Screencasting on Chromebooks

Update 7/2/2015 - An older update (this news came out a few months back) but it's worth noting that some Wacom tablets are now supported on Chromebooks. Take a look here for more info.

Update 3/17/2014 - It was brought to my attention that this post is out of date now that Snagit for Chrome and Screencastify allow you to record screencasts in a Chrome extension. You can still use the Hangout method I've outlined, but a Chrome extension gives a much better result much faster in the long run. Both extensions are linked above.

UPDATE 12:24 PM 4/16/2013: After searching and experimenting, we found that a Wacom tablet is not currently supported by the Chromebook. The only piece really affected by this is the whiteboard app. If we find a workaround, I'll add it to the post.


Chromebooks in education spaces are exploding (see here, here, and here for starters). The management, cost, and ease of use for schools are attractive as they look to deploy hundreds, or even thousands, of these machines to students.

While Chromebooks are attractive for many pragmatic reasons as far as management is concerned, some of the limitations of the machines are keeping many people wary. For starters, the machines cannot run Java-based programs. Because of that, you can't use many popular web-based screen recording programs like Screencast-o-matic or Screenr.com. You also can't install any outside programs on the machine. As Flipped Learning pushes for more and more student-created content, Chromebooks won't work because of the software limitations.

Well, they won't work, unless you have time to find a workaround.

I've spent some time researching and watching for new releases from Google as the Chrome browser is updated and released. Here's what you can now do to screencast on a Chromebook:

  1. Sign up for a Google+ account if you don't have one yet. - Admittedly, this has been around for a while, but you can now have a Hangout On Air, which does two things: First, Your hangout is broadcast via your account's linked YouTube channel. Just share out the link you're given when the Hangout starts. Second, that Hangout is recorded and archived on your YouTube account. You can add these videos to a playlist of specific content.

    Screencapture with Hangout On Air

    You can select "Enable Hangouts On Air" to broadcast and record

  2. Create presentations in Google Drive. - One of the easiest ways to begin screencasting is to talk over a PowerPoint presentation. If you create a slideshow in Google Drive, you can share your screen during a Google Hangout On Air so your viewers can see talking points, images, or other notes you would give them.

  3. Install a Chrome-based whiteboard app. - There are some whiteboard apps for Chrome that are popping up in the Chrome store. It's up to you which one you use, but after trying them all out, I prefer "A Web Whiteboard (AWW)," which you can download from the Chrome store. You do not need an account to use it, and you get plenty of space and tools for drawing. You would use this to work out problems, draw pictures, or do whatever else you can do on a white board.

  4. Choose your tools and prep your session, then share your screen. - The crux of this goes back to the Hangout. During your presentation, you can share your screen with viewers. Rather than seeing you, they'll see your screen with a PIP view of you as you speak. Again, this is then archived on your YouTube channel for later viewing if they're not there live.

Take a look at the video embedded below to see a demo.

Can't see the video? Watch it on YouTube

Now, if your students don't have access to YouTube, obviously, this won't work. But for schools using Google Apps for Education (GAfE), this is a great way to get kids creating on Chromebooks. They can even have threaded discussions on their Google+ pages after the videos are made for more exploration or debate.

Are you screencasting on Chromebooks? Do you have other apps to share? Leave your thoughts and resources in the comments.

26 thoughts on “Screencasting on Chromebooks

  1. This is good stuff, Brian. Thanks.

  2. Scott Smith says:

    Thanks Brian, this is one of the resources for the “yeah, but the chromebook can’t do…” rebuttals

    • I’m glad it helped, Scott. Don’t get me wrong, in my opinion, Chromebooks are still pretty limited because of hardware and software restrictions put in place by Google. For instance, I included a whiteboard app without realizing a pen input (like a Wacom tablet) won’t work on a Chromebook. So, you can install the whiteboard, but it’s hard to use.

      All of that being said, I hope they continue to develop into more viable options for all-around solutions. Hopefully, we won’t need so many workarounds in the future.

