Thursday, November 30, 2017

Clips in live presentations about using Clips in and out of the classroom


I've written before about using Apple's Clips app to create a variety of types of videos (including trailers and jigsaw microlectures) to drive student interaction and to help them understand the importance (or relevance) of material. Some relevant posts are:

Today, I gave a presentation about the use of videos in (and out of) class to engage students. My audience was the Directors of Educational Technology in California Higher Education (DET/CHE) 2017 conference. I took advantage of this opportunity to demonstrate a new (to me, at least) use of Clips in live presentations.

Why Clips?


Although I wanted lots of platform time to give my presentation, I was only afforded a ten-minute lightning talk (but thanks to DET/CHE for accepting my application and offering even that much time!) Now, I assume I'm not alone in feeling a bit of stress and nervousness before I give any sort of presentation, especially to this many people with such a wide background (a relative handful of faculty; mostly administrators, technical staff, and instructional designers). However, my nervousness is not about speaking in front of large groups (which I actually really enjoy…) - the only real source of concern I have is that I keep to my allotted time! I have a tendency to let my remarks run long…
Panorama of the audience in the ballroom

Another challenge (which I didn't know about beforehand, but should have learned to expect at conferences, by now) is that the ballroom projects to two screens. I always find this awkward for presentation, because I have a tendency to want to use a LASER pointer to point out specific items on my slides. However, in the "dual screen" conundrum, one has to favor pointing on one screen (and thus only to half of your audience). Talk about the "digital divide!"

Panorama of the audience view of the front of the ballroom

Why Clips?

Yes, and…

My feeling was that Clips could help me address both obstacles.
  • I would create my presentation media in Clips, by recording all of my pre-prepared slides into a single Clip, and then export it as a movie file that I would play as a projected video during my live presentation. Because of the ability to control the lengths of individual component videos of a Clip, I would have control over how much time I could spend on each topic (slide) I wanted to cover, and thus be able to fine-tune the total length of my presentation to fit within my ten minutes.
  • As my presentation is on the use of videos in the classroom, I also wanted to demonstrate the abilities of Clips itself. So, not only did building the original video in Clips make sense, but it also allowed me to demonstrate Clips features that are difficult to incorporate into one, seamless, presentation: like adding posters and stickers. So, by pre-recording my Clip to be my projected presentation material, I was able to add in those elements. Critically, this helps with the "dual screen" conundrum, because all of those graphic elements added in Clips to help provide contextual information and to highlight specific parts of slides are projected along with the video itself - so both sides of the room get the same animated presentation.
  • Another benefit is that, if you are nervous and shaky with a LASER pointer when you give presentations, this approach avoids the need to use such a pointer, even if you are only projecting to a single screen. Also, if you are presenting on flatscreen TVs (for example), on which LASERs don't show, this is the perfect solution: do all of your "pointing" within Clips!


Before the Presentation

  1. Create slides in PPT (static graphics); export each slide as its own image
  2. Locate any existing video material (like Clips!) that you want to incorporate into your presentation
  3. Move those graphics into your Photos library to access from Clips
  4. Record (and voiceover) each slide image and movie within Clips - this ensures that you record the appropriate length of time for each slide or movie for you to be able to provide live oral remarks when you replay the Clip to your audience and provide your live comments at the time.
  5. Export the completed Clip as a video to your Photos library

During the Presentation

  1. Connect your iOS device to projection
  2. Launch Clips
  3. Access the exported video of your Clip in your Photos Library
  4. Make sure live captioning is enabled but doesn't display in real time as you speak (mis-translation during your live presentation might be distracting, I've found…)
  5. Start recording (using the recording lock is a good idea, so you don't have to hold the "Record" button with your finger during your entire presentation!)
  6. Speak as the movie imports into Clips - deliver your remarks as the movie runs


When you export your Clip as a movie, make sure that your live titles are hidden, so that they don't appear on the video while you're speaking. That way, when you say something different than you did when you originally recorded the clip, it isn't obvious to the audience!

Drawbacks to Clips for live presentation

You must download your Clip movie to your Photos Library in advance - do a dry run of using Clips for presentation before you go live - that way you won't have to wait for the video to download and load before you can begin!
If you think you won't have internet access on your iOS device for live presentation, then you can't live caption. In that case, one workaround is to use a different device to record your audio while you present, and then use that audio track, played into the speaker of the iOS device running clips, to "live caption" the presentation later.
The visual format of the Clips app does not have a "presentation view" (nor should it, as this isn't its function), so the audience sees all of your Clips screen in a live presentation/recording approach. A related issue can be that the square format of a Clips video might project in too small a format for audience viewing, depending on the set-up of your presentation space. This issue with format is currently compounded by relative little user control over font size in Clips-generation banners, stickers, and the like.

