Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Power of Multiple Media, Including Video

I enjoy writing for a blog, but I know better than to think that every student will - or even that every teacher will. I've always been a writer. I was a literature major most of my undergraduate years, and I taught literature to high school students, so it is natural that I prefer the written word as my medium of expression. However, I have colleagues who prefer listening to (and creating) podcasts and some readily admit they are auditory learners.

I don't have much of a commute myself and I prefer to uni-task when working, so I have difficulty finding time to listen to podcasts. And even though there is something of a performer in me, I've never been terribly motivated to create audio (or video) podcasts. It is very time consuming.

However, I recently created three hour-long videos for the k12 Online Conference. It was time consuming and challenging for me, but regardless (or perhaps because of the challenge) I had a blast. Video can be a fun medium. (Check out Alton Brown's very fun - and very educational - Good Eats on the Food Network for an excellent example.) My experience was what Seymour Papert likes to call hard fun.

This experience refocused my attention on a recent Internet phenomenon, YouTube. According to the (hard to find) about page, "YouTube is a place for people to engage in new ways with video by sharing, commenting on, and viewing videos." For several years now teachers have seen the benefit of downloading audio-visual instructional media from sites like Atomic Learning and United Streaming, but unlike these fee-based services, the free service at YouTube also allows teachers and students to upload and share videos. This is a bit like Blogger for visual learners.

It might take a little bit more work to find content that is related to educational goals, but I thought I'd search for material on the pyramids in Egypt, for example, and I quickly found several videos like these two bite-sized clips that will bring to life the pyramids and the sphinx for students around the world. Check out the shadow of the man walking next to the sphinx - or the camels on the ridge behind it for a sense of scale!

A quick scholar search for articles on the use of video in education turned up this literature review about "the use of digital video and iMovie in k12 schools." The focus is on "pedagogical issues relating to the process of learners capturing, editing, and generating their own digital video... on the 'student-genreation' of these artifacts and associated outcomes and support structures, rather than the actual digital video products per se."

This, and my own recent experience, reminded me of the powerful learning process required to create a video; students must master the content (in the same way we learn content best when we have to teach it), plan and storyboard their video, execute the recording (while paying attention to the shot frame, lighting, sound, and many other variables of cinematography), assemble and edit the final product (to efficiently achieve their purpose), and usually all the while working as a team with other students. Add to this the ability to share their creation online (via YouTube for example), and students now also have an authentic purpose and audience for their creation - not to mention it might actually benefit other students elsewhere. It's clear to me that asking students to create and share a video not only addresses content standards, but several 21st Century Skills as well. Best of all, it can be hard fun.

Of course, video won't be for everyone either...