Sunday, July 5, 2009

My new Wilkes course is called Web 2.0. Ironically I chose to do it while travelling home from NECC through rural Canada where there can be very little or no internet service. July 3rd at midnight was the deadline for applications to Google Academy and applicants were required to create a one minute video. I chose the topic ‘Motivation’ and had visions of a combination of slides and student voices interwoven in some magical way, but as time became shorter and shorter, I decided to use some footage of a young woman named Christine that had been taken as she was working on her last project in Earth Science 11.

Christine came to our school because her family had decided she needed to leave Meritt and live with her grandparents here in Surrey. She had only a few courses left to graduate and finally ended up with me for her last one. She had failed Biology 12 twice and was understandably worried about being able to finish on time. As I watched her try over and over to make sense of the text material in the ESC 11 course we’d chosen because it was easier than Biology, I began to understand just how serious her anxiety was. She almost could not look at the student booklet without having a panic attack. As the completion deadline cam nearer and nearer, she became more and more shut down and the mountain between her and graduation became bigger and more impossible to climb. Fortunately I have the freedom to come up with alternative assignments and there is a happy ending to Christine’s story. She spoke so well in the interview that I decided to trim her 11+ minutes down to the 1 required by the Google Academy people and use that for my application.

The trimming took 2 days. Adding titles and music to the video took half a day. Posting to YouTube had me tearing my hair out. I figured thousands of people do this every week so I only left about 2 hours for the task. (tick…tick…tick…). I started with an flv file (BIG MISTAKE) and watched the little upload symbol rotate for 1 of the two precious hours. After I read the directions, I tried again with an MP4 file. This time the load line zipped across the page. “Success!” I thought -- but no -- 5 mm short of the end, it stopped and flipped me the infamous ‘unknown error’ message. The video would not upload. I tried again and again. I changed to MP2. I changed the aspect ratio. I changed from regular to widescreen. Nothing worked.

With 15 minutes left I went online and found that this is a ‘well-known’ problem that can be avoided by using the ‘batch load’ feature even if you have only 1 measly 1 minute clip to put up. There is a ‘video for dummies’ posted in YouTube. Batch loading required that I download Gears. This resulted in a near fatal error -- the machine had to be shut down completely or risk final demise if I didn’t do it fast enough. I had to chose between losing all the great thoughts I had typed into the application form (which could not be saved and could not be posted without the YouTube URL) and losing my computer. I shut the it down.

As I waited for the reboot, the penny dropped. One post I read in the forum was so thoroughly written up that the person had included her browser details. She was using Firefox --- browser --- Firefox -- browser -- Firefox -- Firefox! I knew what the problem was.

Several months ago when I was trying to write assignments in Blogger using FF, my professor was not able to read them. In June, when I tried to post a Google Calendar in a Google Doc using FF, my husband was not able to see it. In both cases the fix was to move to Internet Explorer. I knew those Google Apps seemed happiest when composed or created in IE, so I decided to switch browers and give it one more try.

By now the midnight deadline had passed; however, I am staying with a friend who lives almost as far east as you can get in this country. We look out her window at the Bay of Fundy. I am in the Atlantic time zone, but my home is on the Pacific coast. I watched the video load in less than 3 minutes (not such a dummy after all, eh?), redid the application, and submitted it with a note inside saying that I was playing by Pacific (home turf) rules and hoped they would still accept my application.

I have not heard anything back, but I did learn how to post to YouTube – just use Internet Explorer and the process works fine.

Here then is my first YouTube video, entitled Christine Speaks. She’s talking about the difference having an alternate assignment -- one using an easy, easy online web page building tool called Squidoo – made in her life.

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