Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Flip it; Flip it good (How I used a Flip Video Camcorder for educational purposes)

Ok. I didn't use my Flip video camcorder for teaching or practising english. I use it for providing practise of a language we sometimes not consider it as such : Sign language. In our country, it is not still considered officially a language. It has been recognized by law its use among the deaf community, though (Art. 80. Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela).
In my previous post I wrote how I ended up using the Flip Video to recorder the signs we had already learned all along the course so far. Here I will tell you how I used it, the editing process and publishing the videos.
Just as brief reminder (in case you haven'r read my previous post) I'm currently coordinating and taking a Venezuelan Sign Language course offered by "Comisón de Apoyo al Estudiante con Discapacidad de la Escuela de Bibliotecología y Archivología" (CAEDEBA). In english, it'd be something like "Committe to Support Students with Discapacities in the School of Librairanship". This course has wonderful printed material designed by Aymara Hernández, our teacher. However, another more dynamic visual element was much needed: videos to practice during the week to remember how to make each sign. So I suggested this to Aymara and classmastes. They just loved the idea. Next step, I purchased a Flip Video and started planning how to record these videos.

Recording session

1.  Aymara Hernández and I chose a day to record the videos for each lesson. A day was more than enough to do so. So we scheduled a tuesday early afternoon to make the most of the natural light to record.
2. We chose a spot in the Faculty of Humanities and Education. Walls had a nice red background (red small tiles) surrounded by a small garden.  
3. We recorded all lessons from 1 to 7. Having recorded the segments this way made the editing process easier. For example, I knew the first videos were for the first lessons so if I didn't remember which sign Aymara was making for Lesson 2 I could always check the handouts and labelled the video for a sign appropriately..
4. It took about 2 hours to record all signs. I recorded about 56 videos.


A) Rotating videos recorded horizontally
This is a DON'T

I recorded some of the langauge signs holding the camcorder horizontally. Not such a good idea. How was I going to flip the videos vertically?  I didn't think about this during the recording sessions. But no panick. I decided to venture myself and search the net to see If I managed to find a software to flip the videos vertically. The first one I used was called: Free Video Clip and Rotate. It was really andy until it started to  send an error message everytime I tried to flip the video. I almost fainted! I was halfway the editing process!! However, I give it another tried and kept on searching on the net and found this: X2X Free Video Flip and Rotate. Easy to use, was able to flip videos and no error messages! The only problem when rotating the videos was its quality; not  as good as the ones I recorded vertically.

B) The Flip video software

1. Trimming the video was really easy. I used the Flipsahre software. I just chose the segment and trimmed by moving these two small sliders (Start and End sliders) below the main slider or Play head.
I had to trim the videos since I was isolating as much as I could each sign language. In one recorded video I coul d have up until five or six different signs.

C) Uploading the videos

Easy again, from the Flip Share program,  just chose "Share" and selected  Youtube and that was it. Now the one I had flipped using  X2X Free Video Flip and Rotate, was uploaded as any other regular video from a PC or laptop.

D) Details I forgot
While recording I forgot to press (-) to decrease the volumen to record a free-sound video. Yes, you might be saying it is sign language, so you can'r simply lower the volumen or not use headphones. However, I didn't want to run the risk of someone listening to the distracting sounds picked up by the microphone during the recording session. Of course, I could have created a video using the Flipshare software, chose "Music File" and in "Music options" chose "Play music only, without sound in the video". But guess what, I din't. But luck struck, and I started checking if It was possible to reduce or eliminate sound in YouTube. Good news is you can. How? Click on "Edit". Next, click on "Audio Swap". Choose a song and that's it. The only disadvantage is you cannot edit the sound so it abruptly cuts off at the end of the video.

Making the videos public

I created a wiki in PBworks to make the videos available only for those who are takign this course as requested by Ayamara.

Sample videos recorded with the Flipvideo camcorder:

(In Spanish: ¿Cómo deletreas tu nombre? / How do you spell your name?)

(In Spanish: ¿Cómo te sientes? / How do you feel today? or How are you feeling?)
Educational applications in EFL / ESL:
1. Telling stories
2. Acting out situations
3. Students' pecha kuchas
4. Dictations
5. Pronunciation

Monday, August 23, 2010

Flip it; Flipt it Good (the story first)

I had read about this tiny camcorders before... But I didn't think they were available for sale in my country so I let the thought of getting one fade in its own time.  This was last year.

Necessity is the mother of all things, though. A few months ago I started coordinating and taking a course on sign language in the school I teach at the university. At some point along the course, I realized something was missing. The teacher was great. The material she designed herself was amazing, but we needed something else to practice. A visual  reference, to put it some way, to practice each sign we learned in class. We started to notice as the vocabulary grow we could easily forget the signs from one week to another since it was a one-week-class session. We only had the handouts with pictures to review  the signs. It was easy when you were learning things like "mother", "father", "cat" , but when it came to learning the "numbers" (ordinals and cardinals) things got pretty tough!

So all of a sudden, I remembered my readings on this tiny camcorders and thought they would be really helpful to add this much needed visual element to our sign language course. 

Next thing  I told my teacher, Aymara Hernández, and classmates about it . They loved the idea!
I didn't give it much thought on brands since I had already read about the Flip video camcorder so I went for it. I visited their site; read reviews; checked if it was available in my country (luckily it was); watched video quality in some Youtube samples. By chance, Ian James had started tweeting his recordings with a Flip video camcorder making my decision final to purchase it.

To make this first part of my post short, after purchasing my Flip video I  instantly noticed  how easy and comfy it is to carry it everywhere as opposed to carrying a, say, handycam. Easy to plug into my  PC or laptop to download videos. It has got this "USB  arm" similar to a flash drive. For educational purposes, the quality of the videos is really good. The software is very easy to use. You can get snap shots from the videos (if your hand hadn't been that shaky). You can also easily upload videos to Youtube, Facebook, My Space and some other sites. Downsize? You need a decent light so the video won't come out dark (This one recorded by Ian doesn't look that bad, though) and never, ever record horizontally (If you have and don't know what to do some solutions in my next post). The screen might be bit small, but you can always zoom in. Btw, Ian James suggests using a tripod with telescopic legs. Great idea! This will help you avoid recording shaky images and ,of course, the result will be way much better. Next post: Flip it; Flipt it Good (recording and editing).

Here's my own sample. I recorded this about two weeks ago. It's my niece´s pet.

Here's a snapshot. The quality is also OK (if your hand is not that shaky):

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