Alternative solutions that don't involve Clips:

  • Keynote and Powerpoint can do timed slides and embedded video
  • Instead of using Clips for the actual presentation, one can simply play the exported movie in full-screen mode (this is a "cleaner" look, as it doesn't involve projecting the Clips user interface along with your content).

Is using Clips efficient for live presentation?

After I created my slides (in PowerPoint), it didn't take me long (maybe an hour) to create the ten-minute clip, and perhaps another half-hour to edit the live captions - mostly adding punctuation, which doesn't automatically happen.

A side benefit of preparing the presentation in advance is that you can export the live-titled (captioned) video to your favorite social media site to share with the world before you even give your presentation! I even opted to share the YouTube URL for the presentation at the end of my talk! (

As a final aside, I also used Clips to create trailers to promote attending my presentation:

Since my presentation this morning, I've been receiving feedback from colleagues about the apparent power of Clips and the multiple ways I use videos (especially those made with Clips) in higher ed to engage students. With the help of Clips, my lightning talk turned out to be enlightening to my peers!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Universal Design for Assessments w/Technology (UDAT)

And, like that, in my blog post title, a new acronym is born.

I had a fantastic meeting this afternoon with one of Fresno State's SSD (Services for Students with Disabilities) staff. Without divulging too much detail, I have a student who approached me in confidence about a disability (reported to me as dyslexia, although I'm not sure that was a formal medical diagnosis) that the student hoped I would be able to accommodate.

At the time, I felt torn. I pride myself in being as equitable as possible, so I immediately started thinking about how I might accommodate disabilities in a fair manner.

I feel absolutely fortunate that we have such caring SSD staff (as well as faculty) who are invested and committed to helping students succeed. Today I learned (and am sharing) a couple of points about Universal Design for Learning (UDL) that might also be useful to you!

Briefly, my student mentioned that it helps to be able to read exam questions out loud, which is clearly something that isn't feasible in a traditional lecture classroom-style written exam. So, feel like I have a few options if I want to accommodate this approach. One I'll rule out, and I'll explain the others further. My hope is that, every time you design a student assessment, you'll consider (as is a premise of UDL) pro-actively adopting the couple of viable options I'm about to describe.

1) Write multiple versions of an exam
No, I don't promote this. It is a lot of work, but more critically (I feel), there is no way to write multiple exams that fairly (and critically) assess students. Sure, you could write multiple-choice items in which you switch the order of answers, but because I avoid multiple-choice tests like the plague, I'm not comfortable with this approach. A similar, but more practical approach, might be:

2) Write "choose-your-own-adventure" exams
This approach is also not equitable, but I'm a bigger proponent of this than writing and distributing (randomly) multiple exam verisons. I like the idea of writing one section of an exam in which a student is presented with a few different questions (all worth the same number of points and assessing the same concept), where the student selects and answers one question. This can give students with learning disabilities the option to pick the question format that they're most comfortable answering. No, this isn't perfect (and there is, of course, no panacea for treating all types of learners equally), but it seems like a reasonable approach.

3) Write UDL exams!
I realized today that, in a course like I teach, which is specifically designed to incorporate mobile technology, there are some readily available approaches I can use to make life easier for the huge variety of students I have in my classes. In this specific case, I know that many students with dyslexia can benefit from hearing a question read aloud and/or having the student's response read aloud. This might not be practical in the traditional testing situation, in which many students are seated in the same room, and every effort is made to reduce distractions, including noises other students might make (including reading aloud to themselves!) Fortunately, I'm in a situation where I can reasonable inform students that they can bring headphones to exams and use their mobile devices to use text-to-speech software to read the questions in the PDF exam to them. I've never thought to mention to students that, with digital materials, these sorts of approaches are available. And, as is the principle of UDL, making such approaches available doesn't just benefit students with documented learning disabilities. Everybody can potentially benefit from having such options open to them!

In conclusion, I urge you to reflect on the exams you prepare. Ask yourself not only "Are they accessible?", but "How much do I explicitly demonstrate to students how they can use technology to enrich assessments (and not just learning, as many of us focus on in class!)?" 

