Flip Cam: Five Things You Should Know

Flip Cam


In a physical science classroom, students are learning about physical and chemical changes.  This important concept is key to further studies in chemistry including chemical reactions, energy, and the law of conservation of matter.  The teacher hands out flipcams to the students and presents the expectations of the digital video project each student will complete and present to the class.  The task is for students to look for physical and chemical changes in their homes and neighborhoods. Students are required to find a minimum of 5 of each type of change and film the change in progress.  These changes could be as simple as an ice cube melting, or a fire burning in a fire place.  Students are challenged to find a combination of indoor and outdoor changes bringing the learning into a real-life, everyday context.  Through this medium students are connecting to the content in a meaningful way.  Instead of simply reading a textbook, taking notes, and creating a list, students are in their natural environments linking to the curriculum.

What is it?

The flipcam is a small, lightweight (3-6 oz), portable digital video camcorder. It is user-friendly, containing only five buttons. Recording time varies depending on the model and can range from 60-120 minutes (2-8 GB). It is inexpensive in relation to other digital video recorders ranging in price from $149-199 with special teacher discounts available. It has a built in speaker and LCD screen.

How does it work?

Once the camera is turned on, it is ready to record using the red button just below the LCD screen. You can zoom in or out before or during recording. The same button is used to stop recording. If you are not pleased with what has been recorded, you can press the “trash” button and delete recorded video immediately. Videos can be viewed quickly and easily by fast forwarding or reversing in increments using the play button.

The USB port, the “flip” part of the flip cam, flips out and can be plugged directly into a computer to upload and share videos—no additional cables are necessary. The flip can also be plugged directly into a TV for viewing videos with a cable that comes with the flip cam. All software for the flipcam is contained within the camera and loads onto your computer the first time you plug it in; there is no separate software to install.  The new HD camcorder is Mac and I-movie compatible. A new feature is the ability to upload directly to YouTube and MySpace. Flipcam software also offers the ability to send private email invitations for others to view your videos on-line or send emails containing embedded videos.
Why is it significant?

The flipcam is unique in its portability and price which avails it to a wider audience. These factors contribute to more equitable access in our ever increasing participatory culture. Because the flipcam is durable and inexpensive, it is easy to hand one over to a student to use without the fear of breaking or damaging expensive, hard to replace equipment. Flipcammers are using their creativity to connect to people, form new ideas, and develop new ways of learning.

What are the downsides?

With a camcorder of this size, there are obvious limitations to quality of video and post-production applications.  The difference in quality between the flip and a full size camcorder is obvious when viewed on a television or other large screen.  In addition, there is no way to effectively scale the videos to look clear in larger formats—they look better on small screens akin to the LCD on the back of the flip, laptops, and YouTube.

Additionally, due to the size, there is no SD/MMC card expansion capabilities.  This means that any video recorded on the device must be uploaded to a computer for storage when reaching the maximum memory.  It is not possible to load additional storage to the device.  If your goal is to record long events with stable, high-quality imaging, you’re better off purchasing a video-only camcorder or high end digital camera with filming capabilities.  With the exception of the MinoHD version, most flipcams are not able to be edited with such popular programs as iMovie or DreamWeaver.  The product is designed to function with its preloaded editing software that allows the user to string together clips, add music, and some special imaging effects.  Further editing and modification of movies is highly limited.

What are the implications for teaching and learning?

The flip can be used in the classroom as a valuable tool to facilitate learning.  In lieu of traditional pencil to paper assignments, students are afforded the opportunity to interact with one another while creating a digital product.  This type of project encourages not only content learning but requires students to practice and use effective communication and interpersonal skills which are essential for any occupation.  The students are then engaged in activities that are not only seen by the teacher but by an “authentic audience.”  The feedback given to these visually engaging projects is immediately observed through class and teacher reactions and subsequent discussions.

Links: Our video on the flip cam posted on YouTube

Other links:







~ by mlbryan on December 4, 2009.

%d bloggers like this: