Towers and Gargoyles

One of the big reasons that ACS acquired a drone was to support the work of Prof. Andrew Tallon, who wished to make videos and photos of the out-of-reach aspects of gothic cathedrals. In order to learn about and get practice with flying close to buildings, we made several flights around the tower of Main Library. To focus our efforts, we specifically targeted the 8 gargoyles that reside near the top of the tower. (We eventually photographed all of the library’s gargoyles– there are 36 of them!– though most were photographed without the drone.)

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Streaming Copyrighted Films


copyright-white[ The following are the thoughts of ACS staff and should not be interpreted as the legal opinion of Vassar College. ]

Vassar College has the technology that will allow instructors to stream videos for their students’ viewing. But instructors must first determine that doing so does not violate copyright law.

Most film and audio recordings are protected by copyright law, meaning that you can’t make copies and/or distribute copies unless certain exemptions exist. It is incumbent upon you, the instructor, to determine if any particular material can be copied and shared in any particular situation.

Ideal Scenarios
If the work is in the public domain, due to its age or because it was produced with federal funding, or simply because the creator waived copyright, you’re free to copy it. If you’ve gotten explicit permission from the copyright holder or acquired a license to that effect, you’re free to copy it. If, after a reasonable and earnest effort, you’ve been unable to contact the copyright holder to request permission, you may copy it.

TEACH Act
Under the TEACH act, you’re allowed to copy a non-dramatic work (i.e. a documentary)  and post it online for members of your class, as long as it is required for the class, and as long as it is directly related to issues that the class will be discussing during class meetings. The copying and posting should be done yourself, not by an institutional unit. For dramatic works, the TEACH Act only supports posting small portions of the work.

Fair Use Exemptions
Copyright law does allow for making copies of a work without the copyright holder’s permission, if “fair use” will be made of the copy. In determining whether or not a particular situation is fair use, you should take these four factors into consideration:

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. The nature of copyrighted work. (Creative work is protected by copyright, but facts and ideas are not.);
  3. Amount and substantiality; (The smaller the portion of the work that you use, the more likely the use will be considered fair.);
  4. Effect upon the work’s value. (Copying a work is less fair if it is used as a substitute for a product on the marketplace, depriving the copyright holder of potential income.)

There is no exact formula for determining fair use; you must consider all four factors and base a conclusion on the aggregate of all four. The American Library Association makes available this tool for helping you make a determination about the fairness of a use that you are considering:

Fair Use Evaluator

If you’ve determined that your intended use cannot be strongly defended by the fair use guidelines, or any of the other exemptions, then you should consider other ways of providing your students with access to the work, such as scheduling a screening or leaving a copy of the material on reserve. Many films are also now available inexpensively, for online rental to individuals; Google the film title and the results may show that Amazon Video, YouTube, or iTunes may stream the video to individuals for $2.99 each.

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Downloading Audio and Video from YouTube

If you want to download the audio or the video from a YouTube video, here’s a great resource for you: http://offliberty.com/

It is very straightforward. Paste the YouTube url into the box, and press the power button. After a shortish wait (can be longer if the video is long) you will be given the choice of downloading the audio as .mp3 and/or the video as .mp4.

The demonstrative part of this video begins at 51 seconds in.


I can imagine any number of situations where this utility would be extremely handy. (It is always good to have a backup plan when you are teaching a class.) However, as the website points out, “Sometimes browsing offline content requires permission from its author or owner. Remember to be sure that you have it.”

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Recording Video or Audio Directly Into Moodle

Vassar’s Moodle system has a new tool, with the possibly too cutesy name of “PoodLL.” PoodLL provides a bridge between Moodle and the camera and/or microphone on a person’s computer. There are two main ways it can be used:

1. An instructor can record a video or audio message directly onto the main page of a Moodle course, or into the instructions of a discussion forum, or even into the description field associated with a file. Previously you would have to use some other software to make the recording, then upload it into Moodle; now no other software is necessary.

