When you think back to your grade school education, you probably have memories of large science books or overheads. Well, gone are the days of overhead projectors, now replaced by smartboards. And apparently, those hefty science books may be a thing of the past, too. McGraw-Hill just announced it’s first all-digital textbook for K-12. Sure, they want to turn around the trend of schools spending less on books these days, but it’s a smart move for kids whose lives are increasingly more digital.

If you give a child the option to read a chapter from a big biology textbook or read an ebook with animated video clips, I have the sneaking suspicion that the child would choose the digital option. There’s even the option to have digital conversations right alongside the text, similar to what the kids are accustomed to with Facebook. Polly Stansell, director of product development for McGraw-Hill, says, “We’re trying to meet students and teachers where they’re at digitally.”

A lesson from one of McGraw-Hill's digital textbooks, via Mashable

Now, this sounds really smart. Allowing students the chance to learn digitally since they live their lives digitally seems like a natural progression, right? But is there a negative side effect of being in front of a computer screen all day? Are we creating learners who are better multi-taskers or stimulus-addicts?

According to CNN, our digital lives may be giving us “popcorn brain.” Rather than choosing to spend time outside or enjoying a few moments with their children, people are choosing digital stimulus. Experts are speculating that our brains are now so used to the constant stimulation of digital multitasking that we basically can’t live functional lives offline. Normal life just moves too slowly for our digitally-addicted brains.

Why does this happen? Our brains are wired to like the fast-paced nature of technology. We feed off of the instantaneousness. In fact, being online stimulates the pleasure centers of the brain. So it’s no wonder we’re drawn to this digital lifestyle. However, if this “popcorn brain” goes on long enough, it can cause a physical change in our brains. Those who spend too much time online have less gray matter – the thinking part of the brain. That’s a serious issue. To cope, set time limits for your online life or reserve time in the evening that you’ll stay away from technology.

So what do you think? Is digital learning for students a good progression, or are we setting young people up for “popcorn brain” issues? Share your thoughts in the comments!

June 28, 2011 · Posted by in misc, web  

RED ONE to HD

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One of the things people ask about shooting with the RED ONE is, “Why do you need all that resolution, especially if you’re going to finish at HD resolution!?”

Here’s one reason, and it’s the same reason you might shoot with a still camera that creates 24-Megapixel images, every now and then, you may want to crop something.

For documentary style interviews, you usually have a few choices on how you shoot. You can use two (or more) cameras at different angles and/or with different crops. For instance, one camera might be tight on the person’s face, while the other shows their whole upper-body.

With multiple cameras you will need to deal with at least twice as much footage, and deal with syncing as well. Here’s another idea…

First, here’s our visual to compare the size of HD footage to 4k footage from the RED ONE:

Size Comparison

The full size of the graphic represents a frame of 4k footage from the RED, while the smaller rectangle in the upper-left corner represents the size of 1080p HD video.

So let’s suppose we frame our shot like this:

4k Footage

We’ve got the classic sitting person, with the upper half of their body in frame.

You could size this 4k footage down to HD resolution and be done, but with all the extra resolution, we can crop in on it and create what may appear to be additional cameras.

RED to HD Sample 1

Same camera, same footage, tighter crop… And we can even go further:

RED to HD Sample 2

A tighter shot is often used in an interview situation when you want to emphasize what the person is saying. Using this trick is one more way to get some use out of that extra resolution you might have otherwise not used.

February 17, 2011 · Posted by in video  

Coverleaf

I’m a Make Magazine subscriber, and I enjoy getting each issue delivered to my doorstep, but one of the advantages of being a subscriber is also getting the digital edition, which is available online as well as a downloadable PDF file. I’ve viewed the PDF on my desktop, and my laptop, but the experience of reading it on the iPad is really good. Since I find myself doing so much reading on the iPad, having my favorite magazine there (the most recent issue, as well as back issues) is convenient, and provides a great user experience.

The experience of getting the digital edition of Make Magazine though, is nothing short of painful… Make (like many other magazines) provides it’s digital edition through a service called Coverleaf. The Coverleaf web site lets you read the magazines you subscribe to, including past issues-which is great-but I continually experience problems with the web site. For instance, I’ve tried reading an older issue of Make, only to be asked to login or verify my account every time I clicked to the next page (which doesn’t happen every time, but has happened more than once.) I’ve also tried to download files only to be greeted by a “The document you are looking for cannot be found” dialog box, and even though I’ve never sent a “clipping” to a friend, I get a repeated warning that says “Send to A Friend Limit Exceeded. You are only allowed to share access to an issue with 10 friends. You have reached the limit for this issue.”

So while we’re moving forward in making digital editions better, Coverleaf still has a long way to go in providing a good user experience. I’m thankful for the service they offer, but also know it could be so much better…

January 27, 2011 · Posted by in print