Posts Tagged ‘video’

Tell Me a (Digital) Story

October 7th, 2010

This year, I’ve heard more about ‘Digital Storytelling’ than ever before.

I had faculty members ask me about it (can we do it? how? is anyone else doing it?). I’ve seen presentations on it.

Is it weird that I didn’t know it wasn’t just a concept, but an actual structured *thing* until now? I always just thought that ‘digital storytelling’ was simply the use of certain media to convey a story. I thought it could be bent and crafted to suit the needs of a project. Unfortunately, it seems I was wrong. Someone owns the term, and has come up with a methodology. This is great for folks that like the structure, but it isn’t for me. I think Wikipedia might even be confused about this, as their description sounds more like what I thought it was. (Not to be negative about official “Digital Storytelling” – I simply want to describe my exploration of the topic)

So I guess I am not actually doing “Digital Storytelling”.

Not sure what to call what it is that I am working on with faculty who want their students to convey a story and make a connection using various media. Multimedia storytelling? eStories? Heh. Maybe it doesn’t need a name, we just have to actually do it.

So what exactly are we doing here?

1. Set a Goal

The Instructor really needs to define a purpose for this project (not just using technology for technology’s sake). Usually, it is to have the student convey a piece of their experience using various media (audio, video, photographs, text, animation). The message is really the most important part, and has to be developed before the technology comes into play. Consider whether the final project will be viewed by the Instructor, by the class and/or by the public – plan to discuss with the students how the chosen audience should influence how they develop their presentation.

Also keep in mind that students may be resistant to: a) being creative and/or b) using technology. Some students have got the paper writing down and are a little bit afraid of having to open up to a new idea. Some people are naturally more creative than others, or more comfortable with technology than others. All of this will have to be taken into account so that there is a level playing field for all students. This is why I’m focusing on the message – the technical and creative abilities should not overshadow the student’s ability to get the story across. A glossier video production should not automatically equal a better grade.

2. Develop the Stages of the Project

Work with the Instructor to outline the various stages of the project. In most cases, you will have: a topic submission stage, storyboard, final project. There may be other stages, such as a list of media to be used (photos, videos, sound that has already been collected, but not yet assembled). The following are some of the common stages of a project like this.

  • Topic Submission – have the students think about the topic and come up with the ‘story’ they are going to tell. This stage ensures the instructor can keep the students on point with the topic, before getting involved with the technology.
  • Storyboard – the students should start to map out what will actually happen in the sequence. This stage helps the student to prepare for what visuals, audio and text they will need to generate for the project. At this point, the student should have a good idea of what combination of audio, video, photography and text they will be using. They don’t need to actually HAVE it all at this point.
  • Media Collection – an optional stage that is really more of a check point for the student. Has the student been able to collect all of the media they need to complete the project? If not, what changes need to be made to the scope of the project? (i.e. if the student had a hard time getting particular video content, maybe they need to plan to use still photograhy instead.
  • Final Project – assembly of the media, possibly including transitions and motion to add some interest (or not), delivery of a final file in a specified manner (i.e. post to blog, post to Youtube, hand in on USB flash drive).
  • Class Presentation – Present in-person, in front of the class, describing the goal of the project and how it was achieved. Another alternative is to have a virtual presentation where the student posts the final “video” to a blog, and adds a couple of paragraphs of description. Comments from the class could be encouraged.

3. What are the rules?

I like to keep things as free as possible, as you might have guessed. The rules should be based mostly around the message portion, deadlines for creating certain phases (topic, storyboard, final project). I don’t think the rules should force students to use certain technologies/media, or restrict them – provided they are “getting the job done”. It may just be that the end format has to be web-ready, and must be in a format that can be posted to whatever delivery system the class is using (a blog, a Youtube channel, etc.). Generally speaking, text-only is not an option, as it doesn’t follow the spirit of the exercise.

4. What media/technology?

I think that the students should be able to choose from the technologies, based on what they have access to and their comfort with the technology. Some students will do amazing work with simple stills and text, while others may get hung up on adding too much “technology” and miss the point altogether.

Some students will have no trouble with this part – many have access to basic equipment (cell phones / computers that can record audio to WAV and video, etc, comfort with the software – maybe they’ve even posted to Youtube before). Other students will be uncomfortable with the technology and need some extra help finding equipment (recording equipment, scanners) and the software to assemble the final presentation (iMovie, Adobe Premiere, Windows Movie Maker).

We’re currently trying to assemble a list of what resources Ryerson students have, from borrowing equipment to editing in the computer labs. (*Note: Students should be aware that they will likely need an external USB hard drive to save their work-in-progress if working in a lab – they won’t be able to store their files there!)

5. What delivery method?

I think that posting the final “video” to a class blog would be a great option, because it can accommodate the various authors, media types, allow for some commenting, etc. We’re lucky enough to have a blog system at Ryerson that can house blogs that are public or private, so we don’t have to worry about sites hosted on servers in other countries. Another option is to have the videos posted on a public site like Youtube – there are pros and cons to a publicly hosted site, but other schools are doing it. A great thing about the blog option is that students could choose to post their video on Youtube and simply embed it into a blog post on our server.

