Video Options for Classroom Projects

Like Mashable, I saw the release of Apple’s new iPod Nano with its built in video camera and voice recorder as a game changer.  I’ve been looking for affordable options for student projects.  It’s all well and good to say our students need to be working with more technology.  The practicalities of putting the necessary equipment in their hands is another matter.

I’ve spent a good deal of time lately hunting for affordable gadgets that will do the job we need for audiocasting and videocasting projects.  I came up with this.

For audio, the Zoom H2.  I don’t have one yet.  I just read up on it and put it on my wish list at Amazon after Michael Salvo recommended it.  It looks like it meets all the criteria–easy to use, highly portable,records to mp3, makes quality recordings, costs less than $200.  If we get another Arts Integration grant at JCJC, this is what I have hoped to purchase for student podcasts.

For video, the Flip.  I have one, and we used it in the spring to make videos for our arts project.  It’s great.  It’s very easy to use, it records to mp4, connects by usb, and costs less than $200.  The sound quality could be better.  We used a higher end camera for music recordings, but it’s perfect for interviews and such.  And if you aren’t happy with the Flip, Sony has an alternate version.

These stick style one button video cams are wonderful and affordable (by the measure of tech gadgets), but they only do one thing, and we can’t count on students having their own.  They’re an answer, but they’re not THE answer.

As an alternate, the built-in video cams on point and shoot digital cameras are actually pretty good.  Some shoot to HD to make for excellent clarity.   They also do more than one thing.  Students could also use them for photo projects and for making videos MovieMaker style.  The problem encountered with them is that many record to avi, which requires conversion to mp4 before posting online.  Not a big problem.  Free conversion programs are available.  It just means another step.

If you’re looking for a point and shoot with video for classroom use, consider the Sony Cypershot T900.  12.1 megapixels for stills, and 720p high def mpeg4 with stereo sound for video.   That means decent video that’s easy to upload online.  Unfortunately, it costs twice as much as a Flip, but it does more than one thing, so it might be worth the pricier tag.  It’s on my wishlist.

Ah, but then there’s the new iPod Nano.  Everything else I’ve been reading about, considering, and coveting over a period of weeks or months.  The video Nano I ordered the next day after I heard Steve Jobs announce its release.  Why?  For one, I’m just like that.  I love me some Apple products.  But more than that, I think this is the game changer that makes student video and audio projects feasible on a limited classroom budget.

It does more than one thing for less than $200.  It records video and audio.  It’s the student podcasting device I’ve been searching for these past few years…at least I hope it is.  I’ll share more opinions on it once it arrives and I’ve had time to test it.  But I have high hopes.  Students already know how to use iPods.  In a year or two, many of my students will have their own video Nanos, so I won’t have to come up with as much money to provide them.

They will both create and play video and audio, making it easy for students to share their projects with each other and/or to download audio and video produced by instructors.  iTunes 9 gives them a way to organize their video productions as well as a way to shoot them straight to YouTube and on to class video channels.

I could go on, but I will stop my Apple fanaticism here to say that it’s unrealistic to assume that any classroom is going to have enough of any one gadget to adapt it as the exclusive option for completing projects.  My advice would be to poll students to find out what they already have in the way of point and shoots, camera phones, video iPods, etc.  Make a kind of digital stone soup out of whatever they can each bring to the mix and find ways to support them in using a combination of what they already have and what you and your school can provide for them.