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Now showing: your students' imaginations: if you're not making digital movies in your school system, you should be. (Mac advocate: musings about Apple from an enthusiast).

Digital video may be the killer app for teachers who have avoided using computers in their classrooms. Even to the most technically phobic, making a movie makes sense. The process of video editing mirrors and amplifies the writing process. Classroom moviemaking is possible and practical because of major hardware and software innovations, like Firewire and iMovie--both inventions of Apple Computer.

Firewire is the hardware standard for high-speed data transfer between video cameras, computers and storage devices, iMovie is remarkable in its simplicity and power. I recently taught a school principal how to edit a simple iMovie, export the movie and bum it to CD in just a few minutes.

You may be asking, "Can't you edit digital on a PC?" The theoretical answer is yes, but it's like swimming on carpet, iMovie is infinitely more stable and easy-to-use than its PC competitors. These two qualities are critical in classrooms, where time and patience are in short supply.

Administrators should also understand that by the time you add a Firewire card and video editing software to a PC, you will have outspent the cost of a Mac. Even if you are a "PC school," your policy should be to invest in appropriate technology. If your school has contemplated the construction of a digital media studio to benefit a handful of kids, you might consider buying $899 iBooks so every child can have a digital media studio in their book bag.

Amazing iMovie add-ons

Apple designed iMovie with an extensible architecture allowing others to add value and power to the program. During the past year, a number of creative companies have published collections of iMovie add-ons. These low-cost packages add incredible transitions, effects and titles to iMovie.

The four Slick packages from GeeThree ( offer high-quality transitions, special effects and titles. Virtix ( brings classic-film style cinematic effects, color correction, letterbox formatting, and Ken Bums-style zooms and pans to the party. The Virtix Bravo and Echo Pack contains fun effects like fire, smoke, lasers and lightening as well as "witness protection," an effect that allows you to "blue dot" the face of someone in your video. In some settings privacy requirements make this feature a godsend. eZedia ( specializes in packages that allow picture-in-picture, screen mattes and even chroma-key. Chroma-key is the blue screen technique that helped Superman fly.

SmartSound Movie Maestro ( is a remarkable product enabling you to compose royalty-free soundtracks perfectly synched to your digital videos. It's simplicity, power and low-price makes it a must in your digital toolkit.


All educators using Macs should have a free copy of OS 10.2, aka: Jaguar, thanks to Apple's decision to donate the operating system software to educators. The networking, interface, ease-of-use and stability breakthroughs in Jaguar are well documented. Be sure to check out the amazing features for disabled users in the Universal Access system preferences. Text may be automatically read to the sight-impaired or users with low literacy levels. Modifications may be made to how the mouse and keyboard work as well.

The multihoming and groundbreaking Rendezvous technologies foreshadow the future. Turn your Mac on and it automatically knows what printers it can use and sees any network connection, available server, user or other device regardless of how the device is connected--even if that device is a phone or Windows computer. Industry adoption of Rendezvous should allow you to show your iMovie on the classroom television wirelessly in the near future.

Want to share an OS X document with a colleague? Print any document and click on Save-As PDF in the print dialog box. Your document will automatically become an Acrobat file readable on a zillion different computers.
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Author:Stager, Gary S.
Publication:District Administration
Date:Feb 1, 2003
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