Video from Handheld Learning 2009

My talk, "Create It in Your Hand, Share it with the World," from Handheld Learning 2009 is online in video form! This is the presentation where I talk about the importance of creating and sharing, focusing on iPod touch and three types of products: comics, animations, and audio podcasts.

For links and a transcript of the presentation, read my previous blog post. For more video from Handheld Learning 2009, go to Handheld Learning's channel on or subscribe via iTunes.

The Simpsons and Phones in School

The Sunday, October 4th episode of The Simpsons cartoon pokes fun at technology in schools. The show opens with Bart Simpson's teacher, Edna Krabappel, grading papers as she gets out of bed.

The episode cuts to Edna standing in front of a classroom full of students playing games, watching videos, texting, and talking on their mobile phones. It is chaotic. She struggles to gain the class' attention. Many mobile phones have apps you can download for practicing multiplication problems. Perhaps redirecting students to those apps could grab their attention and be self-grading. Then she could walk around with a clipboard noting each student's progress. Admittedly, dealing with several different kinds of mobile phone platforms would be annoying since they all work differently and have different sets of applications available.

Ms. Krabappel asks, "You're children! Why do you all need cell phones?" They yell out "Safety," "Emergency," and "Educational." These reasons are shouted out as an automatic response to the teacher's question, all the while students continue their talking, texting, and gaming. The reasons to bring phones to class don't matter to the students. As long as they get to have their toys, they are are happy.

Edna then sighs and says, "Could you at least set them to vibrate?" Once on vibrate, the phones make even more noise. The teacher gets fed up and collects all of the phones from her students. She proclaims, "No more gizmos in this class." The students are very disappointed. There seems to be no happy medium when it comes to mobile phone use. The free-for-all didn't work. Simply putting the phones on vibrate didn't work. So banning, not classroom management or curriculum integration, is Edna's answer.

"Hey, don't worry, we still have the good old classroom computer," Edna explains as she walks over to a very outdated machine and inserts a floppy diskette. The game that appears on the screen is very simple and outdated, especially compared to the interactive and complex games the students were playing on their phones. The students' phones (a.k.a. handheld computers) are each far more powerful and interactive than the classroom computer. It's a shame that potential learning tools are locked in a drawer.

Because of unrelated events, Ms. Krabappel is replaced. Her replacement invites phones, texting, Facebook, blogging, Twitter, and other "cool" stuff into the classroom. Of course, the students are thrilled with his paperless classroom. The students are shown to be excited about what they are doing in class, but are they actually learning anything aside from the technology itself?

One of the "cool" things the new teacher does is emails his students a video where he wears jerseys with numbers that are multiples of seven. The jersey video reminds me of Mrs. Burk, the rapping math teacher. The new teacher may be on to something. Lots of teachers are making videos and podcasting. Students seem to respond better to videos that feature people they know.

During class, the new teacher asks, "Who can tell me what the Monroe Doctrine was?" One student recites, "The policy of President Monroe that America has a right as a nation to..." The teacher interrupts the student and asks, "Are you telling me that you memorized that fact when anyone with a cell phone can find it out in 30 seconds?" The student realizes, "I've crammed my head full of garbage!" Again, there seems to be no happy medium. It's either lots of memorization of facts vs. only search for facts. Yes, students need to know how to find information. And yes, there are things that students shouldn't have to research because they remember them.

In the end, The Simpsons' parody of mobile phones in schools probably changes the minds of no one. Those that are absolutely opposed to inviting student-owned phones will see the craziness of the first classroom scene as what would really happen in the classroom full of phones--a huge distraction with no learning. Those who want to give students access to any and all technology in classrooms will witness the excited reactions of Bart Simpson's classmates as evidence that using today's technologies are a very good thing--learning should be chaotic.

The happy medium that I prefer is using school-owned devices. A class set of iPod touches checked out to students for the school year can be more easily managed. Each student would have access to the same hardware and apps. The teacher can control what apps are installed and what features are enabled. Of course, it's costly to outfit a class of students with handhelds. I do continue to be interested in the idea of students bringing their own devices to class. It would be less costly and demonstrate to students that any device can be used for learning. But it has to be done in the right way with the right philosophy behind it. What are your thoughts about mobile phones in schools? Please comment.

