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!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Active Learning Week meets Clips

As I've mentioned here before, my campus' 1:1 program is not Apple-centric. So, I've mainly focused my efforts on developing ways for faculty to use their iOS devices to benefit students. I'm currently a co-leader of a California State University (CSU) faculty cohort working to augment courses with technology (the CSU CRT program). I recently led a videoconference with my cohort (using Zoom) that focused on various ways to use videos in (and around) class. Of course, I featured Clips! This despite many of the faculty in my cohort not being in 1:1 mobile device programs or classes.
One of the reasons I was inspired to focus one of our cohort meetings on Clips is because I had just used Clips to generate a video to celebrate AAC&U's Active Learning Week. This annual event, which just passed, is organized by Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL) and hosted on the STEM Central website. Briefly, the goal each year is to have teachers sign an online pledge to incorporate one active learning exercise in a STEM class (and this year, they added the goal of making that activity culturally responsive).
It just happend that, around Active Learning Week, I was scheduled to be at the annual conference of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), which meant I would miss one day of my genetics class at CSU Fresno.

Yes, and…

Being digitally inclined, I had already been planning on leaving my students digital activities to work on in my absence; then I decided to up the ante and also be available on Zoom for my students to consult.
Another (optional) part of the Active Learning Week pledge is to create a video to showcase one's activity. This is where I knew that I had to use Clips - both to generate my class activity, and also to promote it!

Active Learning with Clips: Jigsaws

I've already written a blog post about using Clips for jigsaw activities, so I won't duplicate that information here. I'll just point out that it is fantastic that I can be states away from my class and still create a few short videos for different groups of students to watch and become content experts in.
puzzle piece fitting in jigsaw title.jpg
In this class, the topic of the day was "genetically modified organisms" (GMOs). So, I made a few Clips introducing different potential GMOs. My students were tasked first with developing their own definition of a GMO. Then, each student watched one Clip and then shared that information with students who watched the other two Clips:
Their group task was to determine whether any of the examples in the Clips above met (or did not meet) their definition.

Using Clips to Advocate using Clips

Clips made a fantastic platform for me to create in-class, interactive material for my students even when I wasn't present. It also allowed me to create a video showcase of the process. Please watch it here!
And so, this is the process I described to my course redesign faculty cohort. If you're interested, you can watch my presentation and the ensuing discussion here:


As a result of:
  • using Clips to create jigsaw videos, and then
  • performing synchronous online videoconference during a class meeting, and then
  • using Clips to create a video about the process

I encountered a few…opportunities:
  • It turns out, it is a good idea to put the "Do not disturb" sign on your hotel door if you don't want housekeeping to work on your room during class
  • I thought an efficient and productive strategy would be to wait until my travel home to create the Active Learning Week video summarizing my use of Clips to coordinate active learning, in my physical absence. I learned a few additional things I'd like to share:
  • An airplane flight is a great time to go back and edit live caption text (especially if you remembered to bring headphones)
  • It is difficult to get a clean audio recording when doing live caption voiceovers on light rail or when sitting at the gate (unless you really want to have the gate agent's voice in the background)
  • For some reason, even though I had already downloaded all of the posters and soundtracks and other Clips media, I had to do so again (in the absence of wi-fi)…I'm still trying to figure this one out. Maybe Clips had auto-updated, and new versions of Clips require those media to be downloaded again?

Next year, let's all participate in Active Learning Week (even if you don't teach a STEM discipline!)

Monday, October 23, 2017

Active Learning Week 2017: Online Instruction & Video Jigsaws

For the second year in a row, the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL) is hosting a focus on Active Learning in STEM classes. This year's Active Learning Week has two focuses. First, as last year, the goal is to have faculty employ active learning in the classroom. This year, an added request is that the activity be culturally responsive.

Last year, I participated, and I prepared a video about my active learning day approach.

This year, I am away at a conference, so I am leveraging Active Learning Week as an opportunity to use technology to help students have several active learning experiences in my absence. Briefly, I designed activities (and instructions) for students to follow in my absence, particularly involving group work (using the jigsaw approach), and my students and I also teleconferenced using the Zoom platform.

