Thursday, May 12, 2016

Camtasia offers efficient way to teach

For my final blog entry for the Teaching Multimedia course, I thought I’d write briefly about the lesson plan I developed for the final project. You can find it above in the "How to use Picasa Lesson materials" page.

One of the multimedia tools I think my students would use the most, and would probably get the most views on their website, is a slideshow. They offer a great delivery system for student media. Most people want to see as many photos as possible anyway, so it makes sense to write a lesson over how to compose them.

When we created our own slideshows in this class, I found Picasa to be a pretty intuitive program. I thought it would be the perfect program to create a lesson and Camtasia video over. The idea is to have students view different examples of slideshows on other student media websites, analyze them, come up with their own ideas about a photo story, shoot, edit, create and post a slideshow.

I have 90-minute classes at North Kansas City High School, so three class periods ought to be enough time, considering the student will have a day in between each class period to work. I’ll have to see how this goes when I try it. Sometimes my estimates on timeframes work out, sometimes not.

When I first wrote the lesson, I thought two days would be enough time. After adding other elements and working through the assignment sheet and rubric, I came to realize it wasn’t. I hope the new length works out.

Camtasia itself was pretty easy to use, especially after viewing the tutorials. I wanted to explore more options and animations while editing my video, but I remembered that sometimes, simplicity is better.

One thing that I need to keep in mind is that I don’t need to be perfecting when reading my script. I started over on the recording at least six times before I realized that I could skip over any errors in the editing phase. My initial recording was around six minutes, 40 seconds. After editing out errors and long, long pauses, I ended up with a four minute, 17 second video. Not a bad first effort.

I tried to keep in mind that many people don’t have very long attention spans. Four minutes may be a bit too long, especially when compared against the tutorials I watched in Camtasia. But I really don’t know how I could have made it any shorter.

In the end, I think the Camtasia video will really help my students. One of the great shortcomings of trying to demonstrate tasks live is that you can’t pause, rewind, and watch again. With Camtasia, my students can watch the tutorial at their own pace, stopping and watching again as needed.

I’m looking forward to giving this lesson for the first time. I don’t think I’ll be able to work it in, with only a week of school left, but it will be one of the first lessons I give in the fall. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Dangerous: believing you have it in hand

Creating the above video story was a trial.

My initial idea was to show my students’ journey to our annual Journalism Awards Day at the University of Missouri. It was going to concentrate on the student experience of getting to school very early, riding a rickety school bus, going to educational sessions, then the ride back.

I didn’t consider the fact that I had meetings I had to attend, so I never got any shots of students attending sessions. I got three interviews, but only one use useable. It was very windy that day, and my interviews were outside; so the audio was washed out. I should have considered that ahead of time, and you can be sure I will consider that next time.

So, with my initial idea in shambles, I had to move on to something else. The idea presented itself after a request from one of my co-editors. He asked me if I would be on his panel for his Gold Medallion presentation. It was the perfect “A-ha!” moment.

One of the honors diplomas at our high school requires that students spend an entire year researching an open-ended essential question surrounding a topic of their choice, and creating a 45-minute presentation over it. What better option than to show the fruits of that labor?

I shot video of students entering the exhibition, of a student giving the exhibition, and then interview video of that student, her teacher, and then another student all talking about the presentation. I thought I had everything in hand.

I was wrong.

The technical side of editing video wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. The combination of watching it done in class and watching tutorials online made it pretty straightforward. The biggest problems I had were the technical aspects of shooting video, and a failure to actually tell a story.

As you watch my video, a few things stand out.

The first is that the clips of Natalea giving her presentation have her over exposed. I had played around with different settings, and eventually just switched to auto. Big mistake. You can see the darker areas of the auditorium just fine, but Natalea looks like she belongs in a Twilight movie. It would have been better to use a manual setting and avoid the over exposure.

Next, for every interview clip, every subject is out of focus. I couldn’t tell that they were out of focus as I was shooting the video. I don’t know if I need a stronger prescription on my glasses, or if the display on my camera isn’t very good. Either way, it is distracting to have the background in focus, and the subject out of focus.

But the biggest failing is that, at the end of it all, the video doesn’t tell the story of putting the presentation together over the year, or even the story of setting it up that day. I think spending more time on the conception of the story would have fixed that problem. Also, not having the ability to provide narration hurt me. I can tell stories when I write, but apparently I have a lot to learn about telling a story with visual media.

I think I got a little overconfident on this assignment. It burned me. Lesson learned.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Infographics prove harrowing for uninitiated

With the exception of our photo slideshow assignment from earlier in the semester, I have not worked much with web-based programming. I feel uninitiated with it, and it frightens me.

However, I rolled up my sleeves and dove into it. I looked at our three tasks through the lens of a story idea the staff kicks around every year: open lunch options at NKCHS.

I started off by building the map. I tried to use Google Maps and Mapquest, but—as dumb as this sounds in my head—I could not figure out how to work them. I use both fairly frequently for directions, but I couldn’t get the look I wanted, couldn’t get the pins for locations to stay put, and finally ran out of patience.

I wound up using Story Maps from I found it pretty easy to use, after reading through the tutorial. I really found all of the different tools useful, and liked the different shapes and colors I could use when dropping pins on the map. It also made it very easy to determine which zoom I should use.

Instead of mapping the schools in my district—we have 22 elementary, five middle, four high school, two technical and one alternative schools—I decided to make the map more local. NKC has long had an “open lunch.” Students love the opportunity to get out of the building to eat, and due to the location of the school there are many restaurant options within walking distance. I decided to include the high school, and six of the more popular destinations. The staff is always discussing the idea of including a map and schedule, so I figured this would be a good way for me to show what was possible.

When deciding between the poll and survey, I will admit that I took the easy way out. I’ve been behind on our work this week, and I just wanted to get something done quickly, and make sure that it connected with the theme of open lunch. I used to ask one simple question, and included the restaurants on the map as answer options. I think this may be more in line with what my students want to do on our website. Polls like this one complement these fun stories about life at NKCHS because they let students see what their habits are.

Finally, I concentrated on the timeline. This element by far took the most time to build. I decided on Tiki-Toki as the resource to use. It wasn’t all that hard to use, but there were a lot of fields that needed to be populated with information. I originally wanted to give a timeline of our 33-minute lunch periods. I thought it would be fun to show how long it would take to walk to a restaurant, order, and walk back. Unfortunately, I couldn’t figure out how to make that happen.

Instead, I looked up the information on the history of open lunch at NKCHS. I wanted to show when each of the establishments in the map and poll came to town, but I could only find that information for two of them. I may have been able to find more, but time ran out for me. I think my original idea would have worked better in keeping with the theme. I can picture my students using these timelines when doing season wrap-ups for sports or other activities, theater or musical schedules, or stories about the history of the school.

Overall, I struggled with the tasks this week. I think they turned out okay, but I would have liked to have spent more time with them.