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Expanding our Focus: The iPad and Tablet User’s Group has been renamed the Mobile Technology User’s Group

By in Classroom, Events, Mobile, Professional Development, Tools on .

In a move hinted at during our last meeting of the Spring 2013 semester, the “iPad and Tablet User’s Group” has been renamed  the “Mobile Technology User’s Group”.  There are several different reasons for this name change I would like to explain.

First and foremost, let me state the goal for our group: we want to be a user-supported community that encourages exploration and implementation of pedagogically sound mobile-technology use at Purdue.  This represents an expansion of our previous goals that were similar in intent but related solely to tablet technology.  While we had some very interesting discussions about how to implement tablets in the classroom, we rarely discussed putting tablets in the hands of students.  Instead, tablet use was talked about in a very instructor-centric way: here’s how to annotate your presentation, here’s how to wirelessly share your screen, here’s how to remotely connect to your home desktop, etc.  These were extremely valid topics that merited exploration and discussion, but they tended to exclude student use.  This is an understandable side effect of tablet cost, as few classes or programs have the resources to offer tablets to students and students themselves have not widely purchased tablets for classroom use.

Looking at pedagogical priorities emphasized by educational programs on campus such as IMPACT, the emphasis of technology use must move beyond the hands of the instructor.  Quite a few students own tablets (one national 2013 survey suggests around 18% and Purdue’s bring-your-own-device numbers are similar), but those numbers are far surpassed by students who bring their smartphones to class (above 80% on both surveys).  Even with these numbers, smartphones are mostly ignored in classrooms on campus.  While ITaP has attempted to introduce different uses for phones in the past with the Studio Suite of products (HotSeat, Mixable, DoubleTake, etc), linking smartphone usage to add-on applications leads to its own set of limitations.  Instead of starting at the app level and determining usage, think about the standard features of almost any smartphone and imagine how features can be used to retrieve information, create content, and interact with the physical (and virtual) outside world.

Some instructors worry about the distraction of technology in the hands of their students.  While this can indeed be an issue, it is generally most apparent in traditional classrooms where students are asked to remain passive, listen to a lecture, and take notes.  Students who are not engaged with course content are the students spending their time checking reading/posting on Facebook or Instagram.  In an active classroom, with group members to collaborate with and tasks complete, that distracting device is suddenly put to use for an academic purpose.  Students who tune out the course to focus on their own issues can be quickly identified and refocused on the task by both instructors and peers.  In several semesters of interaction with a case-driven classroom of Purdue undergraduates (mostly freshmen), I was never once told by a student group of 3-5 that they were unable to perform tasks due to a lack of a tablet, phone, or laptop.

To go back to the original point, I don’t see changing our group from tablets to mobile technology as a major shift.  Instead, I see it as simply an expansion of our focus to include other types of technology that may already exist in Purdue classrooms.  This not only allows instructors opportunities to design more student-centered lessons with technology, but it does so without any responsibility for the professor or department to buy, support, maintain, and/or upgrade hardware and software.

I look forward to seeing what our users will dazzle us with this year, and if you have any interest in mobile technology integration in the higher education classroom, I hope you’ll join us.  Our first meeting of the academic year is Tuesday, September 24th from 1:30-2:30 in LWSN Hall room 1142.

What Can Camtasia Do for You?

By in Content Development, Distance Education, Events, Software, Tools on .

As mentioned in Purdue Today, the University has purchased a site license for TechSmith’s all-in-one screen recording and editing software Camtasia.  It is already available for personal installation for most full-time faculty and staff who request it, and soon it will be available in every ITaP lab on Purdue’s West Lafayette campus for faculty, staff, and student use.  A Camtasia plug-in will also be installed in PowerPoint on those computers, allowing users to easily create recordings of presentations with audio, slides, and even a webcam if desired.  Camtasia will be replacing Adobe Presenter on ITaP supported machines.

Windows and Mac versions

Purdue’s license of Camtasia includes both Windows and Mac versions of the software.  It is important to note, however, the Windows version is an older and more robust product than the Mac version.  While core recording and editing capabilities are available in both versions, the user-interface and features are very different.   I must also mention that movie projects are not easily transferrable between the Windows and Mac products.   This compatibility issue only affects the editable project files, therefore it is recommend to only create camera recordings and edit them on the same operating system.  The final video product can then be saved in a non-editable video format (such as mp4) that will play across platforms.