Are there things that come across better when seen or heard than when read? A poem or a foreign language passage? A view of a physical object or action? Here’s how to use PoodLL to make the recording:

2. You can create an assignment (or a quiz) in which students reply by recording themselves. Many instructors use Moodle’s Assignment activity to collect files (like research papers or homework exercises) from students. Now the Assignment activity can also be used to collect video or audio recordings from students.

One of the most obvious uses of this is to ask foreign language students to record themselves speaking in the target language, but be creative! A lab instructor could ask students to make a brief video showing the results of their procedure. Drama students could record a dramatic reading. Here’s how to create an assignment that lets students record their responses:

If you’re not yet feeling muddled by Moodle’s PoodLL, you might try noodling with an audio or fiddling with a video. There’s also a whiteboard function, so you could doodle in Moodle’s PoodLL. More on that in a separate post.

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Digital Storytelling – Autobiographies with Final Cut Pro

computer-eyeNot too long ago I posted about Final Cut Pro X being an awesome tool for students new to video editing. I was in a class yesterday where the students blew me away with their outstanding work, after just one hour’s worth of training. I was so excited, I wanted to share their work with you.

The Context: The past few years I’ve worked with Professor Erin McCloskey and her EDUC 373: Adolescent Literacy classes. During the course of the semester, Vassar students are paired with area middle- and high school students. They work together developing stories, podcasts, videos and multimedia. We’ve used WordPress blogs to host, document and present their work, to share with classmates and parents. For the Vassar students to introduce themselves to their middle-school partners (and to their VC peers), we asked them to produce 1 to 2-minute digital autobiographies.

The Workshop: Last week during class, I trained the students in FCP X, and this week they posted their stupendous digital autobiographies. I asked them during their presentations if they had ever edited videos before. Most had little to no experience with video. I wanted to share these videos as the assignment really played to the strengths of the students. These are highly personal and very charming.

 

Student Videos: Here are a few representative examples (but all of the stories were great in their own way):

I showed them how to make their autobiographies in FCP X, but a few students did some interesting things on their own. Logan made an animated movie using his laptop’s camera. Stephanie combined her love of photography and used the YouTube Editor and FCP X to make this video.

We had a great class yesterday (2nd in the semester) sharing these videos with each other. Next week the VC students will use their videos to introduce themselves to their middle- or high- school partners. Professor McCloskey led a dynamic follow-up discussion where she asked her students to reflect upon the difficulties they encountered creating their videos, and how that experience could possibly provide insight when they begin to work with their adolescent literacy partners.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Reflection: A Semester with FCP X – Video Editing with non-film students

fcpx2013Last summer the decision was made to use Final Cut Pro X as the supported video editing software for Vassar students. CIS deployed FCP X in the Film Department’s editing labs as well as in the Digital Media Zone in the library. To help us adapt to the switch from beloved FCP 7 to FCP X, we organized an on-campus workshop with Roberto Mighty. For two days Film faculty and CIS employees worked shoulder to shoulder, getting valuable hands-on experience with an interface that was new to most of us. There had been quite a controversy about Apple’s changes from FCP 7 to FCP X, and most of us were apprehensive about the switch. But after two days of excellent instruction, our general sense was that the FCP X could generally do anything FCP 7 did, and it did some things better. I was looking forward to using it with students.

Using FCP X for Digital Storytelling

Past years I’ve worked with French Faculty with students who were tasked with creating digital storybooks. (For more on the pedagogical goals of this project, I invite you to read Digital Storytelling in Intermediate French.) Early in the fall, I met with Tom Parker and Mark Andrews to discuss their classes’ projects. In small groups, the students compose and illustrate children’s storybooks in French, which they scan and narrate. Previously we’d uploaded the images to VoiceThread and done the recordings via their online Flash interface. Students were able to upload and record easily enough, but I found other aspects of VoiceThread lacking (editing, layering audio, search, embedding, restrictive licensing, to name a few). FCP might be harder to learn, but once learned, they would have total flexibility on how they created their projects and they would have a skill that might be used for another project or life after college. Tom and Mark were amenable to the idea so we tried it out.

