Camtasia 5.0

April 8, 2008

Once again, I chose to challenge myself and learn about another new Web 2.0 tool called Camtasia 5.0 (30 day trial version) to create a video documenting the process that I went through to create my Major Digital Project for EC&I 831 and then decided to do a video reflection about my EC&I 831 Journey. I didn’t realize just how much of a challenge I was up for.

A few months ago I downloaded Jing and used it to create a tutorials about how to use Ning and what is RSS and using Google Reader. I found Jing fairly user friendly and had few problems using it. Perhaps one of the downfalls (or perhaps it is a good thing) is that Jing only allows 5 minutes of recording time. I wanted to experiment with Camtasia, but found out that it was no longer freely available. Then I heard that there was a free 30 day trial available while watching the great videos that my classmate Walter had created and Jing began coming up with viruses on my computer (not sure why).

I downloaded the free 30 day trial of Camtasia and went into the program and had to double-check that I had not accidentally opened Windows Movie Maker, because it looked very similar, which sort of disappointed me because I had already learned and used Movie Maker at the beginning of the semester to create my bio video. Right now, I am thinking it would not have been bad if it was like Movie Maker! Camtasia has the same layout as far as the timeline, storyboard and some of the editing features, but then goes beyond that to let you capture video, audio and information from Powerpoint too.

I viewed several of the tutorial videos that Camtasia has available, however, I am one of those people that learns by doing, so watching a video is only average for me – I have to dive in. I wrote a bit of an outline so that I did not miss anything and then opened a number of tabs in Firefox so that I could move seamlessly from one idea to the next. This worked fairly well, but I had to record several times because at first, I could not recognize when the recording had started, then I was forgetting to include some things, and towards the end, I was losing my voice due to coughing with the cold I picked up last week. After all of the battles with recording, I finally had a finished recording which I now needed to put together on the timeline. This part wasn’t too bad, but it was difficult to align the video with the audio sometimes and took a bit of fine-tuning.

When I finally had all of the information that I wished to include, I went to produce the video. The rendering took a really long time and then was in a format that did not recognize, which was frustrating since is where Camtasia suggests you upload your video to and I had chosen the format that Camtasia suggests. After re-rendering several times, in various formats, and then changing how I got the video into, I had my first video ready. Whew!! One more to go – oh no!

Actually, when you consider that I didn’t spend tonnes of time learning all of the features of Camtasia, the videos turned out alright.  I hope to spend some more time tinkering with Camtasia and see if there is an easier way to render, because this part really made my computer work (it was humming and I was ready for it to either start hovering or go up in smoke).

Anyways, in the end, I created the two videos that I was aiming for, so I am happy despite my struggles.

Once again, I was WOWED by our guest speaker in ECI 831 on Tuesday night. Chris Lehmann is the principal of the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia. I had just read 2 articles that related: How To: Use Social-Networking Technology for Learning and My School, Meet MySpace: Social Networking at School so I was pretty excited to hear what Chris had to say. This school is only 2 years old and is extremely progressive. Technology is paramount at this school and is used extensively. Students must be selected to attend this school and go through an interview to be considered for admission.

They do a national search and build a network to recruit staff. Check out the qualifications for teaching at SLA:
• Applicants must be PA State Certified or eligible for PA State Certification in their subject area.
• Applicants must be committed to the idea that we teach students first and our subjects second.
• Applicants must be willing to challenge students to work in an inquiry-driven, project based environment.
• Applicants must be willing to work collaboratively.
• Applicants must be willing to work in a diverse environment with students who reflect the rich heritage of Philadelphia.
• Applicants should have a strong background in technology infusion into the classroom and be willing to see their classroom as happening both on and offline.
• Applicants should have an interest in developing extra-curricular activities.
• Applicants should be energetic, flexible, and have a strong desire to work with administrators, fellow teachers, parents, and students to create a school that reflects SLA’s core values.

Can anyone say “dream job”??

