Making classroom videos with your iPhone or iPad? Ditch iMovie and go with Clips!

Planning, recording and editing a video is a powerful and creative way to apply concepts for both students and teachers.  As a teacher, producing my own video content provides another resource to support student learning.  Posting these videos on YouTube allows students to access them quickly and easily when they are away from the classroom.  However making these videos requires a lot of time – even if it is a short 5 minute video.

Using my iPhone or iPad is the most convenient recording device as it is always the camera that I have with me both in and out of the classroom.  For the longest time I edited video directly on these devices using iMovie and it proved to be a suitable video editor for my needs.  That is until I stumbled upon Apple’s Clips application.

What is Clips?

 

Clips is an app released by Apple that is designed for the production of short videos and sharing them through your favourite social media platforms.  The recording and creation of these videos is done “on the fly” but it also allows you to pull in videos and pictures from your camera roll.  Clips allows for the insertion of different stickers and text to help decorate your finished video project.

Why I prefer Clips over iMovie

Now do not get me wrong, iMovie is a great video editor but when it comes to the short instructional videos that I want to create (and for my students to create as well), Clips is a much better fit.

Less planning required

Videos are recorded directly into your project but you can also bring in videos and pictures that are in your camera roll.

When using the Clips app you are recording video directly into your project by pressing and holding the record button. Releasing the record button results in the automatic insertion of the clip into your project.  The same is done for any media that you are looking to insert from your camera roll.

I find that this method of video creation encourages me to speak naturally where I can generate dialogue as I go.  I do not have to worry about generating a rough script before recording video as I can simply build upon the previously recorded video clip.  Any recording that I do not like I can immediately delete and record another one.  Repeat the process until I get the shot that I want and move on to the next shot.  It is a simple and fast way of recording on the spot.

Encourages jump cuts and shorter takes 

Once I got the hang of working with Clips, my videos are produced quickly. Clips has become my “go to” video creation app.

Ultimately this type of “on the fly” recording generates a series of shorter length video clips that create a more visually engaging style and pace when they are viewed together.  You see this type of editing style in television and social media.  When using Clips this is often the pacing and style that you naturally achieve because you are already recording shorter takes.  I am notorious for recording long, rambling videos of myself speaking to the camera.  Clips really helped in eliminating those long takes from my videos.

Stickers and text overlays work well

Lots of different text and picture overlays to use in your projects. Be sure to check out the ability to add in Live Titles where dialogue is also displayed as text on your video clip.

Even though iMovie allows for the insertion of text and images, it often results in a more formal look that we are used to seeing in movies and television.  With Clips leaning towards social media, I find that the graphics and text overlays are easier to tweak and position on top of your video.  One of the most powerful tools is called Live Titles.  It is the real-time addition of text on top of your video as you record the video.  Again this results in a cool visual effect that we see in social media and it makes for a great look when creating educational content.

But… there are some things to consider when using the Clips app.

It does not work like iMovie

If you are used to editing video with iMovie (or any other video editor for that matter) Clips is a completely different approach to video editing.  It did take some time for me to get used to navigating the app but the benefits of using Clips far outweighs the initial struggle of using this app.

Videos are in portrait

I admit it – I still believe that video should be recorded in landscape and not in portrait.  However this seems more like a losing battle as social media is again reshaping what we watch and how watch it.  

The videos produced in Clips will be in a square frame instead of the more conventional letterbox (widescreen) format.  I know… I just have to deal with it.  And as you would expect not one student has ever complained about this change in frame format.

Top up your battery

I have found that Clips really uses up my battery so be warned.  Go in with a full charge and have a charger and cable ready if your battery starts to get low.  

Final thoughts…

Clips is a free application for iOS users.  This app provides a way for me to quickly create short videos that are more visually engaging and entertaining than videos that I have produced through iMovie.  For students, it is yet another way for them to create content and focus on what they want show and demonstrate.  Clips is a fantastic tool and I would definitely recommend it for any classroom.

