Monthly Archives: February 2010

On the topic of videos….

In some of my down/zombie time, I stumbled across chadmattandrob’s interactive YouTube videos. Being a fan of Choose Your Own Adventure books as a kid, the video concept is awesome, not to mention that these guys put quite a bit of work into these productions with the multiple options in each segment. Given my lack of video production experience, funding, and time, the possibility of creating my own is anything but possible. However, I could see this being an awesome way to work with students on different aspects of the research process, such as the query development, topic refinement processes, etc. But, if you received a grant or other form of private funding, what would you bring to interactive, YouTube life?

Film followup

As expected, the library copyright giants have stepped in to review the debate at UCLA.  ACRL Insider provided a hook for the Library Copyright Alliance’s tantalizing and detailed analysis of the case.   Having wrestled with some of this before when I researched the copyright merits of Google’s Book Project in its 2006 form, I was happy to find the familiar words and insight from writers like Jonathan Band, a major copyright analysis figure in the library world.  One of the intriguing arguments is the issue of repurposing a movie in the course environment.  For those who’ve studied film, just watching the film is only part of the experience as written assignments, background materials, etc. are also additions to the movie experience.  Therefore, the full-stream experience repurposes the work and makes the activity covered under fair use.  Other interesting arguments are made around the second element of the TEACH Act.  Although the section 110(2) stipulates “limited portions” of a work, Section 110(1) provides access to in-person full movie viewing.  While I see the logic in the argument, I just wonder if the film companies will overcome the letter of the law and allow full-streaming.

Teaching online classes with videos: Different rules for a different medium?

While reviewing the large number of unread posts in my Google Reader, I found Jessamyn’s note about the issues facing UCLA and their use of videos in online courses intriguing, both because I use videos when I teach and the new aspect of the debate regarding electronic media and online courses.   While course content — books, articles, essays, etc. — have already been well worked into online courses with the blessing of the copyright deities thanks to passwords and other protections, I have to ask  why should videos be different?  Granted, ripping a video off a VHS or DVD and uploading to the site is just obviously violating the terms of the video in the first place (the red warning screen does actually say something and is not just a small pause before a movie starts).  But, as an individual, I’ve grown accustomed to streaming my Netflix on my computer, my TiVo (if I had one), and soon my Nintendo Wii.  Many people have even grown accustomed to streaming videos from their phones thanks to YouTube.  So why shouldn’t we be trying to stream videos in online classes? Why should the copyright safeties function differently for videos (or perhaps even other multimedia) than the digitization and uploading of their print counterparts?

I don’t exactly have a lot of answers, so lets start with the questions.  Should we instead shift power over to Hulu and have students from political science and history watch select videos from the Biography channel? Should students learn about foreign traditions and cultures via Rick Steves’ Europe?  Furthermore, why are vendors like Baker & Taylor not stepping up to the plate to adjust their model of just selling DVDs to Netflix-style renting and streaming?  Other providers, such as DeepDyve, a search engine and article renter that helps provide temporary access to information for those unwilling or unable to make the full database licensing commitment, are providing fascinating alternatives to how people perceive, use, and access information and at what cost.   Couldn’t videos do the same since usually the video must be watched for a particular week or two of a class before moving on to the next topic?  Checkout options for eAudiobooks have been developed for public libraries by other vendors such as NetLibrary; so why are we struggling with videos so badly?

In short, I find the response to pull videos that are using the same protection methods as digitized print materials a wee bit extreme.  I can only hope that these other questions might help stimulate the aforementioned into some sort of action to find a better compromise than just saying no.  To hear more about the debate, I recommend looking at the Jan. 26 and Feb. 4 articles from Inside Higher Ed.

Podcasts and cell phones

So with professors and campuses moving classes online and supplementing their in-class teaching time with podcasts, screencasts, and other casts of characters, students are now adapting their own learning methods to the mobile method.  After spending almost 30 mins with a student trying to download podcasts to her smartphone, I thought a short summation or a how-to would be a nice reminder for myself and for any others who face this issue.

1) Not all phones are created equal. iPhone, Blackberry, Android, you name it, students have it but what does that mean for you, the troubleshooting librarian?  Each phone wants to have its own software running on your machine.  At our school, downloading=game ender.  Resolution: set the phone is “Mass Storage Mode.”  What this means is that a phone must have an external memory chip (apart from the phone’s own SIM or phone card) to store media, such as photos, videos, documents, etc.  In short, by activating Mass Storage Mode, you turn the phone into a larger USB drive for storing (and hopefully playing) files.  I’ve used quotes around the name because this appears to be relatively standard across platforms and is the key to step 1 in making the phone accessible to receiving files.  For those unfamiliar with smartphones or at least unfamiliar with these features, I’ve included a set of screenshots in the photo gallery below from my own device to highlight to key icons in each step of the Mass Storage Mode engagement process.

2) iTunes and slaying the DRM dragon.  So most people are podcasting on iTunes, which is great for its findability, but beware of the DRM (digital rights managment) dragon that locks downloaded podcast files into Apple’s own format, MP4.  If you have an iPhone, you should be fine with Apple’s format, but everyone else will struggle with accessing the info.  Therefore, in iTunes, you can choose to convert your files into MP3s a more open and commonly accepted music format.  To do so, go to Edit>Preferences>General>Import Settings>and change Import Using from AAC2 to MP3 Encoder. The gallery below includes screenshots of how to find the different tabs and buttons on the PC setting of iTunes.

Once you rejigger iTunes and made it bow down to your info technology power, you can download your podcasts.  If the file still comes as MP4 files, right click the file in iTunes and select “Create MP3 Version” to make a copy of the file into the MP3 format you need.