Archive | Setembre 2008

Live Video via Internet for educational purposes

A Vision of live video

Only 15 years ago, only big tv stations could afford to transmit a live video signal via e.g. satellite from a live venue (e.g. a football stadium) to a studio from where it was broadcasted via antenna or cable to a range of spectators.

Now, live video has become one of the biggest internet trends in 2008. There are websites and services that allow for users to stream live video from webcams or even mobile phones over the internet to websites or applications. Although the quality is far from being perfect and many problems like data transfer via mobile networks or lacking common standards prevent the broad use of mobile live video, the estimation of this article is that now is the perfect moment for educators to start experimenting with live video, easily transmitted via webservices.

How can live video be of use for education?
While many teaching institutions already publicate educational videos on the net (e.g. UC Berkley or the MIT) little experience exist with the use of live video. Still, possible use cases are myriad in different scientific fields. Starting from setting up whole classrooms via webcams to virtual labs where educators can transmit live video from experiments to students who are not able to take part directly or time consuming experiments which can be supervised via webcam (cf. Rohrig & Jochheim 1999). Especially in distance learning the implementation of live video can be a very effective way to communicate with students – be it classes, workgroups or consultations.

Current examples especially exist in the field of medical education where video material (e.g. about surgeries) has been an educational tool for a long time already (cf. Mary Ann Liebert 2002). Live and pre-recorded surgeries are of use for medical students. In biology, educators could teach in real time about biological facts from the actual living environment while using a mobile phone camera or preinstalled webcams (there is even a list about webcam sites for teachers). In media studies and journalism students can practice news production under live circumstances and at low costs, and finally, discussions can be set up and recorded in video.

Which tools can be used for live video education?

Seesmic.com ist the perfect platform for discussions. Ordered like a conversation, users can ask questions while others can answer. Seesmic is like a forum with videos instead of text.

SeesMic.Com
Figure 3: SeesMic.Com

MeBeam.com works for live discussions on a simple webpage. It’s like a video chat for many people. Everyone can create a room and invite people to it, so all the webcams streams to one site. MeBeam is the perfect tool for work groups.

SeesMic.Com
Figure 4: MeBeam.com

Mogulus.com is a bit more complex. Here, we will find the role of a “director” who can control which stream or which recorded video is put live on a certain channel at a given time. Meanwhile, there is an open chat for everyone to discuss in text what they are watching. So Mogulus in the educational context is suited for prepared classes, for mixing recorded video with live material and for enganging students to take part in the class via chat.

Mogulus Directors view (Fig. 5):
SeesMic.Com

Mogulus Spectator’s view (Fig. 6):

 

Finally, Qik.com (Fig. 7) and kyte.com are services based on an applications which need to be installed on a mobile phone and the let the user stream video via 3G transmission.

Qik.com
Figure 7

Here, a simple mobile phone becomes the camera which transmits video to the world. Whenever a class should take place from a certain event, these services could be of great help.

Boundaries and problems of live video use

With all developments we have seen in recent years, there are still many boundaries that inhibit the broad use of live video in general:
• The technical infrastructure of the internet is overstrained by the requirements of live video and will be ever
more with expanding use. Transmitting quality is poor, slows down computers and produces a lot of errors
• Many computers and mobile devices are not equipped with the right equipment: Cameras, processors that are able to reproduce streamed video via flash and so on.
• Different standards of mobile phones make it difficult to develop applications that run on most of the devices
• Cameras are of poor quality
• Users fear costs when transmitting video from mobile phone
Right now, live video is a media practice which is only used by technology enthusiasts and innovators. Still, it is an interesting field and will certainly be used a lot in the field of in distance learning. Especially the mix of different services like Mogulus, Qik, Mebeam and Seesmic provides educators with many possibilities to engage and reach out to people via internet video.

