The Educational Remix- At Odds With Copyright?

Allow me to be frank-  as busy as my world is right now, the requirement to read “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi was a very frustrating thing.  With a stack of ten or twelve books with immediate professional impact to juggle  -just waiting on my desk-  this read seemed frivolous.

Not only did I have to read the book (one of nine in six weeks) but I have to crank out a formal paper and an “author presentation.”  Before you pull out the tiny fiddle, rest assured that this is a positive post.  Like any of the other requirements of my little grad program that don’t seem to professionally apply right at the moment, I usually choose to steer the task toward a place where my learning can benefit someone else in our school’s learning network.  For this presentation I decided to try a different technique for integrating text into an Animoto video:

(*update 6-5-11: I changed the embedded version here. I swapped out the YouTube version for this one. You’ll have to wait a bit for it to load via Animoto, but watching it in full screen mode this way is much improved.)

The above clip is my version of a biographical “author introduction” for class.  However, since the book itself is tightly autobiographical, it made little sense to parade an endless list of factoids in front of 18 adults who all read the same book… and at least a few of whom had Google in the pockets.  The last tidbit to know here is that this is a graphic novel.  Within the pages, the author allows beautifully stark images to tell a good amount of the tale alongside the words.  It really is a masterful work about……  well, I’ll let you watch the clip and see.

Rarely do I dive into the minutiae of the nuts and bolts of a creation like this.  Sometimes I sort of ignorantly assume that others will analyze the creation of digital media by simply examining how it presents itself.

Technically speaking, this is what I did:

  • Sat down with the cover of the book after reading and matched basic graphical elements to the style of the book using Adobe Photoshop.  I wanted everything to “match” the book.  Why?  Don’t ask.  I’m a sucker for design details like that.  I’m weird.  I know.  I tried to match the colors, the fonts, and other subtle design elements present.
  • Copied these design elements over into Keynote where I assembled all of the presentation materials as a traditional slide show.
  • Trolled iTunes for a bit of Iranian contemporary folk music to use as a soundtrack.  I know absolutely nothing about Iranian music.  Therefore, I wanted to simply find a track that mirrored the stark simplicity of the novel itself.  I think I found a good one.  I like it quite a bit, really.
  • Exported all slides as .jpg images into a folder on my desktop.  This took less than a minute in total.  Also- this conveniently numbered all images consecutively.
  • Uploaded all images to  Because they were already arranged in slideshow-order, no further shuffling needed to be done.  All that was left to do in Animoto was to select certain images to be “spotlighted,” followed by an upload of the .mp3 file for the soundtrack, and choose one of three overall presentation “speeds.”  Animoto then does the rest.
  • I ultimately remixed the video again to change speed and rearrange a couple of the highlights.  (one text-heavy slide displayed far too quickly)

Applications & Repercussions?

In the end, I felt like I created a pretty cool little video.  It certainly took a bit of time to do as a first run, but was largely automatic once the original slideshow was completed in Keynote.  Actually, this little clip made me so happy that, well… it almost makes me want to go back and re-read the novel.  To be perfectly honest, Persepolis is a pretty special work of art.

If you are new to this blog, you may think I have a exorbitant love for educational uses of video…  especially this one little free online tool.  In reality, while also juggling Lawrence Lessig’s Remix, a fascination with mashed-up content seems to be fresh on my mind.  That, and a recent discussion of the read/write/remix culture of 2009 in Doug Johnson’s session on copyright at METC 2009 last week.  In the Q&A afterwards I brought up an experience I had this past year regarding Animoto, UMG, YouTube and the YouTube content identification program.  In fact, Doug recently published one of his latest “Fair Use Scenarios” on this very issue.

