Sunday, May 31, 2009

Video as an Educational Tool

We all know how video contributes to the entertainment industry.  Movies can make people laugh, cry, scream and yes, even learn.  It used to be that “learning” movies were only found on Public Broadcasting Stations (PBS).  Nowadays the quality of those educational videos has changed with the times.  Multiple channels now exist for the mere purpose of learning.  Home and garden, food networks, and history channels are just a few of the varieties of learning channels that are geared toward the recliner learner.  With their feet up, snacks nearby and a remote to surf the many channels, populations are gaining knowledge in their pajamas as filmmakers produce informative, engaging videos. 

If the television wasn’t a sufficient medium for viewing the world’s content, the internet filled any existing need.  You Tube brought a whole new way of sharing video content to the global community.  With a simple upload anyone with video capturing capabilities can now be a producer of video content.  As with all internet resources, content found on the world wide web needs to be viewed with discretion and reviewed for validity. 

In the university setting, videos are an integral tool for many educators.  Often a teaching concept is captured best through a visual medium such as video.  Some classes are dedicated to the production of educational video content.  In GED 575 - DVD Production, a Masters in Education elective course, students are paired up and given the assignment to create a final project video during the ten-week quarter.  My class partner and I had an opportunity to work with the city of San Dimas to create an educational video dedicated to the topic of “properly planting trees.”  The beginning process to our video production was scripting, storyboarding, and scouting .  Next we used high-end professional video cameras, to capture multiple scenes on mini-DV tapes.  Capturing and editing in

 Apple’s Final Cut Pro, the many hours of video were cut down to nine minutes and fifty-nine seconds since a You Tube video posting must be under ten minutes. 

“Trees Please” effectively conveyed the message of tree importance, city commitment, community involvement, and proper planting of trees.   

With a successful video project and an “A” grade, my video partner and I were honored on March 10, 2009 during a City of San Dimas City Council meeting with a Certificate of Appreciate for the creation of “Trees Please” an educational video for the San Dimas Parks and Recreation Department.  Local school children featured in the video production filled the audience with their proud parents who thanked us following the presentation for including their children in the city’s new educational content. 

The video can also be found at 


Saturday, May 30, 2009

Virtual Field Trips (VFTs)

Virtual field trip? If you’ve never heard the term, you might be wondering just what exactly a virtual field trip (or VFT for short) is all about?

Imagine having an abundance of topic related resources contained and accessible in one space.  These resources could be teleconferencing with subject matter experts, videos, images, scholarly web links, text documents, graphics, animations or a variety of learning objects.  The commonality of these resources is their relationship to a specific topic; for instance, the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park,the Aurora Borealis, the solar system, rainbows, etc… Get the idea? The sky is the limit for VFT topics. 

Elementary and middle schools are finding VFT’s to be especially effective classroom tools.  A recent article on virtual technology reports that middle school students at Hadley-Luzerne Central School, “learned about segregation by connecting with members of the Little Rock Nine, a group of blacks who in 1957 were prevented from entering the racially segregated Little Rock Central High School. The group was in Little Rock, Ark., when they met over the Internet with the Hadley-Luzerne students.”  This is an excellent example of how students can interact with the world without ever leaving the classroom.  Students are given opportunities to interact and exchange dialogue, questions, concerns and commentaries with researchers, personalities, and subject matter experts (SMEs) worldwide. 

Aside from the advantages that are opened up through virtual travel, today’s economy is yet another incentive for creating virtual field trips for the classroom.  Expenses of traditional field trips including bus rentals, drivers and rising fuel costs has already eliminated the field trip experience for many school districts.

Students at a Palm Desert elementary school are exploring the tide pools and marine environment of Crystal Cove State Park in Laguna Beach without any freeway travel. "It's just really expensive to go on field trips," says Desert Sands Unified's technology project teacher Cyndi Furr. With growing budget cuts affecting field trips, “the Park’s Online Resources for Teachers and Students (PORT Program) allows students to explore a variety of state parks for free.” There are no entrance fees to parks and museums and no fuel costs.