Further Services and resources
Inspired by the success of YouTube, sites like teachertube.com or howto.tv provide thousands of videos aimed especially on explaining and educating. Delicious collects many pages that link to educational video resources. The following websites provide services which are similar to the ones described above:

http://www.ustream.tv/
http://www.viif.com
http://live.yahoo.com/
http://www.stickam.com/
http://alpha.bambuser.com/
http://www.justin.tv/

Connecting the conversations: syndication & aggregation

Web 2.0 is all about community, collaboration and conversation. It is for this reason that another term for Web 2.0 is social media. Conversations online are not new: Forums and discussion boards have been places of discourse for years. However, within Web 2.0 discussions are not longer bound to one space, they can travel freely between different services and spaces. That way, discussions can jump from blog to blog, they become decentralized. As a side effect, they get archived and can get tracked easily. The push technology behind all this are RSS feeds (“Really Simple Syndication”), or what can be described as the glue of Web 2.0.

How does it work?
The RSS feeds most blogs and web 2.0 services produce are not just sent to a feedreader (like Google Reader) to be read by a person, but they are sent to other services. Those sites combine several feeds to create extra value. Combining several services is called a mashup. How does RSS work? Watch this brief introductory video (licensed under Creative Commons by-nc-sa, author Lee Lefever):
Video: RSS in plain English

Featured application: Friendfeed
One application that excellently uses RSS feeds to foster conversations is a relatively new service called Friendfeed. What Friendfeed does is take all kinds of RSS feeds – your blog’s feed, your Twitter feed, the feed from your social bookmarking service (like del.icio.us) and more – and combine them in one space. All items from all those feeds are displayed within your friendfeed. What’s more, every item that is imported into Friendfeed automatically can be rated, commented and discussed.

As you can see in the screenshot, a brief Twitter message by Nico_Lumma is “liked” (i.e. marked as favorite, indicated by the smiley icon) by one user, two more have replied with comments. All this happened within a few minutes. Without any extra work, all your online activities are gathered in one feed that automatically becomes subject to your peers’ scrutiny and discussion. It all happens in near-real time, but is also asynchronous. That way, it is possible to get instant feedback, but also to have a longer discussion. Of course, a very brief item of information is more likely to trigger a number of equally brief comments than an in-depth discussion. Note that Friendfeed feeds can also be generated for those people who are not actively using the service. To do this, any RSS feed can be put into Friendfeed, which creates a so-called virtual friend.

Track topical discussions through feeds

Friendfeed allows to track feeds about a certain topic and aggregate them into one space (called a room in Friendfeed). As an example, we set up a room called “education 2.0” which automatically collects the following feeds (and will be expanded step by step): weblogs@UBC, the Digital Media and Learning blog by the MacArthur Foundation and Not So Distant Future, a blog by American librarian Carolyn Foote. Also, it collects all bookmarks Howard Rheingold collects about educational technology. All these feeds are collected in the Education 2.0 room on Friendfeed which also means that all the posted items can easily be commented and tracked. It’s possible to import basically all kinds of information as long it is provided in a RSS feed.

Individual items or whole rooms can also be shared with other users, so this is a simple yet powerful tool for online collaboration. Note that the strength of Friendfeed is not in creating new information, but in filtering: By very selectively watching a small number of information sources recommended by peers and experts, information overload can be more easily managed and handled.

How to know whom to track?

Often, but not always fellow researchers and peers will be able to point you to recommended, high-quality sources that are guaranteed not to waste your time. However, sometimes a topic is too obscure to have an expert at hand. Here, other services can help to identify sources, and thus explore a certain field of expertise.

One such service is called Summize. It specializes on searching Twitter for certain keywords. (Note: Summize was recently acquired by Twitter and is now part of Twitter’s service.) By just entering a keyword, Summize collects the most recent mentions of said keyword. In the screenshot, you see the most recent posts about “education 2.0“. Note the RSS icon on the right side of the screenshot: Here you can get the RSS feed for this particular search query. This feed can be imported back into Friendfeed, so that automatically every mention of “education 2.0” on Twitter will be displayed in the Friendfeed room “education 2.0” introduced above.

Other sources to import into Friendfeed could include: Links from Digg, news from your Google Feedreader, any Blog, Flickr photos or even an Amazon wishlist. What other sources are there? Please share your ideas in the comments!