Easy Capture

With the emergence of an environment like YouTube, the ability to create and share rich media has gotten really very simple. I’ve written here and elsewhere about the notion of simple creation and even simpler embedding and I think for the most part people are really starting to get it. The idea that I can sit down, point my iSight at my face, and instantly record and encode video straight to the web is really powerful. But if you want to do that as part of the Academy in an official sense the process is much more complicated because we don’t offer the same level of simplicity as they do. Granted anyone with a browser, a relatively fast Internet connection, and a video camera can get video online quickly, but if I am doing this for class (teaching or taking) it can be more complicated. If I go outside our walls I am relying on a third party platform that does not really provide any sort of institutional identity assurances — in other words, it isn’t tied to my institution’s authentication system. Is that a big deal? That is up to you (and a thousand differing opinions on the matter).

I am of the mind that we can’t be building clones of spaces like YouTube … we just can’t afford it and we certainly can’t keep up. But where does that leave us when it comes to letting faculty and students explore rich media creation and sharing within the campus walls? That is the question that torments me as I promote digital media as artifacts of learning — if we can’t really support it, can we really promote it? I find it amazing that over a third of Penn State students reported creating at least one digital media piece last year and I find it even more amazing that about a third of Penn State faculty report using YouTube as a classroom teaching tool. Why then would we want to reinvent something that is working so well? I don’t have a quick or snarky answer to that one … like I said, I am tormented by what to do. If you have the time or the interest I spent a few minutes exploring these ideas a little deeper by using the Quick Capture feature on YouTube.

It isn’t just digital video that I am talking about. Over the weekend I got an email from a student that is relatively typical …

Hi, I need to make a podcast in my class and my teammates and I have never done it. Can you send us information on where to go to get help and where we can go to get equipment?

That to me is frustrating. Even after the progress of the last several years it is still a real process to record, compress, upload, embed, and share a simple recording of a group of students sitting around and talking. Why can’t we just have something like YouTube (or if you remember back in the day, Odeo) to help us do it? We do … right? But then that old question comes back, why in the world would we build it?

With all that in mind, we are thinking about what infrastructure needs to be in place to make this happen inside the walls of the Academy. Like I mentioned yesterday, we are rethinking the whole podcasting eco-system and are currently investigating Apple’s Podcast Producer. We’ve been testing it and it makes the creation of digital media artifacts (audio, video, screencasts, file sharing) extremely simple. From a single interface a person can authenticate, create, and post a rich media file to a whole host of services — iTunes U, Blogs, YouTube, etc. It enables an Apple user (no idea on the PC side yet) to launch a very simple client application, select from 4 choices, and record. Very basic stuff, but all the heavy lifting — editing, encoding, and posting — is handled behind the scenes on the server. It would be an exceptional tool for so much more than podcasting … things like screencasts, recording presentations, practicing music, and so much more come to mind instantly. Would us having our own environment to do this raise the level of participation?

Apple's Podcast Capture Application

Apple's Podcast Capture Application

But even with the simplicity I am still left wondering if we even need to go down this path … doesn’t YouTube do this already? Damn voices! Thoughts?

14 thoughts on “Easy Capture

  1. I think the environment should be available to higher ed. Who builds it is way beyond me. Looking at models such as the portal I have to wonder if students or faculty want to limit themselves to a Penn State environment. Something open to and frequented by the rest of the world seems far more enticing. Can Penn State build the service as well as attract the crowds? I don’t think so. I do think, too, we need to start watching what we call “rich media”. Is a talking head rich media? Not sure. It feels more like voice mail, though commenting improves it. Do we really want to build a face mail repository? Not sure again.

  2. @david stong One of the things I wish we could figure out is how to assert our digital identity to external sites … in other words, wouldn’t it be nice if we could use our PSU userid/password to authenticate and create spaces in YouTube? I love the affordances of the commercial spaces, just worry about the downstream … I am betting I am making too much of it though.

    In this example I am using rich media to define non-text or mixed media … I am thinking specifically about motion/audio/image/description all mashed up. In the above example, I’d look at the fact that the one page contains text, video, audio, and an image … as well as the follow on comments. To me that is an indication of richness, not the talking head part. Does that make any sense or am stretching too much? Either way, being able to create multiple forms of a message and put them together is the part I am really interested in … YouTube does the capture/encoding/embedding so easily that it draws folks into participating.

  3. YouTube might do it, but until they provide a service to Colleges and Universities which would provide a way to authenticate and store Penn State content then I don’t think we can count on them. Penn State needs something they have some control over users and contents as they do with iTunes U and the Quicktime Streaming Server. Apple states Podcast Producer will work with a Quicktime Streaming Server and also iTunes U as well as it can re-encode Windows Media. All good points for here at Penn State. So is it that much easier than using current methods for producing podcasting to iTunes U (Garageband, iMovie, Audacity)?

  4. @KimW It really is point and click simple to use Podcast Presenter … essentially you launch the Capture application and press record. When you are done, you can walk away and the processing happens in the background. The part I haven’t seen yet is how it can publish to multiple platforms … the CLC team is still working on that part.

  5. I think this is getting easier, if you have a mac. But out on campuses mac is like a curse word. It is wonderful having a Digital Commons locally, but I think we need to think about how this has become such a PC accepted place when rich media is so easily created if you have the right tools. Why do campus IT groups not support Mac if they are such a rich educational tool? If there were Macs on off campus locations more available there would be access to iSight, iLife, and the creation of rich media. Or the ability to capture right on youtube. We have had to do so many work-arounds because of the world being such a PC accepted place.

