Saturday, October 2, 2010

You Go, Squirrel! This gal's gone squirrely for YouTube...

Video sharing: T'week'ed first, for me!
I think I may have gone nuts!  Despite all my reservations about YouTube, I can honestly say that making this Squirrel Boogie video, and the learning and experiences that followed out of such a silly endeavor and some serious thinking, was the highlight of my week.  Well, the highlight actually came when my 11 year old daughter informed me that she "would personally be proud of creating this Squirrel Boogie video!"  She has since added my video to her YouTube channel and has guaranteed me that her many important subscribers will boost my views! Does life get better than that?!

I will admit that I started my thinking about video sharing this week from a fairly negative stance.  In general, I didn't see much use for YouTube in my life.  Apart from viewing the occasional clips with my students, I didn't see a lot of value in this Web tool, and frankly, I was pretty confident that my life would not be hindered by the demise of videosharing sites in the future. 
But as I thought about it, I came to a few realizations. First, I guess you could say that I'm just not a video kind of gal.  In fact, I readily admit to being a very text dependent learner.  I don't watch television (at all!) and I have wondered if there is, perhaps, a part of my brain that is incompatible with video processing.  I have just never caught on. As a result, I don't own and have never owned a video camera. Of course, I do have video taking capability... a WebCam and a digital camera (used to capture all the videos on my YouTube account). So unlike Flickr, which might help to ease my photo overload problem, I definitely don't have a video overload problem. 

A lack of video? That I do have! So, I am sorry to disappoint you, but in this post there will be no wedding or birthing videos to entice you on. Thank goodness, right?! People probably show that stuff online, I bet. But along with that, in this post you will find no "First Christmas, First Steps, First Words" videos either...  hmm. Do I regret not having those moments forever captured for all to relive? I don't think so. Not yet anyways. Will my kids? Maybe. But don't you think it is okay to enjoy that Christmas concert live, too, and not through the lens of some camera?! I figure by the time I get a good shot of my child through the viewfinder, the event has ended! Yet when I go to that Christmas concert and see all the video cameras running, I see that most people don't share these same values. I can't help but wonder what I am missing. People LOVE video! Still, capturing those memories to relive them is one thing... posting them for other people to view them, that's something else entirely.

But you know what shocks me? It shocks me as to what people will share of themselves.  Deep inner thoughts. Embarassing moments. Intimate details. Incredible, really.  What would be the motivation?  Fame? Fortune? Revenge? Fun? Curiosity? All of the above? Okay, I am quite competitive so after viewing Michael Wesch's video, Anthropology of YouTube and hearing him talk about his video becoming a No.1 video, I have to admit there is this part of me that would love to hold that No. 1 spot, too.  As long as I don't have to actually be in it... or any of my kids... or reveal any parts of my inner or outer self to do it. 

So, who will star in my first video? The squirrels from last year's trip to Emma Lake! Perfect! Stars who require no special forms or permissions, and no salary! Thanks, Lori and Mary, for making this possible.

The process:

My first question was "Is YouTube the best tool for this job?"  Basically, I think the answer is still "Yes".  I took some time to look over some of the other sites (TeacherTube, MetaCafe and Vimeo grabbed my attention) and virtually they are similar.  However, with YouTube having such a dominant piece of the market here, it's hard to go elsewhere.  There was a part of me that wanted to post to TeacherTube, but again, I think if you are going to do it, just do it!

YouTube was especially easy to sign up for, seeing that I discovered that I already held an account.  I somewhat remembered creating the account. If memory serves me, I wanted to mark a favourite video for work. Not exactly powerful use of technology. Just the same, it saved me some time... well, not really as I had to go through the whole sign up process anyway (maybe 1 minute of work) to discover that I already existed on YouTube.  Here I am... My YouTube Channel (Denomy KG) 

But with the easy part out of the way, now begins the real work.  Creating my first video.

Surprisingly, creating my first video was relatively easy.  I have used Windows Movie Maker before so I felt pretty comfortable with this tool. I wasn't sure that it would work for uploading to YouTube, but I thought I could always convert it, if need be (not needed, Windows Movie Maker works just fine). But first, I wasn't sure if my camera files would even work with Movie Maker, having never used it before in this capacity, but they imported easily.  Within a minute or two, the project was underway with my squirrel video already imported.  I thought about leaving it as is, sounds 'au nature', but after viewing Michael Wesch's Anthropology of YouTube video, I felt a little inspired to try something creative, "repurpose" something in a new way, as Wesch would say.

On the drive to my son's lesson, I ran my thinking past him and was surprised to discover that he didn't think it was TOO lame.  He suggested music like Yakety Sax or something fun.  Thanks, son, for not just shooting me down, and for offering some good advice. Unfortunately, there was no creative commons license here. So finding some similar and suitable music was a little more complicated than uploading Yakety Sax. I have used previously so went to that site first off.  When I heard this song by Diablo Swing Orchestra, I knew it would work perfectly. A quick download, import to MovieMaker, followed by some quick clipping and cropping and Voila! A miracle unfolded.  I actually like it!  I wasn't even ashamed to post it on YouTube. After all, I think there are worse videos out there than this one (I hope you would agree).  My daughter helped me with the upload (reminded me to take out the .wmv from the title, a good thing to know).  And success! It took a few minutes all tolled, but surprisingly quick and simple.  And... I was excited to see it there!  Wow! I couldn't believe it.  My first video! Now, how to make it No. 1... refresh, refresh, refresh (says Michael Wesch).  So help me out, please refresh it a couple of times!

