Saturday, September 20, 2014

OpenShot VIdeo Editor

The science computer lab at my school has become my adopted child. I have taken it upon myself to convert the computer lab to use all opensource software. This was mostly because the operating system, and other software on the machines constantly had issues. Trying to find an IT person to help was always more of a chore than if I could just fix it myself. Similarly, the way the Windows 7 machines were set up for students to log on, stored too much information on the local disk and filled up the 80 gig hard drive very quickly. The IT solution was to re-image the machine every six weeks or so. This started to become problematic for a lot of reasons that I'm sure you could imagine. One major concern was that the image that was used to "fix" the machines didn't contain all the science software we would like to use. Simple and common tools like java, flash,  Google Chrome, and Firefox were always missing. Then more specific tools like Stellerium, Blender, LoggerPro, or Google Earth were always missing as well.

After finally getting fed up with this process, I made a solid argument to the IT department that the science department should be allowed to be the administrators for our computer lab. Once that was awarded, we quickly wiped windows from  all the machines and installed linux. This made life so much easier. Currently, the machines all run Linux Mint 17 XFCE x64. The best part is, they all run, and are reliable. I won't go into the specific hard-rive partitions, and software, but lets just say that if a student "breaks" the the OS, it can be restored in a click of a button. Similarly, the entire system can update,  all installed software with one command. This command can be pushed out through the network as well, so all machines can update at the same time and run the latest and greatest versions of all programs for our students.

On that note, one of the latest and greatest additions to our opensource lab has been OpenShot Video Editor. I have recently been assigning students a lot more STEM work where they need to document their learning through an actual scientific documentary. Their entire problem solving and inquiry based journey culminates with a video documentary that displays their work and demonstrates understanding of the concepts needed to achieve mastery of the standard. We had been attempting to use WeVideo editor online, and YouTube editor, but found it to be a bit cumbersome to stitch a lot of video clips, images, voice, and other video magic into these programs. I have always had OpenShot on my personal Linux machines, and never really played with it much, until recently. I fired it up to pull a bunch of video clips and images from a students iPhone, and just like that, it strung them all together, and created a quick video. I quickly installed it in the Linux lab and my students were making high quality videos with ease. It is just as simple as iMovie but also has the capability to pull animations from Blender, and other screen casting tools. The really nice thing is that the opensource tool also has tools to export the video in a formats preset for Flickr, YouTube, vimeo, Picasa, Wikipedia, Metacafe, Apple TV, Xbox 360, Nokia nHD, and various DVD and Blu-Ray options.
OpenShot is an amazing opensource tool, the only downside is that in only runs in Linux. However, a live version exists, if you really wanted to use it you could download it here, and burn it do a dvd or usb and boot it on any machine without installing anything. It's pre-installed on AV Linux. A live session of this OS would also deliver a wide rang of other multimedia type of tools, again with the option to use them out without installing anything.

Here is a short video clip from a larger documentary that some of my students made. Their challenge was to design a robot that could navigate through a natural disaster to save a trapped person. When the project was over, we needed to deconstruct the robots. We figured the best way to deconstruct them was to have them battle each other in Robot Wars. (The robots can be remote controlled through a smart phone, in one shot you'll see a student controlling the tank,)

If you're in my neck of the woods come November, join me at Vermont Fest, I will be running a session about how to use the Lego Mindstorm robots to STEM-up across the curriculum. You'll get an EV3 kit, learn how to build, program and use it across the curriculum. STEM can happen in every subject, it's more than just science, technology, engineering and mathematics. These skills can be applied anywhere, and everywhere.

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