Hossein Alizadeh and Madjid Khaladj


A New Hope

I think we are starting to see some really creative resolutions to fresh new uses of content…  that benefit all involved parties.  Even this video contains most of a copyrighted song entitled: Passion by Hossein Alizadeh and Madjid Khaladj.  Can readers of this blog download the song to an .mp3 later?  No.  Can they burn a copy of the song to play in a CD or DVD player?  No.  Is this educational use a mechanism to potentially generate more interest in the music as well as the book?  I hope so.  I wouldn’t highlight it if I didn’t think it held merit.

I decided to post the clip here after I realized that this might be a really cool way for an instructor to build interest in a book that an entire class might soon read.  (yes- like it or not, we still do this)  In fact, perhaps this is a really good way for a media center specialist, or librarian to pimp a set of newly-acquired novels to prospective students.  Perhaps it is even a way for students to reflect and then share a book with their classmates. (virtual booktalk?)  I think this could be a really great student-to-student viral marketing tool for discovering new reading material.

What do you think?  Is this song repurposed to a reasonable degree?  Does this use infringe upon the artist’s right to generate income from the song?  Does this use in any way cast a negative light on the work?  Is this kind of edu-marketing for students a reasonable educational use of the content?  Please share your thoughts on these and any other questions you see fit.

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Working Toward Classroom Relevance With Video

Ok-  for those of us wondering about the “educational” value of Animoto…  I bring you a Martin Luther King Day trailer from Stacy Baker:


Stacy is a cyper-pal of mine and one of our growing group of inspiring collaborators on The Synapse.  She is also a blogger herself and a teacher whose class blog entitled “Extreme Biology” was nominated and won a 2008 Edublogs Award for “Best Class Blog.”  She has recently taken the newly-released features on Animoto (adding text overlays and altering slide pacing) and really ran with them.  She is now becoming quite adept at using Animoto to deliver motivating “trailers” to introduce new topics of study for her biology classes.

One of the things I respect Stacy for the most  -is not only being willing to immerse herself in the latest technology-  but for taking the professional “second look” at any of these technologies for their real educational value at the classroom level.  I think her blog is a really good example of how one does this.  If you see what I see throughout her archives, you will notice time and time again a willingness to experiment, reflect and evaluate.

Several of us in our spontaneous little web community, including Erin, have been experimenting with this sparkly video tool since its debut.  Like most people, we all fell in love with the cinema quality of the transitions, its ability to match action to the music you select, and the overall ease of use.  This post of mine from last June was all about the tool itself.  That was pretty much prior to any attempts at classroom use.  To be honest, most of us quickly gave up on Animoto as an “instructional” tool.  That is, until we all pretty much seemed to spontaneously remember that there is a ton of value in grounding our course concepts in relevance.

Settling in

I think this follows a natural progression with the adoption of any shiny new technology.  The early adopters among us seem to dive in, feel out the parameters, see what it can do, and then spread the news quickly.  The next step then seems to be true evaluation on the front lines  The MLK day trailer above is a perfect example of a multidisciplinary look at one topic in biology.  If this video doesn’t make a brief case for the relevance of the study of genetics, then I’m not sure what does.  The biology of race is not one often examined in biology classes and I applaud the energy Miss Baker is putting behind this issue.

If you have read much of this blog you also know I am a huge proponent of front-loading any conceptual heavy-lifting with tons of attempts to engage and motivate.  It seems as if I am coming onboard with Animoto being another good tool to “hook” student interest.  From my first attempt at Animoto:


…until recently, I saw Animoto as a really slick little marketing tool for education.  The fast-paced and pretty videos work really well to show off something that has already happened.  With a few new features, and a switch in thought from marketing to motivation, I am now seeing Animoto in a very positive light for classroom use.  Actually-  my wife, Erin just beat me to a post on this topic.  What is this- competition?  Wow.  In fact, notice the title of her blog.  Perhaps this is what happens when firstborns marry.  But yeah-  please feel free to welcome her into the blogosphere with some feedback as this is her first post on an individual blog.  Also be sure to check out her video there introducing “mollusks” to her zoology students!

