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Peer Review

Project Pachyderm

by Larry Johnson


Overall Numeric Rating:

5 stars
Content Quality: 4.75 stars
Effectiveness: 5 stars
Ease of Use: 5 stars
Reviewed: Jul 04, 2008 by Teacher Education
Overview: Pachyderm is a user-friendly authoring tool that is designed for showcasing images and video clips. Authoring content within this open source system is as easy as filling out a web form. An instructor can select a template, adds content, and then publish for the world to see or place on a disc for private viewing. Pachyderm is now a fully open source project. Pachyderm is an easy-to-use multimedia authoring tool. Designed for people with little multimedia experience, Pachyderm is accessed through a web browser and is as easy to use as filling out a web form. Authors upload their own media (images, audio clips, and short video segments) and place them into pre-designed templates, which can play video and audio, link to other templates, zoom in on images, and more. Once the templates have been completed and linked together, the presentation is published and can then be downloaded and placed on the author’s website or on a CD or DVD ROM. Authors may also leave their presentations on the Pachyderm server and link directly to them there. The result is an attractive, interactive Flash-based multimedia presentation.
Type of Material: Pachyderm Services offers hosted Pachyderm authoring accounts and dedicated servers for schools, museums, colleges, universities, and anyone who is interested in easy, web-based multimedia authoring.
Recommended Uses: Pachyderm is especially useful with detailed images such as paintings or other works of art because the user can zoom in on each page and look at the object close up. This is a great tool for educators who work in museums, libraries, or other institutions with collections they wish to share. This site is useful for creating online Flash presentations, summaries, and documenting culminating activities.
Technical Requirements: Individuals can sign up for yearly subscription accounts. Hosted servers are also available for larger organizations. For more information, see the Pachyderm Services Sign-up Page. An instructor or student will need their own multimedia content, high speed access to the Internet, and a flash-enabled browser. The server can be installed an hosted by any institution or an individual can request an account from a provider such as the New Media Consortium. Regarding the media that can be uploaded into Pachyderm for creating the presentations, the requirements are: Still Images * Pachyderm accepts images only in .jpg and .gif formats. It is recommended that images are sized to 2 MB or less. * A minimum of 72 dots per inch (dpi) is recommended for the resolution of the images used. Higher resolution is preferred, but you must balance the resolution with the file size. * For images used in the zoom screen, the images should be 2560 x 2548 pixels or greater. Video * Pachyderm accepts video clips in .mov, .flv, and .swf formats only. * Sizing: 320 x 240 aspect ratio. * It is important that videos be sized as small as possible, approximately 5 MB maximum. * It can be difficult to get larger videos down to the proper size, and if necessary, you may reduce the aspect ratio to 160 x 120 to reduce the size of the file. * If you have accidentally loaded a large video file to your media library, make sure to delete it. Audio * Pachyderm accepts .mp3 and .swf audio files only. * You can use Audacity to change the format of your audio files to be compatible.
Identify Major Learning Goals: Pachyderm has been designed to be an easy way for educators with digital content to share their work with the world.
Target Student Population: Pachyderm is easy to use and learners of all ages can successfully create multimedia-based content.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: You need to have an account to access Pachyderm. Pachyderm is open source and the software is free for anyone that wants their own Pachyderm server ( ). Individuals can also sign up for yearly subscription accounts from hosting services such as those offered by the NMC, which also offers hosted servers for larger organizations. Information on costs can be found at: Access to digital content or knowledge of how to scan images and upload digital images and video is a requisite.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 4.75 stars
Strengths: Pachyderm includes clear documentation and has a strong community of users who have created clear documentation for their projects. The tool is extremely easy to use. It includes a User Manual, Template Workbook and a Grid-Based Template Workbook, along with email lists for news, users, and developers and a custom frame editor for personalizing your presentation. With careful planning, students could learn how to use the tool and create a final product in several class session.
Concerns: None

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths: Pachyderm clearly meets its objective of being easy to use. Non-technical people around the world can attest to that. They have been able to share their beautiful work in an efficient manner. The site offers a showcase of fourteen different presentations put together using Pachyderm. Examples range from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to Project Row Houses featuring digital storytelling, to a teen project called hush, hush: the power of a secret, to MERLOT's own faculty development initiative, ELIXR, for creating video case stories of exemplary teaching practice. These examples show the range of approaches and perspectives used when creating presentations using Pachyderm as the authoring tool. Get an account, download the User's Manual, and you can immediately begin creating a presentation.
Concerns: None.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths: The power of Pachyderm is its ease of use. People who are typically subject matter experts are empowered to create learning objects that can tell their story. The site is organized with tabs at the top and contact information at the bottom of every page. The templates make the presentation construction easy and fun. Authors need to upload their own media (images, audio clips, and short video segments) and place them into pre-designed templates, which can play video and audio, link to other templates, zoom in on images, and more. The presentation is then published and can be downloaded or the presentation can be left on the Pachyderm server with direct linking to it there.
Concerns: We are not certain whether Pachyderm allows an author to create Section 58 compliant learning objects.

Other Issues and Comments: Pachyderm (the server software) is free and anyone can download it from Source Forge ( and also at PachyForge ( at no charge. Pachyderm is also open source, and licensed so that people can essentially use it anyway they want. Many many colleges have downloaded and installed Pachyderm and run their own servers. As far as the software goes, Pachyderm is always absolutely free. There is always a cost in terms of money and time to having and maintaining a server, however, independent of what is installed on it. Because of this, some people either do not have a server or prefer not to have to deal with the hassle maintaining one. For those people, NMC offers a suite of services called Pachyderm Services that includes access to a working server, already set up accounts, access to a library of content, and a help desk.