The budget in Fayette County, Pennsylvania hasn’t stood in the way of their students traveling the world through video conferencing. “As recession-strapped school districts trim their budget, virtual field trips are becoming more and more popular,” reports Amy Crawford of the Pittsburg Tribune-Review in an article on virtual trips for students.

Higher education is finding effective usage through VFT’s in multiple disciplines.  At the University of Arkansas virtual field trips are improving undergraduate education.  “Despite their educational value, economics and logistics have greatly reduced or eliminated the ability of instructors of greenhouse management and controlled environment agriculture to use field trips or on-site visits as educational tools…VFT's will provide a cost-effective alternative to field trips and improving learning with results of this project being enhanced learning for students in greenhouse management and controlled environment agriculture” (Evans, M. R. Cavins, T. J. Kuehny, J. S. Harkess, R. L. Greer, R. L.).




Thursday, May 28, 2009

Virtual Reality (VR)

Often when you hear the term "virtual reality" visions of helmet clad, gloved individuals interacting with multi-dimensional objects comes to mind. While that is one version of immersive virtual reality, I would like to focus today's discussion on the desktop version of virtual reality (VR).  

To create a VR, a series of photographs are stitched together.  The photos can be taken either on film or in digital format, but if film is used the negatives need to be scanned and then saved in a digital format.  Digital is much easier - trust me! I have created them both ways.  

I first started creating VR's a dozen years ago when I came to Cal Poly Pomona as the University Photographer.  The technology was extremely new. In fact, Apple had began developing QTVR's only three years earlier.  The first QuickTime VR (QTVR) was created in 1994. Apple is the forefather of panoramic technology.  Apple's QuickTime Authoring Studio was an early software used to stitch together images creating a panoramic photograph that would then be exported to a .mov format.  This interactive movie allowed users to move about within a 360• environment by using a mouse or directional keys.  Embedded "hotspots" allowed users to explore an environment, watching for the mouse to change shape indicating that something special might occur if they clicked the mouse to engage the content.  

VR technology has evolved in many ways through the years and the VR has found it's way into many facets of our lives.  Hotels and cruise ships utilize VR's to show their future patrons what their rooms might look like.  Realtor's began using VR's to better show the homes of their clients to potential buyers. With a "next best thing to being there" feel, the VR has served as a substitute, a surrogate of sorts, for those who wish to see something, experience something or travel without traveling.  

In education, VR technology presents a potential for experiencing the world without ever having students leave their computer desk.  The impact for such technology is tremendous.  Given the economic crisis that the nation is currently experiencing, VR's incorporated into virtual field trips (VFTs) significantly reduce costs of traditional field trips but offer engaging opportunities for students to be in charge of their own exploration and learning.  

VR's in a Higher Education Environment

At Cal Poly Pomona VR's have been implemented in a variety of projects:

In 2002, a team of Instructional Designers at Cal Poly Pomona were selected to work with faculty from the College of Science and students and from iPoly High School.  The resulting learning unit, Science as a Catalyst for Lifelong Learning, was featured on the new Apple Learning Interchange.  A key multimedia element on this project was the innovative use of 360• VR's.  The VRs  were linked to videos that were taken of students and faculty in the class discussing key elements.  

In 2003, the Instructional Design Studio at Cal Poly Pomona created a recruitment CD for the University called Choosing the Right University which incorporated a series of VR's into the content.  The VR's were designed to give potential freshman students an idea of what the campus looked like from an interactive perspective.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Finding Your Story

Digital storytelling  


“Digital Storytelling is 

the modern expression of the ancient art of storytelling. Digital stories derive their power by weaving

 images, music, narrative and voice together, thereby giving deep dimension and vivid color to characters, situations, experiences, and insights.”
- Leslie Rule, Digital Storytelling Association


Photography and video are two forms of the visual arts providing potential to be expressive, artful and valid forms of communication.  As a standalone, an image should tell its story without words or explanation and a well-crafted video should do the same.  To create or view a digital story, is to see the power of photography, video and words come.  To evoke emotion, passion, compassion, and thought is to effectively create a digital story. 

