Clive Young

Teaching, learning and video

by Clive Young

“When I look at these clips, I sense I am at the beginning of something: a medium that hasn’t yet found its feet but any day now will burst into life.”

For several years I have been interested in the use of digital video in education. The opening quote is from the Guardian film critic (Ravenhill 2007) writing about the early days of YouTube, barely three years ago. Since then ‘social’ video has undoubtedly “burst into life” on the web. Falling technological costs - webcams, mobile phones, Flip cameras etc - and easy-to-use video sharing services such as YouTube, Vimeo, EduTube and TwitVid have enabled a ‘perfect wave’ of creative non-professional video for social communication. A wide spectrum of approaches is now available to educators such as integrating clips from video sharing sites, using webcams for video/audio feedback, providing links to lecture capture resources, screen capture, iTunes-U etc. My question is how all this can be applied in universities and colleges and how we can enable video also to “burst into life” in education.
There is surprisingly little discussion of the pedagogic benefits of video in tertiary education. As an indicator only one of the latest 100 papers in ALT-J (Journal of the Association for Learning Technology) concerned video.
Despite the lack of critical examination of the pedagogy of digital video, educators have seen not only the growth of social video but the substantial investment by many universities and colleges including my own in web-based video and audio technology. This includes lecture capture, iTunes U and local YouTube-like services. Media is now delivered to students through a sophisticated infrastructure of VLEs (virtual learning environments), digital whiteboards, multimedia lecture theatres, and to mobile personal devices both on and off campus. Some see this as a clash between ‘old pedagogies’ and ‘new technologies’ and at ALT-C in September lecture capture emerged as a conceptual battleground surfacing a range of positions on the efficacy of both video and the lecture itself .
A decade ago we began to address these issues in a project called Click and Go Video. This was a JISC-funded which ran from 2000 to 2002. According to the archive it aimed “to provide a user orientated resource for the academic community that will stimulate and enhance the use of moving image archives for mainstream learning and teaching”. The most successful outcomes were a series of workshops and an 80 page guide “Video Streaming: a guide for educational development”. The guide, published in 2002, covered pedagogy and technology and although the technology has moved on some way the pedagogic section seems to have stood the test of time rather better and is perhaps still worth a read. The original pdf is available in a number of places e.g. here, but I have also put it into Scribd, so it doesn’t get lost completely.

What is it about? We tried to address some of these issues using the 3 ‘I’s framework: image, interaction and integration.

There is some truth in the cliché: “an image is worth a thousand words.” Video and audio contribute authenticity and reality to the learning experience, and can be very engaging for students. The use of moving images and sound certainly has a long and honourable pedigree in education but its use is very uneven across the sector. Teachers of media, cultural studies, and the performing arts might be expected to have good reference models but in the majority of disciplines there is virtually no widespread tradition of using rich media. We know as media-literate consumers that video and audio should be able to act as powerful, innovative and creative components of the learning environment, but even after more than a decade of digital video development current approaches still tend to replicate 'traditional' lecture-based formats (and hence the nature of the discussion mentioned above on lecture capture).

If ‘image’ still remains at the core of educational video use, the guide also noted how interactivity and integration were adding value to the power of the image itself. Digital technology enables students to interact with video i.e. pause, search, fast-forward, capture frames, put it on a portable device etc. Moreover nowadays video is usually presented embedded in other web-based technologies, mainly VLEs and blogs, and students are expected to engage actively with the resource. However, as we realised at the time, this integration demanded a new type of visual and digital literacy from the lecturer and educational designer. The move from ‘sit back and watch’ video to ‘sit forward and do’ video reflects the change in the underlying pedagogical theories from a knowledge transfer model to a constructivist model, bringing yet another layer of design complexity.

However it is not simply a case of technologies enabling new educational ‘affordances’. YouTube has fundamentally changed the aesthetics of popular video, opening a new educational role of informal and even ephemeral media. Emergent Web 2.0 applications such as TwitVid (video via Twitter) and so on challenge us to think of new teaching approaches, with more of a focus on student production. ‘Social’ video also suggests opportunities for students to comment on and provide feedback to video and audio resources. Young and Meldgaard (2006) reported on the growing focus on encouraging students to develop their own video. The ‘socialisation’ of video means Web 2.0 concepts are applied to individual, collective and distributed video production.

To be continued...