I simply want to use this opportunity to show you the basic framework of how I did this and to tout the successes of this approach. With significant advance planning (indeed), I was able to hold class when not physically present with my students. There are definitely some deficits with such an approach, as some of my students later pointed out in an exit survey. Despite some shortcomings, as a first attempt, I feel that I am developing a useful and pedagogically appropriate approach for marrying mobile technology and active learning to help students become self-directed learners.

2017 Active Learning Week Video

Please watch the video I prepared for AAC&U's Active Learning Week to showcase these efforts and to explain how it was all done! Enjoy this new video:

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

CPU #4: The Real World

The problem: I often talk about techniques and "real-world" practices in class, but we don't often have (i.e. I don't often make) time to go into details.
Yes, and…

Clips Power Use (CPU) #4:

Use a video to let students access the hidden world! I've spent the last week (or so) in class describing an experimental technique in genetics, but I can't (unfortunately) invite all 75 of my students in my lab to participate in, or even watch, this type of experiment. So, I used a video to bring the experiment to them! I used my phone to record video of me performing the experiment, then edited out the "fluff." I edited the resulting video segments into my photo library, and then imported into Apple's Clips app. I added Posters and animated icons, and had a great and fulfilling time doing it all!
As always, a key benefit of creating videos is not only having an engaging element to share with students, but I can use this video in the future. For example, when I bring students into my research group on campus, I'll ask them to watch this before we proceed with training in how to perform this technique!
As I've suggested before, I branded this new series of videos with an intro bumper that I can use in every video I create - and the video and audio will be exactly the same.
Have fun with your videos!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

CPU #3: Jigsaw + Clips = Engagement

Classroom issues opportunities
1) There is only one of me (instructor)
2) There are about 75 of them (students) - which can equate to disengagement

Classroom resources
1) A large, auditorium-style classroom
2) We all have mobile, internet-enabled devices

In our campus' 1:1 tablet program (platform agnostic: we have Apple, Windows, and Android devices) that is pretty steadily moving toward a BYOD (bring your own device) program, we faculty have been making a significant push toward ensuring that we focus on the pedagogy, leveraging mobile technology when appropriate. We often refer to the SAMR model, and hope not simply to Substitute electronic processes for paper processes, but to hit the Redefinition end of the course augmentation with technology spectrum. Here, one hopes to leverage technology to do something that one could only do with that technology.

This past weekend, I was struck with the idea that I should do something physically active in my class. Not just "active learning" in the sense that students are talking with each other and participating in applying knowledge to problems during class. In my 75-minute class, I realized that I needed students actually up and moving about! So, I tried Modifying the jigsaw approach. In a jigsaw exercise, small groups of students are formed. Then, each student is tasked with becoming an "expert" in one of a few topics necessary to solve a bigger problem. The students must then come together, after that initial learning experience, and share their new knowledge with each other. Then, the group works to solve the problem. This amplifies my reach, and engages the students, especially in large class sections. It helps them by allowing them to interact with each other, and to leverage each other as resources to help understand sometimes complex concepts.

I've heard a lot about jigsaws before, but I've never run a jigsaw in a class before. So, of course, I thought I'd take two steps at once. I'd use Clips to create the content that would provide each group member their own tidbit of expertise.

So, in a couple of hours, I developed some graphics to use as part of those videos, and I created three Clips that introduced three related topics relevant to DNA fingerprinting and the genetic differences between ethnic groups. This is the material that individual group members will access to become content experts. Here is one of those clips:
Note that I followed my previous advice and used Posters as transition elements: to summarize points and to inform the viewer of what topic is coming up next. I also used the animated icons to highlight specific elements of the video.
The next question I considered was: how to execute the jigsaw. I settled on the following pre-class set-up:
1) upload the three content Clips to YouTube
2) generate a QR code for each Clip
3) print those QR codes on paper and physically post them in different parts of my classroom

Then, during class, I had students:
1) form groups of 3
2) each member used a QR code scanner app on their mobile device to watch a different Clip:
3) each group member had a set period of time to watch the Clip by him/herself:
4) additional time was allocated for the members to share the main points of their Clips with their other group members:
5) the groups were presented with questions, requiring application of the Clips content to solve

