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How/Why Should Teachers Use Video?

Never Lecture Again

At least not during class time. How much more could you get done if your students watched at least some lectures at home? Or you could lecture even when you're not at school. I've started doing this. My physics students watch most of my lectures this year on the internet. Some watch on their iPods and a couple, who don't have reliable internet watch them on DVD. This year will be the hardest, but next year most of my lectures will be re-usable. (These guys beat me to it). EduCause also did a "7 things you should know" on lecture capture. It's worth a look.

Record Lecture as They Happen

Even if you don't want to replace in class lecture time with videos students watch at home you still might want to capture your lectures as you deliver them so that your students can go back over them at a later date. This will also help students who were absent. Even just recording the audio will help. An absent student (or one who was there) can listing to the lecture while going over class notes.

Important Demonstrations

As a science teacher, I do lots of important demonstrations to teach concepts. Unfortunately there are always some students who are absent. Now, most teachers tell absent students to get notes from a friend. But usually someone else's notes aren't enough for demos. If they were you wouldn't really need to do a live demo, would you?

What did they get out of it?

Assess what they learned before they get to class using Google Forms. You can set up a form that students fill in on the web. All their answers are entered into a spreadsheet that only you have access to. You can share the form with fellow teachers who teach the same course if you wish. Here's a quick walk-though of how to set up a form. From this I can see what they learned and what they missed completely. Normally I can do this in a face to face lecture, but when it's a video I need to approach it differently.

Tools of the Trade

Cameras and Such


People often berate webcams as having too low of a resolution. To be fair they do. Most only have a resolution of 640x480 (about 1/3 of a megapixel). What people don't think about is that most free streaming hosting services on the net stream video out at 640x480 or lower. This means even cheap webcams are good enough. You should be able to get a webcam for under $30, assuming your laptop doesn't have one built in.

Flip Video Cameras (and the like)

You can get some pretty good pocket digital video recorders right now. Some even record in HD (not sure you really need that however). I've played with the Flip Mino HD and the Flip Ultra. I've also seen video from the iPod Nano and iPhone and these are good to. Right now (Aug. 2010) you can get two Flip Ultras for $150 through DigitalWish.com. I did and they work great!


These are digital camcorders that use tapes. They are definitely showing their age and are much less common then they were a few years ago. Next you need to see if you have an IEEE 1394 (Firewire) port. If both your computer and camera have this port you're set.

Digital Still

Most digital camers can take short videos. If the camera was bought in the last 5 years that video will probably be good enough. If it was bought within the last 3 years the video you can capture is undoubtedly good enough. The cool thing about these is that you can simply retireve the video in exactly the same way you get the pictures off. Simply upload the video to the net and you're done. For most people this is a "free" way to go as they already have a camera.


No matter what type of camera you go with you should invest in a cheap tripod (this will also help out your home videos). No one wants to watch the Blair Witch Project version of your lectures. If you don't have a tripod see if you can find some way to keep your camera from moving too much. This really is critical for smaller cameras like the Flip.


Any video camera will have one built in. If you're recording using a cheap webcam then you may need a microphone to plug into your computer. Most laptops have a microphone built in already. You can get microphones for pretty cheap (under $10) if you're willing to buy from the internet. If you have a little extra I'd go for a USB microphone, they tend to have a better audio quality. This is not a necessity however, I went for a couple years with a $6 microphone.

While you don't need it, you might want to spend a litle on your microphone. I really like my USB Logitech headset. The audio quality is good and it's always the right distance from your mouth and I get virtually no pops. Lately I've been using my Guitar Hero microphone. It sounds good, but I have to be careful to avoid popping on my p's. This one was basically free. I just have to remember to hook it back up to the Wii before I try to play. You can get one for pretty cheap.

