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Eleven ideas for mobile media capture

February 13, 2012

The ed tech pundits have written a great deal about the potential of mobile devices in teaching and learning. Most seem to focus on the impact of apps and electronic books, but any new tablet or smartphone has both a camera and a microphone that allow it to record sound, images and video. We have only begun to scratch the surface of the educational potential of smartphones and tablets for capturing media.

Let’s consider the possibilities, starting with a quick look at the strengths of the different media:

  1. Photos are visual and don’t move. Take them when motion is not critical. Some examples are saving the contents a white board or flip chart, collecting images of rocks or plants, and archiving images of buildings or statues.
  2. Video is for those times when motion is meaningful, perhaps recording a student presentation in class, clouds crossing the sky, or the parts of a machine in motion. If the visual element is not changing, try combining an audio-only recording with a still image.
  3. Sound recording is for activities where visuals are distracting or less important, such as foreign language pronunciation or a dramatic poetry reading. Audio-recording an interview avoids subjecting others to “talking heads.”

In general, good photos and sounds are easier to capture than good video, editing them is less complex, and they take up less storage space. Videos are more popular, though, perhaps because they appeal to multiple senses. You’ll want to consider which medium is most appropriate for an activity.

As educators, we may find ourselves capturing media during class, at the lab, or in the office. Students could do the same on the job, in the field, or at home. You may need to use the media you capture right away or it might be saved for next year’s class.

After capturing the media, you can simply keep the files on your device or put them in a place where others can use them. Images may be uploaded to Flickr, videos to YouTube, and sound to AudioBoo. After posting, you may want to share some of them via Twitter, Facebook, or Posterous. Of course, they can also be linked to a course website in Blackboard, Sakai or any other system.

Eleven strategies you might try

  1. Record something that happens quickly in the lab, then slow it down
  2. Photograph items during a digital scavenger hunt
  3. Generate a tutorial on how to use a piece of equipment
  4. Make a commercial that illustrates a concept being learned in class
  5. Tell a story that illustrates different points of view
  6. Document the stages of a process or event: before, during, and after
  7. Film a small, dangerous, or elusive object
  8. Annotate videos or provide feedback using VoiceThread
  9. Visually log data for a research project
  10. Construct a multimedia portfolio or journal
  11. Document student (mis)behavior…

If all of this sounds interesting, there are a few questions you may want to consider before digging in. I hope you will consider them a reality check rather than a wet blanket.

  • How good do the results need to be? Are you concerned about blurriness, distortion and other flaws? How much editing do you expect to do? Do you need professional quality? What is “good enough”?
  • What equipment do you have? How many megapixels and megahertz (sound sampling rate)? Do you need a flash? How about an external microphone? What equipment do your students have?
  • How big will your files be? Can your device store enough of them? How easily will they transfer to the cloud or to another computer? Will off-campus students need to download them?
  • What about privacy? Do you need permission to post images or videos of people on a public site? How would you obtain releases? Is FERPA an issue?

What kinds of media capture activities have you already done successfully (or otherwise) with mobile devices?

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