Why don’t my videos play?

video clip iconThis one is very specifically for Palomar College professors and staff.

At long, long last we have turned off our original streaming media server named “Venus” (venus.palomar.edu – named in the days when we knew all of our servers personally).  Over a year ago we elected to adopt a new streaming media solution based on Silverlight and Microsoft’s smoothstream technology.  We began announcing that we were making the long, slow transition at that time (actually about 14 months ago) and have been re-encoding media ever since.  It has been a slog, because there is a lot of it and because in almost all cases it has been captioned for the web.

The good news is that we can deliver a bigger, clearer streaming media experience more securely with copyright compliance in place, AND we are nearly 100% sec. 508 compliant in having captioned web videos.  The bad news is that many people have not been paying attention to the many–many many–announcements we made about turning off the old server at the end of last year.  If you are one of these folks, and you have noticed that your videos no longer play, it is because you are clicking on links that reference the old, now-decommissioned server.

What to do?  Bring us your media as soon as possible for re-encoding.  There is no other way.  We will address it as quickly as possible, but if you want it captioned for the web the delay will be significant.  It’s not as if it has been a secret.  We have made our best efforts to keep the community informed, but each day this week we have heard from someone with this problem.  Then again, we haven’t had a Real media server in over five years,and there are still Real media links to the old server in many Blackboard classes.

Slowly,very slowly, we progress…

Calling All Videos

Time is running out on our old video server, the one we fondly know as “Venus.”  Beginning January 1 this year we began the conversion to a new set of streaming servers, known, more prosaically as “Streaming.”  Converting to a new server platform is not big news, however.  The big news is we have been in the midst of converting all the streaming media we deliver for instructional pusposes to a new Silverlight platform.  As part of the process, we are getting it all captioned for the web as well, which adds to the time it takes to encode it, but also adds educational value to the product and brings us fully into Sec. 508 compliance.  For detailed information on our new streaming media solution, click here.

Our new video solution delivers much higher quality video in a more secure fashion, with far fewer platform errors (i.e., no more special add-ons for the Mac), but it does take significantly longer to create.

Let it be known,then,that after December 31, 2010, “Venus” will be no more.  She is being retired after a long and glorious career.  Currently we are running about a 3-month backlog on new encoding jobs, so if you want to have video encoded for streaming next semester YOU MUST BRING IT TO US NOW to get it into the queue.

If you are using the TEACH Act as authorization for copying media, be sure to read the Guidelines and bring a signed TEACH Act agreement along with your media.

And Re the TEACH Act, there are a couple of issues I would like to address here since they seem to be pretty generally misunderstood.  Please be aware that if you want us to encode your media, and a digital copy of the media exists, we must use the digital media as source, rather than older analog media.  (Read, no VHS tapes when DVDs exist).  Also, the media MUST be integral to your teaching, not simply ancillary or background.  And finally, it’s hard to believe that people don’t seem to get this, but the TEACH Act authorizes copying materials for educational purposes for distance education, NOT in-person education.  You cannot play the videos we encode for you and that are authorized by the TEACH Act in your in-person classes.  For that you must use the physical media.  It may seem silly, but that’s the law.

In any event, if you have not yet brought your media to us for conversion to the new system, please do so now!

Tech Camp Agenda

Summer Tech Camp, August 3-6We will be conducting our annual summer tech camp August 3-6.  Don’t bother signing up because it is fully subscribed.  (Sorry).  It is still over 5 weeks away, but I thought I would review the tentative agenda we have pretty much agreed on so that attendees, and perhaps those planning similar events at other schools, will have some insight into what we are doing.

Our inspiration for tech camp this year is the TED talks concept.  If you are not familiar with ted.com, rush to that web site without delay to be exposed to the best and brightest people in the world in the fields of technology, entertainment and design (T. E. D.).  These “fields” are interpreted very broadly, so that many scientists (and after all, what science does not embrace technology), philosophers (or perhaps “thinkers” is the better modern term), philanthropists, even politicians,are included.  What TED does is give people 18 minutes (or less,or on rare occasions somewhat more) to present their best ideas.  The presentations are fun, dynamic, often enthralling, always enlightening, and sometimes profound.  What they share in common is the use of projected images, video and dynamic speech to present ideas or tell great stories.