  • K. Takahashi

ScreenCastify: Annotate and record your Chromebook screen

Screencastify Set UpA quick tip for those looking for a screen capture solution for the Chromebook.  ScreenCastify is a Chrome application that allows the user to record their browser tab or desktop.  This is a fantastic option for students who are looking to create, record and annotate projects (ex. Google Slides, Google Drawings, etc.) that they have created on their Chromebook.  Recorded videos can then be saved and exported to Google Drive or YouTube to be shared or submitted as part of an assignment or formative assessment.  There is a free version of ScreenCastify that will allow you to record projects that are under 10 minutes long.  For those who are familiar with the Explain Everything app for iOS, Windows, Android and Chrome, ScreenCastify is a simple and handy alternative for educators and students.

– K. Takahashi

123D Circuits: An online circuit builder and emulator (Tech tip 8 of 31)

123D Circuits (from Autodesk) is a free, online tool for designing, building and testing a variety of different electrical circuits.  Working within their web-based Electronics Lab, you start with an empty, virtual circuit breadboard.  A pop up menu reveals a variety of electronic components that can be quickly added to your breadboard.  Batteries, resistors, capacitors, servos and motors are just a few of the components available to the user.  There is also an option to use and program a virtual Arduino board and incorporate it into your circuit.

Testing and running circuits is done quickly as you run the simulation online and allows for quick troubleshooting and feedback.  Projects are automatically saved to your account and can be shared with other users.  New accounts for 123D Circuits are free to create or users can opt to login using an existing FaceBook, Yahoo, Microsoft or Google account.  As this is a web application, 123D Circuits works well from any Mac, Chromebook or Windows PC but as of the date of this post there are no dedicated applications for Android or iOS devices.

 

Drag and drop components; draw in your wires and then test your circuit!
Drag and drop components; draw in your wires and then test your circuit!

For teachers looking for a new and innovative way for students to learn about and play with electrical circuits, you are going to want to check this out.

– K. Takahashi

Storify: A teaching tool to differentiate instruction

Storify offers both students and teachers an easy way to gather, arrange and display content and media from around the web.
Storify offers both students and teachers an easy way to gather, arrange and display content and media from around the web.

Storify is an online application where users can create a story (although you can think of it as a list, collection or lesson) by bringing together material and content from other social media platforms.  This Web 2.0 platform presents the opportunity for teachers to further differentiate content, process and product within their own classrooms.  Content can be pulled from a number of sources such as Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Tumblr and Google – to name just a few. Searching for content takes place within the Storify interface and adding content to your “story” is as simple as dragging and dropping elements from your search results into your storyline. You can also add your own text (headers, captions, etc.) and links to your “story”.

Publishing your work allows you to share via a link that you can send out yourself or publicize your work via Twitter or Facebook.  Readers can further share your publications via email or through their own preferred social media platform. Storify also provides an embed code for those looking to embed a published “story” on their own website or blog.


Storify for the Classroom – The Possibilities

Differentiating Content

Create an online lesson or resource that can be posted to on your website or use the HTML embed code to embed your publication within your own learning management system (LMS) or website. You can create a mini lesson or generate a list of media and links to support a lesson very quickly. All of those relevant and supporting articles, images and YouTube videos that you want supplement your lesson can now be corralled into one place complete with your own guiding text and titles. Media content that you add is viewable and playable from within your “story” so students can stay within the context of your lesson rather than navigating away to other sites.

 

You now have another way to produce, present and distribute content that can be differentiated according to student interest, readiness or learning preference. It is the ability to drag and drop content that enables a teacher to piece together a piece of content or several pieces of content that are customized to the needs and strengths of their students. Not a lot of time fussing with backgrounds and digital decorations but rather the ability to bring together a variety of content into a presentable “story” or publication.

Storify allows teachers to easily create customized lists of content the attend to student needs, strengths and interests
Storify allows teachers to easily create customized lists of content the attend to student needs, strengths and interests

Differentiating Process

Similarly, Storify provides a simple platform for students to gather and curate their own links, videos and media that they feel are relevant to a piece of research or help illustrate a particular opinion or concept. Again, it is the simple drag and drop functionality within Storify that provides a simple way for students to arrange, organize and/or rank elements and content within their publication.  Students can generate notes or extensions from the “stories” that they and their classmates have created.
As a formative assessment tool, teachers can gauge student understanding and provide feedback on the student-curated content as well as their comments and captions that accompany their Storify projects. Students can easily share their “stories”  with others in their classroom and engage in both self and peer assessment.