Brief Overview of Key Features

Camtasia’s best feature is its ease of use. The entire computer screen, or a small selection of the screen, can be quickly recorded with a couple clicks of the mouse.  It is also very easy to add audio narration and an external video source (such as a webcam).  Once the recording has been created, it can be immediately produced into a sharable video file, or it can be modified with Camtasia’s full-featured editing studio.  The editing pane allows the user to make cuts, zoom and pan the recording, add other media clips, and even include assessments.  Camtasia also allows the importing of existing media clips, so it can be used purely as a video editor.

Share your Movies

After finishing the movie project, there are a variety of ways to share your video.  TechSmith offers a free 2 GB of storage and bandwidth if you sign up for a ScreenCast account.  This is useful if you need to share unrestricted video content to others who may not have access to Blackboard.  Camtasia also supports direct uploads to YouTube if you link your account in the program.  Finally, Camtasia also supports creating video files that can be uploaded into Kaltura (Purdue’s video storage solution) and shared in Blackboard.  

Assessing Students

One last feature worth mentioning is Camtasia’s ability to create videos that include various assessment features.  For example, instructors can integrate videos in Blackboard in such a way that students can be awarded points based upon their completion of a video.  For more targeted assessment, Camtasia also supports limited quizzing (multiple choice, short answer) during a video that can be scored and added into the Blackboard gradebook.  As always with this type of assessment, I’d advise caution and reflection on its implementation, but it may make sense for instructors who want to tie some sort of low-stakes assessment with a student’s online participation.  

Upcoming Camtasia Events

In the coming weeks and months, ITaP will be hosting several Camtasia events.  Starting the week of August 12th, we will be providing hands-on training workshops for those who wish to become better acquainted with the tool.  You can view and sign up for these workshops by visiting our training calendar.  We are currently developing training documents for those workshops as well as stand-alone documents and videos that will be available online around that date.  We will cover some basic Camtasia usage as well as how to integrate it with the systems we use at Purdue (Blackboard, Kaltura, etc).  TechSmith has also created their own tutorials for Camtasia (Windows and Mac), which are pretty in-depth and useful.

This is an exciting piece of software for teaching and learning, and I look forward to finding out about all of the creative and useful ways it will be implemented on campus.

Creating Mobile-Ready Videos

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By in Content Development, Mobile, Uncategorized on .

As bandwidth and computer technologies improve for the general consumer, it is becoming more and more apparent that online options for support, training, and course work will continue to increase in demand.  In the past, online course materials have, out of the necessity of bandwidth limitations, been offered in general print-ready formats as well as lower-resolution audio/video formats such as SWF and FLV.  While broadband internet is still not a risk-free assumption, its multiple home (cable, DSL) and portable (wifi, 3g, 4g) channels have helped it increase in availability and use.   This increased amount of broadband has changed the way many students access course resources.

The introduction of powerful mobile devices, however, has started to change student expectations for provided video.  As more and more people buy smartphones and tablets that are also media and web devices, they will expect to be able to access course on their mobile devices.  This presents an issue, however, in that many mobile devices live within their own operating system and ecosystem and cannot be as easily modified as computers running full versions of standard operating systems such as Windows or Mac OS.  iOS devices (iPhone, iPad) cannot play Flash or SWF movies natively (such as those created by Presenter), and Apple has proactively blocked user-submitted applications to add this functionality.  Android devices can play a minimal version of Flash, but can still have issues loading it on the fly.  Considering that tablets are the growth area in the tech industry with 20 million sold in 2010 (7.3 million were iPads in Q4 alone) and a projection of 180 million tablets to be sold in 2014, it would seem prudent to keep these devices in mind when choosing file formats for newly created materials, especially for technology-savvy students who will want mobile options for accessing course materials.

The good news is that mobile-ready videos can be created right now with tools already available.  Narrated presentations, for example, can be created in PowerPoint 2010 using its built-in narration tool.  The entire presentation, including audio, can then be saved as a movie file (.wmv).  This resulting video can be uploaded to a conversion/hosting tool (DoubleTake, Echo 360, YouTube, etc) and then shared with students through Blackboard or any other preferred means of communication in a mobile-ready format.  (Note: Unfortunately PowerPoint 2011 for Mac will not currently export audio when saved as a movie, so this option is not yet viable for Mac users)

As mobile devices become more popular and more powerful, it seems reasonable to assume that students will increasingly expect to be able to access course materials on them.  Proactively working now to create materials that are mobile-ready will not only increase the current accessibility of materials, but may also reduce the need to recreate non-accessible materials in the future.