I never really could get into video blogging, vlogging, video podcasting, vodcasting, or whatever you called. The reasons included carrying relatively big camcorders, trying to connect them to a computer, or fooling with web cams that made me look like I was in a 1970's Kung Fu movie. Pure Digital Technology has created a simple video camcorder called The Flip which gives you all of the tools needed to create great videos in one small inexpensive package. With the Flip Video Camera you may be seeing more of my mug than you wish.
The model I recommend is the Ultra with 60 minutes of recording time. This digital camera is fairly well designed. The dimensions of this camera are 4.17" x 2.16" x 1.25" which allows you to carry it in your pocket and carry it anywhere. Whenever you want to record something just turn the camcorder on, point and shoot with one button. There is a 2x digital zoom to get a little closer to the action but not much. It has 2 gigabyte memory which allows for 60 minutes of recording so you don't have to worry about buying and carrying tapes or memory cards. The power source is is two AA batteries which is surprising since most electronic devices have rechargeable batteries these days. Yet, this could be a blessing in disguise since you could purchase rechargeable AA batteries but still purchase alkaline batteries if a back up power source is needed. The viewfinder is a 1.5 inch transflective TFT which should work in bright daylight. Video output can be done in two ways: a TV out jack which you can connect with televisions through RCA jacks or to a computer via a USB jack that pops out the side. Finally, the Flip Ultra has a tripod mount while the Flip does not.
The Flip has a good selection of simple video editing and sharing software built in. There are three different ways to save videos. You can save to a folder the built-in software can put into your computer, save on the camcorder to take to a retail store and burn a DVD, or save for e-mailing. There are some basic editing tools which can trim video on either end and you can create a movie. Muvee.com provides a limited version of its software which can allow you to create a movie in different styles with background music the software selects or you can upload (make sure its legal). You could create voice overs in Audacity, Garage Band, or other audio creation software and import them into your movie creation. Too bad Pure Digital or Muvee.com did not include title and end credit slides in the Flip which could make creations look much better but you can do that in iMovie or Windows Movie Maker. The Flip really shines with its online share capabilities. Finished videos can be uploaded to either AOL Video or YouTube with the push of a button. For more artistic creation you can create video greeting cards online and e-mail links to the site.
For teachers who are looking for a cheap (around $149 for the Flip Ultra) and easy way to integrate video projects into their classes they will be doing back flips over the Flip Camcorder.
William Penn Charter School English teacher Mark Franek discovered that using web tools such as blogs, podcasts, YouTube, and other applications has improved the quality of his students' writing. The reason for this improvement? Students quickly realized the teacher is not the only one reviewing their work. As he puts it in his editorial in the Christian Science Monitor:
"Teachers who are using blogs, social-networking sites, and video-sharing sites in school settings are giving young people the opportunity to tune their thinking and writing to a larger audience. When students know that anyone in the school with an Internet connection – or around the world, for that matter – can read what they have written or created, it is remarkable how quickly their thinking improves, not to mention the final product."
Mr. Franek's next observation might not get him invited to Friday after school happy hours with his fellow teachers in many schools, "The first dinosaurs into the tar pits of tomorrow will be teachers who refuse to adapt to new technology." This is fairly strong language. I know teachers who absolutely refuse to adapt because they believe their overhead projectors and slides with a video thrown in occasionally are all the technology they need to do their jobs. They are not lazy teachers either, their students score high on Advanced Placement exams. What they don't realize are students are comfortable with blogs, social-networking sites, and video-sharing sites and know how to make them work. These are the tools students will be using when they join the working world.
However, since these teachers perform, administrators are willing to over look these technological shortcomings and this is understandable. Yet, I sometimes wonder how the students of these high performing teachers students would feel if these teachers decided to update technology skills. What would happen to scores of the free response sections AP exams if students practiced using blogs going to millions of readers (some of whom might be experienced exam readers) instead of papers going to one teacher.