If you enjoy The Simpsons brand of humor, you'll get a kick out of other gags in the show. Those in the U.S. can watch the entire episode, "Bart Gets a Z," on Hulu.

What Happens When You Give Children an iPod touch?

The above video by Leon Cych is titled "What Happens When You Give 32 Children in a Class an iPod touch Each?" The 7 minute movie was filmed at Burnt Oak Junior School in the U.K. Eight-year olds there have been using a class set of iPod touches for a couple weeks. The video interviews the class teacher, headteacher, and students about the experience.

The students have used about a dozen apps, including, WorldView webcam viewer, and the Safari browser. Peter Barrett, the class teacher, mentions that the Internet students see in Safari is filtered by the school's system.

Watch for a student to demonstrate how to copy and paste. When asked how he knew about copying and pasting, he said that he just discovered how to do it by tapping on the screen. This goes to show that youngsters learn to use iPod touch quickly, allowing them to focus on learning tasks, not the technology. The teacher says, "The speed at which they are learning is amazing."

Carol Richardson, the headteacher, observes, "It's quite clear that children are highly motivated when using the iPod touches." Read more about the iPod touch project at the Learn 4 Life blog.

Kick YouTube

Clipart from Juniper ImagesYouTube does not provide a way to directly download videos from their site. That's probably because they want you to visit their ad-supported webpages.

Why would you want to download videos from YouTube? Well, there are lots of great educational videos there. YouTube is blocked in most schools, so teachers who want to use these videos in their classrooms have to download them from home and bring them to school. Also, in order to view a YouTube video on an iPod or other portable player, you'll need to have it downloaded.

The videos on YouTube are in Flash format (those are videos that end with the .flv extension). So, even if you manage to save the .flv movie file, you have to either convert it to a different format or find software that will play it. After a video is downloaded and converted to the proper format, you can sync it onto an iPod or put it in PowerPoint slide shows or edit/remix it using video editing software like iMovie or MovieMaker.

I often use to download videos from YouTube and convert them into the MPEG-4 format that iPods and QuickTime love so much. In four easy steps you paste the YouTube URL into, select the video format (likely .mp4), and input your email address. After clicking Convert, Zamzar will put your request in a queue. Once it has processed your request (usually between 15 minutes and 2 hours), Zamzar will email you with a link to download the converted movie.

Zamzar's 4 Steps

Another way to download videos from YouTube is using software. Some are free and some are pay and you can find software for both Mac and Windows computers. There is freely available software that you might already have on your computer that can download YouTube videos and that's RealPlayer. You might already have RealPlayer installed--you'll need version 11 and it's free. RealPlayer 11 actually enables you to download videos from websites, including YouTube. Unfortunately, when used to download YouTube videos, RealPlayer does not convert it from the .flv format, so you'll need to convert the file if you want to use it in other places other than RealPlayer. (As a Mac user, I've installed Perian which enables QuickTime to play those Flash videos.)

RealPlayer 11 on YouTube

Now there's a new site that is even simpler than Zamzar. It's called You don't need to copy and paste the video's URL, install any software, or wait for an email. Here's how it works.

1. Find the video you want to download on YouTube. Many videos on YouTube are now in High Definition. If the video has a "watch in HD" link below it, click it so you'll be downloaded the larger video size.

Find Video

2. In the address field, type kick in front of and press Enter.

Add Kick

3. You are taken to the KickYouTube site, showing the video from YouTube. Across the top of the page are download options: FLV, MP4, HD, AVI, MPG, 3GP, iPhone, PSP, MP3, OGG, and GIF.

Opens in

4. MP4 is almost always my choice, so I click it. Then I click the Go button where I get this message below. So I just right-click (or Mac users can Control-click) that green Go button and save the video file to wherever you want on your hard drive.

