Using Animoto to create short videos for mobile

5 12 2007

Animoto is an online site that will automatically analyse your images and music, and then composite them for you into a dynamic video with professional transitions and effects. It supports direct retrieval from other social web tools such as Facebook, Picasa or Flickr, so if you’ve already uploaded your photos, there’s no need to find and upload them again.

The results are stunning – the site has been created by professional video producers, and the transitions are timed nicely with the mood, tempo and beat of each musical accompaniment. Here’s a demonstration of what is produced – this example was put together on-the-fly at a live event, so it’s a good example of what can be done in very little time and without much effort: – a video of photos from the E-Learning 07 event held earlier this year at the University of NSW, created by Jo Kay:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://widgets.clearspring.com/o/46928cc51133af17/47567909364fd64f" width="449" height="315" wmode="transparent" /]

(Alternate link: http://widgets.clearspring.com/o/46928cc51133af17/47567909364fd64f).

You can make unlimited videos, but with a free account you’re limited to 30 second videos. You can pay for a premium access ($3 per video or $30 per year) and Animoto will generate unlimited-length videos.

The thing is, the best videos on mobile devices are high-impact, short ones! If you or your learners are creating content for mobile devices, 30 seconds is perfect (though I can see myself getting a premium account so I can use this as a presentation tool!). Short videos are engaging to watch on mobile devices, and can be quickly shared or downloaded; and the developers of Animoto are currently working on tools to allow users to download videos directly to mobile devices such as mobile phones an iPods (both “coming soon” according to their FAQs).

This would work really well as a tool for generating learner-created content. Imagine a construction student tasked with creating an item for their e-portfolio, or to start off a class presentation. They may not (and probably do not) have any idea how to put together a video (even if you give them a free video editor). But they probably DO know how to take photos and upload files – which is all they have to do to use Animoto. Because the site does the compositing for them, they don’t need to know video editing to create a terrific presentation or portfolio piece, that they can then take around with them on their mobile phone, USB memory stick or media player.

This is a really cool tool for mobile learning!

(Props to Harriet for sharing!)

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Free: SnagIt Screen Capture

26 11 2007

TechSmith, who are still giving out copies of Camtasia Studio for free, are now also giving away another of their premium products, SnagIt.

Like Camtasia, SnagIt allows you to capture anything you see on your screen and save it and edit it for creating small instructional resources. However, SnagIt can be configured for “one-clicK” access on your computer, and allows you to capture high-quality still images as well as video. You can add effects and instructional text and graphics, and even make your tutorial interactive with clickable areas and text.

Click here to download SnagIt 7.2.5 (English)
Click here to download SnagIt 7.2.5 (German)
Click here to download SnagIt 7.2.5 (French)

Click here for a key to register SnagIt 7.2.5 demo as a fully licensed version.

Because SnagIt outputs interactive Flash files as well as images and video files, it can be used in a number of ways to create mobile learning content for PDAs, mobile phones and media players. It could also be used by learners to document their mastery of a computer-based process or to create content for sharing with other learners.

(via Freebies Blog)

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Free: Camtasia Studio 3.1.3

23 11 2007

TechSmith, the makers of Camtasia Studio (one of the best screen recording and video editing tools around) are offering the full version of Version 3.1.3 for free download. This is a terrific tool for all educators to create resources as well as for learners to create their own digital stories and videos – so get it while it’s hot. ๐Ÿ™‚

Click here to download Camtasia Studio 3.1.3.

Click here to request a software key to register Camtasia Studio 3.1.3 as a fully licensed version.

You also get the option to upgrade to Version 5 of Camtasia Studio, which incorporates export capability for various mobile devices. However, if you create your video in Camtasia 3, you can use a separate converter to create videos for mobile devices… but that’s another blog post. ๐Ÿ™‚

(via The Freebies Blog)

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Learning Performing Arts with Mobile Devices

25 10 2007

This is an accidental topic – one which I hadn’t planned to blog on at all – but could possibly be one of the most interesting areas for the application of mobile learning approaches.