Differentiating Product

Storify provides another compelling choice for students to demonstrate their learning through the creation of a Storify publication.  For me this is a great alternative to creating a website or blog. If you have students that have created videos or photos, those elements can be quickly added to their “story” if they have been uploaded to a social platform like YouTube, Flickr, Instagram, etc.

As always if you are looking at any Web 2.0 or social media platform to support student learning in your classroom, you are going to want to be sure to do your homework and understand the conditions and agreements that you and your students are acknowledging when you hit the  “accept” button.  Schools and school boards will also have policies, procedures and guidelines for social media. Be sure to understand and adhere to these important guidelines before engaging in the vast selection of online tools and platforms.

K. Takahashi

Doodle: My great timesaver in scheduling & coordinating

As someone who supports students, teachers and schools in my school board it requires me to try to arrange meetings with different stakeholders where I need to either coordinate a common meeting time or set up a series of individual meetings within a specified period of time. I have always found this to be incredibly time consuming as it requires a barrage of exchanging emails, phone calls, text messages, etc. I have always accepted this as an unavoidable task in order to coordinate my day.  That was until Doodle entered the picture…

Simple, straightforward and if you are in a rush, no account required!
Set up is simple and easy – allowing you to quickly get a Doodle up and running.

Doodle is an online and interactive scheduler that allows you poll participants in order to find common meeting times or arrange a series of meetings. You can create a free account or start a simple Doodle without any account at all. The paid subscription to Doodle offers more tools and functionality such as tracking, collecting participant info and setting up reminders.  For my use, the free account has been more than adequate as it allows me to invite participants via email or by directing them to a link.  As the administrator, I can then view the results and determine meeting times based upon participant feedback.

Even with the free account you do have some useful options available to you.  Aside from determining dates and times that you would like others to consider for possible meeting times, you can also adjust settings so that busy participants can indicate an “if need be” response as well as limit the number of selections a participant can make on your Doodle.  Another handy setting was the ability to set the number of eligible spots/openings available per proposed meeting time.  This allowed me to open up a variety of dates and times that I would be available to meet with schools and teachers where they could then select and occupy a time slot that would then no longer be available to others. This little feature literally saved me numerous back and forth emails of updating participants on remaining available dates and times.

Even with the free account (and with no account) you have some useful options when setting up and administering your Doodle

In order to distribute your Doodle you can invite participants directly from Doodle using their email address or you can simply copy and paste the URL to the Doodle and distribute it on your own. For participants who are responding to your Doodle, you have the option of allowing them to see the results and selections of others.  However, if you wish you can also have the responses set to private so only the administrator is able to see the selections of other participants.

Outside of my own work, I can see how Doodle would help teachers/educators organize meetings within a school, coordinate meeting times for parent-teacher interviews, committee meetings, extracurricular groups and sports teams, etc.  For meetings or gatherings that span across departments and schools, Doodle can be a great timesaver.

K. Takahashi

Toontastic Review: Worth a closer look

Toontastic

There is no shortage of iPad apps and games to help young learners practice their skills in literacy and numeracy.  However, the iPad presents the opportunity for young learners to create and apply new learning using the tablet’s cameras, microphone and touch screen.

Toontastic allows students to manipulate characters as they provide voice and narration for the story.  Toontastic makes use of standard story templates that help guide students through the basic elements of plot (story arc) as they create their animated story.  The free version offers access to a small selection of backdrops and characters as well as the option for students to create their own background using the in-app painting program.  The finished product can be viewed within the app but if you are looking to export the finished product to the camera roll, you will have to opt for the paid version of Toontasic (Toontastic: School Edition).

