Mini digital camcorders!

December 15, 2008
Creative Vado

Creative Vado

Flip Mino

Flip Mino

There are a number of mini digital camcorders currently available, some for under £100, that would be ideal for use in the classroom. These include the Flip Video range and the Creative Vado. They have primarily been designed for capturing videos to upload to YouTube and similar sites, but would be particularly suited to primary pupils.

The CLC has purchased a Flip Mino for £108 to trial, to see if we can recommend it to our partnership schools. It is 5cm wide, 10cm long and approximately 1½cm deep, so it looks more like an mp3 player or phone, and fits perfectly in a pocket. It has a small LCD screen for playback and as viewfinder, and a 2x digital zoom. It is incredibly easy to get started – you press the power button and then the big red button on the front to start recording. A second press stops recording. There is enough memory to store 60 minutes of recording, but no way of extending that. To download the video there is an inbuilt USB connector, which slots in very neatly to the top of the device, though due to it’s rigidity it can be awkward to use in tight spaces and I wonder how long it will last with constant use.

When you plug the device in, it opens the built-in video program, where you can trim clips, and add music and titles. The good thing about this is that it doesn’t require a firewire (or firewire port on your PC), or any complex video editing software to create simple clips. The only downside is that you can’t choose where to save the video, and it defaults to a Flip Video folder in My Documents on the specific machine. Most of the time this isn’t a problem, except when staff (and children) have no access to the hard drive, only to the network in a school. You can however get round this by using the video from the device directly – as if you were copying it from a USB device, and then editing it in Windows Movie Maker or another video editing piece of software.

In terms of the quality of the video, I was pleasantly surprised. It is far better than the Digital Blue output, and copes well with different lighting. It can’t compete with a standard digital video recorder, but for short clips in class or on field trips, it is perfectly adequate. Here is a short section of sample video to give you an idea of quality.

So all in all, I’m impressed with the Flip Mino, and although it won’t replace the normal DV cameras we use in the centre, we would recommend them to our partnership.


Stamp Design Art Project

December 10, 2008

stamps2

stamps3

Year 11 pupils at Newfield School have just finished their GCSE art project to design a stamp. The designs were based around children’s stories, and were completed in a larger format before being scanned into the computer and reduced in Photoshop. I think you’ll agree the final results are stunning.

A useful website for anyone considering a career in children’s book illustration is this blog: An Illustrator’s Life for Me. It is written by a children’s book illustrator and talks about all aspects of her work.

stamps1

stamps4


Mundella pupils re-enact the Great Fire of London

December 8, 2008

Year 2 pupils from Mundella School spent the day at the CLC recreating the Great Fire of London. Small groups created stop-motion animations using I Can Animate (see animation above) with some fantastic hand-made sets whilst others sampled Baroque music and created their own sound effects in Garageband. Others dressed up as Samuel Pepys, King Charles and a number of other key people of the times, to act out scenes in front of the green screen, in order to add fire footage afterwards in Adobe Ultra. A final group interviewed characters and talked about artefacts from the fire.

As you can imagine it was pretty hectic, but the pupils and adults learnt a great deal about the events and how to use lots of different bits of technology.


Free memory sticks and resources for teachers

December 3, 2008

memory4teachers Memory 4 Teachers is a project developed in association with Local Authorities and teacher unions to fund the provision of 750,000 memory sticks for teachers in the UK. In addition, the memory sticks will contain educational resources and tools for teachers to use for free. The sticks have 2 GB of memory, but some of that is taken up with the embedded resources.

To receive your free memory stick, go to the website: http://www.memory4teachers.co.uk and sign up – you will need to register your name, position and school address to receive one, but they do promise not to pass on your details to any other companies.


Heritage Park – Digital Story Telling

December 3, 2008

Sheffield FloodTwo groups of students from Heritage Park have been writing and illustrating short stories at the CLC over the past few weeks, using 3 different bits of software. They began using Kar2ouche – this software contains a number of titles, from Creative Writing to Egyptians. In each one there are a number of backgrounds, characters and props that pupils drag onto the stage to create scenes. They can add speech/thought bubbles and text boxes to tell the story. Once finished, they can save the story as a movie file, or print it out. This s quite expensive software, but it proved to be very motivating for the students.

The second piece of software was Comic Life, which I have written about previously here. The students sourced photos from the internet, and took extras using digital cameras. They could then add these to their own comic strip and add dialogue. This software is relatively cheap, and can be used for so many different projects.

The final software we used was Photostory, which is free! Students uploaded photos on a particular subject, and added effects, transitions, movement, text and a soundtrack. Finally they published the story to play as a Windows Media file.

All three pieces of software were excellent for engaging the students, regardless of their level. They were easy to use, and the final outcomes were very successful. They are ideal packages for working on literacy skills across all age groups and abilities, and the content can be relevant to their interests.