I completely LOVE their strong commitment to communicating with parents. There seems to be a lot of interaction with parents and opportunity for parents to be as involved as they would like to be.

Their mission is also shared openly and students and staff live this mission together: “How do we learn? What can we create? What does it mean to lead?” This commitment to this mission, their philosophy of distributed leadership, and not trying to be everything to everyone, but doing what they do well is refreshing.

The idea of UDL is very interesting to me. I had not heard of it before Tuesday night, but the Center for Applied Special Technology has an excellent definition of it: “Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework for designing curricula that enable all individuals to gain knowledge, skills, and enthusiasm for learning. UDL provides rich supports for learning and reduces barriers to the curriculum while maintaining high achievement standards for all.” I want to spend more time learning about this concept of curriculum design as I am in charge of curriculum development at the law firm that I work at and think this might be useful.

They do have filters in place to monitor online activity, but they still have issues just like every other school. I was surprised when I went to the SLA website that they have the student websites so readily available to the world. It concerned me with how much information students shared here. Maybe they are needless fears that the media has instilled in me, but I nevertheless do have them. Don’t get me wrong, I think that the level of technological use at this school is fantastic and will open many doors of opportunity for the students which is evident on the masterpiece websites they have, but there is just a lot of information that we usually advise students (and even adults sometimes) not to post.

There are SO many questions that came to me after the presentation. Here are just a few: I wonder if they have the same problems that we do with technology? What is their Internet policy? What is their view on cell phones and iPods in the classroom? How are they funded? How is curriculum development dealt with (I don’t know how it works in the US, but in SK, we have to follow the SK curriculum and do not have that type of freedom to develop our own curriculum at individual schools – correct me if I am wrong here)? How are personal laptops dealt with? What advice would they have to teachers about implementing technology; 1:1; parent communication; social networking in schools (or as Chris referred to it – academic networking – maybe this would motivate teachers to use it in classrooms!)?

See my fellow classmates posts about Chris’ great presentation: Rosanne, Dave, Corey, Ken, Leah, Marlene, Shaun, Walter

D’Arcy Norman and Brian Lamb were our guest speakers in Tuesday night’s ECI 831 class. They started out the evening by tripping us out with this wacky YouTube video
and then got into the topic of Open, Connected & Social “Repositories”. There was a lot of information shared, so I will just share a few points that really stuck with me.

Organizing Data
The old way of organizing data was to create data and store it in silos that were very complicated because of all of the metadata that was created to organize/store it. This just doesn’t make sense with the “information explosion” of today and therefore folksonomy is a better solution. I finally understand what a folksonomy is too (for those who are reading this and saying “What the?”, folksonomies are people working together socially to sort things out).

They stressed the power of tagging information. This has really changed how we find information.

Technology is getting much cheaper in most cases, however, higher education is still spending money – is this because the institutions like control and want to limit the use of Web 2.0 tools?

New Phrase
I liked a new phrase that emerged during the discussion “choice fatigue” – so much to choose from; where to start? I think this is a huge part of why there is a very slow integration of technology into educational settings. Educators are already overwhelmed with the things being piled on them and technology is just one more, but it is so complex and there is so much to choose from and learn about, that many teachers turn away from it and knock it down on their priority list. How do we tackle this choice fatigue? Ideas? Thoughts?

Okay, here is my disclaimer: to all of you Second Life lovers out there – you can hate me for my opinions, but that is all they are is my opinions. I am a real technology supporter and lover, but having said that, you will see that my opinions below do not fit with this statement at all. I am very much a newbie to Second Life, so please keep this in mind as you read my first impressions.

I have created my “virtual self” in Second Life (SL) and I have to say, that like my classmate, Dean, I can’t say that it has been that positive thus far. I think I will stick with my First Life – in the real world, with my real self.

One of my issues with SL is personal image. As if anyone creates themselves in a likeness to themselves – it has places for “saddle-bags” and “love handles”, but I think that most people turn those as close to “none” as they can. So far I haven’t seen any overweight people in SL even though studies everywhere say how obese our society is. I tried to make my Avatar similar to my RL self, but as much as I tried to do that, my Avatar is still quite stunning comparatively.

