Exploring Multimedia Sharing Sites
Exploring Multimedia Sharing Sites
Another Web 2.0 Tool
The first stop on our Trailfire was at the very thought provoking Social Media in Plain English. It was a great commentary on the shift from media being produced and controlled by a few big corporate news and media companies to media being produced in a large variety of ways by small independent producers. For example news which used to be produced exclusively by professional journalists and news organizations is now being brought to us by amateur journalists via a variety of web tools such as blogs, wikis, facebook, twitter, and so on.
On the same day as I watched Social Media in Plain English I read the story of an unassuming electrician working hard at a city zoo. He was not known as an activist, but as he witnessed the growing injustice around him, he couldn’t help himself. He wrote and published a couple of essays expressing his beliefs – and was promptly arrested and sentenced to 15 years in a violent prison. The man is Wei Jingsheng, communist China’s most famous and well respected political prisoner.
In 1978, Wei had the courage to sign his name to his posted essay. Though imprisoned, he continued to write many letters (often on toilet paper), that were smuggled out secretly and published. After 14 years, Wei was released – and then arrested again after six months. Finally, in 1997, China exiled Wei to the United State where he continues to fight for his country and for human rights. Wei’s courage continues to embolden others to stand up for justice and is a poignant reminder of the power of an individual voice. (Wikipedia, 2009)
With the potential that new multimedia tools provide I wonder how our world will be impacted?
My Reflections on the Process of Learning About Multimedia Tools
Animoto is a free on-line slideshow/video production service that will take photos, video clips, audio, text, and music and form them into a multimedia video production that can be emailed, imbedded into a blog, or uploaded to YouTube. Animoto uses what they call Cinematic Artificial Intelligence Technology which allows a computer to blend together visual images with audio and music to produce something that looks a lot like a music video. Educators can sign up for an Animoto For Educators Account which provides educators with additional features such as free unlimited length videos for all their students.
To open the account an educator can go to Animoto for education site , fill out and submit the online application form which is then reviewed for approval. (I have yet to hear if I have been approved or not but in the meantime will sign up for the free, limited use account.) A notice is then sent out within a few days. Once approved, one can then begin setting up one’s account. They say that there is a helpful tutorial to guide the user through the process of setting up alias accounts for all their students and to help answer any other questions that arise. There is also a Case Study section that gives examples of what other teachers have created with their students which is viewable even without an account.
With this information in hand it was time for me to begin making my video. I logged into http://www.animoto.com (where you can sign up for the free limited use account), and was given two video options to choose from. The first was called Animoto Short and allowed me to use up to about 15 pictures to produce a video that is 30 seconds long. If I had wanted a longer more in-depth video I could have paid to upgrade to one of a variety of levels and then would have been able to choose the Full-Length option. As I am waiting for my educator account I went with the Short option. After selecting Animoto Short I was then prompted to choose my photos. While I had decided ahead of time what I wanted to make a video about; it is essential for students to know that the planning process is very important. They must select their topic, consider what messages they want to convey, and decide what images would work best to suit their purpose. Pictures can be retrieved from both the computer and from an on-line source. My pictures took a long time to up-load. Animoto suggests downsizing an image to a size of between 640×426 and 1024×768 before up-loading. This would speed up the process. Again it is important that the content of all images and music is appropriate and that copyright law is followed. Again, there are a number of sites where music can be obtained free of copyright. Images also need to be selected with copyright in mind. Some web sites allow their materials to be used for educational projects while others don’t. If students find materials they want to use they could look for an email address on the web page and send a request for permission to use the materials in a class production. In the process of researching Voice Thread I also learned about the 700 thousand primary source images recently been made available from the New York Public Library which could possibly be used in an Animoto production. However, I have not investigated this possibility yet. One further note regarding the ethical use of resources: Animoto has a text feature which allows the adding of credits at the end of the video.
With my plan in place and my pictures selected I was than prompted to organize my pictures into my desired order, and to then to choose my music to accompany my show. Animoto has a big selection to choose from but it also allows a person to use their own track. I did notice that Animoto did not clearly explain the copyright status of their music but I assumed that it is available to use. With my photos and music selected and after entering a title and a description tag, I clicked on the Create Video button. Once the creation was complete I was given a number of ways to share my video including through e-mail, uploading it to YouTube or a blog, or downloading onto a portable video player such as an iPod or iPhone. I chose to upload mine to YouTube where it is now available here for viewing at or you can view it from my video section in the right column of this blog. My video is of the Semana Santa, or Holy Week, festivities in Antiqua Guatemala. These “carpets” are made out of colored saw dust, flowers, pine needles, and many other materials. Home-owners spend hundreds of people hours creating these elaborate carpets in the streets outside their homes. Once completed, these creations will only last hours, until the Easter processions trample them.
Voice thread is the second of the multimedia tools presented this week. I was able to explore it a bit but did not create one of my own. As their website describes it, Voice Thread is a simple yet powerful new way for people to have a conversation about media. The creator of a Voice Thread can assemble a series of visual images, on any topic, from any source and create a series of “slides”, in an order of their choosing. If appropriate to the purpose, the creator could add narration or a question prompt to accompany each slide for participants to listen and respond to. When a participant joins the Voice Tread they will see in the center of the screen, the image that is the focus of the conversation. Around the edge of the screen are the images, or avitars, of the people involved in the conversation. Access to a navigation arrow takes participants through the voice thread. Participants are then invited to engage in a dialogue about the images. They can easily do this either as a voice comment, a text comment, or a webcam comment.
