VLC for the Language Classroom

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Last week, I did a technology workshop for a group of language teachers and one of the things we covered was the free open source software, VLC. For those who are not familiar with this program, it is a multimedia player for most computers that recognizes almost every type of audio and video file you throw at it. It has saved me a number of times in the language classroom and has become my go-to application for media files. Here are some of the things it can do:

Installing:


Question: I have my computer and speakers set at the loudest setting, but it is still too quiet. How can I make it louder?

Answer: Open the file in VLC and then adjust the volume in the bottom-right corner of the window. You can only increase the volume by an additional 25% this way, but you can increase it even more by using the hotkeys.

  • Windows and Linux: Ctrl key and the up or down arrow keys
  • Mac: Command key and the up or down arrow keys

VLC Increase Audio

Question: The speaking in the video/audio file I am using is a little too fast for my lower level students. How do I slow down the audio without changing pitch?

Answer: VLC has this feature built into the player. The speed adjustment only affects the playback and will not change the original file.

  • Windows or Linux: Open the file in VLC and turn on the Status Bar (click on View -> Status Bar). Click on the ‘1.00x’ at the bottom of the screen and then move the slider back and forth to increase or decrease the speed.

VLC Status Bar

VLC Slow Down Audio

  • Mac: Open the file in VLC and click on Playback in the menu bar and then use the slider under Playback Speed.

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Question: The video is too long and I only want a section of it. How can I create a small clip from a section of my video?

Answer: This is only available for the Windows and Linux versions of VLC. There is a work around for Mac, but it isn’t very easy.

  • Windows and Linux: Open VLC and then make sure the Advanced Controls are on (click on View -> Advanced Controls). Start the video and when you get to the section you want to record, simply click on the record button once to start and again to stop recording. The new video file will appear in the Videos Library folder.

VLC Advanced Menu

VLC Recorder

Question: I want to keep repeating a section of my audio/video file so my students can hear/watch it over and over again. How can I do that?

Answer: This is only available for the Windows and Linux versions of VLC.

  • Windows and Linux: Open VLC and then make sure the Advanced Controls are on (click on View -> Advanced Controls). Start the video and when you get to the section you want to repeat, simply click on the A-B Loop button once to set the start point and when you get to the end, simply press it again. This will keep repeating this section until you press the A-B Loop button one more time. You can set this up ahead of time and simply pause the video or audio file until you are ready to play it.

VLC Loop Button

Question: I want to skip to different sections of my media file. How can I set this up?

Answer: VLC makes use of bookmarks which can be saved for later use.

  • Windows and Linux: Open VLC then make sure the Edit Bookmark window is open (click on Playback -> Custom Bookmarks -> Manage). Start your video or audio file and then click on the Create button in the Edit Bookmark window whenever you want to mark a spot to remember. You can continue to do this with your file until you are done bookmarking everything you would like. You can then double-click on any of the bookmarks in the Edit Bookmark window to skip to that section. You can then save the bookmark for later by clicking on Media -> Save Playlist to File

VLC Using bookmarks

  • Mac: Open VLC then make sure the Edit Bookmark window is open (click on Windows -> Bookmarks). Start your video or audio file and then click on the Add button in the Edit Bookmark window whenever you want to mark a spot to remember. You can continue to do this with your file until you are done bookmarking everything you would like. You can then double-click on any of the bookmarks in the Edit Bookmark window to skip to that section. You can then save the bookmark for later by clicking on File -> Save Playlist

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Let me know if there are any other tips you would like to add to this list.

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“The medium is the message”: The message of educational technology

Image courtesy of Pranav Bhatt

Image courtesy of Pranav Bhatt

I’ve had it wrong all along. Time and again I have said that technology is simply a tool and it is how we use it that makes it good or bad, but that isn’t entirely true.

This week I have been preparing to submit a conference proposal on how to critically evaluate the educational technology we choose to use in our classrooms. It got me thinking about the old adage, “the message is the medium” and I started to explore what that really means. The saying actually comes from a book by Marshall McLuhan called “Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man” (1964) where McLuhan carefully unwraps the idea that the instruments of delivery, the medium, also has a message embedded within it. In fact, you can even have a medium without “content”, but still sharing a message.

