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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Stand and Talk 2: Why You'll Love Instagram Video

Upstart platform Vine has had a tremendous impact on the social media landscape with its easy-to-shoot, six-second video format. But Instagram struck back brilliantly this week by introducing video to its uber-popular photo-sharing site. As of July 20, 2013, you can now record and post 15-second videos to your Instagram account.

This isn't simply a great competitive countermove, but a handy new tool for educators for all the reasons I cite in the video above. I know you'll find your own reasons to love Instagram video. If you're a teacher without an IG account yet, consider opening one and start contributing to this tremendously supportive and  creative community. It's a great way to share what the world looks like through your eyes and the eyes of your students (if you have social media releases for them, of course).

Monday, June 17, 2013

Make Your Own RSAnimate Videos with Videoscriber

Ok, so you have seen those RSAnimate videos where a disembodied hand draws and writes to a voice-over of Sir Ken Robinson or another famous TED talker. You can actually do something very close to this with Videoscriber from Sparkol - without even knowing how to draw.

Invest a few minutes in this video and do not be put off by slightly poor sound. What you see once the demo starts will floor you. Check out the second and third tutorial and some of the promotional vids as well.

Imagine the possibilities for yourself or project work for your students. I am not sure if there is a an educational discount, but there is a pricing scale you can check out - and a seven-day free trial.

I owe this one to Steve Snider, formerly of the NEA and now with Integrated Media. Thank you so much, Steve. You can bet I will be checking out Videoscriber this summer.

Stand and Talk 1: Boost Your iPhone Audio

Getting good quality sound - or sound that is simply loud enough - on your iPhone or iPad videos is a real challenge. For anything farther away than your arm, the built-in mic just does not cut it. A good option in some circumstances is the RODE SmartLav mic. This basic lapel mic lets you isolate your voice from the ambient sound around you and substantially boosts the pick up on your voice.

My mistake in this video was to position it about 6 inches from my collar - the recommended distance. After I reviewed the video, I realized that was much too close. You can hear the sound running a bit hot and clipping after I plug the mic in. Because the SmartLav is so sensitive, a better distance would have been perhaps 10 inches down.

Still a good product, though - and one way to deal with the frustration of poor on-camera sound. In a future post I will tell you about the iRig mic - a real premium product, more flexible than this, and at the same price.

Happy recording.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

12 Reasons to Love the Boogie Board

Why in the world would you need a Boogie Board?
Okay so you have this brand-new stylus for your iPad – and you're frustrated. The writing experience isn't what you thought it would be. It feels like a big fat crayon. And there's no way you can replicate the feeling of pen on paper - no matter what note-taking app you use. The amount of words you can squeeze onto a Penultimate page is drastically fewer than you can get with paper and your writing is blockish and ugly.

In the vernacular, you're not a happy camper.

So you buy yourself a $30 Jott Pro stylus - you know, the glamorous one with the flat round disc hugging the nib. It's a great conversation piece, but that same disc that used to glide over your glossy pad for the first week or two seems to skip now. And you find out you need to buy thermal compound from the Source and apply it between the nib and the disc to fix the problem. (Can you tell this is autobiographical?)

Enter the Boogie Board - no not the surfing kind. I'm talking about the $49 London Drugs special - the Boogie Board Jot 8.5 - quite simply the dumbest writing tablet in the world. It's single function, feature poor - and absolutely brilliant.

The only thing you can do on this tablet is write and erase. I've had mine for about 2 months and I'm loving it. You cannot save, export, buy apps for it, choose fancy paper or even start a new page.

But it has plenty of features to love:
  1. It's perfect for making lists, brainstorming, drawing.
  2. Kids love being able to draw, scribble and pass notes. 
  3. It's super light-weight and thin.
  4. You can quickly scribble down impromptu presentation notes and use as a oversized 3x5 card. 
  5. The low-energy screen is always on and it will be for months - power for the earlier versions lasted 10 years.
  6. You are always zero clicks away from your note. 
  7. It has much better wrist suppression than the Penultimate app. 
  8. Viewing is excellent in bright sunlight.
  9. Built-in magnets let you slap it onto the fridge or metal filing cabinet.
  10. The screen is pressure-sensitive so you can make fat or thin strokes.
  11. There's a holder for the stylus, unlike previous versions. 
  12. The writing experience is perfect - a pleasure - frustration-free. 
Frankly, there are many situations where pulling out your tablet is a much better choice than using the Boogie Board. But that's why you have a tablet, right? And for about $100 you can buy the Boogie Board Rip which does let you save notes and export them to Evernote. 

But this inexpensive little writing tablet wins hands down in certain situations. I attend plenty of pressers and special events where the Boogie Board is perfect. When working my way around a venue taking pictures - indoors or out - it's so easy for me to ask kids and adults to write their names down on the board, then keep shooting and use that information in tweets or Facebook posts later.

If I need a second page, I just snap a pic of the board with my iPhone, erase and reuse. 

Awkward? I've become quite used to it. And, horror of horrors, if I were ever to leave the board behind at an event, I'm out $50, not $700 as would be the case with my iPad. 

Drawbacks? Plenty. Besides those mentioned already, the low-contrast screen takes getting used to - you certainly can't use it in the dark - but is good enough for most applications. There are plenty of other limitations. Again, all you can do is write and erase.

But I'll put this cheap little tablet up against any other electronic "analogue" writing experience. 

Because of the subtle drag on the stylus, it feels like the closest thing to pen and paper you'll find. My handwriting is not big and blockish, but fine and well-formed and I can fit more words length-wise than on many note-taking apps. I throw this pad in the case with my other equipment wherever I'm shooting or live tweeting. 

I mulled buying this Boogie Board for a half hour in the store before I sprung for it because it seemed like such a redundant purchase. Such a dumb idea for an iPad owner. 

Then again, the tech world is full of brilliant dumb ideas. 

Just ask Jack Dorsey.