Seeing is believing

7th January 2005 at 00:00
The rapid development of still image and video-editing software has brought affordable digital resources into the classroom, says Jack Kenny

Digital video is still finding its place in schools. First it was seen as largely a way of recording sports day and the school play. But now the technology is increasingly being used as a way of recording achievement, contributing to archives, triggering reflections on learning, studying narrative, encouraging collaborative work, increasing understanding of multimedia, recording hard-to-replicate experiments, illustrating ideas visually, recording processes like growth and contributing assessment material for e-portfolios. It's also used as an alternative to writing and for animation.

The continuing success of the Digital Blue camera is a tribute to what appears to be little more than a toy. Nevertheless, this simple camera enables teachers to introduce digital video into the primary classroom at a very affordable cost. Image quality is not good, but the camera will do stop-frame animation, something that many expensive ones won't without extra software. At just Pounds 70 you can afford to buy a few and so involve many more pupils. This camera has its limitations, but at this price you will overlook them.

All the Canon still cameras in their consumer range will shoot short video sequences as well as stills. These are of high quality and can be edited in a program like iMovie or Microsoft MovieMaker 2.1.

MovieMaker is free and the latest XP version is a good, simple editor that will allow anyone to learn the basics of video editing. The Microsoft Plus! Digital Media Edition costs less than pound;20 and includes Plus! Photo Story. With this you can string still images together and control the zooms and pans, but not as precisely as you can on Apple's iMovie 4 , which is rather more sophisticated than the Microsoft equivalent.

Staying with Apple, its iLife suite has not undergone any major changes in the last year. It is still formidable. And the annual, highly regarded Apple training event, this year at Cheltenham College between April 12 and 15, is definitely worth a visit.

Ulead's Pictureshow 3 also has software for making slideshows into movies, but could be simpler and more flexible. Ulead Video Studio 8 unusually has two video tracks and four audio tracks, including audio from the two video tracks.

Probably the best, if expensive, PC software for turning still images into movies is the new version of Pinnacle Studio Media Suite. Some of the versions of Pinnacle Studio have had too many bugs, but the latest version seems to be an improvement. You can create a sequence of still images and zoom into them and pan across them. For media education it focuses the student on the elements of telling a story with images. The task of presenting the key moments in a story with stills is demanding. It also encourages a student to focus on the framing and quality of each image.

Steinberg's WaveLab Lite is also included for sophisticated audio. The final presentation with titles and music and dialogue has a greater fluidity and better flow than a PowerPoint presentation.

Another way of using video in the classroom without a camera is to make use of the Pathe Archive. A surprising number of schools do not seem to have realised that it is freely available to teachers and pupils from the Regional Broadband Consortia. The first of its kind in the world, the archive provides schools with access to 3,500 hours of digitised newsreel film and 2 million stills, covering events from the death of Queen Victoria to the birth of space travel. Pupils can use the material to re-edit and re-purpose sequences. Think of the uses this could be put to in English and history.

Editing is at the heart of most work with video. It is the most difficult, the most important and the most challenging part. MoPix interactive resources that come on CD examine different elements of film language.

Students are given film clips that they are invited to edit in different ways in order to gain certain effects. They can also build a story in a number of ways. With disks like these, students can work with video without ever having access to a camera.

At BETT you can see children working with video on Student Voice from Intuitive Media. Pupils have been asked by Charles Clarke how they learn with ICT and what advice they can give on how to exploit technology. Five schools - two primary, two secondary and one special - have been given Canon MVx250i movie cameras. The task has been to record their use of ICT and their ICT activities both in and out of school time. At BETT the students will show their preliminary findings and continue their recordings, which will eventually be made into a video.

The most interesting news is the release of a schools' version of Adobe Premiere called Premiere Elements (a review will be in the next Online). It is part of Adobe School Collection 2. The other part of the package is Photoshop Elements 3 - a product used right across the media industry, adapted for schools and at an affordable price (competition p5).

Digital Video at BETT

ADOBE Stand W70

www.adobe.co.ukeducation

Tel: 0870 6060325

Apple Stand E34

www.apple.comukeducation

Tel: 0800 039 1010

Atomic Learning

Stand SW60

http:stage.atomiclearning.com moviemaker2

CANON Stand A50

www.canon.co.uk

Tel: 01737 220000

DIGITAL BLUE

TAG LearningStand F50

www.taglearning.com

Tel: 01474 357 350

MAGIX

www.fasttrak.co.ukcontact_us.php

Tel: 01923 495 496

Microsoft MovieMaker

Stand D30D34

www.microsoft.comukeducation

PATH

www.britishpathe.comaboutpathe.cfm

PINNACLE STUDIO

RM Stand X10

www.rmplc.co.uk

Tel: 08709 086969 (Primary)

Tel: 08709 086868 (Secondary)

SCREENONLINE

www.screenonline.org.uk

SERIF Stand X90

www.serif.com

Tel: 0800 376-6868

ULEAD Stand O66

www.ulead.comukvsrunme.htm

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