I just finished “grading” the first assignment from my Wilkes U. digital storytelling students and it got me thinking (along with an iChat I had with Hall Davidson and his daughter last week). I needed to know what equipment my students have at their disposal to make the videos that will be the bulk of our assignments over the next 7 weeks. My reasons were ulterior, of course. I want to spot potential obstacles and head them off if I can. So here is my reflection on the class inventory. I welcome your thoughts on what you have access to, and what you would like to have.
FireWire (1394 or iLinc) ports: These aren’t necessarily standard on PC’s, especially the low bidder models that schools tend to buy. We Mac folk are spoiled; they’ve been standard since the original iMac. PC people need to buy a card for their desktop or laptop OR get video from a USB device like a still camera that can take movies, flash memory cameras like the Flip, or DVD and hard drive camcorders which also all seem to be USB.
Speaking of USB, I think all scanners are USB now because only the oldest computers have serial and SCSI ports. But do they get used like they used to? Helping an 8th grade class with their DVD yearbook last spring, I found they were very focused on video and digital stills. The few paper photos they had caused a temporary back up at the only scanner in the classroom. Sharing my senior citizen disdain for lines, they quickly figured out that the built-in camera could get a passable image with a lot less hassle and the scanner was soon completely abandoned. Does anyone import from a document camera?
Back to camcorders, the new DVD and hard drive models have been a pain in my workshops when people don’t bring along a laptop with the propietary software loaded. One of the few improvements I like in iMovie ’08 is that it can import a hard drive camcorder effortlessly. I am thinking that flash camcorders will cause schools to leapfrog that technology all together, not to mention the Dembo/Davidson revolution of cell phone cameras in class.
Memory is another thing that suffers with low bidder computers (and age!) I have only one student with less than a gigabyte of RAM. I hope our modest assignments don’t bring her computer to the brink. I have to think a lot of the MovieMaker crashing complaints I hear are because of minimal RAM. We really just take for granted all the processing that goes on internally when editing video, but it is REALLY memory intensive. Pros used to regularly spend as much or more on RAM and expanded storage as they did on the actual computer. Now that both are so inexpensive, the ratio has fallen.
So, to paraphrase that recent TV commercial campaign, “What’s in your (digital storytelling) wallet?”