Flipped Off

So the news of yesterday is that Flip cameras are no more. Well, they may survive the purge, but chances are they are destined to be a forgotten technology like Poloroid instamatics (and film cameras even as processing for film is becoming incredibly scarce). In education, professors really loved these things – small, easy to use, no real technological hurdle to using them, plug and play accessibility but unfortunately, that’s not what the general public wants. Or maybe it’s not what they need. Maybe we’re at a point in our technology where we expect some level of complexity from technology, where there’s an expectation of more than one button simplicity. I think a couple of issues are at play here:

1. Those that can use media in their teaching already used some technology and felt that the Flip would’ve been too simple. I know that the media professionals I worked with all scoffed at the Flip – then we tried it. The quality of the HD image was good, performed fairly well in low light, and frankly did a good job for what it was. I don’t know if we convinced anyone who was already using media as a method of instruction to change from their current methods, but we did introduce five or six instructors to start using video through Flip cameras.

2. The article I linked to says not to blame the iPhone, but I have to think that the multitude of video enabled devices out there as part of smartphones/cellphones may very well have had to do with why people didn’t buy a dedicated device like the Flip at a similar price point as an entry level cellphone. I’d have trouble justifying spending $100 to buy just a digital video camera, when for a few dollars more I can get an entire cellphone (and a monthly bill as well). In addition, departments that are offloading expenses onto students and faculties aren’t going to buy 100 of these things when they’ve been saying that students or faculty have to get their own resources. Never mind that they’re extremely portable and would be easy to disappear if loaned out through some sort of program, which would weigh heavily against them for some departments.

3. The article also touches on Cisco’s brand, which really didn’t scream out “portable media device”. Well, I had forgotten that Cisco made them. I, and I bet everyone else I know thinks of them as “Flip cameras”. I really don’t think Cisco’s brand or lack of brand was a problem.

With all that said, I’m sad to see them go – any time there’s a cheap media device that puts out quality files with little effort, that’s a good device to have at one’s disposal. RIP Flip cameras.

A New Method of Assessment

Well, not quite new, but a new wrinkle on the old way to assess language skills. When I worked in the Second Language area of my former employer, they did assessments in an interview session where the interviewer could only ask and respond according to a script. I always thought that this could be automated and it was one of the items I was going to push forward this year before my contract was not renewed. Ah well, missed opportunities. It’s nice to see that Desire2Learn’s latest upgrade allows for recording right in the tool – finally. This is something second language learners have been looking for – having used other solutions like the clunky Can8 system – having an audio stream connect directly to the LMS is a great thing. Of course, assessing verbal skills is tricky, and certainly you wouldn’t want to do too much of this sort of assessment at a distance, but business courses could easily say record your 10-second elevator pitch, listen to it, improve it and submit the best version. All in that one assignment you have a reflective component that deepens the learning and builds a practical skill both things lacking in higher education. ┬áTo build it out further, you could add in a component of what makes a good elevator pitch prior to the assessment, perhaps a video of a good elevator pitch or a demonstration of you giving an elevator pitch.

For me this is a real advancement in LMS’s. We’re not relying on written skills (which have been in decline for the last few decades) as much as one used to because profs are bored with marking papers and students are bored with writing papers. Yes, papers still have a purpose in higher education. Look at the popularity of Michael Wesch, who largely has gained his academic fame from videos on YouTube (not to say that he’s not a highly respected anthropologist, he is the author of many of those papers!). Surely these are markers that education is changing – shouldn’t academics respond?