In addition to creating and searching out their own images a creator of a Voice Thread can search, browse, and import over 700 thousands primary source materials from the New York Public Library. Voice Thread and the NYPL have recently made available on line a vast collection of maps, paintings, drawings, photos, posters and more, covering thousands of different subjects. (N.Y.P.L. Voice Thread resource)
Multimedia Tools for my Own Personal Learning
Much like photo and video sharing, there is potential personal benefits of using both Animoto and Voice Thread to us who are living apart from family and friends. With a digital video and/or still camera Animoto could be used as a way to celebrate an event, to send a message to a friend or loved one back home, or as a way to chronicle an experience or a trip. Parents and grandparents could document their children or grandchildren in a unique way which could then be shared. As my wife and I already take many photos and share them through our blogs and now through photobucket Animoto would be another and unique way to share our experiences. We could even find music in our travels that could accompany the Animoto production. As I mentioned in my video-sharing post, a feature of YouTube is the ability to tag the video geographically known as geotagging. The video tag can be linked with Google Earth and a person’s travels can be located geographically adding an additional dimension to the sharing. A few other uses which are mentioned in the information on the Animoto site are to create and send a message to a loved one, send out an invitation, promote a business, sell a product, and display learning.
Much like Animoto, Voice Thread could also be use to connect us to those back home. Photos could be taken and Voice Treads created around events, experiences, or trips. The thread could be shared and comments recorded and eventually archived for future enjoyment. The advantage I see with Voice Thread would be the conversation piece that is central to it. Animoto is a production that others can comment on but Voice Thread is at least a commentary on images and at best a dialogue about them. I see it as a more personal sharing of experiences.
Multimedia Tools for Teaching and Learning
There are any number of ways to use either Animoto or Voice Thread in education. The sites of both tools offer many examples of how teachers have used them in their classrooms. However, the value of these tools, like that of any tool, depends upon what purposes they serve and how well they are used. Therefore, rather than list specific ways teachers could use these tools I will look at some of the educational goals these tools could help achieve.
One of the primary goals in using multimedia tools is to help teachers provide a variety of learning opportunities to fit individual students’ learning styles and strengths. To try and understand the value of Animoto and Voice Thread I felt it was important to understand how the visual sense fits in with learning.
The first study I looked at reported the following about students in a typical classroom (the study was not specific regarding the subjects of the research).
We have high confidence (over 80%) that:
- At least one-third are strongly visual-spatial
- One-fifth are strongly auditory-sequential
- The remainder are a balance of both learning styles
Of that remainder (who are not strongly visual-spatial nor strongly auditory-sequential),
- Another 30% show a slight preference for
visual-spatial learning style
- Another 15% show a slight preference for
auditory-sequential learning style
This means that more than 60% of the students in a regular classroom learn best with visual-spatial presentations and the rest learn best with auditory-sequential methods.
Among gifted students, the proportion of visual-spatial learners may be much higher. In one small sample, more than three-fourths of the gifted students preferred visual-spatial methods. (Dr. Linda Kreger Silverman, 2007 http://www.visualspatial.org/VSI/research.htm)
A second study from James Madison University published the following.
Approximately 40% of college students are visual learners, preferring to be taught through pictures, diagrams, flow charts, timelines, films, and demonstrations. Yet marketing instruction remains heavily reliant on presenting content primarily through verbal cues such as written or spoken words. Without visual instruction, some students may be underperforming because of the inconsistency between teachers’ teaching styles and students’ learning styles. Because it has been suggested that some college students learn better from visual stimuli, an improved balance between verbal and visual techniques could offer significant learning benefits. (Clarke, Flaherty, Yankey, 2006) http://jmd.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/28/3/218
These two studies indicate that somewhere between 30% and 40% of students are strongly visual learners and an additional number of students (perhaps 30%) have a slight preference for visual learning.
A second educational goal these tools could help achieve is to motivate students by making learning more engaging. By using multimedia and visually rich materials, lessons will more likely capture the interest of students who are used to a media-intensive world. Multimedia projects would free students to work with greater autonomy but also provide opportunities for collaboration with peers and mentors, and gain access to more information related to their own interests, all of which can help engage their interest.
A third goal of these tools is to add more problem solving, inquiry, project-based learning, and collaborative work. Using them would require students to search for information on the web, to create materials themselves, to prepare reports to present, and to use a variety of multimedia tools and software.
And finally, using these tools could provide teachers with a broader range of resources to provide diverse opportunities to aid student learning. For example, a social studies teacher, in addition to lecturing, could use Voice Thread or an Animoto production as a visual support for their lectures. When a summative project is assigned, these new tools could provide an alternative to a student’s standard PowerPoint or science fair presentation. (A great example of this point can be found at: The Adventures of Super Presentation Man
These multimedia tools have potential to enhance our teaching and learning. However, as stated earlier, their value depends upon what purposes they are intended to serve and how well they are used.
Clarke, I., Flaherty, T. B., & Yankey, M. (2006). Teaching the visual learner. Journal of Marketing Education, 28(3), 218-266. doi:10.1177/0273475306291466
LeFever, L. (2008, May 28). Social media in plain English [Video file]. Retrieved from YouTube database.
Making an Animoto slideshow. (n.d.). Learnit-teachit (video page) [Video]. Retrieved from http://www.nortellearnit.org/LearniT/videoembeds/animoto/
Silverman, L. K., Dr. (2007). Research on the visual-spacial learner. In Visual-spacial resource (research page). Retrieved from http://www.visualspatial.org/VSI/research.htm
Voice Thread. (n.d.). The New York Public Library. Retrieved from http://nypl.voicethread.com/
Wei Jingsheng. (2009, October 22). Wikipedia [Biography]. Retrieved October 29, 2009, from Wikipedia database.