I admit it, I’m biased, I’m spoiled by my Mac. I prefer to do all of my daily work on either OS X or Ubuntu Linux. Yet, when I walk into my teaching world, I get to experience the joys of the Windows environment.
My students, preservice teachers, will enter into a variety of computing environments. In Saskatchewan, we have some school divisions that are primarily Mac environments, some that are heavily IBM/Windows schools and we even have a few Sun Ray (thin client) divisions. Most of what I teach is either cross-platform, or platform-insignificant. Good pedagogical principles do not discriminate. But then, once in a while, I run into one of these days. Here’s what we tried to accomplish.
My class attempted a fairly simple activity. We are entering into a digital storytelling unit and we are using various tools to digitize stories. For the first activity, I’m taking my inspiration from Dean Shareski as we are putting together a simple “Mastercard” type commercial using Microsoft Photo Story. Here’s Dean’s example.
The process was supposed to work like this.
1) Create video in Microsoft Photo Story 3.
2) Save as .wmv file.
3) Upload to Youtube
4) Embed video into student blogs.
These are the issues we ran into:
Issue #1: The .wmv that was produced by Photo Story was rejected by Youtube. I read around, received some advice on Twitter and it seemed the that only solution was to re-render the file in another program. As I focus on free, widely-accessible tools, I chose Windows Movie Maker, a program I’ve never been really fond of, but figured it would work.
Issue #2: When you resave the file in Windows Movie Maker, the .wmv file is actually accepted by Youtube. However, for some odd reason, most of my students ran into an issue. When rendered in WMM, the beginning of the video appeared dim, and parts of the end were cut off abruptly. To get around this issue, I asked students to create a short title frame and end credits for each video. This seemed to solve the issue. Videos were sent to Youtube, and everything seemed to work so far.
Issue #3: Embedding videos into WordPress was a success, but only for some of my students. For others, the embed code didn’t work and was revealed in plain text on student blogs. The difference? Students that were successful were using Firefox, students with the technical issue were using Internet Explorer 7. Once students used Firefox, no further issues.
In summary, Microsoft tools provide a wonderful learning experience if the point of your learning is “getting around technical issues caused by really crappy software”. I think my students actually got to see real-time problem solving with technology in classrooms, and ways of getting around issues. This will certainly be common for many of my students. However, that wasn’t the intent. I was just looking for a simple way of using common, free Windows-based tools to publish stories. It eventually worked, but not nearly as well as it should have.
I’m looking forward to moving to both Mac, Linux and web-based tools to accomplish the same thing. I’m almost certain we won’t see nearly as many issues.