      • Matthew Gudenius says:

        This is why I want to see Win8 hybrids/convertibles in the classroom.

        They can:

        * Access 100% of websites (unlike iPad, Android, or Chromebooks), including Flash, Java, Shockwave, Silverlight, Unity, etc.

        * Run all legacy programs — this is important because sometimes there isn’t a cloud-based alternative online. Examples: SketchUp, MIT’s Scratch, Kodu Gamelab, etc. Also, the Terms of Use/Service of many of the online tools you can use on Chromebooks SPECIFICALLY say the services CANNOT be used by kids (often, kids 13 to 17 need signed parental consent; kids under 13 often can’t use the site at all. Example: WeVideo.)

        * Access all peripheral devices, like Lego MindStorms robots, digital microscopes, etc.
        * Use active digitizer stylus pens to be able to write and draw directly on the screen.

        You can see what I mean by doing a search for Classmate PC videos on YouTube, or my video review of “ThinkPad Tablet 2 for Education”

        A lot of people get concerned about maintenance/management of Windows, and it’s a valid concern, but one simple program eliminated almost all of the issues: Faronics DeepFreeze, which “locks” or “freezes” the system in a certain state, such that kids can’t mess it up (it resets to that state every time it is rebooted)

        • Matt, this might be one of the best arguments I’ve heard for Windows platforms in schools. I guess I’m wondering how Microsoft is evolving to meet the needs of K12, because from what I’ve seen, they’re still in “We want Windows in schools because those kids will buy Windows when they grow up.” There is no larger goal for education.

          Now, I definitely understand that Google and Apple are in the same mindset, but as companies, they’ve developed protocols (albeit still limiting at times) that are at least trying to break the mold of how technology is being used in education. I don’t see that from Windows yet, and I’m not really expecting them to.

          Do you have other thoughts or evidence to the contrary? (Please don’t read this as trite or confrontational, I really am curious.)

          • MrIrlSC says:

            Now if only Win 8 Pro tablets or hybrids weren’t 3-5x the cost of the Chromebook. Even in my small environment, that cost difference x 25 is a show stopper.

          • Matthew Gudenius says:

            My school just bought some Chromebooks — $430 each.
            The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 I am looking into getting is $450 (plus $100 for the keyboard part); so… yes, convertible devices are more than netbooks or Chromebooks… but less than iPads.

            Not 3x-5x the cost, but then again I think my school is overspending on the Chromebooks, considering I can do all of the same things — and more — on my Acer Aspire One netbooks I have had for 3-4 years now, and they were only $250.

            Anybody who spends over $300 on a Chromebook is wasting money. It’s basically a netbook minus Windows… so shouldn’t it cost LESS? (since you aren’t paying for windows and are using a free OS – Linux – and free browser – Chrome – instead)

            There’s a few more things to consider with money (and yes, I am definitely on-board with “frugal is good” — I made a video called “Just Say NO to iPads for Education: Apple Products Break Budgets” to show that if all schools adopted 1:1 iPad programs, it would waste billions of tax dollars per year compared to Chromebooks or netbooks):

            1) Chromebooks tend to have awful cameras and can’t be used for photo/video projects very well. So… you can buy an extra camera to use for that (I like the Kodak PlaySport cameras), but then that’s another $100 out of pocket… With tablets or convertibles, the camera is built right in, so you can factor that in the cost.

            2) One could argue: why not just get, say, an Android tablet ($200-$300) and a netbook or Chromebook ($250-$300) for the same cost as a Win8 hybrid?

            Depending on your needs, that may be a better route — each device will be tailored to what it’s good for (one for online research and document creation, the other for tablet tasks like photos, art, and ebooks); however, even if you did this you would not get the ability to do HANDWRITING on the device, which is the missing gap. Show me a classroom — with any level of tech integration — that still doesn’t have the students do hand-written notes or worksheets at some point.

