Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Try Wistia for Video Hosting and Conversion

Wistia is a video hosting company that I wrote about back in June when they launched their free hosting plan. Until this week I never needed it. This week I needed it because I had some massive video files that I wanted to make available for streaming to people in my Google Drive and the Common Core course. The videos were way too large for YouTube to accept. And even if YouTube would have accepted them, I really wanted a cleaner and more professional-looking solution. So I turned to Wistia this week.

Wistia is not like YouTube and similar video hosting services. It's purpose is to give you complete control over how your videos are found and seen by others. You can't search Wistia for funny cat videos. In fact, you can't search it at all. The way to share your videos is to embed them into your own website or blog. You can control who does or doesn't see your video even when it is embedded by requiring an email address for viewing.

A bonus aspect of Wistia that I didn't know about until I used the service this week is that I can download my videos into a format that will play on the computer that I'm using at the time. I discovered this when I uploaded a WMV file from my Lenovo ThinkCentre then downloaded the video from Wistia to my MacBook Pro as a MP4 file. Pretty sweet, I thought.

Applications for Education
The Wistia free plan is limited to three videos at a time. That's not much, but if you want to have complete control over the distribution of your videos, Wistia is an excellent option. If you have a pre-K or elementary school event that you want to record, but want to have control over the distribution, Wistia might be a good option for you.

Here's Wistia's product intro video.

An Interactive Timeline of the U.S. Supreme Court

This service is no longer available.

This evening I found myself browsing through the lesson ideas on C-SPAN Classroom when I discovered an interactive timeline of important cases and other significant events in the history of the U.S. Supreme Court. The timeline was built on the Dipity platform which allows you to include video clips and images with each event on your timeline. The C-SPAN Supreme Court timeline includes videos of scholars talking about the significance of some of the cases included in the timeline. I've embedded the timeline below.

Applications for Education
C-SPAN Classroom has a detailed lesson plan that utilizes the C-SPAN Supreme Court timeline. The lesson plan is designed to help students learn how the rulings in landmark cases have impacted civil rights and liberties, Federalism, and the Presidency over the course the history of the United States. You may have to be a member of C-SPAN Classroom to view the lesson plan (membership is free), but the timeline can be viewed by anyone.

Learn About the History of Cinema on Europa Film Treasures

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Europa Film Treasures is an online archive of classic and not-so-classic European films and film clips. The films in the archive can be viewed for free on Europa Film Treasures. You can search the archives by dates, genre, country of origin, production method, and director. Along with each film in the collection Europa Film Treasures provides some background information such as production method, storyline, director's bio, and information about the the people appearing on camera.

Applications for Education
Europa Film Treasures hosts quizzes about some of the films, film themes, and film production methods. There are two virtual workshops on Europa Film Treasures. The Invention of Cinema in Colour is an interactive tour through the introduction and evolution of techniques to bring colour to films. The Sound Workshop is an interactive virtual workshop in which you can create a soundtrack for a silent film.

Free Webinar - Building a Knowledge Base With Wikispaces

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Next Tuesday, January 22, Wikispaces is hosting a free webinar for people who are interested in learning how to use the free Wikispaces service to organize a knowledge base. The webinar will cover creating an archive of resources that you wish to organize and make accessible to people in your organization. You can get the complete registration details for the webinar on the Wikispaces blog.

And if you're looking for some other ideas about using Wikispaces in your school, here are some ideas that I shared last spring:

1. As a digital portfolio of student-created videos.

2. As a place for students to share notes on each unit of study in your courses.

3. As an alternative to textbooks. Work with colleagues in your school or department to create a multimedia reference site for your students. Include YouTube videos that use the "choose your own adventure" model to allow students to pursue areas of interest.

4. As an alternative to textbooks. Have students create reference pages for units of study in your course. When you do this students become responsible to each other for creating accurate and meaningful content that they can refer to when it comes time for assessment. For example, when I get to the 1920's in my US History curriculum I have each student create a page on a wiki about a theme from that decade. Some of the themes that the students cover are fashion, entertainment, and sports.

5. As a place to track, document, and manage on-going community projects. In my district every student is required to complete a community service project before graduation. As a homeroom or "common block" advisory teachers are supposed to help their students take the necessary steps to document that work. By creating a homeroom wiki you create a place where students can make weekly updates about what they have done to complete their projects.