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Video on the Web: The Basics

By David Lee King - Posted Jan 1, 2009
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Most likely, your students discovered YouTube a couple of years ago. You and your teacher colleagues probably have too by now—hence those silly video emails saved in your inbox. Did you know that you can use video in schools and libraries to enhance teaching and learning? This article provides an overview of the web video phenomenon: what it is; why it’s great for teachers, librarians, and students; what tools you need; and a bit of how-to as well.

What Types of Video Are on the Web?

A few years ago there wasn’t much video on the web. (Remember, YouTube has only been around for 3 years.) Video existed, but it was hard to find and difficult to post. You needed a web developer to post video because of the back-end coding involved. Today’s web, however, makes posting video simple, thanks to easy-to-use websites such as YouTube. As a result, there has been an explosion of video on the web. Here’s a list of some different types of video currently available:

News video: Have you visited CNN.com recently to watch a news-related video clip? Most newspaper and television news websites have added video to enhance their stories. This type of video consists of traditional news pieces done by professional journalists and "citizen journalism" clips created by people off the street.

Shows: Missed Jay Leno last night? Never fear! You can catch him the next day at NBC.com. Go to Hulu (www.hulu.com), and you can watch a lot of current and past television shows. But you don’t have to limit yourself to traditional broadcast shows such as The Tonight Show. There are a growing number of shows created for a web-only audience and released in a web-only format.

Screencasting: Ever want to show a student how to use the library catalog? Screencasting takes video of your computer’s screen—mouse movements, clicks, and all—and even overdubs your voice. This gives you the ability to teach people by showing them, even if they aren’t in the same room as you.

Machinima: Take your virtual world avatar (i.e., your World of Warcraft or Second Life character), and make a video of the avatar doing nonnormal stuff. For example, a librarian at my library used her World of Warcraft avatar to talk about the library (www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBtGnaMp4u4).

Live video: Ever wanted to strap a video camera to your head and record 24/7? Probably not—but that’s what lifecasting is, in a nutshell. There are a growing number of web-based services and tools that let you easily broadcast live. Some of these tools are desktop-based and use the webcam attached to your computer.

You can also take lifecasting one step further and make it mobile. Some cell phones can broadcast live video feeds to a web service such as qik.com.

Video blogging: This is what I do with video. You’re probably familiar with a blog—thoughts typed and posted to a website. Video blogging is the same idea, except posts are created with a video camera, and the video is posted to a blog.

How Do You Watch Video?

There are many ways to watch and subscribe to videos. This is great, because it allows people to watch videos when they want to and where they want to. They are no longer constrained to a specific day and time.

Most people are probably watching via a computer and a web browser. This is the main way YouTube is consumed by the average viewer. If your students or teacher colleagues are a bit savvier, they might subscribe to their favorite video feeds with a video aggregator such as MeFeedia (www.mefeedia.com; web-based) or iTunes (software-based).

If they have a video iPod, an iPhone, or another portable device capable of holding and playing back video files, they might set their video aggregator to dump video automatically to a video player. This gives the viewer flexibility, since they can take the video with them.

How Do You Create Videos?

Watching a video is easy—just click on one and watch. Making web video is also easy! Honestly, the hardest part is the work involved in creating the idea for the video. This might involve creating an outline or storyboard and doing some creative thinking about the project. You will need lots of time set aside to film and edit the video. This will take longer than you expect!

To make videos, you obviously need a video camera. Guess what? You probably already have one. For example, have you bought a digital camera in the last 2–3 years? If so, it most likely has a video camera setting. This video setting works great for many types of web-based video, and it will help get you started creating video for your school or library.

If you have a MiniDV video camcorder, that will work fine too. Depending on what type of content you have in the video, your laptop’s webcam might even work. It’s as good a place as any to start.

You’ll also need some type of video editing software. If you have a fairly new Mac or PC, you already have some type of entry-level software (assuming your IT department left it on the PC). iMovie comes preloaded on Macs, and Windows Movie Maker usually comes preloaded on PCs. Both work great for most basic video editing needs, and either is a great place to start.

If you want to move to the next level, there are many intermediate-level video software packages available. Premiere Elements and Final Cut Express both work well, have more intermediate editing options, and are available for around $100–$200.

You can spend even more money ($1,000-plus) and move up to professional-level editing software, such as Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere Pro. These advanced software packages are rich on features and have a steeper learning curve.

My suggestion? Start out with the free stuff and upgrade as needed.

Putting Your Video on the Web

Once your video is created, you will need to upload it somewhere. Again, you have options. You can store videos yourself on your website’s server. However, unless your webmaster knows how to manually embed the video for web streaming, this will give less-than-stellar results. That, combined with the large file sizes of many videos (a 1–3 minute video can run anywhere from 2MB to 40MB), make it a difficult option at best.

A better option is to store videos using a third-party video hosting service such as blip.tv or YouTube. Those websites are created to host web videos, and they can handle heavy usage. Make sure to read each video hosting company’s terms of service (they differ greatly), and check out each service’s options. For example, blip.tv allows visitors to download videos, while YouTube offers no direct way to download video. Depending on what your goals are for web-based video, some of these differences might be important.

How Can I Use Video?

And now the fun part. What can you do with video in your classrooms and your libraries? First on the list is training—teach your students and patrons how to use your stuff. Use screencasting and teach students and teachers how to search your library’s catalog and databases. Teach them how to do expert web searches or even a good way to arrange email folders. Screencasting is great for this type of thing.

Show your students how to create a research paper. Walk them through everything: how to find articles, how to use Microsoft Word and Google Docs to write the paper, and how to create citations and footnotes.

Want to start incoming freshmen off right with the library? Why not give them a video tour of the library? This way, they can watch the tour as part of a class assignment, and they can refer back to it when they really need it (i.e., when they have to start that first assignment and really need to know where those databases are).

Other types of instruction work in video as well, including project explanations, talking through a class assignment, or taking a tour of a local historical site. Plus, students can watch the video more than once, which is a plus.

These are traditional ideas for web video. What other creative uses can you imagine? How about letting students incorporate video into class projects? Here is an examples to watch: middle schoolers creating book reviews at Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library in Topeka, Kan. (www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdGrceIAjLo). The reviews worked great for the library and for the classroom, since students were able to include the videos as part of their schoolwork.

Here’s another project: middle schoolers in Neosho, Mo., created a video promoting a school bond issue (www.youtube.com/watch?v=OlbIyJt1gUg).

Learning and Video Do Mix

Think about what these kids are learning when they incorporate web-based video in classroom projects. They are learning video filming techniques, video editing skills, script writing, and storyboarding. The students on-screen are learning acting and presentation skills.

Even more importantly, they’re learning how to create content in a multimedia, web-based world. Will they have to do this type of work in the work force? Count on it. If you teach them how to do it now, they’ll be prepared and ready. And they’ll be trained for the 21st century.

David Lee King is the digital branch and services manager at the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library in Topeka, Kan. He blogs at www.davidleeking.com. Contact him at davidleeking@gmail.com.


 
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