Benefits and Outcomes
I liked this approach, because it was an easy way to deliver content to different sets of students. More importantly, my objective was realized! Students were up and moving about, for a couple of reasons.
1) they had to get up to get to the printouts of the QR codes they needed to scan to access the Clips
2) you might have noticed: many students had headphones with them, and used them to listen to the audio associated with the Clips. However, I had told the students that they could also leave the classroom to watch the videos, in case it got too loud in our classroom. Most of the students exercised this option!
The enthusiasm of the students for this approach was outstanding! Without instruction, students then rearranged desks (the ones that were not fixed to the floor, anyway) to share information with each other:

and even adopted new technologies (e.g. paper) to share information with each other:

Final Reflections
As the photos and videos above reveal, many students were very engaged with the material and with each other during this exercise, which took about 40 minutes (a few minutes to form groups, 10 minutes to scan QR codes and watch the videos, 10 minutes to share knowledge with each other, and about 20 minutes to solve the problem(s)). That felt absolutely fantastic on its own!

After the jigsaw, when we came together as a class to discuss the group answers to the questions that were posed, it seemed to me that the students were better prepared than normal, and asked more questions (and more poignant questions) than usual!

One key reason to use Clips for a jigsaw: live captioning! As I mentioned above, having students watch (and listen to) videos in class could be a complete and abject failure, especially if students don't leave the classroom and/or don't have headphones. But, with the live captions, it was very easy for me to create those expert-creating Clips, and students can read the captions when they can't hear the audio because of environmental noise!

I will definitely use this approach again: a jigsaw exercise improves student engagement. Although using Clips to disseminate content to different group members is, by the SAMR model, mainly Substitution (perhaps Augmentation), now all of my students can access all of the videos (not just the one they watched) for study resources. I can use the same Clips in future semesters, too! Jigsaw + Clips is a win-win.

As a result of a comment on an earlier version of this post elsewhere, I also came to realize that one could also flip the jigsaw when using short videos to produce "content expert" students. If you have stable student groups, or form groups the class session prior to the jigsaw exercise, then assign those Clips videos to watch before class. Then, during class, you can jump right into the peer instruction and problem-solving!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Clips Power Use (CPU) #2: Higher Ed ≠ Starched & Stuff

As I've bemoaned in prior posts, as a college prof, I was worried that I wouldn't find a place for Clips - being aimed at social media production and its attendant glitz like emojis and *gasp* Disney-themed Posters - in my courses.

Fortunately, time (as usual) solved that dilemma. In fact, it was last week's #ADEchat (thanks for hosting, Jon Smith @theipodteacher!) that brought me around. Thanks to Jon, I was forced outside of my comfort zone, where we know no real learning takes place. He tasked us, during the Twitter chat, to create a #clipmercial (a short video) to advertise our class to our students.

Now, I already felt out of place, because many of the chat prompts didn't seem to apply to me. For example: introduce students to your classroom. First, I didn't have pictures of my classroom on hand to use in a Clip. Second, unlike many of my fellow ADEs, who are in K-12, I don't have a classroom - certainly not one that I decorate. I have a lecture hall that I use for fifty minutes, three days a week, which is much less inspiring. Yes, and…so I felt it reasonable to give myself a little leeway in creating a #clipmercial that didn't quite meet the "requirements."

Here it is:

After hastily (and with some technical difficulty) posting my clipmercial on Twitter soon after the #ADEchat ended, I realized that there is certainly value for Clips in higher ed. I've written about this already, and will continue to do so. But for now, here's the spin on short videos in education: they're great for teachers to make themselves human (and hopefully approachable) to their students. Although I didn't use any of the Disney Posters, I did use several animated icons, some humorous photos, and incorporated a potentially recognizable TV commercial for a fast-food chain that has the meats.

We can (should!) use Clips to introduce ourselves and to show our students we're not stiff academics! Many students have an impression, accurate or not, of faculty being out-of-touch brainiacs. Most (all?) of us have a lighter side - I challenge you to create a short video to show it off!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Clips Power Use (CPU) #1: Feedback

One thing I like about teaching: helping students learn!
One thing I don't like about teaching: repeating myself.
One thing I love about technology: it helps me do the former and avoid the latter!