His simplest illustration is that of a light bulb. As it is, the light bulb doesn’t deliver “content” unless it is used to shine out a message, but without it, surgery or nighttime sports would almost be impossible. As McLuhan puts it, “This fact merely underlines the point that ‘the medium is the message’ because it is the medium that shapes and controls the scale and form of human association and action” (emphasis added). He continues by stating:

“The message of the electric light is like the message of electric power in industry, totally radical, pervasive, and decentralized. For electric light and power are separate from their uses, yet they eliminate time and space factors in human association exactly as do radio, telegraph, telephone, and TV, creating involvement in depth” (emphasis added).

When you consider the use of any particular educational technology “medium” such as webtools, apps, LMS/CMS/VLE, and hardware, we also need to be aware of the “message” that is being delivered simply in the choice, or non-choice as is the case in certain situations. When it comes to learning environments such as Class Dojo, Blackboard, Canvas, and many others, we need to also be aware of the theory of learning that is foundational in its creation.

Take ClassDojo for example. You can love it, hate, and even don’t care, but whatever your feelings towards it, this environment carries with it a theory of learning and even human psychology that is instrumental in its design and implementation. It comes from a certain perspective of the role of teacher and student, human motivation, and learning approaches, and places these within the “medium” of the platform. There is no implicit message, but it there.

Even some of the simplest “tools” have a message embedded in them. An example of this is Quizlet, the online flashcard platform. While it is simply a “medium”, there is a message carried though it on how people learn through repetition and memorization. Even something as simple as cloud storage communicates a message much in the same way that McLuhan talks about electric light and power.

What we need to do as educators is to educate ourselves on the messages embedded in the medium we are using in our classrooms. Are they communicating the message we want? In order to know that, we first need to deeply understand what we believe about teaching and learning, something that I think we have, but maybe haven’t taken the time to articulate. From that, create a set of questions to ask ourselves when evaluating the effectiveness of the instruments we choose to carry our and our students’ message. Like it or not, those “tools” are shaping and controlling “the scale and form” of the interactions between students, ourself, and all others with vested interest in what goes on in our classroom.

The Incredible Shrinking Video!: Resize Videos Using Miro VideoConverter

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Whenever I have students create a video either through screencasting or on their mobile device, I end up with the problem of someone trying to send or upload a massive file that gets rejected by the server, not to mention the amount of time and bandwidth taken up in the process. Thankfully, there is a simple, free solution that works on almost any computer: Miro VideoConverter. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to shrink the size of the videos while still maintaining decent quality and also making it accessible my as many devices and possible.

Downloading and installing Miro Video Converter:

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  • Go to the Miro VideoConverter website and click on the ‘Download Miro VideoConverter’ button and allow the file to be downloaded to your computer.
  • Run the installer. This will be different for the various versions of Windows or Mac. For Mac, it comes as a disc image (.dmg). Just open the image and copy the application to the Applications folder. For Windows, run the executable file (.exe) to install.

Converting videos:

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  • Run the Miro Video Converter program and you will see a grey box like the one above.

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  • Drag a video file into the box or click on ‘Choose Files…’ and select a file to convert.  Your video should appear in the box like the image above. You can add more than one video.

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  • Select the video output you would like by clicking on a button at the bottom. I choose Apple and then iPod Touch 4+ since this is the most compatible with smartphones, tablets, and computers. I want my students to be able to view the video on whatever device they would like.

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  • Click on the ‘Convert Now’ button to start the process. You will see an indicator showing how much has been done.

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  • Once it has finished, you can click on ‘Show File’ to see the video on your computer. You can watch it to make sure it plays properly before posting it for your students.

Notes:

  • You will lose some quality and your video may be cropped slightly. If this happens, choose a different format and do it again.
  • You can extract the audio as an MP3 if you click on ‘Format’ and then ‘Audio’.

I hope that helps! Feel free to post a comment below or send me a message through the contact page on this site or tweet me at @nathanghall. Thank you!

Create Fullscreen Images of Websites for Free Without Registration

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There are a number of ways to do a screen capture on your computer, but what happens when you want to make an image capture of a full webpage? This isn’t possible without installing something on your computer,  but there is a way you can do it online for free using Screenshot Machine. Here is how it works:

Steps:

  1. Find a website you would like to capture as an image and copy the URL (the web address near the top of the browser window).
  2. Go to Screenshot Machine and paste the URL into the box that says ‘Enter web page URL’.
  3. Before starting the process, choose the resolution you would like by clicking on the ‘Screen resolution’ dropdown menu. You can choose from:
    • Full page: an image of everything on the page. This can be a really long image, but can be edited using any standard image editor.
    • 1024 x 768px
    • 800 x 600px
    • 400 x 300px
    • 320 x 240px
    • Full page – mobile device: This uses the browser version of the webpage for the full-size image. This is good if you want to show what the website looks like on a mobile device such as a smartphone.
    • 480 x 800px – mobile device
  4. Once you have chosen your resolution, click on the big, orange ‘start capture’ button and wait until a green ‘download’ button appears.
  5. Click on the ‘Download’ button to either view the image in your browser or start the download process. This depends on what browser you have used. If the image appears in your browser, right-click (or Command-click on a Mac) on the image to choose to download it to your computer. I noticed that Screenshot Machine hosts the image, which is an option when sharing it with someone or linking to it on your website. What I am not sure about is how long they will host it. The best option is always to host it yourself to be sure that the image won’t disappear without notice, but this is a good short-term solution.

Notes:

  • This doesn’t work on all webpages, but I have found it to work on most.
  • For websites that display ads based on location, the image shows ads from Slovakia since that is where Screenshot Machine is hosted. This shouldn’t be a problem, but it does explain some of the strange ads in the images.
  • There is a limit of 100 images per month which is more than enough for most people.

Here is a short video on how to use it:

I am adding this to my Webtools: No Registration Needed for Students page under the Screencapture section.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to write a comment below, send me a message through the contact page, or tweet me at @nathanghall. Thank you!

On pools and other abandoned spaces

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When my wife and I moved into our new high-rise apartment building in January, a couple of mysteries began to emerge. The more obvious one had to do with the green space directly below our second floor balcony. Even though there are stairs leading to a fence and pathways with flowers and ornamental rocks leading in and out of the three building complex, there does not appear to be a way for us to get to it.  The fence cannot be opened to the stairs and any doors in our complex do not open out to the grassy area. The other mysterious thing is a door in our basement that is marked as a pool entrance, but there does not appear to be a pool nor any key that opens that door. This oddity is compounded by the fact that our apartment seems to be directly above this space that we can’t enter.

Last night, we finally had enough with trying to figure this out and we were determined to find a way into the green space and then look in the windows of the space directly below our apartment to determine what is there once and for all. We looked at the satellite view from Google Maps and best determined a way into the green space through the adjacent parking lot. We wandered through the lot and over a short berm and through the trees down to the pathway that we have never been able to get to before last night. It was like walking into a secret garden, only not as pretty. We wandered around and found all sorts of strange things such as another small building that used to house a swimming pool, but has been abandoned for some time. We made our way under our balcony and to the windows of the space below. There was a small patio area and peeking through the windows, we saw a stairwell that must be behind the mystery ‘pool’ door. We made our way around the corner until we could find a place to peek through the windows. Lo and behold, there was a small abandoned pool that is situated directly below our bedroom (see the picture above)!

When these buildings were built approximately forty years ago, someone thought it would be a great idea to install an indoor pool to attract new tenants. I am sure when it first opened, people took advantage of it and the children especially had fun splashing around in it at the end of the school day. I don’t know the ins and outs of what eventually happened, but I suspect the novelty wore off as tiles cracked, the pool was closed for maintenance over long stretches, and eventually the owner of the building decided it was too expensive to maintain and insure, so the pool was drained and the doors were locked for the last time.

With the mystery of the pool solved, I needed to get back to planning for a PD session I am jointly giving in a couple of weeks and I realized that much of what we do in the area of education technology is like the empty swimming pool below my bedroom. In order to attract attention from students, teachers, and parents, technology is purchased to show how ‘transformative’ the school is becoming. Interactive whiteboards were installed, laptops or tablets (or both) were purchased, and TVs were installed around the school. Slowly, the novelty wears off as teachers are not properly trained on the pedagogical reasons for using education technology and are also not given the help they need to use them. Slowly, the equipment breaks down or is left aside as students and teachers get bored or frustrated with it and give up.

Here is the problem. Technology gadgets are not going to ‘transform’ your school. Education technology is not about the equipment in front of you, it is about the equipment you already have between your ears. Having a good, solid basis founded on well researched pedagogy and clear goals along with the assistance needed to achieve them is the same for all areas of education, not just education technology. I fear that most people enter the use of technology in the classroom out of necessity, not because they see the value in it. Selling educators on outcomes, not gadgets is the way to go here.