My next issue is having people “walk” onto my computer screen and start talking to me – frankly, it freaks me out! The first time it happened I physically jumped and had to really work hard at not letting out a little scream since my son was sleeping. It is just all a little bit weird. While I am comfortable with web-cams, voice chats, etc. this idea of seeing what others are doing and having someone I may or may not know “show up” on my computer screen seems a little invasive to me.

I also find it difficult, even though I got a list of all of the people in my class that are in SL to tell who is who with all of the strange names and animal Avatars. Some I can hardly tell if they are male or female (not that this cannot happen in RL too)!

And my own weird thing with SL is that I get motion sick when I move my Avatar. I just can’t play games where the movement is rough like that, so I feel nauseous most of the time in SL – this probably doesn’t really improve my attitude towards this product.

We were taken on a tour of SL by Kirk Kezema this evening in our ECI 831 class. It was a little bit frustrating getting all of the kinks out, since we were guinea pigs for such a massive group tour(though it was pretty cool to be a part of something like that too, so thanks Alec for setting it up). There were a lot of issues with people having or not having sound, knowing what we were supposed to be doing, and not knowing general navigation rules. In a technology that is so new and so vast it perhaps would have been useful to have a bit more detailed preparation.

Unfortunately, even after the tour (which was about 2 hours in length), I don’t feel that I know that much more about the actual PURPOSE of SL. I just don’t get it or enjoy it. Is that okay that I don’t get one of the AMAZING tools that we have been introduced to this semester? I still think the technology behind the product is sheer genius, but I just don’t buy into the product and I feel guilty for my own opinions and feelings because I really want to promote all of these technologies, but I can’t do it for this one!

The Learning Studio

March 6, 2008

How do you stage your classroom? Straight rows of never-ending desks facing the chalk or whiteboard? Perhaps a table in the back corner and a book carousel for some appropriate novels? Your desk in a commanding spot in the room? OR Do your students sit in different assortments of groups and tables? Are you fortunate enough to have a smart-board? Do you have computers and allow students to bring in their laptops, iPods, and cell phone? Does silent reading time mean just reading novels (don’t get me wrong, I am very “pro” books and an avid reader) or can this reading include blogs and other media? Does it matter? I think it does and seeing Clarence Fisher’s classroom on Tuesday night really cemented this for me. We really aren’t doing our students any favours by teaching them in the same environments that we were taught in. Why not critically think about and plan how you and your students want the space to be and call it a learning studio where exciting things are happening and people want to be.

Once again, Alec brought in an incredibly inspiring guest presenter for our EC&I 831 grad class, Clarence Fisher. Clarence is a middle years teacher in Snow Lake, Manitoba. The community is fairly remote, being a few hours from any major communities, however, Clarence’s students are very connected to others via the Internet and the network that they are creating through it and within their classroom. In Clarence’s classroom, the world is their stage and this really opens students to the possibilities that globalization has offered. Clarence used a quote from Alan November: “Envision your classroom as a global communication center” where students communicate outside the walls of the classroom and have authentic an audience. We need to examine our classrooms and ask: what is happening in our classrooms that provides opportunities for collaborations – inside and outside the walls of the classroom? Is the “stage” set-up properly? How do we teach them to be critical of the information that the find and also create good information for others? Alec put up four words to summarize the process: consumption, creation, publication, collaboration. These topics should be addressed every time our students work on something in our classroom. I like the ideas put forth in Terry Anderson’s Post regarding connective intelligence which emphasizes the power of our networks. I think a key component to teaching 21st century learners is making them aware of the context of the information that they find and to become critical consumers and critical, creative producers. Clarence called this “information architecture” and referred to teachers as “network administrators” that were responsible for connecting the students with people and information to interact with, which are nice descriptions.