My colleague Helen Lynch posted a YouTube video on our team blog today, featuring an accomplished Australian jazz pianist and teacher (Doug McKenzie) performing an improvisation of “Some Day My Prince Will Come” – with video of his hands and a captioned explanation of his technique. Here it is for your viewing pleasure;

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LmcTByrO_ow

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/LmcTByrO_ow" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

This comes just a week after meeting Megan Iemma at mLearn. Megan is a music teacher who has terrific ideas on how to use iPods to support teaching and learning (and, in particular, music education), with many of her ideas and resources available on her blog. At the conference, she had asked me if it was possible to display the musical notation on an iPod while a song was being played. I had no idea at the time, but delving further into Doug’s videos, I found this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KAoQjoJl8mI

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/KAoQjoJl8mI" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Yes – a musical performance, together with video of the performer’s hands, a digital version of the keyboard (making the fingering a little clearer), the musical notation, chords, and explanation of the performance, all in one. Wow.

This made me think about how I started learning violin (though it’s been over a decade since I last had lessons, and sadly, things are now rather rusty). I started learning with the Suzuki Method, which is basically a method of teaching a musical instrument by teaching technique, but learning songs by just listening to them. I started at the age of four years old, and didn’t even see musical notation for the first three years of my violin classes – everything was done by ear.

What does this mean? Well, for one thing, it means that it’s possible to learn music just by listening to it – as easily for a child as picking up a language. The Suzuki Method has been around for decades now, and has been proven with scores of virtuosos (myself definitely not among them!). Anyway, this would effectively make an iPod a powerful learning tool for picking up musical pieces, even if you *only* had audio. The addition of video – which can allow the annotation of a musical performance with live demonstration, musical notation and commentary makes an iPod even more interesting as a tool for learning music.

I’ve certainly tried out the use of mobile devices for learning performing arts before – for example, as described in this previous post. Learning new dance moves requires me to constantly practice them until my body develops a subconscious “muscle memory” for them; until then, however, it’s easy to completely forget how to replicate any given move, or to introduce errors of timing, movement or technique. This is why I started videoing instructors performing dance moves – so I would have a reference for revising dance moves correctly; and it’s been the most effective method for learning dance (certainly better than my initial attempt to keep a textual database of the moves!)

I also have a teaching qualification in Speech and Drama, and it got me thinking about how my Speech teacher used to do taped recordings on audio cassettes for me to listen to her delivery – for example, changes of pitch, pace, pause, power and timing – that would help me as I memorised each piece of prose or poetry. I would also have to tape myself and listen to my own recordings to pick up ways I could improve my own performances. How easy and effective this would be on today’s mobile, digital devices, compared with the low-quality, clumsy tape deck I had to use as a child! Using Gavin’s voice-based system, which I explored in a previous post, it would even be possible to exchange performances between teacher and learner for guidance and feedback easily and remotely.

There are some really terrific opportunities for the use of mobile devices in teaching and learning performing arts – it will be fantastic to explore this area of application for mobile learning in more depth in the future!

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Another Free App Turns Your Phone into a Wireless Webcam

28 08 2007

SmartCam is an application that runs on your phone and your PC, linking them so that the video captured by your mobile is transmitted to you PC for recording or video conferencing.

SmartCam

I previously blogged about Wwigo, a free application which turns the camera in your Nokia mobile phone into a Bluetooth wireless webcam, and for the time being, SmartCam is also restricted to Nokia S60v3.0 handsets. However, a J2ME (mobile Java) version is anticipated for the near future, which should allow hundreds of other handsets to also extend their functionality this way.

Best of all, SmartCam is a free and open source application, so (unlike Wwigo) there is no watermarking of your video footage, and no proprietary restrictions.ย  Definitely worth downloading and trying! ๐Ÿ™‚

via PocketPicks

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Capture and Edit Video On-The-Go

28 08 2007

This little device doesn’t look like any video camera I’ve ever seen before, but it’s an innovative little camera that also allows the user to edit video (with a library of special effects and the ability to composite captured footage) without needing a PC.