Use short videos to provide feedback to all of your students on commonly-asked questions! Here's how:

At the end of (almost) each class period, I ask students to provide me feedback with an electronic Socrative poll, asking students about the "muddiest point" ("What topic(s) do you feel like you understand least well and want more information about or practice on?"). I do two things with this information: address student mindset and provide feedback.


Because I like to foster an environment in my classes where question-asking is comfortable, I take as many opportunities as I can to demonstrate to students how they're never alone when they have a question; that others usually have the same question that no one is willing to speak up about! And that's one of the reasons I get really excited about teaching classes where students use mobile devices to engage with me: I can provide them anonymous opportunities to provide real-time formative assessment information to me. So, I like to aggregate their results by summarizing their "muddiest point" feedback using a word cloud (e.g. using Wordle) and displaying it at the start of the next class period. This allows students to identify the most common responses (and, of course, it gives me information about what I need to reinforce, as well!) They see that they're not alone in their feelings about what material they want more information about.
Screen Shot 2017-09-02 at 7.44.43 PM.png
Last Thursday, one of the larger words was "consensus." I scrolled through all 72 of my student responses and saw that many of them were curious about various aspects of how to solve a problem I had posed to them during class using a Google Sheet-based interactive exercise (related to creating a "consensus DNA sequence").
I had realized at the ADE Academy this year that one of the great uses for video could be providing quick bits of feedback to students about their work. Because I have so many students in my class, I rarely get an opportunity to give all of them feedback on an exercise. So, now I use Clips, once I've identified those "muddiest points," to record video responses to supplement the materials students have to learn and to get feedback from me on their understanding. I post these on YouTube and distribute the URL to the students, so that they can access the information before the next class meeting.

Because I had found that "consensus" was a common request for more information, I felt it was worth the investment of the half hour or so it took me to make the clip above. Not only can I point all of my students to it, but now I have it for use in future classes, and I've already incorporated it into my digital class manual.
The biggest potential "con" to this approach is that immediate feedback is always more useful to students, so it does take our commitment as teachers to look at and process student work, and then respond with a Clips video, as soon as is reasonable (for me, before our next class meeting).

I used Explain Everything in the video clip above to demonstrate, with animation, how to "align" the DNA sequences by sliding them left-right relative to each other. That video, exported from Explain Everything, was then incorporated into the clip.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Teasing with Trailers (aka Clipmercials for your Classes)

As I've written previously, because I'm not in a 1:1 iPad program, my perspective on using Clips has been to consider how use of Clips by the instructor alone might improve learning. In this case, I have a suggestion for how we can motivate students to attend class (maybe a problem more specific to higher ed) and/or to make class material relevant to the student. These are critical to help students engage with the material, and multimedia is a great mechanism to grab and hold student attention!

Class Trailers

You know what a trailer is: a commercial for a movie - a short "teaser" video that hopefully grabs your attention and interest and induces you to spend big bucks at the box office. After the 2017 ADE Academy, I decided that I would create a trailer for my 23 class meetings that are dedicated to learning/practicing new material and concepts.
I wanted my Clips-produced trailers to:
  • have a consistent look
  • be brief (so that students will watch them - mine range from thirty seconds to exactly one minute)
  • do one thing and do it well: present one piece of information and then pose a related thought question that would, hopefully, stump the students and provoke their sense of curiosity about how the living world works

For example:

Trailer Structure

As you've seen from the example above, my Clips only have three parts:
  • an intro Bumper
  • an Observation
  • a related Question

Trailer Production

The intro Bumper is based off of screen capture of a 3-D model of a DNA double-helix. I recorded the animation of the rotation and zooming of the DNA molecule using my iPad via QuickTime on my laptop. I imported that video into my Photos library and then imported it into Clips.

For each trailer, I found one still or video image related to the Observation that I described to the students. 

For accessibility (i.e. the deaf but also those of us who want to access the content of the video with the volume turned off), I captioned the Observation.

