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Here is my blog assignment: Explore multimedia sharing / mashup sites – and VoiceThread or Animoto.  

What is multimedia? What is a mashup? Heard of VoiceThread or Animoto?  Sound simple?  I thought not!

If you are like me, you may also not have heard of these terms in the context of Web 2.0.  I had heard of multimedia for classrooms through my work at the University over the past ten years and thought of an overhead projector and VCR or DVD machine, when I first glanced at the topic for this assignment. 

As for mashups, I instantly thought of music mashups and examples such as,

 The 1999 Eminem album The Slim Shady LP with a cappella vocals from the track “My Name Is” combined with the music of many other artists, including “Back in Black” by AC/DC, “Ice Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice.”

I needed to rethink a few things and it has taken me a great effort, over several days, but I believe I am now ready to attempt to share my considerations on the topics of multimedia and mashups, and I will then move onto considering Voicethread and Animoto in the latter portion of this blog.  Join me and let’s learn what all this new lingo is about. 

What is a mashup?  Wikipedia has several mashup definitions but the one that is particularly important to consider for this Web 2.0 discussion is the wiki page titled, Mashup (web application hybrid).  This wiki distinguishes mashups that are created for use in terms of web development and it delineates a mashup as it is often used in a Web 2.0 context:

A mashup is a web page or application that combines data or functionality from two or more external sources to create a new service. The term mashup implies easy, fast integration, frequently using open APIs and data sources to produce results that were not the original reason for producing the raw source data. An example of a mashup is the use of cartographic data from Google Maps to add location information to real estate data, thereby creating a new and distinct Web service that was not originally provided by either source.”

If we are bringing Web 2.0 tools together to exhibit on our blogs, are we mashing? Who will mash the web?  We will!  We do!  

Thinking out loud: If you are you using a widget or embedding content from outside of your blog?  Then aren’t you creating a mashup? 

I believe, if we are blogging about Web 2.0 tools, we are likely making a mashup!  If we are bringing new applications into our blogs then we are likely mashing (making a mashup).  I am sure this may be seen as a stretch of the definition but if wikipedia’s definition of a music mashup is “a song or composition created by blending two or more songs” and mashup web applications occur by “creating a new and distinct” service that was not provided by either service when they were stand alone services, then I think we might just be doing a whole lot of mashing in our blogs, and in our social networks.  My blog is no longer just a stand alone application that exhibits my writing but it also shows off my blog tags with the addition of a tagging widget in my sidebar that is updated when I make each post.  When I am creating my blog at home I have an add-on, Zemanta, that recommends articles, tags, and other content as I create my blog.  I never really paid attention to it before now and only used it for the it’s feature of automatically generating additional resources at the end of each blog.  For this blog, I see there are mashup articles and so I have marked two that seem related to this topic and you should find the links to them in my blogpost; one is titled, “Mashups are groovy baby” and the other is “Best New Mashups: Guardian, Pandora, and Android.”

In the Web 2.0 realm then, I will define a mashup as a “composition created by blending two or more”  web tools, such as a blog with and some other online service, such as Zemanta and declare that when I am blogging and using another Web 2.0 tool/service with, in, on or through my blog, then I must be mashing and creating something new and distinct?  If my logic is not faulty, my classmates are mashing too becuase each one of them has some form of add-on that they have introduced into their blogs.  Their blogs, like mine, began as stand alone entities.  Most everyone who blogs is mashing.  We are all mashing the web! 

 Blog on, and mashup, fellow blogger mashers!

Next: what is multimedia? And what the heck is multimedia sharing?

It is what we are already doing in our blogs and in this course.  When we combine different forms of media and content we are defining multimedia!  We are combining content and looking at different forms of media.  Wikipedia defines multimedia as,

media and content that uses a combination of different content forms. The term [multimedia] can be used as a noun (a medium with multiple content forms) or as an adjective describing a medium as having multiple content forms. The term is used in contrast to media which only use traditional forms of printed or hand-produced material. Multimedia includes a combination of text, audio, still images, animation, video, and interactivity content forms.” 

Multimedia is what we are combining and bringing into our blogs. If you are blogging, I would bet you are using multimedia.

From Wikipedia here are some examples of individual content forms that might be combined in multimedia: 

Wikipedia’s definition of how multimedia usage is occurring in education is that

In Education, multimedia is used to produce computer-based trainingcourses (popularly called CBTs) and reference books like encyclopedia and almanacs. A CBT lets the user go through a series of presentations, text about a particular topic, and associated illustrations in various information formats. Edutainment is an informal term used to describe combining education with entertainment, especially multimedia entertainment.  Learning theory in the past decade has expanded dramatically because of the introduction of multimedia. Several lines of research have evolved (e.g. Cognitive load, Multimedia learning, and the list goes on). The possibilities for learning and instruction are nearly endless.”