In tech camp, therefore, our goal will be to create a 10-15 minute presentation–no more, sorry, professional talkers–just like a TED talk where professors will take a concept they want to present to their students and develop it using technology tools.  Here are the rules for the talk.  It must:

  • Use PowerPoint as a presentation tool
  • Include pictures and other graphics
  • Include PowerPoint animations
  • Have an embedded video (think YouTube) or a Google Earth tour
  • Include a self-produced video (we will be using Flip video cameras)
  • Include a chart or charts illustrating data points, if appropriate, or SmartArt illustrating a concept, or both
  • Have an accompanying illustrated handout created in Word and saved as a PDF
  • Have a Blackboard component containing the teaching materials developed during the talk
  • Not to exceed 15 minutes

Four days sounds like a lot to dedicate to the development of a 15 minute talk, but when you understand that you must also learn various technology tools along the way, and describing it as I have above, it sounds more like a challenge.  We hope it will also be fun and interesting.  Most of all, we hope what you learn, and what you develop, will translate into a great learning experience for your students.

My colleague Dr. Haydn Davis will be contacting all participants sometime over the next month to clue them all in directly and provide more details, but for those who just can’t wait, I have sketched out the order of events below.


First and foremost you must decide on the topic of your presentation BEFORE tech camp begins.  Put on your thinking caps.  Is there a difficult concept you teach that needs an in depth explication?  Or is there something you are keenly interested in and would like to communicate in a dynamic way?  Whatever you wish to present on, you must come pre-armed with your concepts.

You will also need accounts with the following web services:

  • YouTube
  • MS Live, with an MS Live SkyDrive
  • Jing/screencast.com
  • Twitter

Day 1 (Aug. 3)

On Day 1 we will show a couple of brief TED talks, and then present one of our own that will become the basis of our workshop activities over the four days of camp.  Throughout camp we will be asking you to Tweet spontaneously (this will be managed by Tweetmaster D – of our staff).  We will also be asking participants to blog about their camp experiences in a camp blog.  Don’t worry, this will all be explained when you get here.  Rest assured there will be prizes for best Tweet and best blog entry each day.

We will launch into activities by first covering computer basic basics.  Yes, you heard me.  It is often the most basic concepts about file management, keyboard shortcuts, saving and manipulating files, and keeping track of URLs that cause us the most difficulties.  So we will take the time to cover these briefly.  We will be using Windows 7 and be saving materials to USB flash drives (we are going to give you one) and SkyDrives.

We also want you to know about the Palomar resources available to you.  So Chris Norcross will guide you in access to your:

  • Blackboard site
  • Web space
  • SkyDrive
  • Media respositories

During lunch each day (the camp will be catered), after eating, we will have a lunchtime presentation.  On day 1 there will be two brief ones.  One on Twitter, by Tweetmaster D, and one on Evernote–a browser-based note taking program–by Chris Norcross.

The afternoon of day 1 will be given over to instruction in web search technology and resources, the idea being that you will be doing research for your presentations on the web.  We will cover:

  • Google search – sites, images, news, maps, videos
  • Google blog search
  • Google Book Search
  • Library (our own library) journal database searches and links
  • Google data inspector
  • WolframAlpha – a powerful, scientific search tool unlike anything you have used

To close day one we will devote time to learning how to use Jing and screencast.com to capture images and videos.  We will also do a quick demo of SnagIt, a super powered screen capture tool.

At the end of each day there will be valuable technology giveaways relevant to the topics taught that day.  I don’t want to reveal at this time the exact prizes, but you will be pleased.  On day four we will base the giveaways on best presentations.

As with all worthwhile academic enterprises, there will be homework assignments.

Day 2 (Aug. 4)

Still with me?  Day 2 will be given over to instruction on how to use PowerPoint and how to use the Flip video cameras.  Even if you are an old PowerPoint hand, there will be something new for you here because we will be using the Office 2010 version of PowerPoint, with many new, slick features.  The first brief session will be dedicated to PowerPoint basics and familiarizing ourselves with the new 2010 features, the second will emphasize animation and video embedding.  I will conduct the PowerPoint sessions.

Using Flip video cameras is great fun.  David will conduct the Flip workshop.  At lunch on day 2 Haydn will be presenting on Using YouTube.  At the close of the day we will ask you to record a video introduction to your presentation.

Homework will be to complete gathering all materials for your presentation.

Day 3 (Aug. 5)

On day 3 we will concentrate on the accouterments of your presentation.  I will present a one-hour workshop on Word 2010, with emphasis on producing your presentation handout.  A well formatted, illustrated handout will be our goal, saved as a PDF document in order to upload it to Blackboard.