PROS

  • the app walks students through the creative process with a plot/story arc template
  • instructions are accompanied with voice-over instructions
  • large buttons and symbols for easy touch navigation
  • allows students to go back and edit the project after they have viewed it

CONS

  • unable to export finished product to the camera roll with the free version
  • access to the camera roll and camera to create custom backgrounds is available in the paid version (Toontastic: School Edition)
  • users who opt to use the free version will have to endure the persistent reminders to purchase additional content
  • the premium upgrade is pricey at $9.99

The free version of Toontastic offers enough content and functionality to get a good sense of what this app can offer.  In the end it serves as a great opportunity to test drive the app and have students try to create a story using the iPad’s touch screen and microphone.  Teachers can then evaluate how the app can best support learning in their respective classrooms and decide for themselves if the School Edition is indeed worth the additional cost.

– Kenji Takahashi

Powtoon: A closer look at this engaging presentation platform for the classroom

Powtoon is a web-based presentation platform that allows the user to create animated presentations.  Originally designed for business, Powtoon may prove to be another way for students to “show what they know” and demonstrate understanding of a concept or learning expectation.  Educators can try Powtoon for free and for those looking for another alternative to PowerPoint, Keynote or Prezi, Powtoon may be worth checking out.  But beware, there are some important limitations and issues to consider as dive into your first project.

– K. Takahashi

Review: Chromecast in the Classroom

The Chromecast is a small, portable streaming device that is backed by Google’s Chrome browser.  A winning combination right?  But how does it fit within the classroom environment and infrastructure?

Strengths

Small form factor – The Chromecast looks like an oversized thumbdrive that essentially plugs right into the HDMI port of a data projector or display. This makes for an easier installation as there is no need to stow or mount the hardware.

Works across different platforms – Since the Chromecast works through the Chrome browser and other Google services it provides the ability for different platforms (ex. Windows, Mac, Android and iOS) to connect with this streaming device.  In a modern classroom where it is not unusual to see Windows desktop computers working alongside iPads and Android devices, the Chromecast places itself in a unique position where those different devices can be supported.

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Limitations

HDMI only – Similar to the Apple TV, the Chromecast is only able to connect to displays (monitors, televisions) and data projectors through an HDMI port. This will be a challenge for classrooms with older projectors and displays.  HDMI to VGA converters threaten to undermine the compact form factor of the Chromecast and there is no guarantee that a converter will work.

Power via USB – Another potential drawback in the set up of a Chromecast is the need to provide additional power via a USB cable.  Although the Chromecast comes with an AC-to-USB power adapter (and a fairly long USB cable), it can still serve as a challenge to power the Chromecast if there is no powered USB port or available AC outlet near the data projector or display.

Different platforms, different functionality – Although the Chromecast brings the ability to support different platforms, Chromecast functionality and features differ as you move from Windows PCs and Macs to Android tablets and iOS devices.  A Chrome browser running on a Mac or PC will allow the user to broadcast their browser and mirror their entire desktop (beta feature) to the Chromecast.  On the other hand, iOS and some Android devices will only be able to connect to the Chromecast through specific, supported applications.  So for those looking for an all-in-one, classroom solution to project the screens of different devices (mirroring), the Chromecast is not able to do this for iOS and specific Android devices… at least not yet (see the next section below).

Consider this…

Google’s I/O 2014 event unveiled some encouraging plans for the Chromecast.  Most notable were the updates around mirroring and connectivity across different wireless networks.  Mirroring functionality is currently being extended to certain Android devices and will allow for the broadcast of an Android device to another display through the Chromecast.  As mentioned above, this is a feature that PCs and Macs currently enjoy through the Chrome browser.

Future Chromecast features that would allow devices to connect across different wireless networks is a function that seems to rely upon technologies that allow for devices to locally connect to each other.  It will be interesting to see if this feature will support a BYOD environment where personal student and teacher devices connect to a classroom Chromecast residing on a secured wireless network.  Ultimately the news around Chromecast at Google’s I/O 2014 event helps to assure users that there is still more in store for this device over the next year.

K. Takahashi

 

 

 

 

 

iPod Touch in the Classroom? Is it a good alternative to the iPad?