The mi VDO FX (“my video effects”) can also capture and mix in a “soundtrack” of audio from a connected iPod or MP3 player, and can increase its memory using a built-in SD Card slot. Not bad for just US$99 each, soon to be available from these online stores: http://www.b2lounge.com/ and http://www.evolutionshops.com/ .ย  I’d love to get hold of one of these to see if they’re suitable for educational use, with students creating their own mobile presentations!

B2Stuf via Gizmodo

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Using a Mobile Phone as a Free, Wireless Webcam

10 08 2007

Wwigo - Preview WindowIf you own a Nokia mobile phone with a camera there’s a chance you might be carrying around a wireless webcam in your pocket. A free, newly released (beta) software bundle for Symbian 60 v.3.0 and v.2.0 mobile phones now allows you to use your mobile phone as a webcam for your laptop or personal computer.

Wwigo, from software developer Motvik, is a free application which turns your mobile phone camera into a wireless Bluetooth webcam. It installs a “receiver” application on your PC as well as a webcam application on your mobile phone, and the video captured by your mobile is wirelessly transmitted to your PC. The video that is transmitted to your PC can be used in Skype, Yahoo Messenger, Windows Live Messenger, YourTube and Grouper applications for vlogging or video chat, and the quality is as good as – or better – than any off-the-shelf dedicated webcam.

However, because there’s no wires attached to your mobile phone, you can use and move it within a 10m radius of your PC while capturing video to your PC the whole time. And because the video is being recorded on your computer – not on your mobile phone – it doesn’t matter how much memory you have on your mobile phone; the length of the video capture is only limited by the size of your computer’s hard drive – not your phone’s memory.

My phone, a Nokia 6110 Navigator, isn’t listed as a compatible phone model, but it worked fine with Wwigo. Video quality was first class: as good as my $190 dedicated, top-of-the-range webcam at home.

If you’ve been looking for a way to record your lectures or presentations using your organisation’s networked computers, this could be the solution for you. You don’t even need to carry a laptop with you around campus: just your mobile phone and a Bluetooth USB dongle to plug into your organisation’s computers, to save your recorded sessions directly to your computer or your network.

Here’s a test snippet captured using Wwigo; the quality is somewhat degrated by the conversion on YouTube:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://youtube.com/v/aXU9-W5HDgs" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

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Cringeworthy Reporting eclipses Decent Product: Aussie Invented iPods in Education? iPod holds State Library?

22 02 2007

In this video clip (30 October 2006), Geoff Elwood of a company called E-Tech appears to accept the credit for inventing the use of iPods as a learning tool. It seems that his company has been working with a group of year 8 students at Heathmont College since late last year, but has also previously beein involved with this kind of technology overseas.

At 3mins 20secs of this footage, Elwood says “thank you” for being called the “inventor” of this “Australian technology”. It almost sounds like he’s taking credit for inventing the use of iPods in schools – though perhaps he really means to take credit for the Studywiz software created by E-Tech that is behind the Victorian implementation. It’s unlikely that anyone (except perhaps Blackboard) would have the audacity to claim “inventing” iPods in education when there are considerably more mature iPod supported programs at a number of educational institutions around the world. For example, several earlier projects of a similar nature are mentioned on Apple’s own iPods in Education page, such as Duke University, since 2004 – not to mention several years of commentary and use of iPods by other educators.

In another clip reporting the Studywiz project in Victoria, there are some unfortunately misguided thoughts on how iPods will “replace” books, as well as an alarming statement that an iPod could store every book in the Victorian State Library. What… er… including diagrams and illustrations? In 80GB? LOL… technology’s come a long way, but we’re not quite there yet, I’m afraid. ๐Ÿ™‚

Hmmm, now that I’ve experienced the misconceptions possible in media reporting first hand, I’m going to be taking those sensational reports about cures for cancer with a bit more salt in future…

Anyway, as much as I’m sceptical of the quality of the reporting done on Studywiz, I did a bit of digging, and the product itself does appear to be gaining considerable uptake throughout Australian schools and internationally – including some national and internationally big names such as Cheltenham College in the UK and Presbyterian Ladies College in Victoria – not to mention my own school, Canberra Grammar.

