Occasionally I find myself chatting to students or colleagues about where technology is taking us in terms of what we can use to enhance the learning environment.
At present I've bought a couple of small, mobile phone sized, camcorders produced by a company called Flip. They launched their first pocket sized camcorder a year ago, and with a staff of just 90 people now control 90% of the global camcorder market. Simplicity has been the recipe for their success. The camcorder looks like a mobile phone, has a record button, an on/off switch on the side, a nifty USB port that pops up from the top, and contains basic editing software built into the unit. This is downloaded onto a PC or Mac the first time you use it, and allows basic editing. From there it's a breeze to upload onto YouTube, MySpace and so on. The lens is fixed, the video only VGA quality (although an HD version has just been released in the States) and the aim is to use the kit for video snapshots. This is social filming, following on from where Face Book and Twitter have taken us, in terms of text based instant communication.
The Flip camcorders hold up to an hour of material, and I have to say that I am having to physically wrench the ones I bought for evaluation out of my colleagues' hands. Over in Science, they've been used to capture gravity in action, make short presentations on how Statins help reduce cholesterol, and keep records of projects in progress. They've also been used to make sports reports on team matches, while the English department are gearing up to give them a good workout next week.
What's been fascinating is how attractive the kit is to staff who wouldn't normally get involved in technology. The Flip camcorders don't look threatening, are easy to use, and the payback is instantaneous. It doesn't require great filming or editing skills, just a willingness to think imaginatively about how the kit can be deployed. Indeed, given the fact the camcorders come with a TV Out facility, some staff have used them to show experiments in action, with the luxury of having an AVI file stored for future use.
Based on a week's experience, I'm guessing we'll be placing some orders in the not too distant future.
Meanwhile, a spoof offering made me laugh at the insanity of where miniaturization is taking us. The Pomegranate Phone is a marvelous piece of inventive fun, and worth looking at. The promo video is below:
The accompanying website is even funnier, and worth a look. You can find it here.
Of course, where the satirists lead the reality is sure to follow. I'm quite interested in the opportunities presented by the Optoma Pico a ridiculously small projector, designed to accompany a smartphone, PDA, iPod, or laptop. There are definite possibilities for making instant presentations, multimedia installations and the like. I tend to get my hands on kit, start with a premise about how it can be used in an educational setting, and then see how those around me respond. The end results often aren't what I imagined they might be. But that, naturally, is the beauty of experimenting with the unknown.