Saturday, July 25, 2009

DIY Videos for Class Projects & Events

A number of educators are starting to use video technology to capture everything from class drama projects, to school activities and outings, or to make available supplementary notes or how-to instructions for assignments and projects. These video-taped items are typically made available to students via classroom computer(s) or the library's computers, however, many teachers are now taking advantage of online video sharing platforms to turn video into a collaborative experience. There are now a number of web tools and online video platforms that we can make use of to upload and package our video - YouTube being by far the most obvious and popular, and an increasing number of collaborative tools specifically geared toward the education community (such as wikis) are allowing contributors to search and embed YouTube videos into their pages. Most of these services can be public-facing or private (set number of defined users), you can control the parameters and address the specific security and privacy concerns of your environment your own way.

But is YouTube the best option? Beyond the immense shadow of YouTube there's a world of online video sharing platforms, how do you know which one is right for you and the needs of your class? (And they all have education-focused groups, so you shouldn't let that dictate your choice, but if you find a community you like...stick with it). The following article is a review of some of the more prominent names in the online video sharing market, with a look at what hey offer and how they would be best used. By no means an inclusive review, but at least it's a start.


Vlogging and Episodic Content

Want to deliver a consistent, and evolving, message? Are you considering a video project that covers the entire year and encompasses a number of video segments? You may be more interested in platforms that have been built around the delivery of episodes aimed at a specific audience as opposed to a number of one-off videos.

Blip.tv - Emerging out of a knowledge management software plan, Blip.tv focuses on “episodic content” or show. Some show axamples include Rocketboom, and they offers branding and customization solutions for traditional media companies who want to integrate user-generated content into their existing platforms. CNN Exchange and CNN iReport were built on solutions created by blip.tv.

Unlike most other online video sites, Blip.tv video platform and services do not focus as much on building a community within its platform, it’s built to reach outward: perfect for the corporate vloggers. Its user dashboard offers some useful features for publishing, gathering stats, and distribution.

Viddler - Has some nice features, my favourite is the Groups feature, which allows a user to create various theme focused groups (which act a lot like channels). Once you’ve created a group, the group page will be laid-out in a very common and recognizable format that’s easy to navigate and understand for the user, and you. One popular group on Viddler is Wine Library TV, the episodic vlog distributed on the web site of the same name, and a real media hit: the founder has been on a number of TV shows, now what company wouldn’t love some PR like that.

Viddler also lets you brand the video with your logo and customize the player, making it really attractive to those who want to do some brand building along with delivering “the message”. For some reasonable yearly fees Viddler has some very useful packages for Businesses which will definitely let them develop on branding.


Online Video Publishing and Community

YouTube - The biggest online video site in the world. Most of us not only frequently visit YouTube to catch the latest viral video sent via e-mail or your favourite social networking account, many of us have had YouTube accounts or have kids who shamelessly post their Friday night sleep-overs. YouTube is used for so many different purposes you can't really slot into a delivery theme - it's viral; it's educational - e.g. you can find university lectures and tours, and instructional vidoes by public school teachers; it's an advertising platform; it's political and commonly used during elections; and for most it's pure fun. But one thing that really defines YouTube is it's very strong and vocal community of users who actively participate in channels and videos that d ot necessarily relate to them - in other words, it's very much a social network.

Like most social networks it suffers from an abundance of nosie and clutter, and a lot of really low-grade, low-lighting in the basement, videos.

Vimeo - Think YouTube on a much smaller scale, and with a much more sophisticated and interest-driven community of users. Vimeo is cleanly-designed, low on the clutter, and by-in-large has a higher-grade of video publication with some really nice video packages: there's a video project on Vimeo called Cities in Minutes (http://vimeo.com/channels/cities), it's a refreshing change from the endless low-grade videos of teens staring straight into a camera. if I were new to the online video market, I would start with Vimeo.

Metacafe - A social video site, it focuses mainly on individual video uploads with a ratings system for most popular current video, highest rated, rising stars.I mention it here because it is trying to build up its content producer channels feature, and slowly focus on more episodic materials.


Video Streaming - Doing it Live


Streaming is not for the faint of heart, the shy, or perfectionists (I realize that may eliminate 90% of my librarian colleagues). Very few teachers will video stream, the nature of what we do doesn't require it. But, granted, there may be the odd time when a more elaborate project / assignment, and a more adventurous teacher, may find themselves attempting to stream.

Why stream video? In my opinion, or in the context of my school, it would have to be a damn major event for me to even consider streaming. Nonetheless, there are a ton of people and outfits streaming, and for many companies it appears that the “big event” is a PR avenue to consider live video delivery: e.g. both the Republicans and Democrats streamed their last respective conventions.

Here are a few online video sites that offer streaming services:

UStream - Big player, streamed the 2008 US party conventions. Also recently streamed the birth of a child, first of its kind, I think. broadcast 24/7. The site lets users put up a calendar with upcoming activities so viewers know the best time to tune in. In addition, the interface integrates chat so users can type to each other while watching. Live video can be watched on the site, or embedded onto any other website. Shows how many users are watching along, allows for chat, etc.

Justin.TV - The hotspot for live video blogging and chatting, it’s a 24/7 platform for broadcasting live video on the web. You can setup viewing schedules, and have an archive of episodes for your channel. A real web original, with Life Casting as one its big hits: umm, that means people streaming themselves in their daily activities, can be a tad peculiar.