The Networked Student

Wendy Drexler created this video, called The Networked Student. Wendy is a teacher in Florida, and was a student in CCK08, an open course on Connectivism offered by George Siemens and Stephen Downes this fall.

If this is the first time you have come across the learning theory of connectivism, then this video is a great place to start. It clearly explains and illustrates, with Lee LeFever inspired simplicity, the concept of connectivism as a learning theory. I also love it because the events depicted here are true – theory in action.


Create video with Picasa 3

Image representing Picasa as depicted in Crunc...

Image by via CrunchBase

I have used Picasa at home to organize my personal photo collection and I have found it is a very useful tool for my personal photos. It managed them well, had some nice browse features, and the basic photo editing fixes were enough for routine tasks – crops, red eye reduction and slight colour modifications. Oh, and it’s free. But I never really found it had any features I needed at work as part of my day to day media production workflow. That might just change with this new release.

Google has added some nice features to Picasa 3 and is turning this photo organizing tool into much more of a multimedia production tool.

Some of the new features include the ability to geotag photos, add text to photos, some beefed up photo editing tools and easier synch to web to transfer your photos to your (free 1 gig) Picasa web space.

But what really has me jazzed about this new release is the video feature. Drop in some photos, a bit of audio, some text and bang, you’ve got yourself a spiffy little animated slideshow. And with a one button upload to YouTube built in, it’s easy to post to the video sharing service.

Granted, the video editing tool is fairly basic. For example, it looks like you can only set a transition style for the entire project and not individual photos. But for ease of use and quality of the final product, this new feature may sway me away from my standard photo story creation tool, Microsoft’s (also free)  Photo Story. But I am not sure the limited video editing options will sway me away from that other MS multimedia freebie MovieMaker.

I have a feeling I am not going to get much done today.


Don Tapscott on the Net Generation

A useful interview for educators on CBC’s Spark this week. Nora Young talks with Don Tapscott (author of Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything). Tapscott talks about his book Grown Up Digital about the Net Generation and how their brains are being rewired to live in a digital world.

The interview that airs on the program is interesting, but it is only the tip of the iceberg. Thanks to Spark embracing transparency (which is, coincidentally, one of the concepts that Tapscott says is vitally important to Net Gen’ers), you can spend a worthwhile 20+ minutes to listen to the full unedited audio interview.

For example, one of the stories Tapscott told that resonated with me was edited out of the final show is the story of Joe O’Shea, a 22 year old Rhodes Scholar from Florida State University who doesn’t read books. Imagine how ridiculous that statement would have sounded 10 years ago – a Rhodes Scholar studying Philosophy at Oxford who does not read books. As Tapscott correctly points out, THAT is disruptive and more than a little disconcerting to many educators.

He also has some choice words to say about how the net generation learns and what institutions need to do to meet the challenges.

The lecture is becoming defunct because it is a bad model of pedagogy. It’s not how young people learn. We need to move to interactive, self paced learning where students get to collaborate in the learning process.

You can read more of Don’s thoughts on education and the Net Generation at his blog.


Google's new search results feel more than a bit like social bookmarking

Updated November 22: Since writing this post, Google has turned this feature off and made it an opt-in service through Google Experimental Search.

Update November 24: aaaaaand it’s back.

Last night I noticed a couple of new options on Google search results.

Just to the right of the title of the result are two boxes that allow you to Promote or Remove a result from the search. These choices are then saved and, if you perform the same search in the future, your preferred selections bubble to the top while results you choose to remove as not relevant are removed.

Also new is the ability to annotate the search results, essentially giving you a way to create saved lists of your favorite search results with annotations.

Google calls this new service SearchWiki, but really I think the new features have more in common with social bookmarking sites like delicious or Diigo than wiki’s. Sure, you don’t get the customization or network granularity of  delicious or Diigo when it comes to defining your personal network, but certainly the ability to create a highly relevant lists of annotated links using keyword tags is right up the social bookmarking alley. And I suspect it won’t be very long before you will be able to share your search results and annotations with selected Google users.

Google has said this doesn’t affect the results PageRank rankings, but you have to think it will only be a matter of time before the wisdom of the crowds approach wins out and the data collected as a result of peoples choices will be worked into search results or, most likely, the ads that appear with my search results. Not all think this is a good thing, but ultimately making search results more relevant to me is highly desirable.