KickYouTube Notice

Now the video on is on the hard drive. It can be put on a flash drive, burned to a DVD, imported into move editing software, put it in a slide show, or whatever you like to do with video files.

Very similar to KickYouTube is Just add pwn in front of when viewing a video and it will take you to a page where you can download that video.

With YouTube in their URLs, I'm guessing that Google (the company that owns YouTube) won't stand for their trademark being used in other web addresses, so and services may not be around for long.

Download LinkYouTube may one day offer downloads directly from their site. In fact, a "Download this video" link can be found on pages for President Obama's videos. When clicked, the link will download an MPEG-4 video to your hard drive. If this becomes an option on all YouTube videos, services like Zamzar and KickYouTube or software like Real Player and TubeSock won't be necessary for downloading videos.

Please note that downloading videos from YouTube may go against YouTube's Terms of Service. Also, the video creator's copyright should be respected and acknowledged at all times.

Flip Video Camera

Flip Video CamerasTeachers have been flipping over the Flip video camera. I've had one for months and really enjoy it. What's so special about this camera? First, the camcorder stores video in its internal memory. That means there are no tapes to rewind, record over, or lose. Secondly, the camera couldn't be easier to use. It only has a few button because it only has a few features. In fact, the Flip video camera seems like a Fisher-Price product because it is so simple. Another awesome thing for classrooms is that the camera requires no cables or cords. You don't need to worry about a power adapter because it uses 2 AA batteries (I recommend getting 4 rechargeable AA batteries so that one pair can be in the camera and the other can be charging). No computer cable is needed because a USB plug is hidden on the side of the camera that flips out when you need it.

Because the video is stored in flash memory, there is no tape to rewind when importing into the computer. The Flip comes with software loaded on it to help you download the video from the camera. You need special software because the camera records in its own DivX MPEG-4 format. As a Mac user, I've installed the free Perian component for QuickTime. This allows my computer to play the movie file in QuickTime, iTunes, and other programs. I can use the video in iMovie HD, but the new iMovie 8 won't recognize the video format.

The Flip does not have a microphone jack. While its built-in mic is pretty good, users need to make sure that if they are capturing someone talking, that person needs to be very close to the camera. We've all seen many teacher and student-produced movies where you barely hear what is being said. To get around this, I would move the camera far back to get a silent establishing shot. Then I'd reposition the camera to get a tight shot so that the camera is close to the person while he or she speaks.

Zoo VideosI took my Flip camera to Omaha's Zoo. Here's a clip of fish in a massive aquarium. I zoom in at the end and you can see the image becomes blotchy when zoomed because it is a digital (not optical) zoom. The video is 640 x 480 pixels large. I converted the video format from the Flip's .avi format to an equivalent .mp4. Otherwise, those you without the Flip software or Perian wouldn't be able to see it. Here's the same video uploaded to YouTube. You'll notice the original is larger in size and higher quality than what YouTube displays. Just for fun, here's another video from the zoo's Desert Dome. And here's the YouTube version. Like most cameras, you'll notice that the Flip records much better in sunlight than in semi-darkness.

The Flip currently comes in three different models. The model that records up to 30 minutes of video is $130. $150 will get you a camera that records up to 60 minutes. For $30 more you can get a sleeker 60 minute model.

The Flip is not the only small, cheap, tapeless video camera around. There's the RCA Small Wonder, Creative Vado, and Kodak Zi6. These cameras are very similarly priced to the Flip and have similar features. All include only a 2x digital zoom.

Why have a handy, easy-to-use camera in the classroom? Besides making videos of educational skits, the Flip camera could be used to document field trips and science experiments. It could be used to record interviews and class discussions. The videos could be uploaded to sites like TeacherTube or as a video podcast. Here are a few TeacherTube videos about or made with a Flip video camera: Reflection on Flip Project, Instructions for Using Flip Video Cameras (Windows), and Chinese Greetings.

How to Cheat

Search for "how to cheat" on YouTube and you might be surprised on how many student-produced videos are online that show exactly how to cheat in school. Methods range from dozens of ways to hide cheat sheets to increasing the length of a term paper. There are even multiple videos showing how to remove, scan, and replace text on a Coke bottle's label. Watch some of the videos below to see for yourself.