As my SSD staff member noted today, some accommodations are legally required for students, but we would do best to help them learn how to advocate and find solutions for their disabilities that can be used beyond the boundaries of academia. Once they graduate, they'll be fending for themselves in the workplace, and we will do them a valuable service if we can help students with learning disabilities establish and practice their own methods of accommodating their disabilities!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Course Materials: Faculty vs Textbook Publishers (& Faculty?!?)


I am in need of professional succor! In a bout of irony, it was during open-access week, which concludes today, that my considerable efforts to reduce costs for course materials to students in the California State University (CSU) system have been assaulted. My goal here is to share the issue at hand and, hopefully, to collect your feedback and perspectives!

The Background

Being one of the largest institutions of higher education in the world, the CSU system, which serves a huge number of financially disadvantaged students, has a number of programs that emphasize reducing the total cost of education, particularly with regard to course materials. These include Merlot, Affordable Learning Solutions (AL$), and others, with other CSU programs supporting them (e.g. @courseredesign, @cool4ed @courseredesign, @affordableCSU on Twitter).

We also have local initiatives, like Fresno State's "Be a Hero" campaign to promote faculty-bookstore communication, which helps give our bookstore time to research alternative (lower-cost) materials and to ensure that orders can be placed far enough in advance to get the best price on materials.

Over the last couple of years, as part of Fresno State's 1:1 mobile technology initiative, called DISCOVERe, and also as a faculty cohort lead in the CSU Course Redesign with Technology program, I have been working to adopt Open Educational Resources (OER):

  • I record course materials as videos for students to watch before class
  • I develop my own exercises for students to use to practice class concepts
  • I supplement these resources using OpenStax textbooks. These are open-access PDF textbooks that my students can download and use as references.

Doing this, I saved my students over $11,000 in expenses this semester alone.

The Challenge

While celebrating my intellectual contribution to my field and these cost savings for my students, I received an e-mail from a former student. The student had transferred to a different CSU campus and requested my course syllabus. The student's major department at the new campus wanted to evaluate the content of the class to see how/whether it articulated with their requirements.

To my disbelief, after I provided the syllabus, the student later sent me an e-mail response from the department. They made two main points:

  • The OpenStax textbooks I listed on my syllabus aren't suitable as upper-division textbooks: "The texts for the course aren’t genetics texts, but, rather, fairly basic online biology texts that we might use to teach our freshman-level core biology class."
  • That, although I provide much more detail in class (as evidenced by lecture capture videos, course exercises, exams, etc.), it would take too much work for the new campus to assess the quality of my instructor-created OER to accurately measure whether my upper-division genetics class would substitute for theirs: "The content has also not been demonstrated to be equivalent, but the level of verification this would require is more appropriately done at the university level. Faculty don’t have the time to do a point-by-point articulation between the two courses." It would be unreasonable to ask the faculty at the new campus to watch my lecture videos to do this sort of articulation assessment.

So, in the short-term, I might be saving students money, but am I doing them a favor? Now this student has to pay to retake a class.

The Call to Action

I was taken aback. Now that I've had a week or so to reflect, I'm still puzzled by this response from a sister CSU campus. I can understand that perhaps the individual faculty who responded aren't on board with our system's emphases on reducing course materials costs, or they don't want to take the time to evaluate the rest of my course materials (which I can understand). Regardless, this anecdote raises a larger issue that I think we must all, ultimately, address through discourse:

  • Should the choice of textbook used in a class be the sole determinant of whether units transfer? more broadly
  • Should the choice of textbook, alone, represent the quality, "depth of content," and rigor of a class?

Using the choice of textbook itself to deny my former student the ability to avoid re-taking a course borders on ludicrous. If this is how it is going to be, then I'll just put the latest and most expensive "real" textbook on my syllabus, just so it is listed there. After all, just because materials are listed on my syllabus as required doesn't actually guarantee that any student has actually purchased the textbook, much less cracked it open and used it!

Ultimately, I believe that this isolated encounter means we need to take action. This event might indicate a broader perspective in higher education about the importance of which textbooks are used in classes. Please consider informally reaching out to as many of your colleagues as you can to help inform our profession about:

  • the value of blended learning (flipped classrooms) and instructor-created course materials
  • the concept that lecturing from a textbook is not the only (nor the best) method of helping students learn

Finally, please remind them of how much course materials cost our students, and that adopting OER is a useful method of helping students afford to earn a college degree!