Have you used Animoto yet?  Feel free to comment with examples…

Bringing it all together: TPACK

Ok… those of you that read my second post on the NETS standards, might have noticed (if you look back) that I made mention of a future post on TPCK, or TPACK as it is now commonly referred to.

To cut to the chase and lay this out for you clean and neat, TPCK stands for “technological pedagogical content knowledge.” TPACK is what the acronym has evolved into. The reason for this is likely twofold. 1. It sounds better to actually say it with a vowel. and 2. => it now also alludes to the “Total PACKage” in education.

I had meant to really lay out the history of this entity for you to fall back on when it comes up… and it will. However, when I made the NETS post back in July, it was just on the edge of the new insanity of school year preparation. Therefore, I didn’t fulfill my initial goal in the time frame I had intended. Please allow me to severely abbreviate.

The reason I would like to abbreviate revolves around the simple fact that I have some images, etc. that I would like to share with you from the third floor at BHS. Jake Kelly (or Jacob if you choose to send an e-mail @ SJSD) is a new teacher in the science department. He teaches two different courses: Principles of Chemistry & Physics and Environmental Science. Last Friday, I was invited to observe an on-site field study of the urban creek that runs through Hyde Park. If I wasn’t an instructional coach… nor a science teacher… I would have still been interested. Click here for a set of images from that session as well as a video:

Now I know we are more than inundated with work on our “plan period” in 2008. But, one thing I would love to see happen at Benton, would be to have teachers of varying disciplines go along on such real-world endeavors. Can you imagine the buy-in we could score from students if they witnessed us engaging in fields of study outside of our “own?” Like I said- rarely does this opportunity present itself with progress reports looming, etc. However, if you ever get the chance, do it.

In 1986, Lee Shulman made popular the concept of pedagogical content knowledge (PCK). This is that “thing” an outstanding educator possesses when they exhibit a strong interplay between rich content knowledge of their subject as well as a strong mastery of pedagogical (methods & practices of teaching) skills. What emerges in the overlap of these two entities is a deep awareness of the particular strategic practices that match well with each type of content. We would all agree that being an expert in a field of study doesn’t assure success as a teacher. Likewise, we would probably agree that possessing a gigantic pedagogical toolbox alone would not assure success in a field of study little known by the teacher.

However, when a content expert commits to learning which particular teaching practices work best to produce learning about a certain content goal… then great things happen.

If a high level of PCK produces good teaching, then strong TPACK really does produce the “total package.” TPACK is a framework that was brought to the forefront of technology integration in education by Dr. Matthew Koehler and Dr. Punya Mishra. This concept is illustrated in its simplest form by use of a three-circle Venn diagram:

According to Koehler & Mishra,

“True technology integration is understanding and negotiating the relationships between these three components of knowledge. A teacher capable of negotiating these relationships represents a form of expertise different from, and greater than, the knowledge of a disciplinary expert (say a mathematician or a historian), a technology expert (a computer scientist) and a pedagogical expert (an experienced educator). Effective technology integration for pedagogy around specific subject matter requires developing sensitivity to the dynamic, [transactional] relationship between all three components.”

TPACK is a framework well worth deeper consideration and discussion for our future at Benton. Let this brief post serve as yet another shot across the bow of our classrooms. If we can incorporate these ideals as we go along, it will serve as a solid guide for planning as well as reflection on our work.

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A N I M O T O !

Ok, I have to confess. I thought I had better do this sooner or later. 😉

I have been waiting to expose Animoto for the beast that it is becoming. I just thought it would be nice if you thought my latest two videos were the result of hours and hours of devoted video artistry by yours truly. The plain truth is, I take beautiful photos. There, I said it. I am cocky about my photographical sKiLLz. I took some pretty photographs, chose some particularly dynamic and tasteful music, uploaded them to Animoto and voila… they made the videos for me. Or rather, their computers made the videos for me. The Marine Biology video sitting at YouTube is here, and the leadership retreat video is here. However, many of you have already seen them right here on our own little Ning site.