For that consistent look, I opted to use the same animated icon (the thought bubble) to hold a very brief summary (in text) of the live-captioned audio description I gave of the Question that we would discuss and attempt to answer.

I also used the same soundtrack for each Clip. With the amount of consistency I incorporated, my trailers are now pretty heavily "branded."

Trailer Distribution

Because I have produced a course manual that all my students download before the first day of class and use throughout the semester, I decided to embed all of the trailers on the front page of each chapter (one chapter = one class meeting). The students are required to read each chapter before class, so they watch the trailer before coming to the class meeting where we discuss the content. Caveat: embedding Clips can greatly increase the size of an epub/multitouch book/etc. Use embedded video sparingly! Most of my 75 students were clamoring for a leaner manual by the end of the first week of the term, so I made a second version with no embedded movies but links to YouTube, where I've created a playlist with all of my trailers. You can find them here:

This playlist does begin with a few Clips that are not trailers, but are other videos I distributed at the start of the term to help orient students to other aspects of my class. I'll cover some of these in future blog posts.


Using the workflow described above is useful in at least a few ways:
  • Student engagement. My students are coming to class prepared to have very interactive discussions about the topics
  • Relevance. By watching the trailer before reading assigned textbook material as well as other microlecture videos I've created, students have at least one mental "hook" that they can use to sift through all of that material and identify components that are directly relevant to the Question posed in the trailer
  • Assessment. We love to know if what we invest time doing for our students is making an impact! Embedded trailers didn't give me as much feedback as having YouTube-hosted movies. Using the Analytics tools built into YouTube, I can tell, for example, that in the last week, 4,443 minutes of my videos have been watched!
  • Production. A simple and short structure makes it easy to create 23 trailers practically on a whim. The part that took longest was deciding what topic I would focus on during each class meeting. After that, assembling visual media and creating the Clips was very efficient.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Designing Effective Clips

I just finished a two-week project making what was ultimately a 20:30 Clip on my philosophy and workflow when producing a 1:08 Clip for my students. I'm glad I finished just in time to share this information before tonight's Twitter #adechat on Clips! (Join us at 6 pm PST).
This is a long movie, but it is not just for experts or to learn Clips in-depth. In fact, some of the Clips from others on how to use Clips are better for this purpose! My Clip fits a particular niche, in that it describes some best practices, and also limitations, for using Clips. After watching, you'll not just have seen the nuts-and-bolts mechanics of how to use Clips, but also:
  • be inspired about how to design an effective Clip
  • learn about some common pitfalls and how to avoid them
I recommend watching this Clip particularly if you want:
  • to see an example of how to structure a Clip for learning
  • to get an idea of what is possible with Clips
  • tutorials on:
    • using Clips
    • creating screen capture video from an iPad
  • an idea of how best to collect and manage media from multiple sources for video production in Clips
Some key points from the Clip:
  • Collect media from various sources into the Photos library, including video files from small Clips, to maintain a consistent look throughout various video projects
  • Use appropriate apps to create different types of video (including QuickTime and Explain Everything)
  • To be able to insert Posters inside of long videos, import those videos into Clips as shorter videos
  • Use Posters as guideposts to give viewers ideas of what they're about to watch and then to summarize what they just watched
n.b. This Clip was created entirely using Clips. Before that, the video content was created using the Camera app (iPhone), QuickTime (MacBook), ExplainEverything (iPad), and Clips itself. iMovie and Final Cut were not used during production of this movie.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Clips shortcomings. Yes, and…best practices!

In my previous post, I showed an example microlecture video I created using Clips to introduce basic speadsheet functionality to my students. I've since made two more, with the goal (as many of us have) of creating a series. While producing "Average, Sum, and Autofill" and "Chi-square analysis," along with other Clips, I've developed:
  • some tips for making a Clips series
  • a short list of abilities I wish Clips had (Feature Requests) and
  • ways to address some of those (Workarounds)

Clips series

Length: I've found a new use for the acronym KISS (you know: Keep It Simple, Stupid) - Keep It Short & Sweet! I do not always succeed, but Clips isn't built for making long and/or complicated videos (I should know - I'll be posting soon on an 18+ minute Clip I just finished developing over about a week), so you save yourself a world of hurt if you KISS! Your viewers will appreciate videos where you make one concise point with the panache that Clips affords.

