Examples of posting online content

I’ve been putting a lot of content online, so I thought I’d share four examples, using different technologies for recording. Mostly I’m posting mini-lectures that the students watch as part of their homework, to free up more class time for interaction, working problems, and doing investigations.

For most of last year I was using a document camera (made by AverVision) to just record me writing on a piece of paper. (I tried a whiteboard, but it was tricky avoiding glare. With more effort it probably would have worked.) Here’s a sample:

Note that I am using YouTube to host the video. I found that to be easiest, and it avoided some (though not all) issues of incompatibilities of format. I often just link the video, instead of embedding it, which allows the students to see a lot of other related videos (and some videos that YouTube suggests as “related” which are downright odd).

The big problem I had with that particular document camera was that the audio is often out of sync with the video, by an annoying and sometimes confusing amount. A document camera that’s actually designed for recording (this one wasn’t) would avoid that problem. But I got fed up with it and this year I switched to using a Flip video camera propped up on a desk watching me at the board, as in this video:

Note the fumbling with the setup of the camera at the start…that comes from not having a tripod (and not having the time to edit the first few seconds out). You can see that I’m not aiming for professional quality here.

I still like the flip video method, but it requires having a board to write on, and sometimes I want to make a video under time pressure (e.g. a topic I wish I had covered in class, and want them to see at home before doing problems on it) and don’t have access to a free classroom. So lately I’ve been trying a rather different technology, the Livescribe Pulse smartpen. I turn the pen on, tap “record”, and write on their special “dot paper”, and a tiny camera on the pen records what I write, while a microphone records my voice. It’s all assembled on the computer into something rather like what I did with the document camera—here’s the link to the Livescribe page (WordPress doesn’t seem to like it when I try to embed it).

Compared to the document camera, the difference is that the audio works better, it’s very portable (just the pen and a small notebook), and it’s much cheaper. The kids seem to like it rather well, so I’m going to keep doing it for most of my content, unless I encounter a problem. Note that the player needs Flash to work. You can see that it might be finicky to embed, although I do it without too much problem on our Moodle site (although some students found that it worked better to follow the link to the Livescribe site instead of playing the emded directly).

The last example is one where I am showing something on the computer. You can use a service such as Screencast-o-matic to do this, but I’ve done most of them with Windows Media Encoder, which works OK. (One problem is that it defaults to no audio, which has caused me much annoyance when I forget to check the audio button and get a silent video.) Here’s an example (pardon the slow start):

Screencasting is of course very useful if you are showing specifically computer content, but if I am just trying to get across a basic idea, it’s faster and more flexible to do one of the other methods and just freehand it.

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