Earth Day, and the frustrations of the internet

For Earth Day I participated in the teach paperless day inspired by TeachPaperless, a very cool edublog I’ve been reading.

I decided I would try out  Animoto with my two classes (Have a look at my previous post To the Climbing Gym to learn more about Animoto).  The assignment given was, in groups of five, they were to summarize their latest Social Studies lesson using Animoto.  Each group member would create a 30 sec.  video that included photos and text that would be a part of a longer 150 second series of five videos presenting their summary of the latest Lesson.  Before even starting with Animoto the groups were required to collaborate and plan their series. Initially there was a lot of creative chaos going on but eventually they settled down to work.  This is when the frustration began.  At home, Animoto is lightning fast in terms of how easy and quick it is to upload photo,  insert text, and choose music.  The longest part was the rendering step, but Animoto has it set up so you can close your window and get on with other stuff.  Animoto will send a notification to you by email when your video is ready.  My first mistake was test driving this service at home, and assuming all would be the same at school.  In our computer lab, just loading the Animoto page was glacial.  Students were left starring as their pages loaded.  Needless to say it took two periods and students working at home to complete the projects.  Though a little annoying for students, we weren’t really deterred.Trying to share the projects was another story.

I asked students to either post a link or embed their videos on our class blog.  I had envisioned that we could view them as a class on using our projector, discuss and review our SS lesson.  When we tried to do this, it took at the minimum 10-12 minutes for each of these 30 second videos to buffer,  some still weren’t done after being left to load after recess, and others didn’t load at all.  Needless to say the sharing part of my plan did not go so well.  This made me very grumpy.  I’d watched some of the student work at home, and they had done some great stuff.  I wanted to share it and talk about it.  The students were proud of what they did, and wanted to have it shared.  I’m going to have to watch them all at home and comment directly onto their Animoto pages.  Fine, but not the same as having it up on the screen for all your peers to see.  I’ve also had a good wake up call to the limits of the technological infrastructure of my school.

What I have discovered is that our internet provider puts all schools on an educational server.  All schools wither public or private use this server because the cost is low.  To get regular high speed service for our network would be considerably more expensive.  Because we are in Taiwan, when accessing some “foreign” websites the speed is degraded.  This is not consistent however, because some sites are not a problem.  You tube, and other video streaming work fine.  Anyway lesson learned.  I need to consider the limits of the technology when I’m bringing it into my classroom.

On another note, it makes me think that fast efficient internet service should be available to all free, or at least at an affordable rate.  But that’s coming, right?

Here is an example of an Animoto video created on Earth day about China’s Han Dynasty.  Enjoy!