Tag Archive for video

Faculty Professional Development

We have scheduled spring professional development sessions for our teachers. What are you focusing on as priority teacher professional development goals? We want to offer sessions that appeal to learners at their own stages of technology vision.

Moodle Workshop
Come set up your Moodle course in this hands-on session. Post assignments, readings, and links. Set up discussion forums for students. Learn how others have integrated Moodle into their classes.

Backup Basics
Is the backup process still not quite clear to you? Are you worried that you aren’t getting a good backup? Do you want to make sure that you are backing up what’s important and filtering out what’s not? Come with your questions and leave with a solid understanding of how to backup your important data!

Video Showcase
We have so many ways to use video in the classroom. This session will help you choose one to investigate more deeply for use in your classes. Together, we will briefly demonstrate each technology, discuss capabilities, and show current uses at Catlin Gabel. Technologies will include: YouTube, United Streaming, Blip.tv, TiVo, digital TV, cable TV, satellite TV, video in Drupal, video in Moodle, video cameras, digital cameras, and Flip video recorders.

Getting the Most out of Your SmartBoard
Do you have a SmartBoard in your room but you’re not sure you are using it to its fullest potential? We’ll show you lots of tips and tricks to help you maximize this useful tool. Bring your questions and your laptops as we will have hands-on practice time at the end of the session.

Tying Technology to Your Curriculum
If you’re looking for ways to enhance your curriculum and make it more effective using technology, then you’ll want to attend this workshop. We’ll provide numerous resources to get you thinking about where it makes sense to use technology in your curriculum to engage your students and how to continue to improve learning. You may have some good ideas you’ve already tested. Please bring them along to share!

Mixing media for a powerful writing experience

Our sixth grade language arts teacher has done it again, inventing a multimedia writing project that has captured kids’ attention and produced some passionate, authentic writing. Last year, his students composed and recorded Reconstruction-era songs and then held a follow-up discussion via online forum. This year, students wrote, acted, and recorded short video skits about gender stereotyping and physical education.

Why video? Carter comments.

Video is important to get kids’ attention and provide fun. There is an element of drama and play. Tracking visually turns on some part of their brain, helps them understand better.


It must be even more effective to have the kids write, stage, and record the video. There are likely to remember every detail of the prompt that leads to all of the subsequent writing.

A comment thread provides the subsequent discussion space.


Kids who struggle with expository writing can really shine in a more argumentative/discussion format. [One student] cares about people listening to her points, being respected. She likes the slangy sound [of kid talk] — it has a nice ring to it. She is also really good at this dialect.

In other words, let us recognize that people demonstrate a number of authentic literacies in the real world, not all of which are represented in schools.

To spice up the discussion, Carter invited eighth grade students to join the conversation. That sure motivated the sixth grade students to write compelling responses!

Students love the forum medium, because they know they are not going to be asked to produce a lot of text, and the topic is going to be relevant to their lives. It is not authentic to write longer pieces — just an artifact of school.

The five-paragraph essay is still a critical student writing competency. It is just not the only one.

Want to join us?

Do you teach middle school students? Would you like them to join the conversation about gender stereotypes in physical education? Go to the conversation web site and submit your comments. Please ask students to identify themselves by first name and school.

Video In-Service Training

I could use your feedback on a digital video training session I am designing. The purpose is to provide an overview of different video technologies that we make available to teachers at our school, so that they may subsequently choose one and pursue it in-depth at a later date. I would like to make it hands-on without getting project-based during this one-hour time session.

I plan to provide a short conceptual overview of different video technologies and then take the group through a series of hands-on stations, rotating the individual who sits at the setup each time. This will provide a nice balance between hands-on and time constraint.

Here are my planning notes for the session. How should I improve the plan? Please submit comments below!

