16 August 2008

Multitasking at the Gym

There never seems to be enough time in the day to do everything we teachers have to do. Multitasking seems to be the way to go. The gym turns out to be an excellent place to get a little work done. I'm not talking about grading papers. I'm suggesting that we can get video previewing out of the way while walking on the treadmill!

Why am I concerned about video previewing? After all, the videos purchased through my school were secured through reputable educational video distributors. Sometimes the standards of reputable distributors don't match community standards for classroom viewing. Several years ago, while teaching middle school, I used several episodes of a well-received series on Ancient History. In a hurry one afternoon, I checked out the next episode from the school library and set it on my desk figuring I didn't need to preview it...after all, the other episodes were excellent and contained nothing untoward. Fortunately, something made me leave my car and go all the way back to my classroom to get that video. I would have to find the time to watch it that night.

I found the time and, boy, am I glad I did. Smack in the middle of the video was a lengthy segment on the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum. It showed many interesting features of these ancient cities including the frescoes on the walls of the bordellos! Yikes! That was a close one. All's well that ends well as they say. When the video got to that part, I shut off the TV and we had a great discussion about Pompeii for ten minutes. We resumed the video and no one was the wiser.

So, I learned my lesson. ALWAYS preview videos before showing them in class. This is where my video iPod comes in handy.

As my school has been increasing the number of videos in its library, I have been borrowing them and converting them to view on my iPod. While on the treadmill, I can view a significant portion of the videos (sometimes the whole thing) and make decisions about which parts I will show. For conversion, I use Pocket DVD Wizard, a PC only program. Pocket DVD Wizard allows me to convert the video to pretty much any small format video player I want. In a few clicks of the mouse I have the program running. It is a resource hog, so if your computer doesn't have a lot of power, expect the video to convert in real time at best.

Pocket DVD Wizard offers a free trial that lets you convert five minutes of video. I paid $19.95 for the program about a year ago.

Of course, sharing the converted file is a no-no. Nor would it be appropriate to give a converted file to a student to watch at home.

Being able to view videos at the gym has been invaluable for me over the past year. I like to show parts of films to illustrate events or concepts and I'm not sure how I would have found the time to preview all of these videos without using the iPod.