A little over three years ago, I was pretty excited to get a set of eight Canon ZR830 Camcorders that lived on a cart for classroom use. Since then, teachers have used them pretty well for various projects – recordings and skits in language classes, plays in English classes, commercials in social studies, stop motion in science, etc. During this time, we’ve gone through several models of student laptops and evolved from traditional pc laptops to tabletpcs to ClassmatePC convertibles.
When I purchased the ZR830s, I was hoping to get around 5 years of use from them. Realistically speaking, little hardware used by students should be expected to last much longer. This year, the first of the cameras died (malfunctioned and having Canon look at it would cost more than replacing the unit).
As most of our video projects are in 8th grade, I hadn’t tried using the Canons with the Classmates yet. As netbooks, they only have USB ports, so firewire on traditional cameras isn’t an option. I was hoping that, as the Canon ZR830s support USB, this might be an option. As it turns out, the USB only works for still images on an SD card in the camera and will not work with tape. In retrospect, this makes sense, but it took a morning of playing and research to convince myself.
Long story short – if my teachers want to do video projects, either the projects or the hardware will have to change. Yes, the webcams in the Classmates are pretty good. They actually rotate, so you can hold the laptop in your hands and video something in front of you. The resolution is surprisingly good for a webcam. Unfortunately, if you want to pan, zoom, etc., the process becomes pretty frustrating for most kids (although it’s cool to see how inventive kids can be when they try to figure out solutions).
I’m hoping to acquire a small set of some sort of video camera, but I’m not sure which model I’d like to go for. As we’re using PCs, I’d like something that outputs in a format that makes nice with MovieMaker. That rules out anything that only does Quicktime or .mov formats. I put it out to my Twitter PLN and heard raves about the Kodak Xi series – especially Xi8. I also heard from a number of teachers heavily using Flip cameras. I tested these when they first came out and didn’t care for the quality; looks like they’ve improved over the years. I’ve also got the iPod Nano and the Zoom Q3 on my radar.
Right now, I’m leaning toward the Kodak. Here’s a video of it in action.
My shopping list of features (no particular order):
- Works with USB/netbooks
- Will work w/MovieMaker
- Will work w/standard tripods (already have)
- Stores to SD card
- Rechargeable batteries
- Affordable (would love to keep each under $250)
- Ideally, it would have the ability to work w/external microphone (complaint we’ve had w/other video cameras int he past – poor audio)
Do you have an experience to share or a product to recommend?
BTW – Thanks to everyone who replied already!
@brasst I like the Flip camera for classroom use.
@brasst what suggestions have you had so far? nearly everyone has said flip cams to me, gonna do a blot post
@brasst ie flip video cam?
@brasst We love our Kodaks. Just bought 12 new ones! We like that no additional software is needed and it has the option to take photos.
@brasst Sorry. My last tweet should have read the drawback to the nano. The Flip has digital zoom and does better in low light.
@brasst .mov I think. The drawback to the Flip though is no zoom and low light shooting isn’t that great from what I have heard.
@brasst I like the Flip for the classroom, but a case could be made for the new ipod nano that has a camera and can be voice recorder too.
@brasst I like the Flip and young kids can handle it nicely. We have some for a few classroom and personal use.
RT @brasst: Anyone have favorite vid cam for classroom use? Durable, affordable, quality, easy-to-use – Flip, Kodak, other ???
@brasst I’ve been using two :30 Flips and like them so much I just bought a new 120 minute model.
@brasst I really like the Kodak.