Why video?
– the MTV and YouTube generations
– reaching all learners
– visual literacy

Where to post video
Catlin web site

Web video
– if you see it, how should you share it?
– “Share” links, embed code, HTML rights
– HTML editing modes: Catlin web site, Moodle, Drupal
– other formats

United Streaming
– what it contains
– how to bookmark or share

Video cameras
– capture
– Firewire and USB cables
– software (iMovie, MovieMaker, Premiere Elements)
– transfer, edit, export

Flip Mino
– capture
– USB transfer
– conversion

TV Recorders
– Cable and satellite sources
– Schedule on TiVo web site (incl. login information)
– Burn to DVD
– Finalize recording

Live TV in the classroom
– Best for momentous events (when it has to be live)
– Few live cable or satellite connections
– Over-the-air digital TV setup

Drupal Multimedia (Aaron Winborn, Packt Press)

Cover image, link to publisher web site

Having worked with Drupal for two years, I have reached the point where I need expert advice in order to continue to grow. Drupal is a bit like a forest with many paths running through it. You could spend all year trying each one and learning from experience, or you could get an experienced hand to point you in the right direction, especially if you cannot devote all your time to learning Drupal.

Aaron Winborn is experienced, knowledgeable, and helpful, if his writing at all reflects the man. The creator of the Embedded Media Field module, his has recognized expertise in configuring Drupal to handle multimedia content. In Drupal Multimedia, Winborn describes the state of Drupal multimedia support with one eye toward Drupal history and the other exploring the future. Context helps achieve deeper understanding.

For most of the book explains how to include images, video, and audio in Drupal sites. In these chapters, I found answers to questions I had been asking for a while. What felt right about the Image module (e.g., image galleries), and what needed fine-tuning to work better (e.g., WYSIWYG integration)? Winborn takes the reader from Image to Image Assist, Image Attach, and finally the TinyMCE DrupalImage button, the last of which had escaped me in my previous forays into online documentation and support forum discussions. I was only disappointed not to find an answer to another longstanding want: easy bulk image upload for end-users.

Winborn does not always take a single path through the forest. Often, he points out two or three different paths that might work well for your needs, while omitting mention of those that (I assume) he feels might not. After the comprehensive introduction to Image, Winborn changes approach. He describes how to use ImageField and ImageCache in conjunction with one’s own custom content type. Comparing the two approaches not only helped me better understand how to structure my own approach but also provided an important insight into the Drupal ecosystem.

Winborn takes care not to blow his own horn too loudly. His creation, Embedded Media Field, plays third string behind other image solutions. The explanation is critical to integration with third-party media hosts such as Flickr and YouTube.

Winborn introduces the book as a “beginner to intermediate” Drupal resource while acknowleding the advanced nature of some examples. I thought this description was right on. A Drupal beginner would likely not be comfortable implementing some of the solutions provided, for example adding a preprocess hook to display the appropriate media player for an attached video. On the other hand, I found the emphasis on Node Reference essential for me to understand how to keep media items in their own nodes yet allow web pages to display them in the proper player.

Later in the book, Winborn takes a couple of thoughtful turns. He treats video before audio, upsetting the conventional order between them yet explicitly acknowledging the dominance of video these days. He also presents the embedded video field before addressing how to upload “local” video files. That also makes good sense to me, as I have quickly discovered how even a low-volume site benefits from hosting video at a specialized provider, such as Blip.tv.

Your perspective on the book may depend on your definition of “beginner” and “intermediate.” I benefitted from both the high-level view and the relatively complex explanations. The book provided something to seek me teeth into and room for growth, which I imagine every Drupal developer needs. True beginners may quickly lose themselves in the details. Advanced users may not find the text sufficiently challenging.

Drupal Multimedia will remain an essential resource for me, due to its vertical treatment of key techniques. Yet, I also find myself wanting more almost immediately. Will DrupalImage reach production site quality for Drupal 6? How should I provide bulk image upload capability to end users? What will support and maintenance of these techniques look like a year from now? While I am glad to have added this book to my knowledge base, I have quickly followed up the read with more tinkering on a test site and surfing the discussion forums.

Students speak, we publish it!

An an experiment, we videotaped and published two student panels from last weekend’s admission open house. Inspired by our recent work on a new web site design, I wanted to provide content that directly meets a priority audience need and fits how our audiences consume content.

We know that watching video has become increasingly popular online, and that it doesn’t have to be very high quality to meet people’s expectations. In fact, lower quality may connote greater authenticity than a highly polished product. We have also learned that middle and high school students, not their parents, are increasingly making choices among schools. We figure that students are even more likely to enjoy consuming information in a visual format.