Wacom Tablet

I use this to allow me to write on the screen. It's great for screencasting. I can circle important points or work problems in a very natural way. I bought mine on ebay for $35. If you're not interested in buying from ebay you can get a pretty good tablet from Amazon for around $60. Once you have your tablet you'll need to write on the screen:
  • LinktivityPresenter - Free program that gives you tools to write/draw on the screen. It will also save a screen shot with a simple onscreen button push. (Windows)
  • Uniboard - Great compliment to a tablet or even a DIY whiteboard. (Windows and OS X)
  • ZoomIt - It allows you to easily zoom in on a portion of the screen or make on screen annotations. (Windows)
  • Magic Pen - Again, this one does not capture video, but allows me to write on my screen in Mac OSX.
  • OmniDazzle - Write on the screen or highlight screen areas. Includes lots of fun plugins (OS X)


Video Editing/Capture

  • iMovie - Great program, comes standard on every Macintosh computer. Allows for editing of video and creation of dynamic slide shows. Can capture from webcam or from a camera plugged into the firewire port.
  • Camtasia Mac - This has replaced iMovieHD for me. It allows for screen recording as well as video editing. You can also do picture in picture and multi-track video editing. Not free, but well worth the $99 price tag. Keep your eye on TeacherTechBites and/or the Michigan Learning section of iTunesU for some Camtasia Mac tutorials.
  • Windows Movie Maker - Free program in Windows. If you have at least service pack 2 in Windows XP you already have it. Easy editing of videos. Can capture from webcam or from a camera plugged into the firewire port. The version with Windows7 allows you to import .mov and .mp4 videos. If you're using WinXP you'll have to convert tehse to wmv before you can edit them.
  • Windows Photostory - Free program you can download from Microsoft. Lets you create dynamic slide shows like you can in iMovie.


Screencasting involves capturing everything you see on your monitor. You might want to do this in order to teach a skill on a computer or you might capture a powerpoint presentation. Most sceencapturing utilities will also record audio.
  • Camstudio - Free program for Windows. I haven't used this in a couple of years and I may want to give it another look. It will save in avi or swf formats. It will allow you to put text or other annotations on your video after you're done in case you need to highlight something.
  • TipCam - This is the one I use. It is very easy and works well. It will save in *.avi or *.flv. I typically save in *.flv format as this is the same format used for streaming video from the net, this means some video sites will do no conversion after you upload it. So, however it looks on your screen it will look the same when streamed from the net.
  • Jing - Very easy to use program. There are Mac and Windows versions. Will only record videos 5 min in length or shorter. Saves in *.swf format only.
  • iShowU - This is the program I use on my Mac. It's not free, but is pretty cheap ($20). It works very well.
  • Berio - Free screencasting for Mac Leopard. I haven't played much with it, other than to confirm that it works. I only recently put Leopard on my Macbook. It is a very small app and saves *.mov files.

Get it in the Format you Want

Most free video programs are very limited in what formats they will export to. So, you'll probably need to either buy an expensive video creation program or learn to use free programs to convert your video into your desired format.
  • Super - This is the program I use most often. It is free and will convert just about any format into any other format. It looks scary, but is really fairly easy to use. There are lots of preset options to choose from.


MetaTags are information about your file that are stored as a part of the file. For example, most digital cameras will record what the setings used to take your pictures were. You may want to edit your tags. This is not really necessary, it's like the icing. I use a free program called Mp3Tag to do this.

Cloud Applications

Video Editing

  • Photobucket - Store and edit images or videos, can get via url from other websites. Has transitions, but no video effects.


  • Jing - Made by the people who make Camtasia. Easy to use (Mac and Windows). Save files up to 5 minutes in length. Upload to screencast.com, which has both free and paid versions for hosting. Saves is *.swf format making it hard (impossible?) to edit later.
  • Screencast-o-Matic - Nothing to Install, runs as a web application, can export as *.mov files. Up to 15 min in length (with free hosting)
  • Freescreencast.com - Windows only, free hosting of screencasts made with their program (which is an add on for Windows Media Encoder)


  • Most people just talk about ZamZar whenever they have a file to convert to a different format. This site works with more than just videos. I recommend having a program on your own computer for converting video. That way you don't have to wait for the file to upload to ZamZar, then wait for the conversion, and then download the file again. But, I also understand that you may not have the ability to install software on the computer in your classroom. I think ZamZar will also allow you to grab YouTube videos.