The self-proclaimed “nerds” at Animoto state on their website that the program works by “automatically generating professionally produced videos using our own patent-pending technology and high-end motion design”. The entire process for the end-user takes place online; there is no software whatsoever to download. When you get in the end result, makes you feel like this is all a big sham, that some video experts sitting in a box in cyberspace quickly made your video and sent it back to you in final form. The service has started quite a buzz.

The official description goes like this: “Animoto uses patent-pending technology to analyze your images and everything about the selected music — its structure, genre, energy, build, rhythm — before developing a blueprint for the motion design of your video. The remaining time is spent rendering your video, using a giant farm of computer processors to custom-generate 15 new images per second for your final video.” In a word: amazing. In two words: amazingly efficient. Three?: amazingly efficient and creative. Ok, so that’s four, sue me.

Here is a very cool Animoto fact: videos under 30 seconds are free. Here’s another cool fact: full-length Animoto videos cost only $3 to make. An even better cool fact: a year-long license to make an unlimited number of full-length videos: $30. Ten in a year and it is worth it by those prices. But wait: *drumroll* for what seems to be the best part: for teachers, the service is FREE. The only thing that could have been better would be to have known that before spending thirty of my hard-earned dollars before finding out that little factoid.

Wow. Animoto. Give it a try.

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A Cooperative Resolution?

What is the proper way to deal with intellectual property rights? In my opinion we are still in the early days of figuring out how to handle the rights of individuals and corporations with regard to information rights in the digital age. Look no further than the battle between individuals who use file sharing software over the Internet vs. the recording industry.

It is easy for most people to recognize that music is an art worth paying money to enjoy. Therefore, it is pretty simple to see how the recording industry, acting as a whole for the artists would crusade against illegal sharing of music made much easier over broadband Internet connections. Think of it, you pay for a CD once… then copy it to ten friends. You have essentially just taken 90% of the profit due to the artist for those transactions.

However, this issue is not that simple. To convince the RIAA to allow music to be legally downloaded from iTunes, etc., digital rights management code (DRM) was added to all of the songs. At first, I had no problem with this fact. However, recent issues have cropped in the use of my songs to do certain things. Now when a new technology comes along, such as Animoto, I find that I don’t have the rights to add my own music to videos I make on the site. This is very disturbing to me. In my opinion, if I want to hear music that I have legally purchased playing in the background of images of my wedding and honeymoon, I should be able to do just that. Instead, it only allows non-DRM music in the form of .mp3 files to be added.

This is NOT a solution. It is only an inconvenience to ethical folks who play by the rules. All that means is that I can slide any hardcopy CD that I have purchased (or borrowed for that matter) into my laptop drive and copy the file in .mp3 format to be used however I want. This amounts to DRM code being nothing but a crutch added to allow you to conveniently purchase music online. Because of this, I only download from iTunes when I am either in a hurry or want only a song or two from a certain LP.

To test some of these ideas, I created a video of a school planning retreat on Animoto and uploaded it to YouTube. The video can be seen here:

When this was done, I quickly received an e-mail from YouTube stating that my video had been flagged as having copyrighted material. The soundtrack I added for this two minute and four second video was “With My Own Two Hands” by Ben Harper & Jack Johnson from the Curious George soundtrack. For doing so, I was given three very reasonable options:

1. remove the video from YouTube immediately

2. dispute the claim via a link they provide

3. leave the video up and allow UMG, the recording company, to place ads on the page as well as track the public statistics of the video, such as number of views, etc.

To me, this is a very smart, savvy, consumer-friendly way to handle a minor “rights dispute” such as this one. I get to play my video the way I wanted to in the first place, and they get free advertising. This seems like a win/win to me. Therefore, I chose option three… the video still plays online, and everyone is happy. I can only hope that future decisions about information rights are solved in such a cooperative way.