Flip Video in the Classroom

Age Range: 5 - 11

I received a few requests on Twitter asking for my thoughts about the use of the Flip Video camera in an educational setting. So, I've taken the gadget into school and shared it with other adults and pupils to find out their opinions, and begun exploring its potential.

The adults that I have shown it to have all said "Wow". They've all been impressed with the size and quality of the device. The built-in USB connector and onboard software have also been seen as a great positive.

When using the Flip with my class for the first time. I started by asking two of my Year 5 children (aged 9/10) to try it out. I didn't explain what it was, or show them how it worked, but they figured out what all of the buttons did within the first few minutes. They had great fun recording each other, trying out the zoom, and recording things from different angles.

Uploading:

Although this isn't something that we would normally need to do, they also succeeded in uploading a video of one of my pet rats (which I had previously recorded) onto Youtube. I was really impressed at how easy they found using both the Flip and the built-in software.

On a separate note, the Youtube quality really doesn't compare to the actual quality of the video.

After spending some time playing with the camera, we then tried it out with the rest of the class. Over the course of a week, the children wrote scripts for a puppet show, based on a sequel to 'Finding Nemo'. The children made simple stick puppets, and performed on our stage:

Flip Video 1

As you can see, the Flip simply stood up on the table. It will stand up very well by itself, but we used blu-tac to hold it in place it in case the table was knocked accidentally. The children then held their puppets above the edge of the table, keeping the action in between the two rulers, which we used to make sure that everything could be seen on camera.

This whole process was incredibly easy. My normal process for recording video in class is:

  • Find video camera.
  • Check it is charged... if not, find charging cable and wait for it to charge, or use it with charging cable trailing across the floor (following health and safety guidelines, of course!).
  • Find a DV tape which doesn't have anything important recorded on it.
  • Set up tripod near the back of the room so that all of the action can be seen.
  • Choose someone to be a camera operator. This person would then stand with the camera, looking at the action, but blocking the camera's screen from the view of the rest of the class.

With this Flip, this process was simply:

  • Stand it on a table (with some blu-tac!)
  • Turn on and press record.

An added benefit with having the camera on a table, right in front of the action, was that the rest of the class (who were sitting around and watching) could see both the live performance and the image as it was recorded on the Flip's screen. Although the screen is admittedly quite small, this still enabled everyone (even the ones at the back of the room) to take the viewpoint of the director / cameraman, checking to make sure that the puppets could all be seen on screen, and that the puppet performers didn't accidentally appear in view.

Having watched a few of the children's videos myself, the picture and sound quality are very good. Their voices can be heard clearly (even the ones who were tucked under the table!). The colours are really vibrant, making the children's puppets stand out. The children haven't watched their recordings yet, but I'm sure they will play perfectly clearly on our Smartboard.

Now that it is so easy to make video recordings in the classroom, I may well ask the children to watch and evaluate their own performances next week, with a view to carrying out a second recording. This will give them a chance to reflect on their work, and make further improvements (e.g. keeping fingers out of the shot, using more accents / expression in their dialogue).

The ability to take still photos from the video is another bonus, and again the picture quality is fine for the needs of a primary class (in my opinion):

Flip Video 2
(ignore the fingers and the spiky hair!)

One of my only concerns about the Flip is the USB connector. It's extremely handy, but I am a bit worried about it getting snapped / bent when it is plugged into a laptop (especially if I'm using the laptop on my lap, as I do quite frequently). I suppose that's not an issue if you take care, or perhaps use an extension cable, but accidents do happen (does that make me sound really clumsy?!).

A few other potential uses:

  • School trips - a fantastic way of recording and reporting on these experiences, although will the one hour recording time be enough for a full day out of the classroom?
  • Interviews - great for Literacy work, and the ability to watch recordings back to gather information / answers.
  • Impulse recordings - in the past, I have occasionally thought "Wouldn't it have been good to record this activity?". Now, we can just grab the Flip and record without having to set things up in advance.

Overall, I'm really happy with the Flip Video, and although it was an impulse purchase, I'm definitely pleased that I bought it. I can see myself using digital video much more in the classroom. Setting up and using the Flip only takes seconds, so it's going to make my life as a teacher much easier too.

Since writing this review, we have now purchased one Flip Video camera for every year group at school. Watch out Hollywood... my class will be knocking on your door very soon!

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Shirley Campbel...

Thanks for this. I have also been using flip cameras and the ease of use is great. My only disappointment was having to convert the files before they can be be edited in Movie Maker (not sure about the new version as we don't have Windows 7).However we are starting to find some not bad free editing options.

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sambody

I agree with the ease of use and versatility - however, I'd recommend NOT buying one per class but buying a set for the school. We have 16 classes so I bought 16 (with a view to one per class) until a colleague suggested I keep them in one location to be signed out as and when. Much more effective as pupils get 1 between 2 or one each if only groups. One per class... how much use would they get? Not much in my school but they're used daily now!

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