An inexpensive teleprompter for your classroom

The free, 2015 K12 Online Conference began earlier this week with a keynote from Alan Levine (aka cogdog) entitled “Ordinary/Amazing Stories of Connection”. Needless-to-say Alan’s keynote was the catalyst that helped me move further along my learning journey.

k12-online-badgeAbout a month ago, my good friend Andy McKiel, stated that he had just completed a short 2 minute video to describe the connections that he had made while following his passion for creating unique wooden pens. His video was entitled “Manzanita & Amazing Connections” and was sent to Alan Levine for possible use in Alan’s up-coming K12 Online Conference keynote. Andy suggested that I might like to create a video describing online connections that I had made and share my 2-3 minute video with Alan Levine.

Andy sparked in me a “connecting idea” that I had experienced in the Spring of 2012. At that time, I was actively engaged in a free, online digital storytelling DS106 course, in which Alan Levine was one of my instructors. I began by viewing Andy’s video and was envious of Andy’s succinct and articulate way he provided the narration to his very professional video. Unfortunately, as my readers know, I have difficulty expressing myself in a concise manner. My story had so many important elements, that I was afraid that I would miss a key ingredient, if I just talked “off the cuff”. Rather, I knew that I could not tell my story well without having a script to follow. So, I began brain-storming and drafting a script in Word about the serendipitous connections that I made during my DS106 experience.

To create my video, I had most of the hardware components that I needed. I had an iPhone to capture my video and a tripod on which to support this device. What I lacked was a teleprompter or a “scrolling cue display” to help me tell my story of connection.

Shareski i-Prompt-Pro-300x181It’s funny that my teleprompter need to share a video for the use in the 2015 K12 Online Conference was coming full circle. My first exposure to the effectiveness of using a teleprompter in education was through a 2010 K12 Online Conference video keynote by Dean Shareski. I admit that I was unaware that Dean used a teleprompter when he created his powerful “Sharing: The Moral Imperative” keynote. However, Dean also created a very important “behind the scenes” video, entitled “The Making of a Keynote”, which gave the viewer rare insight into the steps, including, the technology he used in creating his keynote.  It is from this video that I captured the above iPad teleprompter image that Dean utilized.

So I began searching online for Do It Yourself (DIY) teleprompters. There were, indeed, a host of teleprompter applications for the iPad and iPhone devices.  In addition, there were a number of rather unique DIY YouTube videos that described how one might construct a teleprompter inexpensively. Some of the sources that I found included:

At first glance one might think that the key components revolved around the use of an iPad together with an appropriate teleprompter application which would automatically scroll one’s script at a predetermined rate. I do have access to an iPad but I was somewhat apprehensive to use teleprompter software, on a rather lengthy script, where I had to give up control. My concern stemmed from the possibility that my rate of speaking, together with my gestures and reflective pauses, might cause me to get “out of sync”, with the teleprompter display, and I would be forced to start “winging it”. I did not want to give up the control of the text scrolling speed on my teleprompter.

wireless-mouseThankfully, I came across a YouTube video entitled “How to Use Your Laptop as a Teleprompter”. This video suggested that the key to creating a “controllable” teleprompter depends on the use of  a wireless mouse (similar to the one shown at right) together with a laptop. Surprisingly, the mouse can be quite some distance away from the laptop and does not have to be used on a flat surface. I fact, your students may choose to hold the mouse (outside the video frame) at their side, and control their script display by stroking the mouse wheel.

Here’s my K12 Online Conference YouTube video entitled “Amazing CONnections” in which I incorporate the above ideas to use my laptop and wireless mouse to produce a controllable teleprompter:

YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-XYTjDTAdY

Connection Reflection – What would I do differently?
I was impressed with how well I could control the scroll rate of my laptop teleprompter using my wireless mouse. Although I did my best to bring both my hands up into the video frame from time to time, informed readers will perhaps notice that it was my right hand that moved the mouse scroll wheel.

For my next use of this teleprompter technique, I’ll move my iPhone camera tripod further away from me. In hindsight, I believe that my eyes tended to focus more on the lower teleprompter rather than looking directly at the iPhone video camera. Looking critically at my video, it is obvious that I am reading a script as opposed to telling a story in a more natural manner by focusing on the camera. In the “behind the scene” image below, you will note that my iPhone camera is about 1-1.5 meters or 3-4 feet away from my face. As the distance between the camera and subject is increased, the angle that the person’s eyes must drop from looking directly at the camera to peeking at the lower laptop screen decreases. The smaller the “drop angle”, the more the viewer thinks the subject is talking directly to the audience, and any hint of a teleprompter disappears.

teleprompter-setup-600x450True, I placed my iPhone tripod extremely close so that my upper-body filled the frame.  However, if I used a different video camera, I may have been able to move the camera further away to reduce the “drop angle” and still zoom in to fill the frame. Admittedly, this was one of my first iPhone-captured videos, and I have much to learn. In fact, if readers wish to add comments or suggestions below, as to how to improve this video, they would be most welcomed.

However, I was very pleased with the way in which I had control over the speed of my script display. You’ll note that my right hand controls the scroll wheel on the wireless mouse and I was able to set it down on the edge of the coffee table whenever I brought my right hand up into the video frame.

Unfortunately, when I shot my “Amazing CONnections” video, I was working by myself. I now realize how much better it is to have a friend or colleague work with you to optimize  the camera and teleprompter positions. In addition, I’ll go back to review and implement the tips that were shared in  “How to Use Your Laptop as a Teleprompter”.

I often say, that “Any day, that you learn something new … is a good day!” Undoubtedly the day I used my laptop as a teleprompter and shared my amazing story of connections with Alan Levine was, indeed, a very good day.

Take care & keep smiling 🙂

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One Response to An inexpensive teleprompter for your classroom

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