Well, once I heard that the 5th generation iPod Nano had added a video camera, voice recorder, and a step-o-meter as well as dropping in price, I knew it was time to finally get two – for my school. Why for my school you ask? Well, one of my jobs is to encourage the uptake of the transformational learning that mobile and ubiquitous tech contributes to. Being able to shoot quite decent video anywhere, or record students anytime as well as storing gigabytes of podcasts, photos etc. makes this one useful tool. Add to these the ability to record your steps constantly and upload data to the web for tracking and evaluation, and you have potentially, when used within a well planned curriculum and ICT framework such as this one (Smart Classrooms), a very small and mobile, all in one learning machine.
So what did I try first? The video of course. Reportedly, the camera itself is sized only 3mm x 3mm in size. You can see the camera and microphone fitted onto the back. It took a minute to work out the best way to hold the Nano so as not to obscure the lens. Once I’d done this, I had the weird sensation of seeing a video capture window on – an iPod. Still seems hard to believe, but its just a centre button push to start and you’re off. You can watch a short clip I recorded (see link at end) to test the quality, but my opinion is, its highly useable, just make sure there is ok lighting. Video can be synced off the device in iPhoto on a Mac, or your usual photo program if on a PC.
UPDATED: I forgot to mention that the Nano has the ability to add fun effects to its videos! Applying them does degrade the quality slightly, but with careful planning, it means that videos students record can have a cinematic feel applied in device. A few people have asked if the camera can take stills, and the answer is no (its too tiny), but there’s no reason you can’t extract a still from the video once its on your computer (of 640×480 size, which is fine for student work and blogs etc).
- If you’d like a full analysis of the quality of the video, Macworld have done a comprehensive comparison of it with the Flip SD, iPhone 3GS and Kodak Zi8 HERE.
Next I tried out the voice recorder. The screens as you can see carry over from the iPhone app and functionality is just as simple as the video recording, and include the ability to come back and resume a previous recording, or to delete one you’re done with. Voice memo’s are tagged with the date and just sync over into iTunes automatically. Simple and easy, and quality again, is quite acceptable. Apparently it will also record from a plugged in mic too, something I will try out next. UPDATED: I forgot to mention that the Nano now has a built in speaker, meaning that a group of students can instantly listen to whats been recorded with no need to share headphones or plug in multiple headphones with a rockstar plug.
Lastly, I scroll-wheeled it to the new pedometer, and you can see from the pics that it allows you to set your weight for accuracy, decide if you want the pedometer to be always on, and also set a daily step goal.
The pedometer is well-tuned and only starts recording steps once you’re actually stepping, ignoring just shaking etc. The calendar is also a handy way to check you’re progress, and once plugged in to iTunes, you can further evaluate your fitness by syncing the data with the Nike+ website. Once again, its simple and brings this functionality to a whole new set of users – in my school’s case, to teachers and students.
So, I do consider this money very-well spent. I know I’ll use them extensively with my students and they will replace my 3 year old battered step-o-meter and 4 year old voice recorder very well. Even more exciting is the way it will enable me to introduce other teachers to the possibilities of mobile learning. Wish me luck!
Download sample video at actual quality by right-clicking download (ignore the non-playing quicktime icon) download (3.7mb, 11 secs).
I’ve recently had the fortune to attend major technology in education two conferences in the space of a week that featured Keynote’s from such high-profile educators as Stephen Heppell, Gary Stager, Mark Treadwell and Mark Prensky. As interesting as these were however, I’m not going to write about them here. I can probably post links to the podcasts at some stage, but what doesn’t necessarily get captured on video at these conferences is what the attendees themselves revealed about just where educators are at in this ‘time between times’ – before mobile and ubiquitous computing becomes the invisible norm, but after a time when we could sit back and wait for the digital revolution to pass on by.
So what did I observe?
Firstly, that pedagogy and learning can still be outshone by shiny technology. I saw educators flirting with software and hardware vendors rather than asking ‘where’s the research for that?’.
Secondly, that paper and pens are still ahead as notetaking tools of choice for educators, but only just. Despite one lady failing to bring a notepad or pen as “every conference always gives you free notepaper and pens”, the ratio I observed has improved to about 50:50 between pen and paper and laptops and smartphones. In fact, at both conferences, I had people comment to me that they’d never seen so many laptops at a conference. And there were a lot, at least 50% of attendees I observed were using laptops or smartphones to record their notes. Why the other 50% are even attending a technology in education conference yet still recording everything in un-taggable and un-searchable or un-sharable paper notepads (especially when at least several digital pen options are now available) is …
Thirdly, that just as the Horizon report moves mobile technology into the ‘one year or less’ zone of implementation for education, the promise of anywhere, anytime learning is starting to be taken seriously in my corner of the world. There were at least two sessions around this topic at each conference, and not only was a significant proportion (15%) of educators I observed using mobile devices to enhance their own learning, but many of them are also thinking now about how to catch up to where students are already at in this area.
Lastly, if you do want to see what the connected learners at each of these conferences were thinking and recording, many of them did actually capture it themselves. The fascinating and infinitely useful results can be found by conducting a twitter search for the tags #IWBnet09 or #SC09expo ! Enjoy.