Archive for March, 2008

New Video Technology Opens Accessibility

Posted on March 28, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized |

0089268400040_av2_500x500.jpgFlip Cams

 Jeff McCoy 

Not too many years ago, schools had to invest a lot of money in camcorders and video equipment in order to do classroom video projects. Because of the expense of these products, many teachers and administrators were hesitant to allow their students to handle the camcorders and very few would allow them to take the camcorders home to complete video interviews and other projects. This of course made video in the classroom more of a teacher tool than a student learning tool.

Recently, the market has been flooded with low cost, easy to use camcorders. They range in price from $116-$150 each…very affordable and cost effective enough that most teachers would not mind sending them home with students to complete projects. Most of these fall under the category of flip cams. Google “flip cam” or “flip video” and you will discover a large range of low cost video cameras for the classroom. Cost alone is reason to buy these cameras considering you can buy 5-10 for the price of what we spent a few years ago. The second great thing about the cameras is that you don’t need to keep up with a usb wire on most of them. Gone are the days of digging through that “catch all” box in your office full of impossible to untangle cords and adapters. Most come with a pop out USB on them so you just plug it into your computer and begin the download of video or pics to your computer. Everything is contained on the device.

The current generation of kids, the “M” generation or “media generation” are used to working with multimedia on a regular basis. They are much more tech savvy than we are. Video projects in the past were hard to do because the majority of the work had to be done at school or you had to send that expensive camcorder home with the child at the risk of it being broken.  The new flip cam allows the teacher to send the video cameras home without stressing too much about it being broken. Students can now interview grandparents for their career day or history preservation projects, complete that fine arts project, take video for year book and news show, etc. Best of all, it’s easy to download the video and edit it in your favorite video editing software.

There are many types of cameras like this out there, As of now, the flip cams can be bought to record 30 minutes or 60 minutes of video. Above in the picture is one example found on the walmart website.  The resolutions on the flip cams are pretty good and I know many schools use them to record short clips of sporting events etc. As technology advances, the quality of video should only improve and get better.  There are several types of these cameras available on the market and they range in price from $119-$150.

If you are considering doing video projects with your students, you may want to consider investing in an external hard drive as well. Even though these cams hold only 30-60 minutes of video, they will take up a considerable amount of disk space, especially if you have multiple students doing projects. Each video is going to range from 2GB to 4GB of memory. External storage is fairly cheap these days, so it may be well worth the investment.

 

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File Format Frustrations? No Problem.

Posted on March 21, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized |

by Tim Cushman

The hallmark of the digital age is communication…or at least it should be.  The reality is that the efficiency of computing is hampered when the recipient of an email attachment does not have the appropriate software needed for opening the file.  This is less of an issue within the business community, but there is no guarantee that the students in our classrooms will have access to the commercial programs used at school once they leave for home.  I have encountered such problems frequently when sending files to my students to study or work on at home. 

There is now an easy solution to this common problem.  Koolwire is a handy, free service for converting among popular file formats.  For example, Word, PowerPoint or Excel can be converted to a PDF without Adobe Acrobat.  Need to convert a PDF to a Word document?  Koolwire does that too.  The two most prevelant audio file formats, WAV and MP3, can also be converted interchangeably.  

What you need to know when using Koolwire:

  1. The file you are converting must be less then 10 MB.
  2. You are sending the file as an email attachment to Koolwire – the size of the file will have an impact on the speed of conversion.  The converted file will come back to you as an attachment a few minutes later (with a few links in the body of the message from advertisers).
  3. Koolwire does not store your files.  All attachments are deleted on the Koolwire servers after conversion.

There is no software to install, only send an email with the attached file for conversion to the appropriate address below:

            From Word, PowerPoint, or Excel to PDF: pdf@koolwire.com
            From PDF to Word: doc@koolwire.com
            From WAV to MP3: mp3@koolwire.com 
            From MP3 to WAV: wav@koolwire.com

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Interactive Periodic Table of Elements

Posted on March 14, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized |

by Tim Cushman 

I can’t say that I refer to a periodic table of elements much these days, but high school Chemistry would have been easier had I been able to access PTable.com.  Here you will find a powerful and highly useful version of the table of elements.  Users can quickly use this dynamic chart to get instant information on elemental properties, orbitals, and isotopes.  For example, you can see what elements do at certain temperatures or view the group an element belongs to based on its color coding. 

In addition, the table is tied into Wikipedia.  Click on any element and get a detailed entry in a pop-up window.  Many of these articles have a spoken-word version. 

Different versions of the table based on year and elements discovered are available those that love science history.

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Handful of Pictures. Amazing Results. Animoto.

Posted on March 7, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized |

by Tim Cushman

12 pictures is all you need to get started with some really amazing video creation. Animoto.com adds another facet to digital storytelling in a very simple package. What exactly is Animoto? Think Microsoft’s Photostory; only hipper, much hipper, and easily accesible on the web. I like Photostory for what it does – creates videos with a documentary feel in the mold of Ken Burns’ pan and zoom technique. Animoto is different in that the videos have the feel of a television commercial or movie trailer. This makes sense when you realize that Animoto.com is the brain-child of a group of TV and film producers who have created content for major television and film studios.

The Animoto interface is streamlined and clear, ensuring success for even the limited user. You have multiple choices for image sources including digital images from your own computer or by connecting to popular sites like Flickr, Facebook, Smugbug, Picasa, and Photobucket through Animoto. After getting the pictures in place, you can upload your own audio file or use one of multiple tracks from up and coming artists hosted by Animoto.

That’s it. Now sit back and let Animoto do the rest. I must admit that the automatically generated effects are impressive. Animoto uses a patent-pending technology based on artificial intelligence to create a unique video incorporating motion design based on elements like the tempo of the music. Very cool. Bear in mind that the video will take 10 – 15 minutes to render and since this is done on the Web, there are some bandwidth issues to consider if you are planning to have a number of students uploading pictures or processing video all at once.

Animoto has all sorts of applications in the educational environment. It is a good tool for a morning news show, a storytelling activity, sharing a slideshow, or a new take on show-and-tell to name a few. You can view several examples from a Media Center Specialist in Texas here.

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    The School District of Greenville County – Instructional Technology Department

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