Issues in ET: When Tools Break Down

Over the past 5 months I have been integrating a class set of Flip Mino HD (6) at every opportunity. Mainly, I justified the purchase of these devices on the premise that:

  • French Immersion students would be motivated to speak French if they were filming each other
  • French Immersion students are self-conscious when speaking French and being able to film oral presentations would allow them to get it right
  • French Immersion students would be able to improve their oral communication skills by watching themselves and others more closely

All the above proved to be true: students excelled when given the opportunity to use this technology. We used the Flips as an alternative mode for oral presentations. We used them for self-evaluations and peer evaluations, and we also used them in structured group discussions.

Now, 1 unit is malfunctioning after only 5 months of light usage, and the whole unit / student ratio has been disrupted. Moreover, there is an underlying fear that another unit might begin to malfunction, in which case I will have to re-think several activities / projects in my course. With over 100 students and no prep time, that’s not a gamble I’m willing to take. Although the units are still under warranty, sending it out for repair will likely mean being without for weeks… Solution: giving students the option of completing each task / project with or without Flips or bringing and using their own devices to school.

So what does this add up to? Well, we know that learners excel when given the opportunity to use the right tools (recall Debating With iPod Touch in the Classroom), and we also know there are some very valid arguments for not using technology: dependability issues, financial cost, time cost. The only feasible solution as I see it, is that schools begin to focus their attention on wireless access and multimedia sharability (interactive white boards in the classroom), and that students come to school with their own handheld devices (many already do). Additionally, it would be helpful if course design reflected students’ ability to meet learning outcomes in various formats (audio files, video files, live presentations, written submissions, collaborative projects). This model would not only provide a seamless environment rich in learning opportunities, it would take financial pressures from school administrators (having to constantly upgrade, fund, replace, repair, support…), as well as pressures on educators having to learn, keep up with, spend valuable teaching time teaching students about technologies that may not be meeting their individual needs.

One might argue that having students use their own devices to meet learning outcomes would leave some students behind, the ‘have-nots’. But would that be any different than only being able to provide tools for a selected few within the school budget?

Troubleshooting

For those using Flip Mino HD, here is a tip that might save you some time:

Interesting adventure this has been… Thanks for the suggestion, however I had already tried resetting with no success… After going over this in my head all day I believe that the green 70s zig-zag freak show occured because of conflicts between the original software that came with the unit and the updates which have intalled themselves over time.

Flipshare software is intalled on your computer when you connect a unit for the first time, these files are stored on the unit in a separate folder and are never updated. The camera receives updates to another location. The assumption is that everytime you connect you syncronize updates. But when I connected the unit to my new laptop it installed the original software, which is now dated, this created a conflict with the unit which now operates from a newer version… What I did was to connect the unit, find the latest updates, download and install and voilà!

So far so good, the problem seems to have been resolved. Anyway, this is what I think happened. Sadly, when I called Pure Digital’s help desk this morning after a very frustrating night last night, I was told to reset the unit as you’d mentionned. However, after I described what was happening and what I had already tried, the teckie told me to send it in for repairs, that if it could not be fixed they would likely send me a refurbished model, that it would take over 1 month, and that she herself would not want a Flip if they gave her one! (No kidding!) In retrospect, I wonder why she said that, and why she could not, as the hired tech support, have saved me the time and frustration by just telling me what it took me hours to figure out… Some help! I wonder if the merge between Pure Digital and Cisco shorthanded her in some way… Anyway, problem solved… For now…

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