Branding: a consistent look and feel will help you produce a professional series. In Clips, this means having common design elements, like employing the same animated icons and posters for similar uses in separate Clips. For example, you might add the thought bubble animated icon every time you ask a question you want students to think about and bring answers to class for. You might use the graph paper Poster every time you have presented students with a new type of equation. I create a "cheat sheet" for myself that shows me which icons and posters I use for different circumstances. The use of the same soundtrack and of the same Live Captions style in all Clips in your series also helps develop a high quality series. Likewise, my best idea is to develop a Clip that you will use at the start of every Clip in your series, and one for the end of every Clip that you produce. Keep these in your Photos library, so that you can easily add them to each Clip you make.

Feature requests

  1. It would be great to be able to change font sizes, colors and styles…but we're not there yet. Yes, and…sometimes less is more!
  2. I would really like to see the ability to duplicate media components of a Clip (e.g. a Poster) so that it could be reused, after brief editing, more than once in the same Clip without having to re-add the Poster. Likewise, it would be great to be able to move component media between Clips projects.
  3. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to apply different soundtracks to different parts of your Clip?
  4. Although Clips can Live Caption, it doesn't offer the ability to export a text transcript - which might be nice on occasion
  5. It would be great if the components of a Clip (the videos and Posters) could be locked to prevent accidentally reordering them, and/or to be able to group components together or at least to be able to name or label those components. I was, just now, in a distracted moment, making a quick edit to a Clip project, when I accidentally drag-and-dropped one of the components on the timeline. It took me about 15 minutes to figure out which component I had moved and to find the place it had just been in. If I had the ability to group, lock or name (e.g. numerically) all of my component media, then it wouldn't have been as big a problem. Oh, or: Undo would be nice…
  6. Did you know: that you have to have a network connection to use Live Captioning? I wonder why that is. I discovered this on a shopping trip. It was one of those situations where my wife went to a store I wasn't particularly interested in, so I brought "homework" (my non-cellular iPad), and discovered I couldn't do my Live Captioning voiceover in my sound studio (aka my car) when parked in the mall parking lot.


  1. There isn't one, that I know of.
  2. This one has a fairly easy solution - it is only barely less efficient than having this functionality in Clips itself. You create the media component you want to reuse as its own Clip, then share that video file (which exports it to the Photos library), and then you can access that media from any other Clips project. The main drawback is that, as a video file, it cannot be further edited when re-imported into Clips (e.g. you can't change the Live Caption style)
  3. You can do this. As above, it involves making Clips that you then import into other Clips. I suspect that, if I asked, the Apple Clips team would tell me that Clips isn't built for advanced video editing, and that I should be using a different product (and they would be correct!)
  4. You can copy-paste from the transcript editing window to compile your own text transcript of an entire clip comprising multiple components. It would be tedious. And it wouldn't be time-stamped, which is what some of us expect of a caption transcript.
  5. Again, I bet the official response would be: Clips isn't designed for that. And, again, I think they'd be right! If I was making a KISS Clip, I wouldn't have so many components in the first place.
  6. Yes, I could have used my iPhone to make a wifi hotspot to connect my iPad to. No, I didn't think of that at the time.


You can see how I applied many of these principles and approaches (KISS and maintaining a consistent style, including using the same intro and outro video in each Clip in a series) in my YouTube playlist of "trailer" videos I produced after the ADE Academy and before this term started. Briefly, this summer I created a course manual e-pub that has one chapter per class meeting. For each chapter, I created what I call a class "trailer" (like a move trailer, giving you a short and hopefully compelling preview of the content of each upcoming class). I require my students to watch each before coming to class, with the goal of stimulating their understanding of the relevance of the course material as well as giving them a question to think about for class. I shamelessly stole this idea from one of the Clips we saw at Academy - I don't remember which of you made it, but it was the Clip about how a tree moves water all the way up its trunk. Thanks - that was obviously inspirational!

Up next on my Clips blog series: a Clip of how to make Clips - describing, in detail, all of the steps in the workflow I used to produce all of the Clips linked above.