I only had an hour with the students so it was a bit of a challenge to cover the essentials in such a short period. Luckily, their projects only required them to import their scanned storybook pages into FCP X, then record narration. We spent a fair amount of time doing practice narration. We touched briefly on titles, incorporating sounds and music, and exporting. Students that had brought scans of all of their storybook pages were able to get a significant amount of work done during the workshop. One of the classes was able to have a follow-up workshop where I was able to work with each group, advising and troubleshooting. This was extremely valuable and I wish we had been able to schedule this for both classes. Generally speaking, students adapted well to FCP X and were quite successful. I don’t think I would have been confident enough to use FCP 7 in the same way. Here is an example:

I liked how they were able to incorporate both their narration and some sound effects. The use of titles, music and end credits added a bit of polish too. I should add that most of the students I work with have little to no experience with video or sound editing.

America in the World Digital Narratives

Eve Dunbar and Carlos Alamos co-taught AMST 250: America in the World this past fall. For one of their major assignments, students could choose to write a paper, create a podcast, or a a digital narrative. I trained the entire class to edit audio, but a couple students were interested in using video for their digital narratives, so I met with them one-on-one. The students were able to start editing after an hour of training. Here’s an ambitious project that a student put together based on interviews she made using her phone:

FCP X FTW!

So for me and my work, FCP X has been a win. It is an easy to learn and very capable video editing platform. Students are able to get up and running with their video projects in a way that would have been too daunting to attempt in FCP 7. (One hurdle is that special formatting is required for projects on external drives to show up in FCP X.) Students do have the option to download a trial version of FCP X, which is often all they need to get through a project.

I’ve already got one class scheduled to use FCP X this semester: Candice Swift’s ANTH 245: The Ethnographer’s Craft is going to use FCP X to create digital enthnographies; they will use Final Cut to create voice-overs on top of stills and video. I am looking forward to this FCP X project and others like it this spring.

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Flipping the Classroom

arrowsA hot topic in Higher Ed circles is known as “Flipping the Classroom.” The idea is to take the standard, traditional structure of student work in and out of the classroom and flip them— move the lecture out of the classroom and move the “homework” into the classroom. Typically, the lecture is moved out by making a recording of it available to students online.

The idea is for the mostly one-directional transmission of information to happen out of class, so that the in-class time can take maximum advantage of everyone being together.

Of course, this oversimplifies a lot of diverse practices. In reality, a lot of classes— especially humanities and social science classes at small colleges— already place the bulk of their “information transmission” (in the form of reading) outside of class and use class time for discussion. And “homework” may be an inadequate label for what happens in many flipped classrooms. Often, class time is used for what has been called “active learning,” which might include small-group problem-solving or project development.

Benefits
The biggest benefit of flipping is that the most valuable time— the time when everyone in a course is together in one place— is used to its best advantage. If your class time— or even just a portion of it— is used for mostly non-interactive lecturing, why does everyone need to be together?

group_work

[Image from http://serc.carleton.edu/sp/library/sac/]

Another benefit of moving the lecture outside of class is that students can pause a recording, replay it, take careful notes, then continue it. This can be helpful for all students, but especially for those for whom English is not a first language or for students with learning disabilities.

Challenges

[From http://www.theguardian.com/education/mortarboard/2013/feb/19/]

[From http://www.theguardian.com/education/mortarboard/2013/feb/19/]

The biggest challenge with flipping is probably the time and effort required by the instructor— both to produce the lecture recordings and to develop meaningful in-class activities. And some students react negatively to the flipped design— either because they prefer to be passive in the classroom or because they feel that their tuition payment entitles them to a “live performance.”

Interested in flipping, but not sure it’s right for you? You don’t have to flip everything. You can try just flipping two or three class sessions or just portions of a class. Your ACS liaison can help you with the recording.

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Don’t Assume Too Much: Teaching the ‘Digital Natives’

by Baynard Bailey

In Academic Computing Services, we supervise a number of students that are truly experts in multimedia production in a variety of forms. They continually wow us with their outstanding project work. The students create remarkable multimedia in a variety of forms (video, web sites, sound projects etc.). Based on these wonderful projects, it would be easy for us to believe that all college students possess this remarkable level of digital fluency. Faculty that have also been ‘wowed’ by student digital projects could be lured to into making this assumption as well.

