Tapping into the Wild Wild Web

There are great things about digital video as a tool in the classroom. For teaching, DV uses the vast image processing powers of the student brain to deliver instruction. For learning, it taps into the deep media existence of virtually all students and transfers the passive experience of media watching into the active experience of media making. Media making requires the research, understanding, and narrative skill of an essay or research paper and the results can be staggeringly good. There's a much better chance of a 21st century student producing a breathtaking media project than producing a breathtaking written assignment. The brain used to make the two may be the same, but the relative time spent assimilating media skills by watching media is colossal compared to the time spent mastering, say, essays by reading essays.

The catch is having a basic library of good instructional material for students to pull from for their media projects. Any decent school library will have a wide, valid, and organized pool of text material. Fewer will have an equivalent breadth of video, audio, or image selections. But source material is critical to the instructional quality and integrity of student projects. If students are to produce exceptional media projects, they must have a source of meaningful material to pull from. If they have, ready at hand, audio resources such as oral histories from great poets, writers, and political figures, and videos resources rich in relevant visuals, they will create projects that will surprise you. If they have at hand solid instructional videos on weather, government, mathematics, phonics, art, reading, and so on, they will learn a great deal as they build great projects.

So where do you find sources for such quality media material? The vast and growing archives on the Internet! There are commercial services that have done much of the gathering for you (for a price) and there are non-profit services, libraries, and groups that have identified or collected material for the general welfare. In the ideal world, you would have access to both. This column will walk you through a variety of both types of resources. But before we explore the astonishingly rich material at the other end of your mouse, let's talk about what to do with them.

What to Do (When You've Found the Materials)

Video, audio, and graphical material in many formats can be pulled directly into digital video editing programs such as Apple iMovie, Pinnacle Studio DV, Ulead VideoStudio, and Microsoft MovieMaker. All accept source material from something other than a camcorder. The specific programs have translators listed in the manual, but in general, you can try dragging or importing files. If they work, you're in business.

First Step: Create folders on your computer for material you'll be accumulating. Names like Earth Science, Rhymes, Chemistry, World War II, and so on, will help you find material after you've done your binge collecting. Do this first, or, trust me, you'll regret it. You'll find creating folders helps you focus your search. If you haven't got a folder for it, don't download it, no matter how engaging it is. Be warned: The "Miscellaneous" folder will fill up first and should be the first to be dumped when you run out of memory.

Second: Find the audio, video, or images you think will be useful for your students. Students are capable of doing this for you or for themselves. (Be especially sure they read Step One above, too!). If you have students otherwise unengaged, this is an excellent task for them.

Third: Download the material. Links to streaming material won't be as useful (although it can have purpose for homework, lectures, PowerPoint, and so on). Some forms of media, such as RealVideo and RealAudio can't be downloaded-on purpose. There are technologies that can turn these files into downloadable form, but wait on doing that until the legal dust settles. There is a cosmos of material out there in QuickTime and other downloadable formats that folks want you to download for educational purposes.

Fourth: Find out which formats your digital authoring program accepts. If it won't read the material you've downloaded, you may have to convert it with a Rosetta Stone program. My favorite is QuickTime Pro, $29 for Windows or Mac, downloadable from www.apple.com/quicktime/.

Fifth: Import the material into your digital authoring program. Now you and your students can make it part of a great project. Like quotes in a research paper or visuals in a news report the incorporated material can move the entire project up a notch.


Download Ralph Nader talking about teamwork and school athletic programs. Put his audio over digital pictures of your own school coaches, teams, and programs-even at the elementary schoolyard. (www.achievement.org)

Download Maya Angelou reading her poetry (www.poetseers.org) and match your own visual poetry to her words or an illuminating American speech (www.americanrhetoric.com) and match it-or counterpoint it-with images.

Download pictures of famous and not-so-famous rivers (www.tech4learning.com) and add music and a narration describing where the rivers begin and end, the states they pass through, and their primary uses.

Download an instructional video or a great science program, mute the original audio, and require (or empower) students to supply a new and original soundtrack. They will simply have to understand the material or it will be very obvious that they are fudging things. Technology helps us tiptoe toward authentic assessment after all.

Wait a minute. Can you do that? Copyright law in the United States offers magnanimous and broad rights to educators in schools for the purposes of teaching and learning. Check the archives at www.techlearning.com for October, 2002 or download the copyright material from www.halldavidson.net. The classroom has more rights and power than most teachers suspect.

Finding It

There are a great many Web sites on the wild, wild Web. When using the Web as your library for audio, images, and video, be aware that search engines are the equivalent of a card catalog in the library. My favorite search engines:

Google.com. A search for "political ad" yields adcritic.com (a great and formerly free subscription service), the great ad archives at cnn.com/allpolitics, include hysterical Eisenhower and Stevenson ads, plus the Willie Horton Dukakis smear, and more. A deeper follow-up search for "Ike for president" reveals the pbs.org/30secondcandidate site with transcripts, videos, timelines, and more. Do a search for evolution video and you get both wonderful, downloadable videos from PBS (free) as well as opposing point of view videos from www.christianvideoetc.com.

Ditto.com. This is a great place with a K-12 subsection to search for images. Searching for "rivers" will get you Joan as well as New Guinea's Karawari, but the erosion patterns are equally interesting on both.

Alltheweb.com has a search engine for video, pictures, audio, and more


There are also portals that offer a guided tour of resources. I have two favorites here:

www.eduscapes.com/seeds/, Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson's terrific site with The Big Picture audio video sections, digital libraries, and much, much more.

I also like the archives assembled at www.schoolhousevideo.org in the resource section. Each month offers a growing list of resources. These resources mainly touch on videomaking and resources for videomaking. Schoolhousevideo projects are aired on southern California PBS station KOCE, where I am Director of Educational Services.

And for quantity of raw material in the areas of The American Dream, Vision, Courage, Science, Sports, and more, check the Gallery section of www.achievement.org.

Subscription Services

Subscription services generally are built from digitized versions of those VHS tapes teachers and students bought and used for years. Lately, subscription services have begun to collect and archive new sources of video material such as the BBC and the Discovery Channel (United Learning) and have added features such as quizzes, teacher notations (Aims' Digital Curriculum), and other bells and whistles. The two below are excellent. The media consortium of which I am executive director has subscribed to both. If you want to have a bake sale, use the proceeds to buy a video download service.

The Giants of the Streaming/Download World



Visit them both and try a trial subscription, if one is offered. If you're like most schools with bandwidth, you'll rapidly become attached to your download service provider.

More to Come

In future columns, there will be more on copyright and the Internet and more on the how-to's of mouse clicks of downloading, converting, and digital authoring. There will also be a closer blow-by-blow look at the subscription services.

Fight mass media! Make your own!

Hall Davidson (hall@cccd.edu) is executive director of educational services and telecommunications at KOCE-TV in California. He has received numerous awards, including an Emmy for Best Instructional Series.

For More Info


Ralph Nader on teamwork and school athletic programs

Maya Angelou reading her poetry


Download illuminating American speeches


Download pictures of American rivers


Terrific site with The Big Picture audio video sections, digital libraries, and more


Visit the archives in the resource section


A great place with a K-12 subsection of images



Giants of the streaming/download world

Read other articles from the November Issue