There are a number of things that also need to be considered outside of good pedagogy. Here are some of my thoughts on those:

  • Costs: Could the finances being spent on major technology upgrades be better spent in other ways? Just like the pool, a cost / benefit would be beneficial, especially in the long run. When I was selling computers and printers, we would talk about the TCO, the Total Cost of Operation. Sure, I can sell you a printer for next to nothing, but the ink will drain you dry financially if you use it every day. You may be better off spending more on the printer, such as in the case of a laser printer over an inkjet, and save in the long run on consumables. Consider things like leasing. Leasing you computers can save you in the long run if you have to upgrade on a regular basis. Thinking of spending a pile of money on expensive equipment? Look at the TCO, not just the upfront budget.
  • Training: I would suggest that instead of buying the equipment and then training the teachers, train the teachers and then buy the equipment. You would be surprised what you can find out when giving a training session. Teachers can give you feedback on what would work and what won’t. Also, if they see the value in the tools before you spend money on it, they can spend time planning their lessons so they can take advantage of them. In one school in which I worked, teachers were required to come up with various lesson ideas in detail that could be shared amongst the teachers that made good use of the technology at hand. Over time, these could be updated and stored so other teachers could make use of them instead of having to reinvent the wheel each time. For many teachers, they see the value in the use of technology, but they don’t know where to start. Get them started, and then keep them going. Eventually, they will start to come up with things on their own. To assist in this area, I have started to come up with printable edtech tips that can be shared with teachers who are less tech savvy. Feel free to use them as you see fit. I plan on adding more lesson ideas as well.
  • Privacy: Always we aware that you are responsible for the privacy of each student, even if they are adults. In some places, this is legislated, for other areas, it is just good common sense. Online tools such as those from Google or Edmodo are great, I use them myself, but these are still companies who are not doing this out of the goodness of their heart. They still need to turn a profit. How do they do this? Various ways, but the most profitable of all is data. Social media giants get that way out of the ability to sell off data. Now before you start getting into a debate about legislation safeguarding this, such as is found in countries around the world, keep in mind that data breaches happen all of the time (ex. Heartbleed, hackers). It can happen in your own network, but criminals tend to target those that get them the most money and I am sure a school network is pretty low on their list. I am not saying that you shouldn’t be using GAFE (Google Apps For Education) or Edmodo, but there needs to be a frank discussion amongst all stakeholders on what is going to happen. Also, bear in mind that simply asking students or parents for approval is not the same as having them in the discussion. Schools, especially teachers, hold a position of power and need to be careful how they use it. Students may be afraid to speak up in fear that their grades may be influenced. As crazy as that sounds, we need to be aware that there needs to be a way for them to openly disagree without fearing for their marks. Lastly, what are you going to do if even one student opts out of the use of this tool? Do you make them do things differently, or do you not do it at all? Are there compromises to be made?

These are only some of things that make the use of education technology such a hot topic. There are some you have bought in and are using it well. There are some who are sold on the ‘cool’ factor and are seeking newer and better things all of the time, driving their students and colleagues crazy by constantly changing their system. There are skeptics, frustrated ‘newbies’, and many more, but I hope we all have the same goal in mind, to create a positive and productive learning environment for our students.

So dive in, but just make sure the pool isn’t empty.

Portable Apps: A tech toolkit in your pocket


Image courtesy of AmsterdamPrinting

Image courtesy of AmsterdamPrinting


Note: This is for people who want or need to use shared Windows-based computers at work like I do. I personally use a Mac, but I am forced in some situations to work on Windows in my classroom. I will do a post some time on tips for Mac users.

If any of you work in various rooms and offices like I do, you find it frustrating when you move from computer to computer only to find that certain things are not available on one machine or blocked on another. Also, adding programs to computers that are locked-down is a pain. In many of the places I have worked at, it takes days, possibly weeks, to get anything installed on your computer only to have to do it again on a different machine once you move rooms.

My solution has been to make use of online tools, but that isn’t always ideal and if the network is slow or goes down, you are stuck. Many years ago, I came across the website PortableApps.com where legal, open-source / free software has been adapted to run off of a portable drive such as a USB thumb drive. I have made good use of this site over the years and I thought it might be helpful to some of you if I was to give you a rundown of what portable apps are, why they are helpful, and what apps I have found to be especially useful.

How to install an app from PortableApps.com

  1. Go to PortableApps.com and click on ‘Apps’ at the top of the page.
  2. Look through the apps list to find something that you think would be helpful to you. Click on the link on the name.
  3. Read through the description and/or view the screenshot to see if this might be something you would like to install. If you are happy with it, click on the big, green ‘Download Now’ button near the top of the page.
  4. You will be taken to a Sourceforge page and your download should start in about 5 seconds. If it doesn’t start after five seconds, click on the small ‘direct link’ near the top of the page. If you are using a browser that prompts you about a place to download, select a place to download and start the download.
  5. The file you have downloaded is an installer you need to run. Find where the installer was downloaded to and then double-click on the file.
  6. Once the installer starts up, follow these steps:
    1. Click on ‘Next >’
    2. Choose your destination folder (best to select your USB drive or any other external drive) and click on ‘Install
    3. Once it has finished the installation process, click on ‘Finish’
  7. If you have installed it to your portable drive, find the drive on your computer and you will see a new folder labelled by the name of the app. Inside that folder will be the program you can run. Just double-click on it to start it up!

