Tag Archive for video

Sharing Guest Speaker Presentations

Gene Luen Yang at U PrepGuest speakers can deliver some of the most powerful learning moments in the life of a school. Authors, scientists, politicians, nonprofit leaders, and others may share compelling stories of intellectual and personal challenge and triumph, not to mention a peek into life outside of school. In the past year, U Prep has hosted Gene Luen Yang, author of American Born Chinese and writer for the Avatar books, Carl Wilkens, the only American to stay in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide, and John Sage, founder of fair trade coffee company Pura Vida.

I have often wished that we could share such presentations with broader communities: parents and alumni of the school, prospective families and employees, the public at large in the Seattle metro area, and our national network of educators interested in educating students for social responsibility. The benefits to the school would be numerous: sharpening the school’s identity locally, building name recognition nationally, attracting families and teachers to our mission, maintaining a presence in the life of alumni, and more.

Many obstacles exist to sharing such presentations online. The speaker may decline to grant the school permission to record a talk or publish it online, so that they protect their earning potential as a public speaker. Someone at the school must capture high quality audio and video from the presentation. AV infrastructure must allow tech staff to tap audio en route from microphone to speakers and connect it to the video recording device. Someone must invest time time to prepare the video for web site publication. When a live audience is the priority, it can be a challenge to consistently organize high quality capture and publication of such videos.

Taft School has found a way to overcome these obstacles. They capture most, if not all, of their “Morning Meeting” presentations and publish them on their web site. A 120+ year boarding school has an enormous parent and alumni network. Publishing community presentations online has tremendous potential value. The following newsletter note brings attention to the collection of talks.

Morning Meetings – Online!

Taft Vimeo ChannelThe 2015-16 year started off with a powerful group of Morning Meeting speakers. So far this year, Taft has hosted an artist (Jessica Wynne ’90), an activist (DeRay Mckesson), an African debate team (iDebate Rwanda), an astronaut (Rick Mastracchio), and an author (Hillary Jordan) as Morning Meeting speakers. Assistant Headmaster and science teacher Rusty Davis also gave an inspiring presentation about imagination and technology. Videos of most Morning Meeting speakers are available on Taft’s Vimeo channel.

Kaitlin Orfitelli, Taft’s Director of Marketing and Communications, asks the speakers in permission for permission to publish their talks. “I have found that bringing it to speakers in person, introducing myself, and explaining how we will use the video often helps in obtaining permission.” The Video Arts teacher and his student crew record and produce the videos for the Communications department.

Sharing the great work of your school with the broader community has great potential value and takes both effort and organization. Does your school publish guest speaker presentations?

Easy YouTube Video Downloader

Do your students want to include YouTube video files in their Keynote or PowerPoint presentations? Our fourth grade students are adding videos of traditional music performances to their immigration presentations. We have found the Easy YouTube Video Downloader add-on for Firefox much easier to use and more reliable than SaveYouTube. The extension is also available for other browsers. Students can download videos without leaving YouTube.com and then drag the resulting MP4 file onto their presentation slides. The MP3 download works differently, directing the user to a third-party site that does not work for all videos. As always, it is important to discuss with students why they are allowed to download and use most YouTube videos for school projects but not for personal publication elsewhere.

Why Not Give Away Flip?

“Cisco has to do things fast. Selling Flip could take too much time.”
– Brent Bracelin, Pacific Crest Securities (source)

Perhaps that explains why a beloved consumer and classroom device is being terminated by Cisco Systems, which bought Flip in 2009. Our school must own 30 Flip video cameras, between a loaner box in IT and individual cameras scattered about teacher offices. We will still see them for years, likely. Nothing is simpler than a big red button to capture video.

Cisco is not doing such a good job of reputation management in schools. First, institutions that use Cisco Clean Access associate the Cisco logo with blocking them from the network. Now, Cisco has terminated a much-used school device.

We were planning to purchase another box of Flip cameras this summer. What will replace them? We could spend more and get a box of iPod Touches instead. They shoot decent video and could also do so much more. However, we would lose the simplicity of dedicated devices and would have to manage a pile of connection cables.

Preferably, another small video camera company will emerge as a decent replacement, or by some change of fortune, Flip will find a way to stick around.

Lingt Classroom

This was a post about Lingt Classroom shutting down, but in fact only Lingt is shutting down, not Lingt Classroom. Confusing!

We continue to wait for the ultimate. web-based audio and video recording solution. Our language teachers just discovered Lingt, which allows teachers to easily record and post audio and review student-submitted audio clips — perfect for extending students’ speaking and listening practice beyond class time.

Confused about Lingt vs. Lingt Classroom? This graphic explains it all.