According to the British Journal of Education Technology article, The ‘digital natives’ debate: A critical review of the evidence, despite students’ nearly 100% fluency in email, word processing and web surfing, “only a minority of the (students 21%) were engaged in creating their own content and multimedia for the Web, and that a significant proportion of students had lower level skills than might be expected of digital natives.” My experience working with Vassar students confirms this conclusion. Despite being very facile with computers, most students need guidance and support when it gets to the nitty-gritty of multimedia production, whether it is video editing or posting to WordPress.

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

Alex Levy's ability to create beautiful video is the exception, not the norm.

If an assignment for class requires students to create some kind of media that isn’t a standard part of the course (like a podcast, movie, poster, website or digital story), arrange for mandatory skills training for the students. I’ve witnessed the best results when the workshops are scheduled as part of class time. In a pinch, arrangements can be made for something outside of class, though I’d encourage making it required. My experience is that if something is optional for students, they will opt not to come (and regret it later). In general, the students  have a tendency to overestimate their own digital production abilities, and then find themselves ‘stuck’ later on (e.g. two weeks after the workshop) when support is not available. At the very least, students should be put in contact with someone who can provide one-on-one help. Providing skill training as part of the curriculum will empower all students to have their best chances for success.

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Best Free Software for Vassar Faculty (& Others)

by Baynard Bailey

Recently, Pete Naegele shared via a NITLE mailing list an article titled “101 Free Alternatives to Commonly Used Paid Software“. I thought people might not have time to review all 101, so I’m cherry picking those I find most suitable for Vassar faculty. (Note: I’m also only picking things that are options for Windows AND OSX users.)

Email/Communications

Google Mail

Google mail syncs with practically every email system out there. It’s a great client. It can handle multiple accounts and will automatically reply with the email account you pick. The Google search-ability and portability is unmatched. A Gmail account also opens the door for a whole host of applications they offer (Google Docs, Google Calendar, YouTube, Google Reader, the list goes on….) They’ve just released a new priority In Box feature that helps you deal with get control of your In box. Amazing! If you don’t have a Google account already, what are you waiting for?

Thunderbird

Thunderbird is a cross-platform open-source mail client that works great. It even comes on Linux.

Office Programs

Google Docs (as an alternative to Microsoft Office)

Google Docs has the core programs of Micros, such as word processing, spreadsheets and calendars, and not only is it free, but it can be accessed anywhere thanks to cloud computing. You can also edit documents simultaneously with collaborators and/or publish to the internet. The online form enables you to collect data via email or websites, with instantly graphed results. Stop emailing documents to yourself and join us in the clouds.

OpenOffice (as an alternative to Microsoft Office)

As an open source office suite, Open Office allows for the utilization of the best office programs online such as word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics and databases. User contributions can be made to the project, which means that it is constantly growing and evolving.

Dropbox

An easy and efficient way to store, share and sync your files, Dropbox is a cloud service that allows users to access their files anywhere in the world. Very popular!

Website and Application Building

WordPress icon

WordPress

WordPress is a simple and easy way to publish to the Internet. It can handle simple static sites or more complex sites. Faculty and students working with faculty can request a WordPress site hosted by Vassar here. Training and support available from ACS.

Firefox

Free and open source web browser, customizable with tons of great add-ons. Empower your browsing!

Graphics / Photo Editing

GIMP (as an alternative to Adobe Photoshop)

Also known as the GNU Image Manipulation Program, GIMP allows for easy image composition, retouching and photo authoring. It also works on all operating systems. It does just about everything you need in Photoshop.

Flickr (online image collection and management)

Flickr is a great way to store photos and to share photos. It also comes with a whole suite of plug-ins and functionality. If you like to take digital pictures, you’ll instantly like and later fall deeply in love with Flickr. The free one is great and the professional upgrade (with unlimited storage!) is only $25.00 a year. It was developed by a Vassar grad! If you need uncopyrighted images, remember to visit the Flickr Creative Commons.

