What should we watch today?

24th October 2008 at 01:00
Videos used to be daunting things, but now they can be used to send messages. Terry Freedman logs on to learn

What's the best way of talking to people over the internet? Blogs or wikis? They're good, but the conversation is text-based. Podcasts are popular, of course, and make it easy for people to talk and listen. And there is Voice Thread (www.voicethread.com), where you can publish photographs and video clips and have people leave audio comments.

But what about good old-fashioned video? It has always been just that little bit complicated compared with other media. Until now. Seesmic (www.seesmic.com) is a video broadcasting facility that resides on the web. This in itself is nothing new: applications such as Ustream have been around for a while and you can easily upload a video to YouTube - or even record it direct from YouTube itself.

However, two things make Seesmic different: first, it is extremely easy to use. As long as you have a microphone, a webcam and an internet connection you can be up and running in no time. Secondly, and this is its major selling point, it is geared towards conversation.

It means that I can record a video and publish it on the Seesmic website, and then others can respond. So far, so ordinary. However, here's the clincher: they can respond privately to me with their own video, thereby helping to build up a video conversation.

In fact, since starting to use Seesmic (www.seesmic.comterryfreedman), people have sent me messages in much the same way as they send me messages via Facebook, Twitter or email - only through using a video instead.

So, does this have any application for teachers? In principle it can be attractive. For people for whom writing does not come easy, or at the end of a hard day, it offers an immediate means of expressing an opinion or asking for some assistance. There is a tendency to be a little self- conscious at first, possibly because we are so used to seeing either slick or clever amateur videos. But once you start to think of it more as a means to having a conversation than winning an Emmy, it all becomes less daunting.

Once you've published a video, you can have it announced on Twitter (www.twitter.com) if you have an account there. You can also grab code to put into your blog to make your video (or someone else's) playable directly from your webpage. You can even copy and paste some code that will put a "new video" announcement on your webpage.

For people for whom writing is a chore, or for visual learners, Seesmic represents an alternative to the more usual methods of communicating.

Terry Freedman is an independent educational ICT consultant and publishes the ictineducation.org website

HOW TO GET STARTED IN SEESMIC

- Buy a webcam and microphone (or a webcam with a built-in microphone).

- Go to Seesmic.com and open an account. It's free and takes just a couple of minutes.

- Record your first video and publish it (it may take a few attempts before you're happy with it).

- Go to the "Widgets" section to obtain code to put on your website, for automatic announcements.

- Use the direct link or embed code in your blog post, if you write one.

- Look for other people you know or have heard of and "follow" them in order to keep up to date with their videos.

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