We also know that prospective families want to find out directly what the student experience is like. What better way to learn than to hear from students themselves. Admittedly, the students were answering questions within the context of an admission open house, but their relaxed nature and eagerness shows the truth to the words they speak.

Simultaneously, I broadcast the events to uStream in order to practice this for the first time. It was so easy to do, aside from the fact that the audio didn’t publish! I connected my DV camera to the Mac via FireWire, and then specified DV for video and audio input on uStream. One key lesson is that uStream dramatically reduces file transfer and processing time. Even if we are not interested in broadcasting live, the moment the event is over, we have a web-enabled, embeddable movie. Brilliant.

We will track statistics and listen to anecdotal feedback to determine whether we should post video or schedule interactive experiences more often. I can envision interactive chats with the Head of School or the broadcasting of sports competitions, arts performances, and distinguished speakers. Alumni in particular might enjoy tuning in to a substantive presentation from their old school. Parents might be able to watch a presentation from home that they could not attend in person. Automatically archiving everything is wonderful. Making the process really easy helps with adoption.

Sharing 340 Flip videos?

I am spending a little bit of time trying to find a way to convert Flip video files into QuickTime or FLV format for posting on our web sites. This is not really a how-to guide, but rather a snapshot into my (limited) progress with this task at this moment in time. Perhaps I will make more progress later, or one of you fine readers will post a comment detailing a more helpful solution!

Our seniors spent a morning at the pumpkin patch with their first grade buddies and took twelve Flip Mino video cameras with them. They captured 340 video segments!

video files

How may I produce one or more useful movies from these using the least possible effort? I don’t want to simply post the videos directly to a site like YouTube, because some of the content is likely to be private or exceed their posting limits. I also don’t want to require teachers to create YouTube accounts just to facilitate this conversion process.

Flip records in AVI format using 3ivx compression. If we go to QuickTime, we will want to convert into MOV format using H.264 compression. If we choose Flash video, then we will convert into FLV format (what does Adobe call their compression codec?).

Two issues are making this process more difficult for video than for audio. For one, Adobe and Apple can’t seem to get along — neither QuickTime nor iMovie has a FLV export feature, and I’m not about to insist that all of our teachers and students own a full copy of Flash to do this work. While some people suggest FilmRedux (formerly VisualHub) or FFMpegX, I have found these applications either too arcane for the average user or incompatible with either the import or export portions of this process. Is it possible that VisualHub used to have FLV export, but the SourceForge hosted version lacks that component?

QT Amateur (converted files but can’t handle nested folders)

FilmRedux (wouldn’t read 3ivx AVI or m4v files)

FFMPEGX (too many dependencies to foist on our users)

iMovie (successfully reads 3ivx files, allowing users to edit first)

QTAmateur looked to be a good option to batch convert the files into a usable format before starting editing work, but then I found that it took a long time to convert files in QuickTime format, and QTAmateur was not able to reach into subfolders to convert files located in there. Since I have twelve cameras, many files have the same name and must be stored in subfolders as a result.

Good news: iMovie ’08 can use the video files straight from the Flip camera, once I have installed the 3ivx decoder that comes with the Flip (the software is stored within the camera memory). Given this, it may work best to do all of the clip selection and editing work in iMovie and postpone the task of format conversion to the end. This way, we are applying the time-intensive task of format conversion to the shortest length and fewest possible number of clips.

It will then be simple for a teacher or student to use iMovie’s built-in Share tools to export to QuickTime, YouTube, or iPhone.

share menu

What about posting a FLV file to one’s own web site? I don’t see a straightforward way to do this that would be easy for other users to follow. If it has become difficult to build FLV conversion into desktop software, then let’s push that task to the web site software, as YouTube does. This way, we won’t burden users with that problem.

Drupal may fulfill the role of YouTube in this case. I will have to remind myself what modules provide on-the-fly conversion of uploaded files to FLV (Video, FlashVideo, FFMPEG wrapper, what others?).

Windows users may have more options.

Flip Mino Reviewed

The Flip Mino has the potential to be useful in our school, especially for students creating work for immediate review or sharing. The Flip seems highly compatible with efforts to encourage student construction of knowledge, visual literacy, and multiple forms of representation. I can see teachers and students using these devices to practice foreign language recitation, interview subjects for a variety of purposes, and gather material for oral history projects. I can imagine huge impact during our international trips. With a portable digital video recorder, students could turn their view outward, collecting sounds, scenes, and interviewing people to include in a presentation or learning portfolio upon their return. Multimedia art students should have a blast with the devices.