Video sharing: T'week'ed next, for learning!

Now, for the really hard part. How do I make videosharing via YouTube a good tool for educators? I think I am like most educators, a little reluctant to use YouTube for viewing, and exceptionally reluctant to post videos from the class to YouTube. You have to be kidding! All the permissions that go along with posting video or images of students to a public domain.  Yikes! Not worth my time and stress, I am afraid.

But as I read through Will Richardson's book, Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms, I was soon inspired with an idea.  This idea stemmed from one of Richardson's favourite videos Parents.  I loved this video, not just the powerful message, but the simplicity of it.  And the fact that there were no student images, Simply Genius!  I could see this working for me quite nicely.  Perhaps not exactly the same way, but similarly.  Words, perhaps, instead of images. (I did tell you that I am very text dependent, correct?)

So I started to do some extra reading and thinking... and decided to take a closer look at our renewed Saskatchewan curriculum documents for possible curricular topics.  Right away I saw some possible avenues from health and social studies curriculums.

Possible topics include:
  • nutrition and physical excercise
  • harmful substances and misuse of helpful substances
  • healthy/unhealthy homes
  • safety at home
  • violence and its effects
  • power and authority, peer pressure, bullying
Finally, the idea for this Diary of a Young Girl came to me. (Please note, this is a fictitious example.)

 I can see what Richardson means though... video does take a little more planning, writing, thinking and so forth.  But I was thrilled with the end result  I have to thank my daughter for her help with this, although she does not want to be credited. 
I can see this type of video journal diary being used as an excellent reader response to literature. For example, I have done print journal entries like this using picture books.  Generally, I use RAFTS (Role, Audience, Format, Topic, Srong verb).  One that comes to mind is a personal favourite, The Other Side,by Jacqueline Woodson.  Following the book, students assume the role of Annie or Clover (role) and write a letter (format) to Mama or Community (audience) to persuade (strong verb) others to tear down the fence and eliminate racism (topic).  If you think back to my Sticks and Stones video, the RAFTS prompt here might be something like "As a victim of bullying, write a diary entry to share with bullies, teachers, students and others that will recount some of the effects of bullying on the victim".  RAFTS prompts are one of my favourite after reading strategies.  If you want to learn more about RAFTS, a site I really like is Writing Fix.  Of course, this can be left in paper form, but I think hearing the voice and seeing the words on screen really brought the message to life, beyond the paper.  I think that is the power of the Read/Write World of Web 2.0.  I hope you agree.

A little more thinking on this topic also reminded me of a YouTube video shared by Dean Shareski at last year's Assessment Conference.  Here is another great example (once again, no face shots... I like this) that puts some of the collaborative power of video sharing sites to work.

I really like the ability of video sharing sites like this to help build student understanding and get feedback to further their learning.  It made me think of math right away...this might be a great way to seek help with a tough math problem (just can't get that right answer... what am I doing wrong?). Or perhaps to seek feedback on making that Structure stronger in grade 7 science.  Just a couple of extra ideas to get you thinking, too, I hope. 

Finally, why not have your students use those pet and animal clips to create videos for sharing and creating video (I bet your students have these, too).  This will help your students understand new literacies, as William Kist elaborates on in his book, The Socially Networked Classroom, by stating that "in a new media age, many texts we encounter contain multiple forms of representation (music, print, image,) within the same text." (p.20) We need to help our students be creators in this new literacy environment, providing them with opportunity to practice new skills by selecting the right music, text, visuals and video to share their message.
Next week, social bookmarking.  Hope you will be back to learn with me.


  1. Squirrel boogie is terrific - I thought it was a video you found on YouTube - until I read into your blog.

    I think you will enjoy the multimedia sharing weeks because you can play around with some other tools - vuvox, jingproject, etc. that allow screen capture and audio - that students can really get into without having to worry so much about the privacy thing - and remember there are privacy settings on YouTube and you can create your own TV channel in your school using some of the sites.

  2. Yvonne,
    Love, love, love the video diary idea - it was VERY powerful, the kids would love making their own. I too have concerns about privacy etc, but that's a great way to get around it...Thanks for sharing!

  3. Yvonne,
    Love the video! I'm more than a little fond of squirrels and their antics. Also, really like the way you approached this topic. Like you, I'm quite at a loss as to why people share intimate details of their lives or some items that are just in bad taste. Maybe this will change if we focus with kids on having a positive digital footprint?
    Great comment - "I really like the ability of video sharing sites like this to help build student understanding and get feedback to further their learning." I also think that until permission levels change you're on the right track with your great examples of 'faceless' video. Maybe this should be a tag?
    Thanks for the great ideas. Brenda