When will we achieve simple web-based audio recording? NanoGong looked promising for a while, but we had issues with the consistency and ease of use of the Java applet, and they are moving slowly to integrate with Moodle 2.0. Moodle fans are considering other options. Riffly looked terrific for a short time, but then the company apparently imploded. VoiceThread is terrific, but you can only use it their way, and the learning object structure does not match every teacher’s learning environment objectives. Students could record audio to their computers and then post the files, but this requires a lot more setup and troubleshooting than direct web recording.

When we do finally get there, the effect will be pretty significant for language teachers and learners.

Update: Jac directs us to Audio Dropboxes from Michigan State University

Comparing Video Services

Blip.tv introduced a QuickTime-compatible video format for iPhone, but it plays really terribly. Vimeo does not have an iPhone-compatible format. YouTube appears to work the best, but then we’d have to live with their upload size limits.

Here are three videos for the sake of comparison. Try them on your phone.




Goodbye, Satellite

We are discontinuing our satellite TV subscriptions, which brought French, Spanish, and Japanese television programming into the classroom for the past seven years. Web video has largely replaced the need for live television. A teacher who wants to present students with authentic vocabulary, regional accents, or international current events need only visit a country news website or search for specific content on YouTube.

While this change may seem relatively inconsequential, I find it notable that we are actually discontinuing a technology service on campus. It can often be difficult to convince users of a service that its end has come. When a new technology arrives, often a certain proportion of users adopt the new technology quickly. Penetration increases rapidly enough that it may seem only a matter of time until everyone is using the new technology. In reality, adoption usually plateaus at a certain level, sometimes just a small fraction of all users, sometimes a majority, and in rare occasions nearly everyone.

Most technologies reach peak penetration and then eventually decline, as users lose interest, or the technology does not live up to its initial promise, or a newer technology comes along and takes its place. Still, a certain proportion of users find comfort in continued use of that technology, and this at which point it can be difficult to discontinue a service. Some number of people still rely on that technology and want the school to continue providing it.

With satellite television, peak penetration was fairly low, because the service was limited to foreign language television, and so only the language teachers used it. In addition, only the upper (high) school was cabled for satellite TV in the first place. When use declined, only one or two teachers continued to use TV in the classroom, and they were very gracious in recognizing that it would not be cost-effective to continue subscription and maintenance for just a couple of classrooms.

Contrast this with teacher voicemail extensions. Our current phone system has been in place for seven years. All employees have a phone extension, but most teachers of eighth grade and below do not have a physical phone. They have a voicemail-only extension. Use of voicemail-only extensions has declined sharply, as teachers and parents now communicate mostly by email. However, it will take more work than for satellite TV to consult with a larger user base and reach an informed decision on changing our telephone practice.

There they are …

As a followup to my previous post, we broadcast the girls’ and boys’ basketball games tonight and gained 80 viewers. There’s the audience! If viewership is one measure of success, then give the people what they want!

20100202-Picture 3.png

Whither the virtual audience?

studnet speaker

We successfully broadcast Catlin Gabel’s workshop to design the school’s next community event(s). I had the uStream working smoothly, the facilitator played his role perfectly, and we included the contributions from virtual participants in the real workshop. In the two weeks before the event, we made at least eight announcements in newsletters, email messages, and online articles that people would be able to attend the workshop online. We have some 3,000 alumni and 500 current families from which to draw a virtual audience.

Only five people showed up, and two were my IT colleagues.

What happened? What is the potential of live web broadcasting in a school?

I have seen uStream used most successfully in an educational setting to live broadcast major speeches and conferences. I recently tuned into a great presentation at Castilleja School. A Stanford professor was explaining how all websites, but social networks in particular, are vehicles of persuasion. I was the only virtual attendee.

Broadcasting educational technology conferences seems popular of late. The audience is large, widely dispersed, and technologically savvy. Still, having been a virtual participant before, the presentation quality is poor enough that it makes difficult to pick up everything that is going on. Our virtual participants on Saturday made the same comment.

I don’t feel compelled to live broadcast major events at our school. I would rather record with videocamera and then publish the next day, in higher quality than uStream and as a permanent addition to our site. Just last week, I recorded our Martin Luther King, Jr. community meeting (elementary), published it to a private page for our community, and already it has been viewed 70 times.

Perhaps people are just too busy to attend a live, five-hour online event at a specific time. They can play recorded online video at their convenience. Maybe for this event, we should have eschewed live participation in favor of making a highlight reel of the major points in a recorded video format. Or maybe the gesture of opening the meeting to virtual participants was a sufficiently important to justify the work involved.

Perhaps we were competing for audience against ourselves. If the 100 most interested people actually came to the event to participate in person, how many more did that leave to participate virtually?