Taking a picture with an iPod Touch

I love the resources, tools and interactivity of the iPad within the learning environment but how does the smaller and cheaper iPod Touch fare in the classroom?  Educators looking to purchase an iOS device (or devices) for their school or classroom can currently select from 3 different sizes or form factors.  Although my preference has been the full size iPad (now the iPad Air) sporting the 9.7″ touch screen, there are classrooms that make use of the 7.9″ iPad mini and the 4″ iPod Touch.  Along with a lighter and extremely portable form factor, the iPod Touch also provides a more affordable option for those looking to obtain iOS devices for their school or classroom.  But can the iPod Touch match the utility and productivity of the full-size iPad?  What compromises and advantages arise when opting to go with the iPod Touch over it’s larger siblings?

The iPod Touch that I will be referring to throughout this article is the 5th generation of this iPod running iOS 7.

iPod Strengths

Taking a picture with an iPod Touch
The iPod Touch handles much more like a camera than the iPad and iPad Mini.

1. Form factor fit for a camera (and flash too!) – Taking photos and videos with an iPad is about as elegant as it looks.  It is not surprising that the iPhone is a popular camera as it presents a form factor that is much more camera-like than the tablet. Similarly, the compact iPod Touch handles more like a typical point-and-shoot camera. Taking pictures with one hand is easy, especially when using one of the volume buttons as the “shutter” button.  The iPod Touch also has the benefit of an LED flash which is currently absent from the iPad Air and iPad Mini.

2. Active and versatile applications in the classroom – From my own observations, the iPod Touch is a popular choice in classrooms where the device is used as a tool that needs to travel with the student or is perhaps being applied in ways that would be too awkward with a larger iPad.  For example, students in health and physical education classes can easily document and record data and results on the iPod (number of repetitions, timed performances, etc.) and then quickly store the device in a pocket or armband so it is out of the way.  Science classrooms have used the iPod’s camera, gyroscope and accelerometer to record data related to motion, position and even light refraction.  Furthermore, the iPod’s smaller form factor make it possible for the device to be carefully attached or strapped to moving test objects or models.  Sensor Kinetics, Sensor Tools and Data Collection are just a few apps that make use of these sensors.

3. Faster charging time – The latest 5th generation iPod Touch boasts a 2 hour fast charge time that will allow you to recharge the iPod’s battery to 80% in 2 hours.  This fast charge feature may be a life saver in a school or classroom where a set of iPods could be used many times during the day and charging times may be brief and sporadic.

iPod Weaknesses

iMovie for the iPod Touch screenshot
With the limited screen space of the iPod Touch, I prefer to edit videos on the iPad version of iMovie.

1. Smaller form factor comes at a cost – The smaller 4″ screen size of the iPod Touch presents some limitations in its use within groups of students and its display of applications when compared to the iPad and even the iPad Mini.  Depending on the app itself, user experience may benefit significantly when accessed on a larger iPad screen. iMovie for iOS is an example an application that I find much easier to use and navigate on an iPad. Features and tool panels are easily accessible from one screen whereas the iPod/iPhone version requires the user to flip between different screens to access various iMovie tools.

The smaller screen of the iPod Touch is really only suitable for the single user. With a full size (9.7″) iPad, it is possible to have 2-3 students working around the device.  (Granted, it makes for a cozy grouping but I have seen it done!)  The dynamic is much different with an iPod Touch, and rather than having students gathered around its smaller screen, I would imagine that students would be more inclined to pass the device around the group.

Explain Everything is an app for the iPad only
Although many developers are creating iPod/iPhone versions of popular apps, there are still a few that are only available for the iPad.

2. Goodbye iPad apps – iPads have the benefit of being able to download and run apps that are native to the iPhone and iPod Touch. iPads will simply scale the display of the app to fit the size of the larger screen. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the iPhone and iPod. Apps that are available only for the iPad will not be available for download on the iPod Touch or iPhone. With that said, before investing in iPods with the intent of installing your favourite iOS apps, be sure to check that the apps are indeed compatible with the iPod Touch.