Tips:

  • You can also install to a shared network folder if you have one at your workplace. This makes it easy to access without having to take a portable drive around with you.
  • Save any files you make to the drive as well so you have them with you.
  • Browser plugins such as Adobe Flash can also be installed as per usual.
  • Make sure you eject your drive before removing it.

My favourite portable apps

  • VLC: If there was one program that I think should be installed on every computer, it is this one. VLC is the Swiss Army Knife of media players. It plays basically any type of audio and video files and can even create files as well. You can rip an audio CD to MP3 files to carry with you for class, you can play podcast audio and video files, you can create playlists and bookmarks for your files, you can adjust the volume much higher than most players, and so on. Once day I will do a post on how I use VLC in the classroom. For now, just know that if there is a video or audio file to play, use VLC since it is virtually guaranteed to work.
  • Audacity: This is an audio player, editor, and recorder. This is great for the language classroom. You will need to install a few plugins to make certain files such as MP3 play or record, but that is pretty simple to do.
  • CamStudio: While I tend to use Screencast-O-Matic for screencasting, some schools don’t allow access to Java and with slower internet speeds, it can be a pain. This is a simple tool to make a video of your screen as you work on your computer. It is great for creating video tutorials or mini lessons.
  • Lightscreen: While the Snipping Tool included with Windows 7 and 8 works fairly well, Lightscreen works with older versions and also is a slight step faster than the Snipping Tool. Basically, it allows you to take a screenshot of a section of your screen and automatically saves it as an image.
  • Foxit Reader: While most computers have Adobe Acrobat Reader to read PDF files, Foxit is an alternative. It looks and feels like an Office application and I like the annotation tools better than Reader.
  • PDFTK Builder: This is the PDF Toolkit and it is great for removing pages from a pdf and combine pages as well. If I have a really long PDF and I only want to have a version with a few pages, I use this to pull out the pages I want and then combine them into one document.
  • Gimp: This is a fantastic photo editor along the lines of Adobe Photoshop. I use it to edit photos instead of the standard programs in Windows.
  • Peazip: I have no idea why some computers do not have a file decompressor installed. Windows can handle some files like Zip, but if I come across something else, such as a RAR file, this works wonders.
  • NVU / KompoZer: This is WYSIWYG HTML and CSS editor. I use to to create tables and so forth for blog posts. Works fairly well, but I am not sure how many people would make use of it other than me.
  • VirtualDub: This is a video capture/processing program. It isn’t very user friendly, but if the computer I am using does not have even a basic video editor, this does the trick.
  • Open Office: This is a Microsoft Office compatible office suite to create and view documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. I am not in love with the program since it isn’t the most intuitive, but it does the job.
  • Jarte: This is tabbed word processor that works well for me as a notetaker. It is smaller to open than Open Office and I can keep it running in the background whenever I need to jot something down.
  • Artha: This is portable thesaurus. It works well and doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles. I use it lots in my writing classes.
  • Mnemosyne: This is a flashcard creator and player. I have a mixed relationship with flashcards, but it is handy sometimes. I still prefer online versions such as Quizlet, but this works well for something simple.
  • Google Chrome / Firefox: I actually have both on my USB drive since some sites play differently with different browsers. They are portable versions of the popular browsers. Why? Privacy. Everything stays on my drive. I don’t need it as often with cloud-synching, but some computers don’t have anything but Internet Explorer installed (gasp!), so this is my backup plan.
  • Skype: The popular audio and video chat program in a portable app when the computer I am using is without it. Nothing more to say here. Works well.
  • Tweetdeck: Portable version of the popular Twitter client that I use at home. Much better than using the browser based options.
  • Cook Timer: The most simplistic program on this list. Nothing more than a countdown timer. Great for keeping students on task. I often use online versions, but this works well.

I know some of you have other preferences, so feel free to share them in the comment sections below. Feel free to ask questions and I will do my best to answer them for you.