Have you seen the new Cisco ads showing telepresence in classrooms? Who really thinks that schools will be able to afford high-end video conferencing of this sort? Grocery stores have far more flat-panel televisions than schools these days, and they sell food.

I would like my next attempt at live broadcast to involve a sports event. Sports have the immediacy of experience that demands a live broadcast, color commentary could be fun and interesting, and the project would involve students. However, we would still be competing against ourselves for audience, the potential audience is relatively small, and a lot of people might feel content to just find out the score the next day. It’s worth a try, though, as students studying at home could easily tune in and follow the game.

I could imagine a schoolwide event during which we partnered with one or more schools elsewhere to pursue the same agenda and discuss similar topics. However, I would choose Skype for such a broadcast, so that it would be equally bidirectional.

Have you used uStream in a school with more success? Did you draw an actual audience? Please tell us about it.

Elders Are …

Second grade teacher Herb shared the following video with guests at grandparents and special friends day. First and second grade students completed an activity in which they drew, wrote, and spoke their thoughts about the elders in their lives.

I’m impressed with the ease that these students demonstrate in front of the microphone. Recording audio may in fact be less distracting than video. You get to observe student work while listening to an oral expression — two forms of work at the same time. It’s also fascinating to see the huge range of student responses to the prompt “elders are …”

I’m sure that Herb put many hours into the creation of this video. One day, I’ll find out how many.

We are pleased to share this video on our website, especially for the grandparents and special friends who were not able to attend.

Amateur Video On Your School Website

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video must be worth a million. Motion picture and audio better simulate “being there” than a long article or photo gallery. Video may capture the subtle cues of emotional expression and the energy of the moment that help a viewer understand the intangible values of your organization. Now, it is possible to capture video with a small, portable device and transfer it to the web with just a few clicks.

Why isn’t online video more popular on independent school websites? One reason may be the apprehension of some about posting “home videos” on your school website or social network site. Given all the care that we put into our print publications, we may wish to hold videos to the same standard. That would be nice, but It takes many hours (and/or dollars) to create professional-quality video. Perhaps we should hold video to a different standard than written articles. Could a new standard for school website video include amateur content?


In the new web, content has trumped style. YouTube, Facebook, Wikipedia, and Twitter have demonstrated the greater value to users of authentic content over quality of presentation. YouTube is the fourth most popular site on the web. The President of the United States addresses the nation via YouTube. Cellphone reports of political unrest and natural disasters run on major network news broadcasts. At times like these, the value of amateur video is the authenticity of the content, not its production quality.

We may apply the same test to school events, even though they may not convey the same impact as mass demonstrations and natural disasters. Take the following video. I shot this at our annual homecoming event, a varsity soccer game attended by alumni and long-time faculty. It may well capture essential aspects of our school better than highly polished writing in a glossy magazine, especially if you studied with these teachers 20 years ago.

Choose to film school events that naturally capture the special qualities of your institution.

Edit as much as time allows

While you may not have the time or expertise to create professional-quality video, you can still produce video of reasonable quality. Depending on how you learn best, you may benefit from attending a beginner’s training for iMovie or Adobe Elements Premiere. Consider using a tripod to stabilize the picture and an external microphone to capture good audio. Develop a basic sense of composition, and timing. Learn to add just enough transition effects that your clips smoothly link together. Cut at least 90% of your original footage, keeping just the very best scenes.

Track your success

Following the progress of your new videos is essential to inform your own publishing choices and convince others that the experiment is working. Social media websites track the number of views of each of your content items. This allows you to track the number of video playbacks, one potential measure of success.

blip stats

If you use Google Analytics on your school website, check out the “time on page” measure. Larger values suggest that more viewers actually watched the video all the way through.

time on page

Determining perceived quality is more difficult. Comments may provide some clue. If hundreds of people view a video and only one person complains about video quality, then you’re probably on the right track.


Start on your social media sites

You may not want to post your first video experiments to your public-facing websites. Facebook and YouTube are chock full of amateur video, so people will expect to see work of lower production quality there. The community pages on your school website may be another good place to start. Yet don’t stop there. Collect data on these first experiments in order to make an informed decision about whether to extend the experiment to the public-facing pages on your main school website.

On perfection

A founding faculty member at a well-regarded school recently retired. In his farewell remarks, he cautioned the community to resist perfectionism.

We are all under the illusion that we can and should be perfect all the time. If we don’t do “excellent” work everyday, then we don’t “measure up” to [our] standards. An awful lot of us impose these unrealistic expectations on our selves, and it’s not healthy. […] Our school culture unduly puts pressures on us to look perfect in the eyes of everyone else. Stop!