            If you get a device with an active digitizer stylus you can do away with that and truly go paperless (for that matter, how much does Xerox maintenance, ink/toner, and paper cost for all of those worksheets and activities?)

          • Woah, $430 each? What model did they buy? The Samsung models right now are $250 and schools are buying those for the 8-9 hour battery they boast.

            Maybe the discussion we should be having is “which tool gets the job done?” I think that’s the part schools miss a lot…they just look from the price perspective, rather than the use it would get by the students. I agree that lower grades would benefit more from a touch interface because of the motor skill development they still need to do to use a traditional keyboard and touchpad/mouse. But, I do think that a computing interface is important for higher grades.

            The more I research devices, the more I’m convinced that differentiation has to occur within the school building. One-off buys for K12 are always going to have gaps in usability.

          • Matthew Gudenius says:

            It’s not really the touch interface that concerns me. I always thought the argument for touch-screen was silly. Capacitive touch has been around since the 1960s and never took off until now… why?

            I mean, pretty much everything you can do with a touch screen can be done just as easily with a mouse — and some things can be done better with a mouse… the 2 exceptions I make are: 1) the touch interface is good for musical apps like GarageBand, etc. 2) yes, touch is nice for little kids. But I have 5 year old students using netbooks, no problem. I even taught them how to independently navigate to websites and use them.

            Yes, a needs assessment is the first step, and one that many schools are skipping. I’m in the process of making a video comparing devices and what their benefits and drawbacks are, and how there is not a “one size fits all” solution. A lot of districts around here (and elsewhere) are choosing iPad for K-2, and Chromebook for 3-12. I think that’s silly. What a 3rd grader does is vastly different than what a 12th grader does.

            If it were me I would probably choose Android tablets for K-1 (because they are cheaper and provide the same benefits as iPads), and then some sort of hybrid/convertible for other grades. Even at high school, needs are different — a Chromebook is an excellent choice for social studies and English. It may not be as good of a choice for math and science, where things like drawing, handwriting, plug-in lab instruments, and photo/video documentation might be important. And it’s a fairly poor choice for art or music.

            As for cost, you are right: my district likes to waste money. I’ve ended up writing letters to our school board because of it. In fact we have “inexpensive” Samsung Chromebooks at the high school (a much better place for Chromebooks since you don’t get the under-13 restrictions), and they spent $525 per device for them! Even if they were early adopters, that was a rip-off.

          • Matthew Gudenius says:

            I should clarify: these costs are bulk purchases so there is a discount in there. But the bottom line is that the full-fledged PC with touch-screen + digitizer pen is about 50% more than the Chromebook

          • Matthew Gudenius says:

            I would say Apple is actually not, by and large, developing devices, software, or protocols with education in mind.

            I know it seems like it, because they have been the choice du jour of schools for as long as I can remember (I grew up with Apple IIe at school); they do market to schools, they do sales pitches to education, they make commercials about it. But if they were truly designing devices for schools, then the iPad would have been much better designed from the start for things like:

            * lab administration (monitoring what is going on in the devices)

            * imaging/multiple-installs (for a long time this was basically impossible)

            * stylus pen input (if it had truly been designed with education in mind, they would have included an active digitizer)

            The iPad wasn’t actually designed for education. It wasn’t designed for productivity or as a replacement for computers (hence why it is a “peripheral” that requires a computer, just like iPod.) It was designed as a leisure/entertainment device. Some people just decided to cling to it as a tool for that, and started forcing square pegs into round holes to do everything they could to make it work. I know several people in that camp — most of them are veteran teachers who are computer-illiterate so they liked finally having a device that was as limited as their skillset (ie. they couldn’t type well on a keyboard ,so who cares that the hunt-and-peck virtual keyboard is so slow? It didn’t slow them down, because they were already slow even on a keyboard.)