So… at the end of my long post… this is the framework I’m working with right now. I’m sure this will evolve with more ideas and more input from different people. Whatever it’s called, I think it could be an interesting exercise for all of us!

More on this topic later.

WordPress v 2.9 Available

December 21st, 2009

They’ve just released version 2.9 for the standalone WordPress system. This update brings a few useful additions, as well as the usual host of bug fixes and things.

Some of the updates that interest me:

  • easy and quick embedding of video from various online sites (Youtube, Vimeo, etc.) – still want to see if this code will translate in Feed Readers or other sites that people may push their WordPress blog posts to (WordPress proprietary tags will not work in these other environments, so need to wach out!)
  • easier updating and compatibility check for plugins
  • image editing capabilities

I’m currently taking a peek at it on our test server, and hopefully the update for WordPress MU (which blog.ryerson.ca runs on) will follow in the next couple of months.

In the meantime, here’s a little video from WordPress to outline some of the changes:

Lecture Online?

October 5th, 2009

With all this talk of the dreaded ‘p’ word (that’s PANDEMIC, for those of you not in the University environment), a spotlight has been placed on ensuring courses can continue offsite. We already have the ability to deliver course materials online, quizzing online, assignments online… but what about the lectures themselves?

We’ve probably all seen some examples of lecture content online, and many of us have differing opinions about what is best. There is a big difference between a 1-hour recorded lecture viewed online,  and a free-flowing lecture and discussion where the students are all present and interacting with the instructor and the environment. (Hopefully that’s what happens in a face-to-face lecture, and I’m not ruling that out for online components.)

So what should we be recommending to faculty who want to have an online lecture presence? What is my idea of a perfect online lecture?

If we’re talking about an audio/video lecture, to be viewed asynchronously by students (with no real student participation),  the online lecture components are planned, to the point and as engaging as the technology and the topic allow. When I say ‘to the point’, I think they shouldn’t be “too long” (5-10 minutes is perfect!). That doesn’t mean the whole lecture has to be summed up in 5-10 minutes — but the important concepts should be broken apart into their own separate entries. These may be delivered via a streaming technology (where users must view them online, in a web browser) or something like a podcast (where users download the content, and view offline on their computer or on a mobile device)

On the other hand, an “online class” delivered via a collaboration tool such as Adobe Connect may go for much longer, as there are lecture portions as well as student questions and feedback. This is a less structured model, with its own benefits and drawbacks… and it requires more time. Participant audio and video adds another layer of complexity to this model, but when it works well can result in some really great community building and concept development.

Start to think about some of these possibilities as we plan for offsite learning. The method you choose will depend on the topic, the style of the lecture, the technologies available, and often how tech-savvy the students are.

Please feel free to leave a comment with your ideas and past experiences – we would love to hear them!

Captioning the world, two formats at a time?

May 20th, 2009

Back to looking at captioning of video content…

Originally, we did Quicktime video captioning, since our tutorials were all Quicktime files (for podcasting). Then, we opted to switch them all over to Flash for the new website (which has yet to be completed). It was almost like having to do it all twice!! The process was incredibly painful, and you constantly have to tweak to get it right. This really isn’t something that most people would be willing to do…

The first problem we face is the transcribing of the video — luckily, I usually work on short (5 minute), scripted videos. That means I basically have a transcript to work with at the get-go. How would this work when dealing with a lecture, or other kinds of live, unscripted and often lengthy types of presentations??

The next consideration is format — do you want to podcast, stream, embed flash in a webpage… or even put on a DVD to be viewed on a television? For those of us working manually, this needs to be decided before you start — and you pray you don’t change your mind later, or need to offer it in various formats.

This brings me to the focus of this post… captioning software. This is my first real look into the features available in software, and the costs involved. The two that keep coming up in my searches are both available at http://www.cpcweb.com – CaptionMaker for Windows, and MacCaption for Mac. Neither one will do audio-to-text, so you need to have a transcript to start. Basically, both are tools that will make the captioning (placing text on the appropriate screen, at the appropriate time, in the appropriate format) a little simpler for the person doing it, AND can export to various formats. Sounds like a great idea to someone like me, who has spent far too much time taking my caption info from Quicktime and trying to master the art of "find & replace" in order to get it in the right format for Flash.

The problem? These come with an incredibly high price tag. I find it baffling that the cost of the software for making a video would be less than the software for doing the captioning. This isn’t to say that it wouldn’t be worth it — actually, that’s something that needs to be assessed. How often will it be used? By how many people?

In any case, this blog will serve as a reminder that I need to find a better solution than the fully manual process I use now…

S

Podcasting, Commoncraft Style

April 24th, 2008

If you have never seen a Commoncraft "Explanations in Plain English" video, you’ve been in some kind of fluorescent, dungeony basement office or something (oh… wait).

Here’s what Podcasting means to them…