Now at Version 9, Studywiz is an integrated e-learning and m-learning product, featuring web-accessible “lockers” for each learner’s resources, 3D gallery, team folders, RSS feeds, IMS compatibility, edu-gaming, and communication tools among other things. Sounds like it could be a pretty good platform for collaborative online learning, that integrates with students’ ubiquitous mobile digital devices. While both Online Learning Systems and iPods as educational tools are certainly not ideas originated by E-Tech, it’s good to see an Australian educational software company experiencing local and international success.

(via TerenceOnline)ย 

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UK Vet Students using Mobile Learning

21 02 2007

From the textually.org blog:

Students at UK’s Royal Veterinary College are using smartphones to take video, view diagnostic images and access research while in the field as part of a new project called MyPad. IT Pro reports.

“The pilot project, sponsored by Orange, which began in November 2006, has 30 students trialling M3100 SPV and 15 M500 SPV smartphones and a bespoke database platform, designed to help record and process information from their hands-on training.

…The internet-enabled phones also allow students to cross-reference their notes and check research right away while working with animals.”

https://i0.wp.com/gronnevik.se/rjukan/uploads/Main/cute_kitten.s.jpg

The way these vet students are using these mobile devices sounds very similar to the manner in which many medical students and practitioners (doctors and hospitals) are currently utilising mobile technology – to improve the accuracy of diagnosis, and the quality and speed of treatment.

While applying these methods to vet science from medical science may not seem like such a leap of the imagination, I’m aware of teachers here in Australia who are applying these same techniques to other disciplines, such as plumbing, marketing/advertising, and landscaping. In many professions and trades, capturing visual information about a work problem, or retrieving decision-support data in the field, are as valuable as they are to doctors or vets.

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Viral Experiments (not in a Biology sense)

20 02 2007

I’ve always loved science. All through my education, “Mad Scientist” was up there in my preferred 10 occupations after leaving school. I was a Gold Member of the Double Helix Science Club at the age of 12, and had numerous letters, photos, and competition entries published in the club’s magazine, The Helix. I was lucky – for me, science was made a lot of fun.

The E-Learning Queen blog points out this potential to make learning fun and engaging through video, and in particular, looks at pop-science serials such as Numb3rs and Bones, in which maths and anthropology (respectively) feature extensively in the deeds of derring do. The spate of “Diet Coke and Mentos” videos on YouTube was also highlighted as a potential learning tool; the videos of Bellagio-like fountains and rockets of soft drink were virally shared by tens of millions around the world.

Who would have thought that this kind of viral media could actually be used as a means of teaching science? For, as stated on the E-Learning Queen blog,

And yet, if one watches the videos alone, itโ€™s somehow unsatisfying.Whatโ€™s missing? Itโ€™s the explanation. They never say HOW or WHY the reactions happen.

The answers came one night in an unexpected way. The boxed set of DVDs I had ordered had arrived. I was watching Season Two of Numb3rs when the characters in the series re-enacted the Mentos and Diet Coke experiment for an Applied Math course, and accompanied the explosions with an explanation. The answer involves surface tension. Itโ€™s about surface tension. There is extreme change upon the sudden introduction of a gum Arabic and gelatin disc into a liquid under pressure (due tothe carbonation), where the only way for gas to escape is through a narrow neck creates a rapid phase change. The way the surface tension changes is explained here.

This experiment, a catalyst for a physical reaction, provides a model for learning content, too. Sites like YouTube become repositories of viral video content that could be used by educators as catalysts for learning. Introducing a topic (such as “Surface Tension”) with a Mentos fountain is one way to engage students in online and mobile learning, and make them keen to understand the why and how.

These little chunks of sweetness can bring about big reactions – from our students. ๐Ÿ™‚

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