            Eventually, over the years, so many people kept trying to jam the square peg into the round hole of education that people saw business opportunities to start addressing all the issues that were there, so now a lot of those things can be done. But it wasn’t due to Apple’s design or protocols — it was actually in spite of them. NOW Apple has seen the writing on the wall and gotten on board with digital textbooks, etc… but if they had done this from the very start, the iPad would have been a much better-designed tool for education.

            Google, on the other hand, has been much more proactive as far as tailoring things to the needs of schools, and providing forums, lesson plans, etc. I don’t know if Chromebooks were “designed for school”, but they’re not useful for much else so at this point that is their purpose.

            As for Microsoft… they are doing a lot of things wrong. I’m not a big fan of Microsoft. They do not advertise well, they do not market well, and they get silly with branding. Most people don’t even know the difference between Surface Pro and Surface RT (Pro = good, RT = useless) — they should have picked completely different names, or maybe just not released RT at all because if that’s what you want you might as well get an Android tablet which does far more for the same price.

            But I AM a big fan of getting work done, and letting me kids do real-world relevant things like computer programming and CAD design and plugging in digital microscopes and STEM activities. The fact of the matter is that 84% of devices out there run Windows (6% run MacOS and the remaining 10% run mobile OS like Android and iOS. iOS is 6% — 4% iPhones and 2% iPad)

            The funny thing is that Microsoft actually saw the value of tablets before Steve Jobs did — there is an interview you can watch with Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, before iPad came out, and Gates is saying how great he thinks the tablet PC is (the kind that uses a stylus, not a finger) and he doesn’t understand why it’s not catching on.

            I piloted one of those devices (Toshiba Portege) in my classroom 8 years ago, but at the time they were too expensive and too low battery life to even be considered for students. Otherwise, it was great. Programs like OneNote were out way before EverNote, and had things like handwriting recognition (convert to typed text)

            MS does have some dedicated Education pages, resources, and outreach programs, but again, they don’t seem to do a very good job of it. Also, I doubt the touch-enabled Windows apps will ever take off,,, they are just too far behind Android and Apple for that to happen. I’m a computer programmer and app developer and I know I will might never be making a “Windows app”, even if I might release an iOS and Android version… (but I most likely will have online alternatives in HTML5 or Flash)

            I don’t care about brand names. I’m not a fashionista. I buy clothes from Goodwill. But I do care about being able to do everything I want to do, and Windows 8 lets that happen (it even lets you run Android apps through use of the BlueStacks emulator! So you get both Windows and Android in one machine, essentially). The biggest concern is still “protecting” the machines because the fact that they are so open and versatile is also what makes them more susceptible to problems.

            If Apple or Google can come out with a device that lets me:
            (a) Access all (or nearly all) educational websites;
            (b) Use all the peripherals I want to use (yes, USB still exists, Apple)

            (c) Comes with keyboard, built-in decent camera, touch-screen, AND active digitizer stylus for handwriting.
            (d) has the security/ease-of-use of iOS or Chrome or Android

            (e) is reasonably/competitively priced (under $600 at the moment)

            …then I will jump on-board in a heartbeat. That currently isn’t the case, though.

  3. Chuck says:

    One of the problems with this for schools is that Google Apps for Education doesn’t come with Google Plus without a sizeable fee. So students would have to use their personal email addresses (something most schools are wary of doing) if they wanted to create hangouts. It might work if only the teacher is doing it. I’m going to try it right now using my personal account.

  4. The Chromebook/cloud computing model is ideal for schools. IT staff don’t need to deal with constant updates, software installs and viruses. And students get a device that’s easy to use and starts up quickly.

    As mentioned in the article, there are many education-related web apps that require Java support. Or, many schools may also require access to Windows applications.

    One solution to this issue is Ericom AccessNow, an HTML5 RDP solution that enables Chromebook users to connect to any RDP host, including Terminal Server and VDI virtual desktops, and run Windows applications or desktops in a browser tab. You can even open up an Internet Explorer session inside a Chrome browser tab, and then connect to the applications that require Java and run them on the Chromebook.

