In my last entry I mentionned our new ‘media centre’ in the Fab Lab. It all sounds very grand and terribly expensive, however this is not the case! Yes, we do have a digital video camera as part of our media centre toolkit, but that is the most expensive piece of kit. The camera also has associated equipment along with it – tripod, microphone etc. The children make regular use of the video camera to support class work, peer assess, or just to become more familiar with the technology.
In addition to the digital video camera kit, we have a small handheld camera called a ‘Digital Blue Moviemaker’ – it costs about £70, and you can get it from most of the main ICT suppliers. It’s a fantastic piece of kit, suitable for use from Pre5 right through the school. In fact, it was Catherine from Bowmore who showed me the camera, and she has been using it with her Pre5 children. It is shaped like a speed gun (sorry, it’s the only comparison I can think of!), and is very simple to operate. It can be used whilst connected to the computer, or on its own, but it does not have a long battery life.
The most appealing part of this camera is its associated software. The children can take some footage with the camera and incorporate all sorts of backgrounds, sounds and moving images. P1/2 were playing with it and we made a sea monster movie, complete with a ‘kraken’ like creature and sound effects. The whole process took about 40 minutes, and the children were showing their movie to other classes.
I had a laptop that didn’t work properly – the screen no longer works. I also had a big 19” monitor, so I have plugged the monitor into the laptop and have allocated it to the ‘Digital Blue’ camera. This way the camera is always accessible to the children and we are making best use of ICT equipment available to us.
Another natty wee piece of kit is the Logitech Webcam. Ian Stuart from Islay High first showed me this camera. It is extremely affordable at about £35, and is great fun to use with the children. It can take still images and movies and is fairly portable. The most exciting part of the kit is that its software calibrates your face and you can choose to become an animation within your movie. There are all sorts of choices but our children’s favourites are the alien, the cat and the shark.
There are all sorts of benefits from using this wee webcam; one being that the children can be totally anonymous on film. We intend to explore the use of this camera and uploading small snippets of film onto some of our school blogs.
Another benefit is that children can become different characters and so lose their inhibitions whilst ‘in character’. I saw a little girl who has significant behavioural issues. She also has a very low self esteem. She thoroughly enjoyed using this camera and software and was happy to show her film to the rest of the class.
One point to make is that both cameras required fairly new machines to work on – I tried the webcam on a Windows 98 machine and it laughed at me. You may want to think about that when ordering. Both my cameras are on machines with Windows XP.
In addition to the above equipment I have a digital stills camera available for the children to use, a printer and helpcards which I downloaded from the internet – a site called town4kids, which explains different aspects of working with digital media.
I also made up a story board template for our children to use which helps them focus in on the movie to give it a beginning, middle and end.
The children have been dabbling in the media centre, and they love the Digital Blue movie maker. It will be interesting to see how far they go with this.