Learn how to use an innocent-looking Coke bottle for cheating. The label is scanned, information is replaced, and a new label printed out and attached to the bottle.
This student shows how to hide answers in a skirt. She shows how to make your own skirt that can hold many cheat sheets.
This video shows how to stretch out a rubber band to write down answers. When the band is unstretched, you can't tell that answers are written on it.
Lots of advice and techniques are shared in this video, including becoming friends with the professor, writing on the inside label of a water bottle, and more.
Increase the length of a report or paper by replacing periods with larger ones. A nine page paper can turn into a 10+ page paper with this technique.
See how to make a tiny cheat booklet using paper and a stapler.
This video has insights from interviewed cheaters. "The Buddy Method" is demonstrated in the last half of the video.
This "Cheating Documentary" interviews many students who share ways to cheat, including taping answers inside of one's bangs and writing on various body parts.

Yes, we would rather our students not watch these videos. But, the information is out there and easily accessible.

One concern I hear about inviting mobile devices into the classroom is that students will use them to cheat. Perhaps. While many teachers seem to be focused on iPods and cell phones as cheating tools, they may overlook more prevalent methods of cheating. Watching these videos shows you there are lots of ways to cheat nowadays--and barely any of them involve mobile computers.

Of course, it is possible to store cheats on iPods and other electronic devices. There are videos that demonstrate how to do that too. This one uses the Notes function of iPods. Another video encourages students to record their answers and listen to earbuds in their sleeves while leaning on their hands to listen.

The "Cheating Documentary" above ends with the voiceover, "So students cheat. It is something that will never die. The question is, can teachers keep up in the race against students and their ever-going creativity?" The answer is not keeping up--that will never happen. One answer is creating assessments that students can "cheat" on. Rarely are people without some device that they can use to look up a formula or definition. It doesn't make sense to have school assessments so incredibly focused on memorizing information that is accessible anywhere and anytime. Unfortunately, emphasis in education is on "playing school" instead of learning what's important for today's and tomorrow's society.

The Los Angeles Times recently ran the story Exam Cheating Goes High Tech, But Its Causes are Nothing New. Here's a quote:

There is an increasing body of opinion among educators that cheating may be an expression of the way schools approach teaching and learning. And as schools and teachers come to face more high-stakes standardized testing, the worse it will become, said Gary J. Niels, who has studied cheating behavior and wrote a 2003 paper on honor codes.

Studies found that when teachers were vague in explaining the relevance and importance of curricula, students perceived the lessons as a waste of time and were more likely to cheat. Fact-driven data that had to be "regurgitated," said Niels, also correlated to higher incidents of cheating.

The article also addresses the ethics of cheating:

"It's a mistake to talk about school cheating without referring to society at large," said Michael Josephson, founder and president of the Los Angeles-based Josephson Institute of Ethics, a nonprofit consulting and training firm. "We need to connect these dots and ask what is our attitude toward cheating, because kids are going to absorb that attitude. . . . And cheating learned in school is habit-forming."

As I was writing this post, a great question was posed on Weblogg-ed: When are we going to stop giving kids tests that they can cheat on? Many extremely astute comments have been made about "cheating" in schools.

As an aside, I am completely offended and disappointed in the comments on the YouTube pages for the videos above. YouTube doesn't moderate comments and it certainly shows. I'm actually glad YouTube is blocked in schools, not necessarily because of the video content, but because of the nasty, nasty comments.

Soundsnap: Free Audio for Podcasters

Soundsnap CategoriesSoundsnap is a new place to find sound effects and musical loops. It's like YouTube for sounds because users can download sounds and upload their own--all for free. Everything uploaded to Soundsnap is copyright-friendly for podcasters to use. Here's how Soundsnap describes itself:

Soundsnap is the best platform to find and share free sound effects and loops- legally. It is a collection of original sounds made or recorded by its users, and not songs or sound FX found on commercial libraries or sample CD's.