Creating a social asynchronous webinar

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Image courtesy of Mark Sebastian

By now, most people have likely at least heard of the term webinar if not taken part in one. I have had the privilege to have given one and also to have taken part in some. For those who maybe have only have heard of the term before but aren’t sure what they are about, here is a quick overview. A webinar is a short seminar hosted live on the internet where people can watch it streaming anywhere in the world if there is at least half-decent internet access. Also, participants can usually ask questions and participate in polls through the text chat functions. Some webinars even allow for live audio and video based questions, but only when there is a moderator in place that can help things run smoothly. Here is my chart comparing face-to-face seminars to webinars:

Face-to-face

 

Webinar

 

Advantage

 

Location

One location Anywhere with internet access Webinar – Saves time and money not having to travel

Time

One time zone Multiple time zones Face-to-face – Easier to schedule for one time zone.

Speaker

Local or must travel Can be anywhere Webinar – Greater access to a selection of speakers

Audience

Local or must travel Can be anywhere Webinar – Broader audience

Costs

Room and speaker costs Internet access and speaker costs Webinar – Location fees can drive up the price

Participation

Ask questions on the spot and discuss afterward Can send text and sometimes audio questions and discussion during
and after
Face-to-face – Both can make use of technology to engage the audience during and after the seminar, but talking to someone in person can be a slight advantage

Adaptability

Pretty much set as far as structure goes Somewhat more flexible on changing the structure Webinar – Even though both can make changes ‘on the fly’ to meet the needs of those participating, neither are that flexible

Reviewing

Can be recorded and posted for comments and discussion Can be recorded and posted for comments and discussion Webinar – No major difference other than the questions are usually typed up and displayed on the screen during the recording making it easier to see them in the video afterward

Planning

Needs to be planned well in advance Can be set up on a very quickly Webinar – Clear winner here.

Sound

Depends on where you sit in the room Depends on your computer setup Webinar – While technology can be finicky at times, the option of making it as loud or as quiet as you want makes this the clear winner.

For the most part, webinars win out in regards to the advantages, but upon reviewing the chart, you can see there are still some things that could be improved. For me, the biggest disadvantage to both webinars and seminars is the schedule. For both of these, if you want to be a participant in the session, you need to be there when the session is happening. That is fine if you have the time, but I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to take part in a webinar or seminar, but I had a class or meeting or something else on that made it impossible to participate. Yes, I can also watch the seminar later on, but it isn’t the same as being there. There is a reason we like to be at a seminar when it happens. While not exactly the same, it is similar to a live drama production. People attend live productions in the theatre not for the precision of the execution since that is more possible through the ability to retake a scene as in filming, but the value is in being a part of the production and the energy the comes from those in attendance and the actors on stage. This is the same for the live seminar or webinar.

Once you take all of those advantages, disadvantages, and ideas and put them into a pot, what comes out? That is what I’ve been thinking about for some time now and here is what I have come up with. It is still a work in progress and is open to suggestions and changes, so feel free to chime in.

I want to do an asynchronous webinar that adapts to the what the audience needs and possibly even includes the audience as part of the webinar. To make this happen, it will require the use of various pieces of the technology puzzle.

The first piece is something to host the video and allow for in-video comments and discussion. This would make use of short recorded pieces spread out over a period of time to allow others to watch when they can (the asynchronous part). For this, I have chosen VideoANT from the University of Minnesota. It takes hosted video and wraps it with a tool where anyone can pause the video at any section and add a comment which shows up as a list beside the video. Click on those comments and the video starts playing where the comment was added. People can even reply to those comments to add to the discussion. This is a free tool that requires minimal registration to view and comment, although even the registration has a workaround to avoid giving away personal information. More on that later.

The next piece of the puzzle is the video host. For this, I am going to use YouTube to host my video since VideoANT works best with that. It would be possible to have others share their videos through other means, but for now, simplicity rules here.

The last piece of the puzzle is a discussion board and host for all things related to the webinar. It should be a place anyone could add to without needing to register. For this, I ended up going with a WordPress blog since I can set the comments to anyone and this allows for people to share thoughts and ideas with nested comments. Also, it keep all of the material in one place. There may be better tools out there to do this, but for accessibility reasons, I think this will work.

Here is a video I recorded talking about this same thing, but showing how VideoANT could be used. Go to the link, enter in your email address, or a fake one if you like, and press play to watch the video. If you want to add a comment while watching, click on the ‘Add an Annotation’ and the video will pause and you can add a text comment.

videoant

Watch and comment

Thanks for your time. I welcome all comments, suggestions, and criticisms.