According to Chinese proverb, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”  Begin to combine imagery and words and you begin the journey of digital storytelling.  Merging of music, narration, and visuals is the essence of digital storytelling.

How does one find “their story”?

Joe Lambert, founder of the Center for Digital Storytelling, has seven elements to creating a story’s structure and design.

1.   Point (of View)

2.   Dramatic Question

3.   Emotional Content

4.   The Gift of Your Voice

5.   The Power of the Soundtrack

6.   Economy

7.   Pacing


Click the ELI 2008 image for tips and resources by created by Gail Matthews-DeNatale, 
Ph.D.Associate Director of Academic Technology Simmons CollegeBoston, MACopyright 2008 

Educause, a non-profit organization of educators “whose mission is to advance higher education by promoting the intelligent use of information technology,” publishes the “7things you should know about….” series.  Their document on digital storytelling has the seven basics broken down into:

  • What is it?
  • Who’s doing it?
  • How does it work? 
  • Why is it significant?   
  • What are the downsides?       
  • Where is it going? 
  • What are the implications for teaching and learning?

In my last blog I said stay tuned to learn more about digital storytelling and my photography for an educational CD project in West Africa and a virtual reality project in the Middle Eas

Digital storytelling, an interactive tool for promoting creativity, coexistence, and critical thinking, can be integrated into educational activities in a variety of settings.  I have contributed to the creation of curricular materials that helped develop educational content for women scientists in West Africa, teenagers in the Middle East, and k-20 students in the United States.

For more than ten years, I have been using my talent as a videographer, photographer, qtvr artist, and instructional designe to create projects that integrate the elements of digital storytelling within instructional content. 

International projects have taken my teams to the villages of West Africa where we worked with women scientists and to the Middle East region where we worked with teenagers on conflict resolution topics. 

As an instructional designer, I have helped to create learning experiences that incorporate storytelling, Township Theatre, poetry, song, QTVR technology, photography and art. Designing and developing projects that are interactive learning experiences, both engaging and educational, is an incredibly fulfilling career.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Photography is my passion.

For more than two decades I have had the privilege to pursue careers related to the field of photography.  This has allowed me to incorporate my education, my interests and my passion into my daily work.  I wasn’t always “focused” on photography.  Just out of high school, I thought I wanted to be a journalist but after enrolling in my first photography course at Citrus College, I was sold. I suppose I haven’t meandered to far off of that original path since I am still in a communication field, it just so happens to be visual communication instead of written communication. 

I was blessed to have my first “real” career as a photographer for a Fortune 500 defense contractor. In the Public Affairs Office of Lockheed Corporation in Burbank, I photographed the SR-71, U2, F-22 and the F-117 Stealth Fighter.  Eventually I went to the corporate office in Calabasas where I managed the corporation’s photo archives in addition to my role as Assistant Photographer in the Creative Communications group. During those years in the corporate headquarters, the subjects of our photographs expanded from “just planes” to a variety of scenes, scenarios and set-ups.  Lockheed is made up of so many diverse divisions; I was on photography assignments involving the space station model at our missiles and space division, maintenance of commercial aircraft in Arizona, and even a set-up for the child support collection division. 

Soon I found a way to combine my two passions, photography and writing.  Following a memorable photo shoot involving an all night session where we “painted” a C-130 gunship with light, I documented the process and wrote an article with accompanying photographs for Industrial Photography

Other images that I photographed during my days with Lockheed have been published in magazines like Aviation Week and Lockheed Horizons, and books such as Destination Baghdad: The Story of the F-117A Stealth Fighter.

In 1996 I left the world of corporate for a career in higher education.  In October of that year I was hired as the University Photographer at Cal Poly Pomona where I went on to create thousands of images during the next four years.  Two of my favorite projects were international projects involving digital storytelling, photography and virtual reality – all of my favorites!! 

Stay tuned for my next blog to learn more about digital storytelling and my photography for an educational CD project in West Africa and a virtual reality project in the Middle East.