High visibility pointers for teaching and screencasts

CustomPen.png

Large red arrow (see below)

In a previous post (and comments) we discussed the issue of finding suitable digital pointers to use in class. I mentioned quite a variety of mouse pointers available on the web, and some software alternatives.

Let me just remind you of the issues here. On the whole, the “pan tool” hand looks OK in the screencasts when used to point to things, but students in lectures can’t see it very easily. I have also tried pointing with various Windows Magnified colourful mouse pointers. But when asked, some students have said “What green arrow?” , so this was not a great success.

Medium-large red arrow

Alternative red arrow (medium large)

If you are not recording a screencast (i.e., recording video of the screen with synchronized sound), then it may be better to use some form of physical pointer and point at the actual screen. However, if you do want the pointing to form part of a screencast, then you will need a digital pointing solution.

I have been working my way through various options. The software EnorMouse does provide an enormous mouse pointer which works quite well. However it is not very flexible, and may be just a bit too large (depending on the resolution of your screen). When I have used this in lectures, there has been rather a lot of laughter from the audience! Perhaps it is a bit over-the-top.

There was also some discussion in the earlier post of Kenrick Mock’s software PenAttention and CursorAttention. These didn’t quite do exactly what I wanted, though. However, I have been in correspondence with him recently with some requests. In the latest prototypes of his software [now officially released as v 1.4] he has included some highly useful features.

  • There is now a toggle keystroke combination option to turn highlighting on and off easily. The key combination can then be attached to a tablet button for easy use during class.
  • There is the option of using a custom image as a pointer. The image is displayed when you choose the Show Pencil option in PenAttention/CursorAttention. The image should be in the same directory/folder as the PenAttention/CursorAttention application, and the image should be called (curiously?) CustomPen.png
    The software already comes with an elegant and large pen image for pointing with. But I have produced a large red arrow image for my own use (which I have made  available above in case it is helpful to anyone else).

I have made a short video, available at http://wirksworthii.nottingham.ac.uk/webcast/maths/Teaching/High-vis-pointers/, comparing EnorMouse and the prototype version of CursorAttention. This video was not very well planned! But it does show the new helpful  features of the CursorAttention prototype.

Note added: this video is now also available on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=to4RLVOrMZE

Joel

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6 responses to “High visibility pointers for teaching and screencasts

  1. Pingback: Echo360 mouse pointer problems | Explaining mathematics

  2. CursorAttention does look preferable to Enormous. And Enormous does feel just that little bit too enormous for me.

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  3. Pingback: New versions of PenAttention and CursorAttention (v1.4) | Explaining mathematics

  4. Perhaps my first arrow above is a bit too large?
    I am using a smaller version now, which is still highly visible.
    Among other things, the size (in pixels) you want will depend on the resolution you are using.
    The smaller version is now also available above.
    Don’t forget to rename the file before use, as the the file name has to be custompen.png
    Joel

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  5. These days I use the “red disc” version of the pointer, rather than the large arrow, as some people apparently find the large arrow “annoying”!

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  6. I found another reason why you might need to use a digital pointer instead of e.g. a laser pointer, even if you are not recording the screen. Some lecture rooms are so long that you need to use a second screen that comes down half-way back. (This is the case for one of the rooms I have for my first-year lectures.) Obviously a laser pointer can only be used on one screen at a time, so the digital pointer is a clear winner here!

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