The Blue Snowball Microphone
The Blue Snowball Microphone is a USB microphone that plugs straight into the computer ready to use. It produces great sound quality and can be used effectively to record group discussions without the need to pass the microphone from person to person. This makes it ideal for recording things like book chats, readers' theatre, radio shows and podcasts. At $180 (plus postage) this is more expensive than most computer microphones, but I read such great reviews on its quality that I couldn't resist.
Yesterday I used the microphone with small groups to record a discussion on the book Rowan of Rin by Emily Rodda. Students gathered around the microphone and leaned forward slightly when they wanted to record their views. The microphone was able to record from all directions, but worked best from the front. I used Audacity to make the recordings, and was mostly happy with the result. I am aware that I will need to tinker a little with the microphone volume in order to achieve the volume I desire. I am now able to listen back over the recordings to hear the perspectives shared by individuals and further ascertain how well they have comprehended the text and the underlying messages.
The Flip Mino
The Flip Mino is a pocket camcorder that records up to 60 minutes on the internal flash-based memory. Recording is started or stopped with a big red button, and viewed through the little LCD screen. It is kid-friendly - allowing for instant playback and can be plugged into the red/white/yellow sockets on your TV (or IWB if you're lucky enough to have it - like me). It has a built-in USB arm making it easy to move videos onto your computer for further editing and sharing. One of the things I really love is that it charges while plugged into the computer.
In summary, for $308 (plus postage) the Flip Mino camcorder is a fun tool that's easy to use, portable and a great introduction to using video in the classroom. Video quality is good without being great, so if you want high quality video this may not be the option for you. (Flip also produces a HD version that may be worth considering).
There are an increasing number of flash based camcorders being created now, but they are not as easy to access in Australia as they are in the USA. The one that we purchased was through ITmadeSimple! based in Victoria, Australia. They are also selling the Kodak Zi6 which seems better in some aspects, but takes AA batteries rather than containing a lithium-ion battery. (Which is what turns me off.)
I'm sure I'll be telling you more about these tools throughout the year, but I was just so excited when they arrived that I wanted to share them here! Have you got any new toys for your classroom lately?