Audio & Video

VLC (video player and light video editor)

A player that is capable of playing almost every file and media codec, the VLC player means that you don’t have to open and close different programs to run DVDs, VCDs, CDs, web streams and other forms of media. Especially great at creating screenshots from DVDs or videos.

Audacity (sound editing)

Audacity allows for easy recording and editing of sound files, as well as the conversion of tapes and other media formats.

iTunes and iTunes U

Not everyone can go to college, but everyone who has a computer can access iTunes U. Filled with subscribe-able podcasts and video podcasts on every subject imaginable. The media can be played on phones, computers, .mp3 players, or i-anything. If you are interested in developing content for Vassar’s iTunes U, please email me (babailey [@] vassar.edu).

Skype

"The fabulous voice system able to put your family together.” Designed by advertising agency Moma"

"Skype: the fabulous voice system able to put your family together.” Ad designed by advertising agency Moma

Voip (voice over IP) service to make free computer to computer calls, or cheap computer to phone calls. Very popular amongst those who like to make calls overseas.

Hulu

Hulu is a front runner of online video services. Their tagline is “watch your favorites, anytime, for free.” If you missed that last week’s episode of “The Office” and don’t have a DVR, this is the site for you. They have a bevvy of free content or you can pay a modest fee for upgraded services. Embed their player right in your Moodle site!

Handbrake

Great program for ripping clips off DVDs. See my post on Good News for Clip Rippers. Learn how to use Handbrake here.

Also available for Windows.

Let us know if you (at Vassar) need help with any of these programs!

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Quick and Easy Screencasting

Why should a professor care about screencasting?

by Baynard Bailey

It is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words. How many words is a video worth? Sometimes the best way to teach people something is to just show them. But what if I need to show students or project collaborators something now, but I won’t see them for five days? What if I need to teach them a procedure but I don’t want to repeat myself a thousand times? What if I want to create instructional materials that can be accessed independently on demand, this year and the next? One answer to these questions is screencasting.

A screencast is a video recording of one’s computer screen. Educators can use them to create instructional materials. They are also popular as a mode for technical support. To illustrate the concept, here’s a short screencast I made to show Vassar faculty how to add images to labels in Moodle:

I like tools that are easy to use and free. Here are a few popular sites that offer free screencasting utilities:

All of these require users to create an account. If you want to narrate your screencasts, make sure your computer has a microphone. Most laptops these days are sold with video cameras and microphones included.

If you are really into the idea of screencasting and want more control over the recording and editing possibilities, here are a couple of professional grade programs that are outstanding:

  • ScreenFlow – $99 http://www.telestream.net/screen-flow/overview.htm This is the Cadillac of screencasting utilities, in my opinion (mac-only). I’ve tried a bunch and I like this one the best. Below is a sample video that I used for training purposes that includes some of the interesting editing techniques possible with Screenflow (zooming, enhanced clicking graphics and sounds, callouts etc.):

FCP Training 04 Three Point Edit from Baynard on Vimeo.

To see video in its context, please visit it on the training wiki I created.

  • Camtasia Studio – $299 http://www.techsmith.com/camtasia.asp Virtually synonymous with the idea of screencasting; this is the most popular application out there. Now available on macs and PC. This is a very popular program because it is a very high quality program with a rich feature set.

Screencasts can provide valuable technical training that is can be used over and over. Lectures could be captured for students to refer back for later contemplation. Screencasts can free up precious class time. The utilization of screencasts is only limited by your imagination. For a rapid-fire summary of ways screencasts can be used in higher ed, I offer this quote from facdevblog:

Screencasts have been applied in a number of innovative ways in higher education including capturing lectures, conducting website tours, software and database training, demonstrating library functions, and providing feedback to students. Regarding feedback, students can benefit greatly as faculty can review portions of students’ submitted assignments on-screen, highlight specific areas of text, and give his or her audio feedback on the students’ assignments. Students can view the recorded feedback at their convenience and follow-up with questions via email or face-to-face.  Faculty can also assign students to develop their own screencast episodes for certain course activities.

ACS is happy to provide consultation or training in order to include screencasting into your teaching practices.

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