3. iPod specs are not on par with the iPad – The 5th generation of the iPod Touch makes use of an A5 chip which is a notable step back from the current A7 chip found in the most recent full sized iPad (iPad Air) and iPad Mini (with Retina).  The iPod’s A5 chip is on par with the chipset found in the 2nd generation iPad and the original, non-retina iPad Mini.  So what does this all mean?  The use of the older A5 chip may be an issue for those who are looking to purchase the most recent hardware with the intent to maximize the compatibility window to update to future versions of iOS and iOS applications.

Final Thought

So how does the iPod Touch stack up against the iPad and iPad Mini?  First acknowledging the differences listed above, it is critical to recognize that the iPod Touch is not equal to the iPad and iPad Mini from the perspectives of both functionality and performance.  Classrooms and schools looking to use the iPod Touch as a competent replacement for an iPad may be unhappy with the overall experience.  Although it is not uncommon to see iPods being used alongside iPads within a classroom, it is important to appreciate the unique discrepancies between these devices in order to avoid disappointment when an iPod Touch is simply unable to fill the niche of an iPad.  For certain subjects of study, learning tasks or applications, the iPod may be the more appropriate tool for the classroom.  Ultimately, educators will have to carefully consider the strengths and weaknesses of the iPod Touch and decide if it is indeed a suitable device that can meet the learning needs of the classroom.

– K. Takahashi

 

 

 

 

Pelican i1065 iPad Case Review

After about a month with the Pelican i1065 case for the iPad, the Pelican brand lives up to its name and I now have a better sense of where this case can be used both in and out of the classroom.

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PELICAN PROTECTION

If you are already familiar with the Pelican line of protective cases and storage units, the i1065 does not stray far from its siblings. The i1065 sports a solid hard case with soft fabric lining along with strips of high density foam for added protection. This particular model also comes with a rubberized insert that the iPad (iPad 2, 3 & 4) slides into. The case seals nicely and the latch does a good job of securing the case closed without being cumbersome or difficult to operate. With the Pelican brand comes the claim that the case is watertight, crushproof and dust proof. As I do not have a sacrificial iPad to test this claim, I will simply have to take Pelican at their word.

USING THE i1065 CASE

Considering its lineage of bulky cases and the type of protection that it is offering, the Pelican i1065 is thin and light enough to easily slide into a laptop or messenger bag. However, the relatively thin form factor comes at the price of not having a lot of additional space for anything else but an iPad. Even the presence of a SMART Cover poses some problems as the rubber sleeve inside the case really does not allow for the additional thickness of a cover or protective case. Having said that, I was able to fold the SMART Cover back on itself and essentially squeeze in the cover without having to unattached it from the iPad.

Those looking ahead may also want to use this case with the iPad Air. Based upon the reduced dimensions of the iPad Air, the newest iPad will indeed fit inside of the case but its narrower and slimmer form factor may impact how well it is secured inside the rubberized sleeve. Those looking for a very snug fit for their iPad Air may find it unsettling to have their iPad Air shifting inside of the case.

In my use of the case, I found it easy enough to slide my iPad in and out of the case when I wanted to simply use the iPad on its own at home. However when at work I tended to keep it in the case where I used the integrated stand/easel feature to prop up the iPad. When using the easel feature on the i1065, I could either lay the hinged lid flat on the table or have it resting on the top edge of the iPad to serve as a bit of a hood for my tablet. I preferred the latter simply because it minimized the amount of desk space that it would take up when in use.

FOR USE IN THE CLASSROOM?

I really like this case. It provides very good protection and yet the case is light and the form factor is relatively slim. However it is important to consider how this case will be used and integrated in the classroom. If you are looking for iPad protection where students can carry and simultaneously use the iPad they may find the i1065 case to be somewhat awkward with its attached, hinged lid. Where this case really shines is in situations where students are carrying the device to a location (in or out of the classroom) and then using it on some sort of table or surface. I envision this case being extremely useful in school labs, workshops and in learning that is taking place outdoors.  The ability to open up the case, prop up the iPad and then rest it on the ground, workbench or lab counter is extremely useful to the active learner.

This case provides fantastic protection but before making the purchase, teachers will need to consider how they intend on using the iPad in their classroom. There is no shortage of protective options for your classroom iPad, so you want to be sure that you invest in the most suitable, protective option.

– K. Takahashi