Thursday, November 9, 2017

Baby's First Video Editor: Google Slides

Google Slides is my best friend. Really. Slides and I go way back. We've been teaching together longer than I can even remember. It's weird though, sometimes you learn something new about your best friend, and things are never the same. That's how things are between Google Slides and I since I learned about it's video editing capabilities.

That's right. Google Slides is an epic video editing tool. It's especially great for younger students. That's because slides can:
  • Embed videos directly from your Google Drive without having to upload to YouTube or other hosting sites.
  • Can be clipped down to just the segment of the video you want to share
  • You can play two videos at once to simulate "tracks". Have your video in the foreground and shrink another video in the margins that will play your background music.
  • Implement design elements like clipart, wordart, or the other tools available in Slides/Drawings to design layouts and overlays to surround your video
  • You can publish a video slide to the web so it can be shared as simply as you might share a YouTube video
Inserting a video is crazy easy. All you have to do is click Insert -> Video and find the video you'd like to work with in your Drive. 

Next, you can get into the different options you have for editing. Simply click on the video, and select the "Video options" tab above.

There's not a lot of editorial control you have here, but what you have is pretty useful. First is the clipping option. By using the "Start at/End at" functions, you can clip out sections of the video you don't want to appear in the final product. For example:

Raw File:

Edited/Published Video: 

That's useful for a multitude of reasons. First, most kids aren't one take creators. That means sometimes they are going to need to try to record a few times before they get it just right. This allows them to keep the camera running without having to worry about going back and deleting/rerecording every time they make a mistake. Also, if your students do screencasts or other recordings on their devices that require navigating or menuing during recording, this is a simple way to remove those parts of the video.

The other options you'll have available are simple enough. Autoplay when presenting plays the video automatically when the slide is in presentation mode. This can be a good idea when you are sharing a Slides video by publishing it to the web. Just send the publish to web link and you'll have a video that will start as soon as you click the link. I use this a lot, but add a title slide with directions to start the video. 

Mute audio will remove audio while the video plays. I don't use this too much since in creative tasks we have a lot of use for our audio with either dialogue, narration, or explanatory language. But there would be uses if you were wanting to record a separate track for music or narration.

By understanding these three editing tools, you can really start to do some interesting and creative things.

For example, when telling a story, you could have each slide be a different scene. Have the videos autoplay and go into presentation mode. Now you have a movie.

Since Slides doesn't let you set custom times, you can't let it let the slides auto-advance, which is a bummer. You'll need to either click through the slides yourself, or publish to the web like I did here so the viewer can navigate the scenes. It's not a perfect way to record multiple scenes, but it's a good basic start for those that aren't expert video editors.

Now let's talk about tracks. Since Slides has a free-form editor, it's possible to have multiple videos playing on a slide at the same time. For this reason, you can do stuff like this:

We have used this like you see above -- to have a background track with someone discussing what is happening in the foreground. News reports, storytelling, music videos. Again, there are tons of options.

Sync up a background track by inserting the music you want to use from a YouTube video, and shrinking the video down small enough that you can't really see it. It'll still play full audio, even if it's not visible.

Another pretty cool thing to add to the scene is using the shapes and word art to create digital settings to frame your videos. I did this in the lion video above. I have also done this to have kids create their own news channels, or just to add to the setting of a story they are telling. You should know that embedded video ignore layers, however. This means you can't put still images or shapes on top of a playing video -- it will just smash everything below and the video will set on top.

As you can see, there are tons of things you can do once you know how to mess with the video options in Google Slides. And the best part is, you don't have to be a digital media wizard. If you can record a video and edit with Google Slides, you can make some swag projects quickly and easily. It'd be great to see what you guys create with these powerful tools.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Where Are The Ideas?

Most kids these days are born digital. They live in a digital world, using digital tools, and connecting in digital environments. If we are doing our jobs right as teachers, students should also have the desire and motivation to pursue fresh and innovative ideas and create things people care about.

They have the tools. They have the ideas. Why aren't more of our students working with an entreprenurial mindset? Why aren't our kids making, designing, or marketing themselves. their ideas, or their creations? Does it have something to do with our classrooms? In a world where employers are begging for digital literacy and soft skills proficiency in the next generation of employees, we persist in asking "googleable" questions and forcing students to complete worksheets in the name of points and credit. As a result, we destroy any creativity, passion, or desire to create work students are proud of. 

If there's a solution, it's not an easy one. Most would say, "push an entrepenurial spirit" in the classroom. Teach courses on marketing and selling. Make public school business school. But to believe these are the solutions would mean ignorance to the real beauty and power of what entrepreuership is; A passion or a belief so much in your ideas that you feel the need to share them with others.

Neither Bill Gates nor Steve Jobs nor Mark Zuckerberg took a class in entrepreneurship while they were in school. They weren't taught to sell or market. It was never about making money or being efficient at managing resources. They were empowered to design and create something first, then market their idea to an audience. And the enduring truth that made their ideas reality was that they had others around them empowering their work and ensuring them that it was meaningful. I think we can take a meaningful lesson from that as teachers.

The secret to entrepreneurial mindset in our classrooms lies with indulgence. It lies with the respect of a student as a human being. It depends on supporting passion, curiosity, and talent, even when those things don't fill up columns in our grade book.

Human beings are born with the desire to create and innovate. We are also born with a propensity for socialization, to communcate and collaborate. These skills make us natural entrepreneurs. Sometimes ideas are silly. Sometimes they are crazy. Sometimes they are so stupid you don't even want to let the kid finish the sentence. But sometimes those ideas are Facebook.