Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Movie Maker Live, No Voiceover?

Oh Microsoft, you made such significant leaps forward with the new MovieMaker Live, but one glaring problem exists. In the classroom, I’m not always going to be importing full-on video clips. Often, my students just need a great way to add photos to a movie and record their voiceover as a narrative of the visual story.  Or, perhaps I have the video, but I want to easily speak over a clip that has poor audio. You took away the easy voiceover tool in earlier versions of MovieMaker.  So let’s share a work around.

Adding A Voiceover To Movie Maker Live Projects
It’s actually pretty easy, as far as work arounds go. Record your narration in your local audio recorder, export the audio and import it into Movie Maker as a music file.  From that point, you can clip and adjust the length of still photos to match the new audio, or clip and place the audio track so that it matches the video segment that goes with it.

Audacity is my preferred audio recording tool on the pc. It’s a simple and free install. The only trick is that you need to install separately the LAME encoders so that it will export your audio as an mp3.  But even that is pretty easy.

Once installed, open Audacity and hit the little red button to record. Stop when done and go to File – Export as MP3 to get your audio Movie Make-ready.  Movie Maker will import that MP3 after you click the big ‘Add Music’ button at the top of the window.  Drag the new skinny green audio track to wherever you want the audio to be in your movie.

Movie Maker doesn’t allow multiple audio tracks. There is any audio you have with the video track and the Add Music track.  If you want to have your voice over  with a music background and the occasional frog croaking in the background, you can do all of that audio in Audacity and export it as one single audio track for Movie Maker. Audacity can have many tracks in the project, but exporting will flatten it into one.
Another thing to remember is that when adding audio to Movie Maker, you can edit the audio just like a video clip. Select the audio and then you can split the audio clip in an effort to put space between spoken sentences or such.

So, how do you use movies in your classroom?  One middle school teacher is having the students pull or capture still images that compliment their written stories and record it all as a movie.  Another teacher had students create short movies where students demonstrated what they learned during anti-bully lessons.  An easy scaffolding lesson would be to give small groups the same 3 minute video clip of a class Science demonstration. Have each group compete for the best video using text and voiceovers to show understanding. How would YOU use video in your classroom?

photo: microphone

Monday, May 2, 2011

Using QR Codes to Promote Student Publications Online!

QR, or Quick Response, codes are those square bar codes that we are seeing more in print and online media. They are read by most smart phones and can be created easily. This project utilizes them to help students promote their online publications.

Research and Write
Find places in your community that deserve some more recognition or that are easily researchable.  Using the standards for researching and report writing for your grade-level, have the students find some interesting facts and write a short historical report about their place. 

The students can support their report with student-made or free-to-use graphics found online.  Provide resource links for additional information, such as local online historical databases or town history sites.

Publish their work on a project wiki. Things to avoid:
  • 1.     Be careful to avoid advanced site tools that use Flash since the target audience for our finish project will be mobile users.
  • 2.     Don’t use small text sizes.
  • 3.     Be concise in your report writing and use clear paragraphs.
  • 4.     Don’t overwhelm the page with images and movies.
  •  If you use an image that is already online, give the owner credit at the bottom of your page.
“More Information Here” Announcement Page
Once you have the project published, the student gets to make a small QR code sheet that will be laminated and left at the historical site (with permission of course).  Design the sheet to be less than a half-sheet of paper so that it doesn’t take up lots of window space, but so that visitors see it easily.

To create the QR code, go to and type the URL of the page on your site that contains the students’ work.  (Avoid typing just the domain [] but the complete URL for their page [].)  Click the ‘shorten url’ button and you will get a short url.  NOW, click ‘details’ and you will get the QR code for this page.

You need to copy two things, the QR bar code and the link at the bottom of the page.  First, right-click on the bar code and save the image to your computer.  Alternatively, some wikis and blogs let you add images using the image’s URL. Your bar code’s URL is right below the image.

By also saving the link at the bottom, Link To This Page, you can revisit this page for this specific QR code and find out how many people have used the code to access the report page online.

When printing your QR code on the “More Information Here” page, try not to resize the image. If the image is distorted, it could keep the bar code from working well.

If you have a Google account, login before creating the QR codes.  Codes that you create while logged into your account will be tracked from the web page.  You can quickly get access to all QR codes that you have created from the home web page.

Other Ideas For QR Codes?
Share URLs In Class: One problem with QR codes in the classroom is not having enough devices that can read the QR codes. One nice stop-gap fix is to use laptops that have cameras on them.  With administrator install rights, a teacher can go to QuickMark for PC , sign up for a free login and download the software. After having the software on the laptop, the teacher displays a large version of the QR code on the Innovation Station. Student point their laptop towards the screen and the web address is recognized.

Scavenger Hunt: Setup QR codes around the room that have different answers. Students solve problems, find their answer on the wall, and the QR code could give them a right/wrong or Next Clue answer. The teacher just makes these answers as individual wiki pages and generates codes for each page needed.

The QR code industry is growing quickly. Eventually, when all kids in the class have a camera/reader, getting information out to them could be even easier.