I think the feature that will prove to be the most disruptive is annotation. Overnight Google has turned their search engine into one gigantic comment engine. Now anyone can add comments about any web resource and make those comments open for the world to see. Talk about transparency. Now that Google has thrown their collective weight behind annotating the web, and made it dead easy to do so, expect the conversation to get a whole lot more interesting as more people take part.


7 things you can do with your video on YouTube that I can't do on my media server

So, the question is – why use YouTube to host your video when the institution has a perfectly good media server sitting in the rack room? The Auricle asked this question recently and came up with 5 good reasons to choose YouTube over an in house media server. In some respects, this post is an extension to that.

Granted, I am pretending here that some of the elephant issues have left the room. I am not discounting these issues as they are vitally important when it comes to using a very public web service like YouTube. But there are more informed educators than me to discuss issues such as opening up your content, transparency, copyright and (gulp) sharing.

Instead, I am going to focus on a few of the killer technical features YouTube has that will enhance your video in ways that would take me, as an educational technologist, hours and hours of time and effort to reproduce – if I could reproduce these at all.

Take embed, for example. Now, our in house Flash server does a decent job of streaming video content from a single location (which, at my institution, is usually Desire2Learn). But beyond that, well, that’s about all we can do with video. If you want to have that content in a second place (say, a blog or website), it requires an EdTech like me with access to server folders and the tools to create a custom video player to do. So for that reason alone, the YouTube embed ability is a killer feature.

But YouTube can do so much more with a video. Here are 7 technical things that you can do with your video on YouTube that I can’t do with my media server.

1) Annotate videos

After you have created and uploaded a video, you can add notes, speech bubbles and highlights to your video. You can even create hyperlink hotspots that, when clicked on, will take users to an external website or another YouTube video.

2) Close caption videos

Looking to make your videos more accessible, or add in a second language to your video? Try adding subtitles or captions to your YouTube video. What’s the difference? Captions are in the same language as the video’s audio track, subtitles are in a different language.

3) Deep link videos

Want to trim a bit off the top of your video? To do this on our media server requires me to edit the clip, a cumbersome process at best. With YouTube, you can create a link to a specific point in a YouTube video. For example, if you’d like the viewer to start watching the video at one minute and fifty-one seconds into the video, you’d add the following time code to the end of the URL: #t=1m51s. So, here is the link in example. This url should take you to a clip from a New Scientist video that is 1:51 seconds in.

4) Swap your audio for music

Again, I would need to edit and, probably, reencode your video. But YouTube gives you the ability to turn your video into a music video with a preset music track.

5) Subscribe to feeds

RSS feeds are an area we haven’t even begun to explore with our in house media server, so if you want to replicate anything like a YouTube channel that people can subscribe to, well, you are out of luck unless you happen to catch me at a slow time of the year.

YouTube, on the other hand, does have basic RSS feeds for subscribing to content. If these feeds are too general, find some smart people who can work their way around YouTubes public API and create the most useful YouTube feeds not found in the YouTube interface.

6) Watch a high resolution version

Okay, granted, the quality of YouTube video is bad, and on this point our in house server has YouTube beat.  But that doesn’t mean you have to be stuck with really lousy video when you use YouTube. Add this code &fmt=18 at the end of the video URL on YouTube and see a higher resolution version of the video.

7) Embed that higher resolution version

Here is a simple hack from Make on how to embed that higher quality video in your site. Basically, add the code &ap=%2526fmt%3D18 at the end of your embed and param url’s and embed the high resolution version of the video on a webpage.

Update November 21: Just found out that you can actually view and embed HD quality videos on YouTube.


Embed a YouTube video in Desire2Learn

Well, I put this video together and demonstrated this technique at a video workshop for our faculty last week, only to have it fail miserably in Internet Explorer 7. Of course. Go figure.

I have embedded dozens of YouTube videos in blogs, wikis, discussion boards and in older version of D2L (prior to 8.3) and have never had a problem. But the D2L HTML editor (which I believe is based on the open source TinyMCE editor) strips out the embed tag when you cut and paste using IE7.

This is a brutal bug, imho, and I’ve reported it to D2L as well as posted it in the D2L user community.

At any rate, here is the video, complete with a spiffy annotation (my first for a YouTube video) explaining this does not work in IE 7.