The rest of day 3 will be given over to using Blackboard itself, and particularly using Blackboard in the context of the presentation you will be building.  During lunch Haydn will be presenting on “Cool Blackboard Features of which you were unaware.”  However unlikely it seems that the words “cool” and “Blackboard” could be used in the same sentence, Haydn promises to surprise us.

Day 4 (Aug. 6)

Day 4 is presentation day.  We will begin with a couple of demos on PowerPoint techniques and a session of using Camtasia, a screen video program that is amazing.  We will then split up for an hour-and-a-half into one of three tracks:

  1. Independent work with staff assistance in order to finish work on your presentations
  2. Hands-on Camtasia work, for those who wish to make a screen video out of their presentation
  3. Hands-on Google Earth work, for those who wish to include Google Earth assets in their presentation, or are just curious about this great program and have finished up work on the presentation.

During lunch on day 4, I will give a quick demo of some of the great features of Google Earth.

Finally, on the afternoon of day 4 we will ask for 6 presentations from workshop attendees.  As they are presented, we will make Camtasia movies out of them, for later use in Blackboard.  Prizes will be given for the two best presentations with additional prizes in other categories.

That’s pretty much it.  It should be a fun and full four days.  Watch your inboxes because Haydn will be contacting you soon.

David Blaine: How I held my breath for 17 min | Video on TED.com

TED is one of the premiere web sites with quality video content ideal for stimulating student discussion and inspiration.  Today the producers of TED (Technology-Entertainment-Design) announced a new partnership with TEDMED–the same idea as TED with medical and health-related content.  For a sample, watch this incredible (and touchingly personal) video with magician David Blaine.

[vodpod id=Groupvideo.4511795&w=425&h=350&fv=vu%3Dhttp%3A%2F%2Fvideo.ted.com%2Ftalks%2Fdynamic%2FDavidBlaine_2009P-medium.flv%26su%3Dhttp%3A%2F%2Fimages.ted.com%2Fimages%2Fted%2Ftedindex%2Fembed-posters%2FDavidBlaine-2009P.embed_thumbnail.jpg%26vw%3D432%26vh%3D240%26ap%3D0%26ti%3D741%26introDuration%3D16500%26adDuration%3D4000%26postAdDuration%3D2000%26adKeys%3Dtalk%3Ddavid_blaine_how_i_held_my_breath_for_17_min%3Byear%3D2009%3Btheme%3Dto_boldly_go%3Btheme%3Dnew_on_ted_com%3Btheme%3Dmedicine_without_borders%3Bevent%3DTEDMED%2B2009%3B]

more about “David Blaine: How I held my breath fo…“, posted with vodpod

TEACH Act/Copyright Resources

copyright symbolYesterday we announced our new streaming media procedures (http://wp.me/pJFAR-P).  Go to http://www.palomar.edu/atrc/streamingmedia.htm to walk through the procedure.  Note that you will not be able to login to the media catalog without Palomar College credentials.

Today, in this location, I would like to provide resources to those more generally interested in copyright provisions in general and the TEACH Act of 2002 in particular.  Here they are:

Let’s start with the foundation.  The copyright law in the US, while mentioned in the Constitution, can be specifically found in Title 17 of the US Code.  The most relevant passages for education are Sec. 106, which details the near exclusive rights of copyrighted works; Sec. 107, fair use; Sec. 108, reproduction by libraries for purposes of preservation; Sec. 110, subsections 1 & 2, the TEACH Act (primarily); Sec. 112, the duplication clause of the TEACH Act.

Bear in mind that these sections of Title 17 were variously modified by the TEACH Act, not created by it.  The TEACH Act’s primary purpose was to harmonize the rights of distance ed instructors with in-person instructors with respect to materials that could be performed or displayed in the classroom.  Some important concepts in the operation of the law were left undefined,not the least of which are what exactly is distance education and how long is a “typical class period.”   Those used to the copyright law prior to the TEACH Act,however, have no problem operating in a world of often deliberate ambiguities.

With respect to understanding the TEACH Act, the best resource of which I am aware is The TEACH Act Toolkit from North Carolina State University.  There is also an excellent article on the TEACH Act from the Amaerican Library Association.  NCSU also offers an excellent tutorial on the TEACH Act in particular and copyright in general.  The best most fun (if that word is appropriate in this context) tutorial available on the subject of copyright is from Baruch College, part of the City University of New York.  It is titled “Interactive Guide to Using Copyrighted Media in Your Courses,” and it is a joy to walk its decision paths.