A picture is worth a thousand words, especially when trying to convey complex ideas. At Purdue University (Ind.), a home-grown smartphone app lets students easily incorporate mobile video components into class assignments and share them with teachers and other students.
Called DoubleTake, the app was developed by the university's information technology staff and is available through the iTunes App store. An Android-based version is in the works as well.
Currently in beta testing in a select few courses, the aim is to expand its use and to make it available to other institutions as well. The app seamlessly connects the user's smartphone or video camera to the school's DiaGrid distributed computing network. DiaGrid harnesses the power of more than 30,000 processors at nine campuses so video encoding is done in near real time.
"It really makes [video] dead simple to use," says Project Manager Jason Fish. "It takes the emphasis off the student to worry about technology and lets them focus more on their actual studies."
DoubleTake has already been used in a forensics course with good results. Oftentimes, forensic technique is better conveyed visually than in print. For example, students can tap their "inner CSI" to demonstrate the proper technique for casting footprints or tire treads with plaster.
"They can spend their time learning how to do a footprint casting rather than worrying about how they are going to upload the video how they're going to share the video," says Fish. "They can see what other people are doing, and see what they are doing right or wrong."
Fish says Purdue's faculty is exploring other ways to incorporate video into the classroom with the app. "One example would be an American Sign Language class or a speech class, or anywhere they are doing field work and they need to take video to show their professor," he says.