Sunday, December 20, 2009

60 Second Recap: Like Cliff Notes, but in Video Format!

Secondary English students will be delighted to find this new resource called 60 Second Recap.

What is 60 Second Recap? According to the site, they want to "help teens (yes, teens of all ages!) engage with literature. We want to help them see it not as some chore to be endured, but as -- dare we say it? -- the gift of a lifetime. How? Through the language of our time -- the language of video. Video that's focused, engaging, informative ... and short enough to hold just about anyone's attention."

Users will find videos on major works of literature here broken down by chapter, in 60 second increments. Need an overview? They have it in 60 seconds. Need chapter one? They have it in 60 seconds. You get the idea. Novels such as Fahrenheit 451, Of Mice and Men, Animal Farm, Jane Eyre, Lord of the Flies, and Hamlet are featured.

In addition, the site also gives students tips on how to write papers so as "not to bore your teachers". That's something everyone can appreciate!

As of right now, the site is free. You can sign in if you want to post a question or leave a comment, but if you just want to view the videos, it's free. I hope that it stays that way...

Behold: The LiveScribe Pen has Educational Applications

I recently received a LiveScribe pen for demo through work. Shortly after, the vendor came out to show how this pen could be used on a basic level, and how it could integrate into a classroom setting.
What is a Livescribe pen? The pen contains a small camera to record your movements as you write on special dot paper. The dots are almost invisible to the naked eye. You can purchase notebooks, notepads, and journals for your pen, as long as you don't duplicate the notebooks. For example, if you already bought and used "notebook one", don't purchase another "notebook one" unless you want to overwrite all of your previous work. Each notepad has different dot paper that the camera records. You can also print out extra dot paper from the LiveScribe website if you like. Within the dot paper, there are small controls that are embedded into the page: most notably: record and stop.
This is how it works:
  1. Click record on your page during a lecture or presentation.
  2. Start using your pen and notebook to write notes during the lecture
  3. Click stop when you are finished.
  4. If you "tap" any of the words you wrote during the lecture, you will hear what was being said in the room at that point in your notes.

No - the pen does not "speak" your written notes. It is not text-to-speech. No - the pen does not turn your messy handwriting into digital print (handwriting recognition). But imagine - you don't have to worry about writing EVERYTHING down during lectures anymore! For example, what if you decided just to write the main ideas and record the rest of the "details" using the pen? It would save your fingers from endless scribbling during class, and you will have captured everything you need to study. Upload your audio and notes to your computer so you can play the audio back on the computer instead of just through earbuds. Click a button to upload these notes online, get a URL to your recorded notes, and share your notes with colleagues, friends, or guests.

So how could this be used in the classroom? Think of all of the ways this pen could be used in the primary classroom.

  1. Talking Books: Make your own living books! Glue a small piece of dot paper on a story book, draw a dot on the page as you record your voice reading the text on the page, and voila! Now students who have difficulty reading can listen to the book and follow along without an assistant.
  2. Talking Word Walls: Ever have kids write the wrong word down even if they used your word wall as reference? Now record your voice saying the word on the bulletin board. When kids click the word, they will hear the word being read out loud. It takes the guesswork out of "which word do I need?
  3. Singing Notebook: embed songs all in once place - in your notebook
  4. Running Records: Record kids reading for fluency for playback for parent conferences or so you can code the passage more accurately later in the day.
  5. ELL Vocab: Do you teach English as a Second Language students? Do you have objects labeled all over the room? Use the pen to record your voice on each label, so kids can hear the word instead of just see the word. Great for pronunciation practice!
  6. Make up spelling tests: Absent kids take a spelling test with the pen, instead of you.

Do you want to see more ideas? Check out this wiki for amazing screencasts and ideas.

Flip Video Camera: Converting File Formats

When the Flip Video camera originally hit the market a few years ago, our school system jumped at the chance to put them on the county bid list. It provided our county a solution to not having firewire on all computers since the Flip allowed users to download video clips via USB connection. Several hundred Flip Video cameras are now in our system. Teachers loved the fact that they could shoot video, connect the camera to the computer, drag the video onto the computer, drop it into MovieMaker software, and create multimedia videos easily.
We were stunned to find out that the Flip Video changed their file formats recently. One school I work for ordered over 40 Flips this fall and recently began complaining that the video clips no longer work with MovieMaker. I was stunned. Upon closer inspection, I realized the second generation Flips now exported their video clips as .mp4 instead of .avi or .wmv. MovieMaker does not support .mp4 clips!
After a brief conversation with tech support, I found out there was a convoluted way to convert the .mp4 clips into .wmv clips within the Flip Video software itself. I was slightly annoyed. Now instead of dragging and dropping the videos into MovieMaker, teachers would need to have their technology coordinators download the Flip Video software so they could convert their videos before they could use them in MovieMaker. I promptly made documentation on this new process.
Then two weeks later, Flip pushes out a new software upgrade that will automatically prompt users when they open the software to upgrade. Once they upgrade to version 5.0 or higher, they will quickly realize that Flip Video has taken out the feature to convert .mp4 clips to .wmv clips.
Really?? Does this make any sense? MovieMaker users no longer can use Flip Video to create movies. Thanks, Flip Video. We'll be looking at other video cameras for our bid list now. I hope you didn't need the business. You just took 3 giant steps backwards.