    For more information about AccessNow for Chromebooks in Education, visit:
    http://www.ericom.com/Education-ChromebookRDPClient.asp?URL_ID=708

    Please note that I work for Ericom

  5. Kate Baker says:

    I use Movenote & WeVideo for videos; both found in the Chrome store. Not exactly screencasting, Movenote is excellent for going over documents & slides. For screencasting, I just hangout by myself & record to YouTube.

    For the RDP, I was using the Ericom app, but Google came out w their own (called Chrome RDP).

    • Matthew Gudenius says:

      Fine for teachers, but some of these are not options for students under 13 years old.
      Here is WeVideo’s terms of service: “You must be 13 years of age or older to use the Site or Services. By continuing to use the Site or Services, you are warranting that you are at least 13 years old and you (or, if you are younger than the applicable age of majority, your parent/legal guardian) have read and agree to be bound by these Terms of Use.” (this means 13-17 needs signed parental permission; under 13 can’t use at all)

      • I understand that some of the things I put in the post aren’t going to work for students. At the same time, there is definitely an issue with kids using Google+, as they need to be 13+ as well. So, that being said, there are a lot of teachers being handed Chromebooks, and they don’t know how to perform some of their work on them. This was meant to be an option for them.

  6. Jaime Lassman says:

    My issue with this solution is not the cost, it is an age issue. I can add Google+ to my students’ GAFE accounts, but I have kids accessing GAFE in grades 2-8. I don’t think we want to give out Google+ accounts to little kids, but without it, I don’t know how to allow them to screencast right now. With iOS, there are nearly a dozen quality options. This is a reason why I’m waiting to see what happens before I push for Chromebooks for students.

    • CHUCK DRESEL says:

      Your domain admin should create different organizational units for these grade levels. Say one for primary and one for middle grades. That way you can control what apps each OU has access to independently. Bigger kids, more stuff. Little kids, less stuff.

  7. seancaldwell says:

    Brian

    Thanks so much for this. I teach technology and computers to a group of middle school students over my lunch break and have been looking to flip the classroom next year. It was nice to see Google show off some new initiative “Google Play for Education” at i/o a couple weeks ago–it launches in the fall. Hopefully we’ll see more tools for educators and improvements to the chrome platform for education.

  8. […] me to record interviews via Google Hangout. Now, I know I’ve written before about how to screencast on a Chromebook using Google+, but the quality of those recordings, in particular the audio, can leave something to […]

  9. Billy Gargaro says:

    Brian,

    This is great – I just have one question/problem. You mentioned that you were doing your demo on a Macbook. We are looking for a pen that is compatable with the Chromebook. We are using the Chromebook and Chromeboxes exclusively in our classrooms for the 2013-14 school year and we would love to have a pen we can use with those devices. Do you have any suggestions? As you know we would need something plug and play that does not need to download software. Help please.

    • Yeah, I know and I really need to make time to go back and revise the post. I didn’t realize that the tablet didn’t work on Chromebooks until after this had been published for a while.

      I’ve been researching peripherals that work on a Chromebook, and I can’t seem to find any that work other than a mouse. And, it doesn’t look like any of the companies making the peripherals are paying much attention to developing for the device. That being said, I wouldn’t dismiss this option because of the pen, because you can screen share anything in the Hangout. You could do the same using a presentation you make in Drive, or even a third party site like Prezi.

      • Billy Gargaro says:

        We have found that a pen mouse with a white board app works. Takes getting used to but does the trick.

        • Brian Bennett says:

          A pen mouse? I’m not familiar with that…could you share a link?

        • Kim Mueller says:

          Could you please tell me which “pen mouse” and “white board app” you are using? I think I have the app covered with web-based awwapp, but I CANNOT find a pen mouse that will work with my Chromebook! (I’ve been using a Bamboo with a laptop and would like to ONLY use a Chromebook in the classroom to teach math.)

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