Monday, November 12, 2012

Making Videos

In our first year course on “People and Computers”, Sally Fincher and I asked our students to make a set of videos that illustrate the range of units in computer science, including measures of charge, data, distance, frequency, money, power and time, ranging from the tiny (for example 1 nanosecond) to the huge (e.g. 1 exabyte). The idea of this was to build a body of reference points to give students “scaffolding” for the work that they will do in the rest of the course, but we also wanted to encourage their creativity in communicating ideas this way (as well as in more traditional ways like essays). The videos were "low fi", recorded on smartphones or equivalent: we weren't looking for HD quality, but rather inventiveness and style.

Well, we've got the results now, and we were really pleased with them. What struck me was how varied the videos are (we have about thirty of them, produced by groups of three or four), but each has something interesting to say. What approaches did people use? One strategy was to approach the subject historically, giving the history of the inventor of an idea as well as the idea itself, and one ingenious group had one member impersonating the inventor! Taking a historical view allows comparisons with the (recent, or not so recent) past, and that underlines just how quickly computing evolves.

Another line was in comparisons, or analogies. Some were arresting … measuring data by the number of BluRay disks that would be needed to hold it, and the equivalent weight in baby elephants … the weight of iPad that could be bought for 1p … how many hamsters running in wheels it would take to power Google … . Other presentations brought up unfamiliar computing facts: the power consumption of a sleeping laptop … the rate of spread of the I♡U virus … MB versus “advertising” MB.

We saw some nice animations: using walking, running and skateboarding - or running different distances - to illustrate different rates of data transmission, as well as an animation of Wireshark. A number of groups used (sped up) drawing by hand to get ideas across. Some groups introduced themselves, while others remained behind camera commentating, or even using speech synthesis … quite a few had cheesy soundtrack music.

What were some of the memorable images and ideas? Personally I'll remember the “if a pea is one bit, then the peas in a pod are a byte”, you can get 170 Mb of data storage for 1p, and a description of how much data is in the video we're watching (script and image). We'll find out the most popular among the students this time next week, and I hope to post them on YouTube after that.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like an interesting and professional course. I used to want to make videos but with the new technology I think I would have a hard time. buy youtube views