We're not just consumers anymore – the New Media Literacies

There can be little doubt that the media landscape is tectonically shifting underneath our feet. The line between media consumer and media producer exponentially erodes as the tools to participate get easier and easier to use.

For educators, this raises all kinds of questions, one of the most fundamental being what skills are we going to need to develop, both in ourselves and in our students, to become fully literate in this media rich, participatory digital environment?

This video speaks to that question. Produced by Project New Media Literacies, part of MIT’s Comparative Media Studies program, the video outlines some of the 12 skills required to become active, contributing members of this participatory media environment and, by extension, our communities.

The 12 skills are outlined in a one page PDF document, and are taken from the 2006 white paper Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century by Henry Jenkins (et al.),Director of the Comparative Media Studies Program at MIT.

From Hey Jude aka Judy O’Connell’s delicious feed.


5 tips to find the good stuff on YouTube

As of March 2008, there were roughly 73.8 million videos on YouTube, with 200,000 added everyday. That’s a lot of video. And if you are looking for quality, educational video to use in a course, it’s a lot of noise. So how do you separate the educational wheat from the panda sneezing chaff? Here are a couple of strategies you might want to try out when navigating the YouTube waters.

1) Create an account

When you create an account, YouTube will be able to analyze your viewing patterns and find content that it thinks you will be interested in. Looking for videos on Gestalt therapy? View a few and YouTube will recommend similar videos and have those recommendations ready for you the next time you log in.

When you create an account, you also have the ability to mark videos as a Favorite. Very handy when you do find a useful video and don’t want to forget where it is. Videos marked as Favorites are put in a special spot on your account page where you can easily find it again.

An account also gives you the ability to subscribe to other users videos or channels and be notified when new videos are added to those channels. What kind of channels might you like to subscribe to? Well, how about….

2) Sources you already trust and use

Recently I was doing some work with a trades instructor who does a lot of work with students on work place safety. One of the prime sources of content he uses is WorkSafeBC. Imagine how happy we were when we found the WorkPlaceBC channel on YouTube with loads of high quality videos directly related to this instructors specific needs?

Before you start your general search, search the channels for organizations you already know and trust. Chances are, they have a YouTube channel which you can subscribe to (using your newly created account from tip 1).

Oh, did I say general search? Sorry. I meant…

3) Advanced Search is your friend

YouTube advanced search options

YouTube is now the second most popular search engine after Google, so it makes sense to spend a bit of time getting to know the advanced search options.

Doing a general search on a site with close to 100 million resources is going to pull up a lot of irrelevant content, so skip the search bar and go straight to advanced search options.

One of the first search filters you want to use is the category filter. There is an Education category you can choose, but also choose categories that are relevant to your subject area.

If you are looking for English language videos, filter by language, which will also narrow down the results returned.

Finally, if you are looking for geographically specific content, check out the location filter. Click on Show Map and you get a lovely Google interactive map that will let you zero in on videos from a specific location. Looking for videos of volcanic eruptions at Mt. Etna in Italy? Easy with the location filter. Add in some keywords for a specific location and you have a very powerful search option.

Search by location on YouTube

4) Set your country preference

Set your YouTube country preference

Right beside the YouTube logo in the top right corner of the site is a link labeled Worldwide (all). Click on that and choose your default country. This will give videos from your country preferential treatment. This is, of course, providing you want to start locally. If you are looking for videos on, say, British History, then you may want to set your location to the UK. YouTube doesn’t care if your default location is really your default location. Self select a location that works for you and YouTube will begin the filtering process.

5) When you find a video, follow the trail

YouTube Related Videos and Other Videos From User

For every video you find, YouTube will display a list of Related Videos and More From this user videos. Chances are, if you find one video on a subject by that user, they may have more along the same lines. Follow the links and check out their other videos.

Same thing with Related Videos. If you find something you like, check the Related Videos list to the right of the video to see if there are more, or maybe better, examples.

There you go – 5 tips to make finding content on YouTube a bit easier.You may want to add a few of your own in the comments area.

Using content from YouTube is just one way to take educational  advantage of the video sharing site. Now that you have an account, consider creating your own videos and posting your own content. Or explore the possibilities of having students create and post content, turning YouTube into a powerful learning tool for students. I’ll explore these themes in future posts. But for now, happy searching.