What we are already creating and discussing multimedia  in our blogs and as I argued above, our blogs are also a mashup.  We are not just moving beyond “traditional” forms of hand produced media but we are moving beyond one medium when we provide links to follow, content that has or is taken up in multiple forms of media, and content that can be interacted with by people.  We are using multimedia and we mashups. 

We are mashing.

We are using multimedia,  just see my embedded videos below.  

We are actively creating Web 2.0! 

We are the web! 

We are multimedia mashing! 

Silly? Profound?  I say no; after all we are sharing, collaborating and mashing up the web!  Let’s move forward together and continue the positive relationship and knowledge building – let’s mash on!

When looking for research or resources on the topic of multimedia sharing I was not very successful in finding much material, and when I searched instead on the topic of multimedia and education most of the material was quite dated.  For instance, I found a site titled Suite 101 that has a list of “latest articles” on multimedia education with the most recent article listed being from 2005 and the discussions on this site are even more dated. I did come across one site that looks rather fruitful: an extensive resource list of multimedia resources for educators and students can be found at the Utah Education Network website.  This lengthy list of resources for use in multimedia presentations includes sections covering, multiple media, sounds, pictures, video, music and more.  The site also has several links to online powerpoint tutorials and I even found a link to thousands of free powerpoint presentations, on hundreds of topics for educators. I took a look at the free powerpoints on miscellaneous business topics and found that there are topics included that I might be able to examine when it comes time to review our Cooperative Education seminars and workshop topics, such as the presentation on the topic of networking. 

With one lucky multimedia sharing find, I decided to turn to the next segment of the assignment and started exploring both VoiceThread and Animoto to decide on the direction for the remainder of my blog.

We had a choice to explore Voicethread or Animoto and I started by taking a closer look at both.  VoiceThread is billed on its homepage as a “powerful new way to talk about and share your images, documents, and videos” and all you really need to get started using this Web 2.0 technology is to visit the site’s tutorial, What’s a Voice Thread Anyway.  The tutorial is a great link to this multimedia gem and it provides a very good overview of this easy to use program.  For practical examples from a post-secondary context, visit the Voicethread 4 Education wiki’s College page where you will find voicethreads that were created by students in distance learning, college courses, as part of an icebreaking activity to have the members of the course introduce themselves.  The VoiceThread webpage for higher education solutions suggests several uses for this tool, “Whether it’s Distance Learning or adjunct coursework, a VoiceThread allows educators to use a single tool to host secure conversations around almost any type of media, whether it’s videos, documents, images, or presentations. Present course materials within a rich, online environment that fosters a warmer and more engaging dialogue around ideas and concepts.”

It has been a pleasure considering and becoming familiar with Animoto.  

Brought to you by film & TV producers, Animoto turns your images into exquisite video pieces in just minutes.  You won’t believe it til you try it. Fast, easy, and free to sign up (from the homepage, http://animoto.com/).”

The application is gracefully simple to use and produces amazing results.  It has expertly created and packaged tools that make my picture slideshows look exceptionally professional, and with the ability to add music the application brings my amateur photography to life by turning photos into an action video – I love Animoto! Creating a video was quite simple and if you have photos stored somewhere online or on your computer, you can likely have a video up just as quickly as I did.  I used pictures from a facebook folder for 3 of the videos and pictures from my hardrive for another.

Animoto guides you along the way step-by-step and like so many of these web 2.0 technologies there is really no need for me to need to guide you or give you a detailed “how to” tutorial and instead I will give you my examples and set you loose!  Have fun and I am confident that you will master these programs in no time!  If you do want a quick tour and tutorial there is an Animoto tutorial on SchoolTube.

I created four videos so far, and posted them all to my YouTube channel (another Web 2.0 first for me – I now have a video channel, wild!).  I have also gone ahead and embedded two of the videos here for you so that you can readily see the possibilities:

This Animoto created video is compiled of photos I took around the University of Alberta campus when it was in full bloom.  I titled it, Take a walk in spring on campus, and used the export function in the toolbox to send it to my YouTube channel.  

Another video that I created is from images that I captured just this past May in Florence, when I had some free time to explore Tuscany before attending archaeological field school to take part in graduate coursework with the University of Alberta’s Cortona project and I explored Tuscany in my free time.

 

Florence is a must see location on any tour of Tuscany! Taste the gelato, mingle in the market crowds and enjoy the magnificent Italian arts and culture that surround you!

You can also view two other videos if you have the time, both are also only around 30 seconds in length each, Ossaia La Tufa  in the heart of Tuscany Italy is the place to be for all things archaeology! The Cortona field school through the University of Alberta rocks – dig it!  Florence, just the start of my time features more Florence moments.  