The device is small enough to take along anywhere and starts up quickly. User controls are simple, especially the big red record button in the middle. The price ($145 at Amazon) is twice that of a small digital audio recorder, about right in my opinion to gain video in such a small device.

The Flip has the potential to remove barriers to using video in classes, as the Olympus WSM-300 did for us with audio this past year. The relatively low cost makes it possible to put devices in the hands of students more often.

Flip in hand

The small size makes it easy to carry a device off-site or package a class set. You can keep the camera on you more often, since it slips into a pocket.

Flip connected

One huge key is the USB mass storage feature. Like the Olympus audio recorders, USB connectivity is built into the device. This eliminates the most time-consuming step in conventional video capture — transferring footage from camera to computer. Now, one can transfer footage as a simple file copy or using The Flip’s proprietary software. Each Flip comes with its own software installer on the device. If you want more control and flexibility, open the INSTALL folder and run the 3ivx installer. You will gain the ability for QuickTime Player (Mac) to open these compressed AVI files. An open-source decoder also exists.

In my one-day test, 2GB storage was more than adequate. I shot here and there during a three hour visit to the amusement park — 25 short clips in total — and only used 500MB.

For some reason, converting the files from compressed AVI to MOV. I am not sure whether the problem lies in the AVI conversion, the special compressed format that the Flip uses, or my slow G4 Mac!

The Flip software offers buttons to quickly post video to YouTube and other video web sites. I haven’t yet tried them, but this could be a way to quickly get a movie into FLV format for the web.

For a $170 video recorder, the quality is excellent. A couple of weak points are the audio levels and zoom. In my single day of use, I found the audio pickup a tad weak, though it should be fine for interviews and other classroom applications. I also found the image too fuzzy at 4x zoom — it may be digitally enhanced.

I wish that the Flip had multiple folders for organizing stored clips, in the manner that the Olympus digital audio recorders do. Then, two students could share one device but keep their work separate.

Flip makes less expensive video recording devices, but only the Mino has a rechargeable battery. I would like to avoid the impact of disposable batteries, even though a dead rechargeable device will then be useless for the remainder of that period. Now I need to seek a device to charge a dozen USB devices at once.

How long before this level of video recording is a standard feature on cell phones, in the way that still cameras have recently become?

Here is a sample I shot today at full size and converted from 3IVX to QuickTime H.264 at 1000kb/s in order to retain as much as possible the quality of the original shot. Or, you can download the 3ivx version directly.

Riffly almost there?

Riffly allows users to post browser-based video and audio comments on your blog. I was so excited about this new company that I immediately installed the Drupal version of the plug-in on our intranet. Today, Riffly went down, and with it our site! Fortunately, it was easy to disable in order to bring our site back up.

Media links

The advent of built-in video cameras eliminated the need to obtain, set up, use, and transfer from a video camera. Browser-based video recording eliminates the need run a video capture application such as iMovie, export the video to a different format, and upload the resulting file to a web site. With browser-based video upload, students may post video comments within seconds from school or home. This is a big deal for language classes and international exchanges! Teachers are extremely sensitive to the length of time technology adds to a student activity. When the time drops dramatically, teachers use the tool more frequently (or at all).

While I’m not thrilled about the idea of relying on an external site to host videos, this is far better to linking to YouTube, because the user never sees Riffly, and we don’t have to provide the bandwidth. Of course, we will be putting our eggs in Riffly’s basket, hoping that they will thrive and not change their revenue model. It may be a safe bet, considering that we should see competitors to Riffly appear over time.

At the moment, I’m waiting for a solution (or some time to investigate myself) to make the Riffly Drupal plugin actually insert the necessary code into the comment field. Get over that small hurdle, and we will be off and running! On recommendation, I disabled TinyMCE for the Drupal comment field, and then code insertion worked again! Unfortunately, now Riffly is experiencing a problem themselves, and Riffly is broken everywhere. We wait once more. I hope they will do whatever they can to ramp up again. They have a terrific product that could really take off.