Barriers to Integration: A String of Microsoft Technology Issues

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.

3 thoughts on “Barriers to Integration: A String of Microsoft Technology Issues

  1. Alec, a few points:

    1) You can convert WMV files created with PhotoStory using the free, Jodix Ipod Converter. This puts the WMV file into MP4 format, which you can upload, or view, anywhere…Mac, Windows, Linux, YouTube, TeacherTube, whatever. Get it at:

    2) As to Moviemaker, don’t bother. It’s a waste of time. Same goes for IE

    3) Why don’t you use VoiceThread? It’s cross platform and you don’t even have to mess with Windows. Use a Linux LiveCD if you have to.

    Take care,
    Miguel Guhlin

  2. Thanks Miguel!

    1) Thanks for this tool. I haven’t used this one, but have had success with some of the online services. I’m trying to keep things as simple as possible for my students so I was hoping it just worked. The only issue with software for this is that I will need to get the techs to redo the lab image, machines are fairly locked down … but DO have a ton of resources/software on them. I’m really happy with my techs as they load up the lab images with great tools, a lot of open source. This will definitely be a tool for the next image.

    2) I agree. I’ve always hated Movie Maker, so many issues. For video editing we’re either using the Mac Lab (iMovie) or if we use Windows, it’s Adobe Premier. I’ve yet to see something good for Linux. IE is still horrible, but I still have such an issue getting students away from it.

    Interestingly enough, I went to a school division last week and noted that firefox was one of the blocked sites in the district. There were MANY blocked sites, but was surprised to see this blocked. I used a USB stick to get Firefox onto a teacher’s machine, and once we were in, we could see any site via Firefox. The entire filtering system was somehow based on an IE protocol. No wonder the site was blocked.

    3) Voicethread is next week’s project, then onto digital video. Had a weird issue with it today, however, on Windows Vista. Was helping a teacher and she wasn’t able to upload jpgs from her computer, but could if she pointed to Flickr. It was odd, never looked at it closely enough. I’ve never had the issue.

    I’m still pushing a lot of Linux as well, especially the live CD’s. It’s still an uphill battle, and it almost seems that some school divisions are even more strict with such “alternative” tools than they were a few years ago.

    Thanks for commenting Miguel, it’s always great to hear from you.


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