Flipped Out

11 11 2009

Sometimes unusual events can produce unusual results. You never would have seen it coming, but once it happens, it all makes perfect sense.

The H1N1 virus has caused WTAMU, like all other schools and universities, to reconsider what it might do if there were a localized outbreak. We have relaxed attendance policies this semester, and also encouraged professors to look for alternate ways of delivering their course content to students in the event that they (the professor) or large numbers of students simply could not be present.

About this same time, WT has been forging a technology relationship with Cisco, including all the very cool digital signage throughout the newly remodeled Classroom Center. Among the many other items we purchased from them were 250 Flip Ultra HD camcorders. Faculty can check these out for doing whatever it takes to add video to their classes via the WTClass portal.

While I would never say it was serendipitous that the H1N1 caused us to put extremely simple yet powerful technology in the hands of the faculty, let’s just say that the time is right to plaster our classes with video. Everywhere.

In just a few days I have flipped (sorry) over my Flip Ultra HD. I’ve been shooting test clips like crazy, and plan to deploy it very soon in my courses. It is the best thing since flash drives (and only $179).

And speaking of which, that’s the guts of the machine…an 8GB flash drive that captures up to 2 hours of HD video (720p). It comes out to about 1MB per second, which is pretty “heavy” when it comes to individual files. But these files can be compressed before uploading to the web, and anyone with broadband can easily download them.

Heck, we also have the technology at WT to load the clips to our video portal, accessible to all and complete with a “media player sniffer” that automatically loads the proper video format for you…even for smartphones.

And what does the rest of the world think of these handy little pocket-sized cameras? A lot. I have now heard of TV stations assigning a Flip to all of their reporters so they might cover breaking news if the film crew hasn’t yet arrived. The video quality is so high that it’s good enough for television.

And if you have the HDMI cable, you can also connect yours straight to your TV for home viewing.

I have been teaching online since 1997, and in those 12 years about the only new product that produced as much excitement for me was my old 60GB iPod with the after-market microphone. But podcasts are now pretty lame, and the Flip picks up where the iPod left off.

I could close by saying that I’ll see you soon, but it is really the opposite. You will be seeing me. Lots of me.

Whether you’ll be flipping in the parking lot over that is open to debate, but I bet you’re at least awed with the technology. And I hope you completely viral with it.

Dr “Video Killed The Text Star” Gerlich

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