A Sad Passing…

…of a product.

Recently, Cisco announced that it would be discontinuing the Flip Video Camera.  I think that’s a shame.  I remember when it was announced that Cisco was purchasing the product.  I thought that with Cisco backing and some energy, real innovation could come with this technology.

Thanks, andyi (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

I recall my first experiences with this.  It was actually a few years ago.   I had had a number of meetings with my superintendent.  We were both wrestling with the concept of YouTube and what impact it would have on students.  At the time, YouTube was blocked but students were finding all kinds of ways to get around the filters so that they could be entertained.  There’s no sense putting the time and effort into bypassing a filter for the educational value so there was a great deal of “Cat Flushing a Toilet” viewing happening.

At that level of intake, certainly YouTube wasn’t worth the time, effort or bandwidth.  The IT Department had cautioned us that we didn’t have enough bandwidth to open it to the system.  We weren’t terribly excited about just passively watching videos anyway.  We were more interested in the construction of the video.  A few years earlier a large amount of money had been infused into Technology Departments to kick-start the system with the offering of Communications Technology to secondary school students.  After a bumpy start, the program was flourishing.  In fact, some students were doing amazing things with video production.  Shameless family promotion starts here.

Every year, we would purchase a small piece of technology and put it into the hands of our Computers in Education School Contacts for use in the school.  We had experimented with iPods, Palms, and more in the past and so I suggested that we purchase a small digital video camera this year around.  We both quickly brainstormed some ideas and decided that this could be a “YouTube killer”.  After all, we had full day release time with the contacts for five days throughout the year and I would make working with this technology an integral part of it.  So, we decided to make it happen.  I started to do my homework and narrowed the field down to two pieces of technology that fit in this genre – the Flip Camera and the RCA Small Wonder.

Quite frankly, I didn’t think there was a bad choice to be made.  I liked the technology and I liked the potential.  We ended up purchasing the Small Wonder camera.  I liked the larger screen and the lack of a flip out screen for durability.  It was quite an event when 80 of them, one for each school, arrived on our doorstep.  Our inventory control involved my secretary labelling the boxes so that we could ensure that every school got one and the technology was distributed at the first meeting of the year to quite a mixed response.  The elementary school contacts loved them and had them unpacked and looking for the power switch immediately.  A couple of the secondary school contacts were Communication Technology teachers and saw them as toys and could never produce the same results that they could with professional quality equipment.  I even had a colleague in another board ask me “Can they do this? as he pulled out his dynamite high-end camera.  No, but does every school have one of those?  Well, no….”

All of these groups were right.

We stayed the course and it was great.  The intent was never that they would contend for status in a Communications Technology course.  In fact, it could be argued that they would seed student interest in video production to the point that they would choose this as an option.  They were designed as a “first person shooter” for students to just be able to shoot and tell a story.  They weren’t “cheap” but if one got dropped and broken, it wouldn’t break the bank to replace it.  With replaceable batteries, there should never be a reason for no power again.  Since it contained a memory chip, you could replace memory in a moment rather than scrambling for a video cassette.  Or, just plug the device into the USB port of your computer and pull the video or images from the camera to your desktop.  The uptake everywhere was so successful that we quickly had schools wanting to know how to purchase more – my science colleague wanted to document science experiments – and even the Communications Technology folks wanted more because of the portability.

We started to see:

  • videos of school productions on websites;
  • green screen video productions; (just set your computer to a green background colour and display it on your SMART Board)
  • public service announcements from the child on the street;
  • three word stories;
  • parts dropped overboard on a trip to Pelee Island on the Jiimaan;
  • earth day videos;
  • birthday party celebrations;
  • graduation videos;
  • video book reviews;
  • videos created for every type of project imaginable;
  • video from angles like lying on the floor looking up that would normally cause one to shudder with an expensive camera;
  • special education students using new words in a sentence with immediate feedback of their performance for self evaluation;
  • and so much more.

As a Windows Board, we used Microsoft’s Photo Story and Movie Maker to edit and assemble our stories.  They were absolutely awesome.  I was recently at David Suzuki Public School to help out with a Grade 1 class for a Reading Project and part of our multimedia production involved recording a rap.  Guess how it was recorded?  I can’t speak highly enough for how much of an impact this sort of technology provided us.

While we used the Small Wonder, the Flip Video has as many or more success stories.  It’s a shame that Cisco couldn’t find a way to financially keep the product alive, or at least, sell the division to someone else who could.

There is a lot of speculation as to why this happen – including the use of the Smart Phone for video production instead.  Definitely the functionality for creating short videos is there but at a different price point; different level of durability; and without the potential of putting it in the hands of all students to tell their story.

It is sad to read this about the Flip Video camera.  The devices are so strong and durable that they’ll be around and used for a long time yet.  Perhaps we’ll see another life breathed into it or a subsequent technology.  It seems to me the next step would have been to add wifi capabilities and some simple in camera editing.  The Flip Camera will really be missed.  Witness the response so far…


OTR Links for 04/14/2011

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.