The Animoto toolbox allows you to share by multiple methods, including sharing your videos to your wordpress blog, facebook, twitter and more.  From the toolbox you can also edit or remix your video and I am thankful for this option since I made a spelling error in one of my first videos but was able to go in and edit the text before finalizing again and sharing to YouTube.  Not only can you edit but you can remix your professional looking Animoto videos until you are happy with your masterpiece. The toolbox export feature is great as is the sharing feature. You can post online, Youtube it, and share in multiple other ways.  There is an option to create a greeting card in your toolbox although currently the only choice, at least in the free account, is to make a Father’s Day greeting card, so I cannot really make further comment on this tool, it is too early to make a card for my father or husband; I would likely forget all about it by next June.  When preparing for a family wedding last summer, there was a powerpoint slideshow put together from pictures of the bride’s and groom’s childhood and at that time I was immensely impressed with how well it worked but now that I have discovered Animoto, going back to slideshows would be like returning to communicating with a fax machine after becoming proficient with email.  For personal use, there is no going back, I am an Animoto fan and supporter! 

Brisco (2009) included Animoto in the School Library Journal’s list of the 2008-2009 10 Best digital resources.  Brisco noted that with so many innovative products on the market this year it was a difficult task to narrow the list to the top 10 and here is why Brisco chose Animoto:

Animoto may have single-handedly resuscitated the art of booktalking. It allows users to quickly mix book-cover images, photos, text, and music to create a 30-second online video that will definitely grab the attention of most middle or high school students. Aside from the obvious uses of Animoto to create interest in books, library programs, or activities, this program can also be easily used with students without requiring instructors to have any previous experience with video-production software. While the cost is extremely low for individual accounts (free for a short 30-second video or $30 for a yearlong subscription, allowing for more creative expression and longer videos), educators can utilize the program free by creating classroom accounts, if they also provide Animoto creators with input into how the product is being used by their students. As one of the more eye-catching and easy-to-use programs available in this remixed 2.0 world, this is a definite must-have, must-share tool for every school librarian’s toolkit. (Reviewed July 2008, p. 64.)” 

A Learning & Leading with Technology article (2008) also raves about this recently created new Web 2.0 tool, and describes Animoto for Education as:

A new video-production tool just tor teachers.  It’s designed to allow K-12 teachers unlimited access to Animoto’s standard and premium services, including online tools to quickly and easily create exciting, dynamic videos for the classroom. The program is designed to “think” like an actual director and editor. It is designed to analyze and combine images and music with the same post-production techniques used in TV and film. Teachers can upload their images, pick a song, and Animoto produces the video in minutes (p. 45)”

In regards to how I might use Animoto for work, I can imagine using 30 second Animoto videos to include in power-point presentations.  They would be ideal for enhancing any power point presentation and could add both a professional and engaging dimension to any work related presentation.  With the easy and free access they could also be used as a tool for engaging students.  We could challenge students to create and submit either short promotional clips either about their workplace or about general Co-op topics that we could highlight in our presentations, seminars, workshops and of course, online.  One of the main limits I see with the free version of Animoto is that taking this tool much further forward for presentations seems very limited with only a minor ability to include text it would be difficult to bring much depth into presentations but that may not be the case in the Animoto for Education version or the Animoto Business versionand you could always include screenshots and turn them into jpeg’s for loading in place of photographs and hope that the mix comes out legible – hey, if it doesn’t at least you can remix until you find something you are happy with.  As well, in looking at the case studies there is also no capacity for introducing audio other than music for the videos.  

My Animoto account will be active for another 183 days and at that time or anytime before, I can purchase an all-access Pass, 1-year Subscription $30 which will allow me to create unlimited full-length video creations for one full year.  Once I am done my Master’s degree this summer, and work settles down after the beginning of fall term, I can see myself subscribing to explore the full potential of this program.  As mentioned, there is also the Animoto for Educationversion and I have completed the application for that access and eagerly wait for their response, after all I support their statement that with Animoto, “It takes just minutes to create a video which can bring your lessons to life.”  I will be sure to let you know the outcome and will also share about any costs that might be associated.

For a tool that can capture the attention of an audience, Animoto is a sure fired winner and once you have your students attention you can proceed to the meat of your message; you will have a captive audience!

References

Brisco, Shonda. School Library Journal, 10 Best Digital Resources. Jun2009, Vol. 55 Issue 6, pp. 36-37, (AN 41042200). Retrieved from Academic Search Complete July 29, 2009.

Learning & Leading with Technology, What’s New.  Nov2008, Vol. 36 Issue 3, p44-46, 3p, 8 color; (AN 35428095).  Retrieved from, Database: Education Research Complete July 29, 2009.

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