It was originally started by a small group of sound people from all over the world. Our common belief is that sounds and samples should be free for everyone to use in their projects, commercial or not.

Our users are a diverse mix of sound designers, sound artists, web game developers, filmmakers and music producers. Hobbyists and home video makers are welcome too.

Soundsnap is fully searchable and sounds are also categorized and tagged for browsing.

You can download an MP3 or WAV version for most files from Soundsnap. I recommend downloading WAV files to import into your podcasting projects. WAV files are usually higher quality. You'll be compressing the audio later, but it's nice to start with the best sounding audio available.

Soundsnap started with 30,000 audio files and is growing. Check it out!

Update: Soundsnap is very much like YouTube, where not all uploads are appropriate for school. It's probably not a good idea to let students loose on Soundsnap (and it's likely to be blocked at school). I suggest that educators download a whole bunch of useful audio files from Soundsnap to their hard drives and organize them into folders. Burn those folders on a CD or place them on a flash drive that is always available for when sounds are needed.

iPods Episode #2: Downloading Videos

Learning in Hand: iPodsThe second episode of the Learning in Hand: iPods podcast has been posted. Episode #2: Downloading Videos is all about getting videos from websites to play on iPods.

Full sized iPods can play movies and videos! If you aren't sure if your iPod can play videos, simply turn on your iPod and go to the Main menu. If Video is listed, probably just below Music and Photos, then your iPod is video-capable. Currently, iPod nanos cannot play video. Their screens are so tiny, it probably wouldn't be enjoyable. And, of course, iPod shuffles don't have screens—not very conducive to viewing video.

You probably know that the iTunes Store would love to sell you music videos, television, shows, and full-length movies for between $1.99 and $14.99. But those are certainly not the only videos you can download, sync to, and play on an iPod. There are free video podcasts available from the iTunes Store as well, but we're not going to cover those in this episode.

We're going to talk about videos that you might already have on your computer that you'd love to put on an iPod for student-viewing. Additionally, you might have several favorites tagged in United Streaming, YouTube, or TeacherTube. Let me tell you about getting these videos ready for viewing on a video-capable iPod.

You need to know that iPods will only play videos that are in the MPEG-4. That means the video will end with the extension .mp4. In fact, iPods are somewhat picky in what kinds of MPEG-4 videos they will play. I'll share ways to get your videos into the iPod specific format. But please don't think that just by renaming a video with the ending .mp4 that that magically turns the video into the right format. Videos have to be transcoded from their original format, which might be .mov, .mpeg, .avi, to MPEG-4. Transcoding takes a lot of processing power, so when a video is being converted, you'll have to wait a while. Listen to all 11 minutes 45 seconds of Episode #2 to learn more. You can read more about videos and iPods here.

Subscribe in iTunes
RSS Feed
Listen Now

Digital Video Productions

Scene MarkerMaking videos can be wonderful learning experiences. Although the process is most times more important than the final product, there are many tips and tricks that can really help videos shine.

If you're producing digital videos, you're probably using Apple's iMovie. The audio podcast, iLifeZone Episode 18, explains a lot of ins and outs of digital video you should know. Much of the episode is spent talking about shooting the video and many of the tips apply to Windows Movie Maker as well. If you don't have time to listen to the 40 minute program, check out iLifeZone's detailed show notes.

Earlier this month I presented the workshop Make Marvelous Movies at the Minnesota TIES conference. There are a lot of good reasons to make movies and so many great ideas for student-made videos. I showed plenty of example movies during the workshop to demonstrate the video concepts I was teaching. Several of the examples came from videos I have made in the past few years with students, including Explorer Interviews and Character Counts Clips. You can read about some of the information from the workshop in this handout.

Once a video is complete, there are certainly a number of options for sharing it. It can be played for an audience, put on school web site, posted to services like Google Video, or exported to a format for handheld computers and iPods. I like to export my videos as MPEG-4 (.mp4) because this is a standard format that can be played by many software applications and devices. And like audio productions, video productions can be put into an RSS feed and become a video podcast.