Digital story telling is an instructional practice that is used to tell stories by using computer-based tools. For example, individuals or groups may tell a story by using a variety of multimedia such as audio, graphics, voice, text, and video. For centuries, many people have learned messages from stories that were either passed down orally or written in a book. We now live in such a technological advanced society that learners can now comprehend an intended message by using technological products of the 21st century.
I’ve always loved Rube Goldberg’s drawings. They lent a certain sense of the absurd to everyday tasks, creating a ridiculously complicated machine to handle something most of us could do without even thinking about it. Like many young people, I also delighted in building machines similar to Goldberg’s, using every toy at my disposal to produce something that, let’s be honest, may have been more satisfying to design and build than to actually deploy most of the time. A few hours’ work for ten seconds of payoff? Not a big deal, when you’re a kid.
The other day I was talking to a colleague about developing a new program and how he could best deliver content, especially lectures, to his students who would be scattered around the globe. Naturally, we talked about video and presentation best-practices, but he pointed out his sympathy for students who work full-time and still have to carve out a period to visually focus on a lecture.
The instructor also told me how he balanced a busy schedule and keeping up-to-date on things by listening to podcasts. They are perfect for commuting on transit systems, flying around the world, and doing chores around the apartment and he wondered about how he could create podcast-like content for his students.
When I’m contacted by faculty who want help creating video for their courses, one of the first things I ask is why they want to make a video. Most of the time it’s to add some instructor presence in an online or hybrid course, but often it’s to replicate a lecture they’ve given in the face-to-face version of the course.
I’m always a bit apprehensive as I tease out the reasons for the request. I don’t want to trespass on the instructor’s prerogative to teach the course as s/he wishes, but I do know that many of the videos I see don’t serve their intended purpose—assuming the purpose is to promote learning or add instructor presence.
Now that you have a good recording setup in place, the next steps are getting something recorded and making it sound good. There’s a huge variety of options for recording audio, but I’ll discuss using Audacity in particular here. To be sure, there are much more powerful programs than Audacity, but they tend to be costly and very complicated to use—which won’t help people who aren’t interested in professional audio and just want to record something for people to listen to.
Here’s why I recommend Audacity to most people, especially beginners:
The more we create and share resources with others online, the more important it is to make sure that our voices are heard…literally. Choosing the right microphones, recording room setup and techniques, and audio file formats can make a startling amount of difference. This article is the first in a series that will help you know what to look for, what to avoid, and how to get the best sound wherever you are. This time around, we’ll focus on microphones.
The first step in recording good audio is choosing the microphone that will be listening to you. Every microphone has a particular pattern in which it receives sound waves from an audio source, called a pickup pattern. The most commonly used types of microphones are omnidirectional, bidirectional, cardioid, and shotgun. Continue reading
It’s just after your first class and the students are filing out of the room and you happen to be standing near enough to catch a few of their comments. You only get snippets of the conversations, but you hear…
In a face-to-face class, your presence is partly defined by your demeanor, persona and actions while in front of the class.
An intro, to let students know what will happen in the class; a highlight, to capture the meaning of the subject; a heads-up, on what to expect; and maybe, a rationale, for the format in which the course is delivered.
To accomplish all of these in a quick and engaging way takes more than a syllabus or a course homepage. It requires condensing the course description and combining the presentation with multimedia or special effects…like a movie trailer.
According to a report by the Chronical of Higher Education, course trailers have become increasingly popular with the growing use of social media. The report cited Harvard University as an early adopter of course trailers because students there spend the first week of the semester “shopping” for courses they may want to take. So course trailers are a big help for boosting student interest and attendance.
Here is a course trailer for CS50 at Harvard University, a course that focuses on an introduction to the intellectual enterprises of computer science and the art of programming:
If you haven’t ever had a virtual reality experience before, you probably will in the next twelve months.
Virtual reality is coming online in a big way. VR headsets for high-end gaming PCs started shipping this past spring. This fall, Sony is launching a VR headset for its PlayStation 4 game console. Beyond gaming, Google has been experimenting with VR for two years, using phones and a cardboard holder. The low-tech, low-cost solution was designed to get VR into the hands of as many people as possible, and Google has already managed to get many developers on board with cardboard, creating games, simulations, and more. Google has created K12-focused Expeditions, where users can get the full 3D and 360-degree experience of being somewhere very few could ever go–like the Great Wall of China, the Great Barrier Reef, and even the surface of Mars. YouTube is also filling up with 360-degree 3D videos that are meant to be consumed with virtual reality devices. But VR isn’t always just consumptive–apps like Tilt Brush allow users to create 3D paintings in midair. And Google is getting ready to launch a more sophisticated VR platform with its next Android release in a few months, to build on and enhance their Cardboard platform. 2016 is the year of virtual reality.
As an instructional technologist, my natural tendency is to get excited about new technology and its potential in higher education. My instinct is to imagine all the possibilities that the next big thing affords for our classes and to push for the rapid adoption of the latest and greatest tech. But in the case of virtual reality, I’m a little skeptical that it’s going to be a true transformative technology for a couple reasons.
Technology is changing how we do everything. Gone are the days of classroom strategies that focus solely on using static content to engage students. Thanks to high-definition (HD) video ubiquity in mobile devices, tablets, laptops, etc., engaging in real-time (instantaneous) with folks across the globe without leaving home is feasible and affordable. To take it a step further, video conferencing, or as some may describe as web conferencing, webinars (web seminars), or webcasts, enables online collaboration with limitless implications for student engagement, in the US and abroad.
The formal definition of video conferencing, as defined by Merriam Webster, is:
- a method of holding meetings that allows people who are in different cities, countries, etc., to hear each other and see each other on computer or television screens.
- the holding of a conference among people at remote locations by means of transmitted audio and video signals
While there are a number of solutions that exist to host virtual meetings, it’s important that standard features embedded in these systems are easy to use and work seamlessly during an online session. Some of the more common features include the ability to stream HD video, instant chat, screen sharing, recording, and the use of a whiteboard to jot down important points during the meeting. While nothing compares to face-to-face interaction, these tools help connect users in ways that a teleconference (see definition) are incapable of doing.
Some of the usual suspects—Skype, Webex, Gotomeeting, Zoom, Google Hangouts, Adobe Connect, Avaya Scopia, Blue Jeans, Polycom, etc.—have worked tirelessly to create user interfaces that are intuitive and function with minimal to no latency issues. In order to make an informed decision, it’s important to develop and prioritize the functionality that’s paramount to a successful implementation for “you.”