Video Hosting Sites

Potential Issues - Many sites will make recomendations to other videos. Sometimes the recomended videos are totally inappropriate. Additionally, many districts have decided to block sites rather then take time to figure out appropriate ways to use them. Often you can get some of these unblocked if you talk to the right people.
  • YouTube - Most common site, but it is blocked in many schools. If you use Google Sites then you may want to use YouTube as embedding videos into Sites from YouTube is seamless. Embedding videos from other hosts is a lot more difficult (nearly impossible).
  • Google Video - Also fairly common. Just like YouTube, Google Video allows you to easily embed videos into a Google Site. Go figure, the video hosts that Google owns work well with the other tools they own.
  • Blip.tv - This is the one I use. I can upload files in multiple formats (so users can download high quality video), it allows for easy creation of podcasts, and it will cross upload to the archive.org.
  • Archive.org - Site trying to archive the entire internet. This one is cool because after a video completes it does not recommend other videos. Thus avoiding a potential pitfall of using other video hosting sites with students.
  • Ourmedia - Partners with the Internet Archive and Blip. Free hosting of a variety of files.
  • Vimeo - Upload up to 500 mb/week. The original files can be made available for download.
  • Metacafe -  All videos are reviewed before they go live. The have policies against "bad stuff".
  • TeacherTube - This is basically a school friendly version of YouTube. There is no limit on video length.
  • SchoolTube - Another school friendly alternative. This one includes some sort of vetting process. Someone (or multiple individuals) serves as an Administrator for the school and will have to approve all video uploads from your school. Videos must be shorter than 10 min.
  • Video Editing Sites listed above

My Stuff Online

I'm all over the net. Just search for falconphysics or flosscience.
  • Blip.tv - I mostly use Blip.tv. My catch all site is falconphysics.blip.tv but I also have some stuff at teachertechbites.blip.tv as well.
  • YouTube - I do have somethings up on YouTube. Mainly because it is really easy to use and videos on YouTube play well with other Google Products like Google Sites (which this webpage was built in). Plus the kids love seeing themselves on YouTube.
  • Internet Archive - I also try to post all of my stuff to the Archive.org. This is easy for the blip.tv content. Much of the stuff I've put on YouTube is not here though. I guess I'm a bit lazy.
  • Physics Lectures - My lectures will all be on my blip.tv channel, but I keep a running list of them on my webpage because there's lots of other stuff on my channel that is not related to my physics class as well.
  • My Blogs - I have two main blogs. I do cross-post content from one to the other when there is overlap in subject matter.

Copyright and Creative Commons

Note, I'm not a lawyer so you should follow the links I provide and use your best judgment. I am not attempting to give you legal advice. This is all stuff to keep in mind when using video, images, or audio that you yourself did not create.
  • Fair Use - A lawyer once told me that the copyright laws and fair use provisions were written to be vague on purpose. The bottom line as to whether you broke the law sometimes seems to hinge on which judge you happen to have presiding over your case.
    • From the U.S. Copyright Office
    • From Stanford.edu - Excellent in it's explanation of what constitutes fair use.
    • From Wikipedia (includes lots of links and references)
    • Bottom line: If you include pictures or music you (or a student) find on the net in a movie or powerpoint that you are using to teach from in your school then it may be fair use. If you then put that presentation up on the internet for the world then there's a good chance you violated copyright.
  • Creative Commons - The instant you create a work you have a copyright on it. Technically anyone who wants to use it in some way MUST get your permission. So, if you create a powerpoint presentation and you freely give it away on the internet then other people must, by law, ask for your permission before they show it to a group of people. The intent of Creative Commons is to bypass the permission asking. It is a way of labeling your work to tell people what rights they have when using your material. For example, I've labeled this page (in the sidebar) to give people the right to use, reproduce, or make derivative works from this information as long as they tell people I created it and they share any derivative works under the same license. If their use falls under this then they don't need to ask me first, I've already given them permission.
  • Public Domain - Material in the Public Domain has no copyright. Copyright doesn't last for ever, eventually it expires. Additionally, you as a content creator might decide you don't care what is done with your creation and so may wish to make it public domain right away. It is unclear whether you as a content creator can legally do this, however.