them, sharing what I’ve learned in my role as instructional designer in higher education and learning from what other attendees have experienced as well.

Perhaps what impressed me most about this conference was TechSmith’s generosity and desire to help us all become better in this thing we call screencasting. TechSmith provided all session facilities, meals, and support absolutely free, and many TechSmith staff generously gave up their weekends to volunteer to work at this time-consuming, strenuous event. I know of no other company or organization that provides such “love” to anyone simply interested in its product or service. TechSmith seems to be committed to educating everyone who wants to learn about the areas its software encompasses and is willing to do whatever it can to make this happen.

Thanks so much to the entire TechSmith company, its staff, and all 100 attendees for making this a great event. I look forward to seeing you next summer!

Note: At each session, attendees could contribute to notes on a Google Doc for future reference and review. Want to read these notes? You can find the entire set at http://bit.ly/13Gj707.

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