Clarence encourages his students to bring their own laptops and iPod Touches into his classroom which increases the number students able to connect with others. This being said, he also warns teachers against becoming “digital nomads” that wander from project to project and start to lose the meaning of such endeavours. Just like all school projects, using digital means to produce them should still be meaningful and meet our curriculum requirements and not just be an add-on.

I hope the students in Snow Lake appreciate the gift they have with an innovative trail blazer like Clarence for a teacher.

Jing and Ning

February 29, 2008

It seems funny that out of all of the tools available on Web 2.0, I have been working for the past few days on the rhyming pair – Jing and Ning. I just wanted to share my experiences using them since I am a new user for both tools.

I decided to try out Jing to create a screencast for our collaborative class wiki project in EC&I 831. I had downloaded Jing a while ago, but hadn’t really found a suitable time to use it. I decided that I should try it out to show how to sign up to use Ning, which is a website where you can create your own social network based on a specific interest or focus. Since I had created my own Ning for my Major Digital Project, I thought it would be useful for my own development also.

I found that Jing was fairly easy to use. I read a few FAQ on the website and went through the “Getting Started Stuff“. I played around a few times just to get my microphone set properly and stop stuttering through it with the “uhs” and “ums” which were quite frequent! After the initial few hiccups, I got through the points I wanted and had used up the 5 minute limit for the screencast.

Some lessons learned though and the hard way. DO NOT embed this on a wiki. The screen size is huge and I ended up wiping out the menu on the page that lets you navigate and therefore edit the page – oops! I ended up doing a work around and renaming the page from social networks to social networking and adding the screencast as a link. The other issue I had was trying to figure out where my screencast was. Jing uses to host the items that people create. Once I figured that out, it is as easy as logging into and clicking on your project. Then at the bottom of that screen if you click on details, it displays the information for the URL, the embed code or to email it. In the end, it worked and I was inspired to add more information to the page and hope to add more when I can.

I hope to play more with screencasts and wanted to try out Camtasia Studios, however, that is not offered up free anymore, so it is back to the drawing board. Going to check out some of the ones listed on this site. If you have tried any out, I would be interested to hear your opinions on them.

Dean Shareski presented in our EC&I 831 grad class on Feb 26 about building a research team through our network. I immensely enjoyed his presentation, as it really clarified what it is that I have been trying to do over the past couple of weeks in particular. I have been struggling a little bit in this class because I am no longer in the education field (though still love the profession and would be back in it if I could just teach without all of the politics and discipline issues). Finding an audience for what I am now passionate about, human resources, and understanding what my classmates are discussing during our class meetings and in their blogs is more challenging than I would have imagined. So I set the task for myself of trying to expand my network. I am now following a lot of blogs and started using Twitter more. I also branched out to try to find people in human resources in addition to the wonderful educators that I have networked with. After our class with Dean and then our class on the 27th where we discussed where everyone in the class was at, I really felt similar to Todd – that I am not alone and really looking at “who is in my network” (similar to what I felt after Sharon Peters’ presentation -see post).

Many of the subjects that Dean spoke to really meant something for me. Above all, I really think that his Big 5 Ideas are important enough for me to tack up beside my computer and remember every time I log-on.
1. Get personal and selfish (do something for yourself first and then worry about how you can use it professionally)
2. Professional Learning Community on steroids (network takes it to a new level)
3. Consider your commpost rating (ratio between commenting and posting to blogs – this one made me think – I read everyone elses and post to mine, but probably do not have a healthy ratio – something to work on that will help me build my community and my RSS feed’s value – see Ryan’s post)
4. Have fun (no problem there -technology and meeting/chatting with people is ALWAYS fun!! Love it)
5. share everything – (our blogs don’t have to be perfect, just share! I like this one because I am always thinking it should be earth shattering information I am typing out – not necessarily)

I think all of this boils down to the quote in Walter’s blog: “work smarter, not harder” and Alec’s quote during the presentation: “Faced with information overload, we have no alternative but pattern-recognition”. Why not use the network around us?