    I think we also have to educate users on identity and what that means? Being at a graduate school campus there is a line down the middle with students, faculty, and staff either open or completely closed minded to the idea of posting a presentation to youtube to share with their instructor. And why do they not more clearly understand that they can create user groups of friends and family and protect assignments at a certain level if they are so not tolerant of an online presence. Or better yet, why aren’t faculty setting an example when creating and posting rich media is becoming so easy?

    I think the fears are coming out of lack of knowledge or will to develop their digital identity in a place that seems foreign to them. The media only shares stories of poor or bad experiences, but there is a generation coming that has had a digital identity from day one practically and it is our job to work with them and make sure they are knowledgeable of how powerful and useful this will be to their future.

  6. @Julie Meyer Great comments, Julie. I’ll refrain from speaking about the lack of Mac support on campuses, but will jump to your insights related to openness and identity. I think you hit it on the head — we need to find ways to educate people on the appropriate uses of open platforms. Creating groups, friends lists, or other access controls can allow external sites to be used with more confidence. They still do not tie into our own Institution’s valued identity system, but it is closer.

    Further evidence to your point … I recently spoke to a group of K-12 Superintendents about the use of social spaces and new forms of digital expression and the questions focused on the “Dateline driven issues” … namely invasion of privacy and net security for children. They asked me for practical advice on how to utilize YouTube (and other spaces) appropriately … it was clear that the group had not worked to understand the tools these sites provide. They didn’t understand that one could embed a video in a webpage so it wasn’t surrounded by the “related videos” and other items on YouTube … we talked about how to use these spaces so that we can minimize the fear and potential for problems. Just taking the time to talk through issues is a great first step.

  7. I keep coming back to this idea that there is a fundamental change in the value of the institutional identity, especially from the student perspective. It used to be that the institution (say Harvard for example, but this applies to all institutions) had a more defining influence on the student’s identity. It used to be a badge of honor to be a “Harvard Man”. This effect is still there, but to a lesser extent.

    I think that students are more likely now to think of the institution as a smaller part of their identity. The paradigm is less of “I am a Harvard Man” as something that adds value to myself as an individual, and more of a partnership. I derive value from my relationship with the institution, and the institution derives value from their relationship with me.

    If a student posts content to YouTube, the value is ascribed to them. If they post it to the institution, it is ascribed to the institution.

    This is just an idea that keeps noodling around in my head, but I think that there is something there. (This applies to faculty as well.)

    @ Cole Camplese

  8. Kim – Podcast Producer is MUCH easier than any other method I’ve seen for producing podcasts. Granted, you’re not going to be able to do a lot of post-production, but it’s probably good enough for most people. Most importantly, it’s probably good enough to use for some really compelling, pedagogically sound, educational uses. And that’s the crux of the issue for me, and I think is what Cole is getting at: How do we create excellent teaching and learning opportunities enabled by technology that’s so easy to use that EVERYONE wants to use it? I don’t want to say either/or with Podcast Producer and YouTube because they’re two ridiculously easy to use tools that have slightly different affordances. Podcast Producer that posts to YouTube is a really cool solution. It’s also important that you can retain a local copy of your video/podcast that you can use later in other ways, and I’m not sure if all these tools let you do that.

    I look at it this way.. Every extra step you make a student take is additional cognitive load. If that step doesn’t at least indirectly tie to an instructional objective, it reduces the efficacy of an instructional activity. So when you’re looking at a tool, you have to ask yourself if the barriers to using that tool (any technical hurdle, sometimes known as “features”) are worth it in the context of the learning you’re trying to achieve. Some are, some aren’t. You might be up at the top of Bloom’s taxonomy and you want students to do some serious synthesis of concepts and expressing their understanding in sophisticated ways – in which case requiring them to learn sophisticated tools might be warranted. From what I’ve seen, most instructors and teaching around the middle where they’re asking students to do some synthesis and express original ideas about a subject. In a lot of cases they’re just happy students are engaged.

    I hope I’m not over-simplifying things too much. I’ve such seen a lot of really wonderful teaching happen with some really simple (albeit modern and very powerful) tools. It makes me cringe every time we make things more complicated for the user. Not because I think they’re stupid, but because they should be focusing on learning in their domain of choice.

  9. @ Dave Chmura I think where you end is what is really the most important part to me:

    If a student posts content to YouTube, the value is ascribed to them. If they post it to the institution, it is ascribed to the institution.

    It is something I am returning to more and more as I dive deeper into the use of open tools for teaching and learning … that content created and managed at the individual level actually means something more to the creator. Writing in your own blog seems to be more important than writing in a comment field in the LMS/CMS environment. So with that said, I am still just as confused over where all this leads to.

  10. @KimW I don’t have much more to add here than to agrre you kim. The comments have been interesting. I don’t think we can recreate these services, but it is tempting. I do wish there would be greater more university integration with these services…and yet the same university systems, can’t be too closed (i.e. portfolios/digital media needs to be portable).
    I deal with continuing education faculty and students, and live in a world of frustrating issues. Students who do a weeklong or 2-day workshops need network, or university service access, but are then gone, and may lose (easy) access to media built during the workshop at the university.
    …needs more thought

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