I teach a how-to-be-a-graduate-student class to first-year grad students in my bioinformatics department, with the intent of preparing them for careers in research and teaching. New faculty members in many fields complain that they were never taught anything about how to teach, and so I thought it would be worthwhile to have the students learn something about teaching. This course is also the only training they get for being TAs, and we have students TA in several courses that require real teaching skills (for example, the Bioinformatics Tools course, which is taken by biologists with no understanding of computers, and the Bioethics class, where TAs have to run discussion sections in which students discuss difficult ethical questions).
This year I have instituted a new assignment, which takes up one of our nine 105-minute class periods: each student is required to select one technique from the book and present it to the class. I recorded the presentations with a video camera and will review them with the students individually. This serves two purposes: getting the students to do some reading and thinking about teaching techniques and giving the students practice and feedback on presentation skills.
I bought a new video camera specifically for this assignment, an Everio HD620BU, a fairly low-cost HD camera that supposedly has good low-light performance. Low-light performance was important to me, because I also want to use this camera for recording my son’s plays. What I had not realized is how long it takes to download and process HD video. The download from the camera to my laptop ran at about half real time (45 minutes for 90 minutes of movie), and exporting the video from iMovie into a low-resolution (640 × 360) format that can be shared takes about real time. The movie took up 10 Gbytes on the camera, expanded to 47.7 Gbytes in iMovie, and exports in low-resolution format to about 1Gbyte. After verifying that the low-resolution movie is watchable, I’ll have to delete the HD version—47.7 Gbytes is too much disk space on my laptop for me to be comfortable keeping.
I found the user interface for iMovie rather unintuitive—nothing like other Mac tools I’ve used. You can’t click and shift-click to select a region, the precision editor doesn’t scroll, everything has to be dragged (a pain with a touchpad), … . I did finally manage to get titles in the upper left corner for the first 30 seconds of each clip, but it was much harder than I had expected. I decided not to try to trim any of the clips, although there were a few seconds at the beginning and end of each clip that should have been cut.