Friday, October 21, 2011

DS on a Stick

The concept is quite simple, as we are moving away from a DVD or VHS age, media needed for instruction will be online. Some teachers with the right technology will be drawn to this new form of media, whereas for others, it will be a struggle.

Discovery Streaming, while having a wealth of content, does take a fair amount of time capital to get comfortable with the resource. The librarian is likely the person most knowledgeable about the Discovery Streaming content, so creating a DS on a Stick feels like a natural extension to being an expert on DVD, VHS, and other multimedia.

This DS How To will consist of two parts, introduction and netbooks (Ubuntu Linux). The Ubuntu Netbook part begins at converting, prior to that applies to both Windows and Linux computers.

The Stick

What I am referring to as DS on a Stick is just a USB drive. I would suggest 4 Gb in size or larger. There are two ways you can approach this, multiple USB drives with identical content, or USB drives with content focused by grade level. I opted for 3 USB drives, K-1, 2-3, and 4-5.

The Content

Discovery Streaming has a nice interface in My Content that I have not explored in depth. One could certainly set this up to share with teachers but this interface is streaming focused or “in the cloud”. My focus is on downloading directly to a USB drive over streaming content directly.

When you are on a video page you have two options to download, Windows Media and Quicktime. I would use the 700 Kpbs Windows Media for Windows machines, and 250 Kpbs Quick Time for Apple machines. On the right hand side you will have the option to download the whole video or partial segments.


Files will be downloaded to your download folder. When you have finished downloading, copy files from your download folder to the USB drive. You will need to come up with an organizing structure that works best for you. You can create a drop box which teachers can download to and you can organize the content at a later time.


In the past two years many schools have received netbooks. Some of the carts have Windows installed, others are “internet only” which means they have Ubuntu Linux. The .asf, .wmv, and .mov file formats are proprietary and thus can not be natively played on Ubuntu (Linux) netbooks.

When I converted the .asf, .wmv files I used my Linux netbook at home. That of course is not a solution for other librarians or teachers. What I did was convert the .asf and .wmv to .ogg or .ogv. Ogg and Ogv are open source codecs that are free to use without legal issues. Converting the Discovery Streaming videos to an .ogg or .ogv format permits them to be automatically played on the Ubuntu netbooks.

You don’t run Linux at home, what should you do? While many programs convert .ogv to .wmv it was difficult to find a program that could convert to .ogv. I did find one program that was easy to use, open source, and free. You simply drag your video file to the program window and it does the converting.

Miro Video Converter will allow you to convert any of your downloaded files to .ogv format. Here is what they say on their site. A super simple way to convert almost any video to MP4, WebM (vp8), Ogg Theora, or for Android, iPhone, and more. 100% Free and open-source. You simply drag your video file to the Miro Video Converter Window and it starts converting. I tested this out and it worked without any issues. I plan on having this set up on our multimedia computer for teachers to use. In order to convert multiple files you will need to open another instance of Miro Converter and drag another file over. You can do this multiple times.


There are still issues that need to be solved. If several Librarians convert video files it would be great to have a central location for those files. Just the files I converted were close to 15 Gb. Schools have a M or Media Drive but they are limited to 5 Gb, not really a viable solution. The best option at present is locating these files on your Multimedia computer. If you have any questions I would be more than happy to answer them. I hope you found this useful in some way.