Sunday, September 27, 2009

Why I'm Excited About Educational Video

Many of you know that I've been talking and thinking a lot about screencasting lately.  A screencast is a video where the visual component is recorded direct from the computer's screen and has an audio narration.  Screencasts are great for demonstrating how to do something on a computer -- even a slide presentation, as long as each video is restricted to covering one topic.  The scope of this discussion can be extended to educational video in general because some topics would be taught better using a digital camcorder rather than a computer.

In the last year, I have started to think that video is not only an appropriate tool for online courses, but also has significant benefit to normal classroom courses.  True, it can be time consuming to produce video.  But with practice, it gets easier.  I encourage educators at all levels to give it a try.  Your videos can be re-used in future semesters and in time, you will have a nice collection of videos.

Here are three reasons why I feel that video should be a key component of our educational strategy.

1. Video Teaches!

In a video that demonstrates how to do something, no detail is too small.  You see exactly what was done.  Video is the next best thing to having an expert sitting beside you.  Different people have different small points that hold them back from fully understanding, but seeing something done, step by step, as you watch fills in each person's own missing information.

Because I teach computer programming, I have watched several videos on the ShowMeDo web site.  I notice that when I watch a screencast video, I pick up on subtle issues that I was missing from the books.

I taught my first online class during the Summer of 2008.  I gave the students written instructions on how to install a program that they would need.  One student reported that the installation instructions did not work.  We e-mailed back and forth several times to no avail.  I could not figure out what she was missing and she just could not get it to work.  So eventually, she decided to drive to Salina to meet with me in person (about a 40 minute drive one way).  We went to a lab machine where we could install it from step one.  Very shortly into the install, I did a step that seemed so basic to me that I didn't even mention it.  She immediately stopped me and quizzed me about what I had just done.  This would not have been an issue if I had done a video demonstrating the installation, instead of giving written instructions.

2. Video Complements Other Instructional Media

You may wonder if this is just the latest education craze, which will only serve to “dummy down” education and spoon feed course material to kids that are too lazy to read the book.  It is true that video seems to be a media that millennial generation students want.  World wide, YouTube is second only to Google in term of search requests on the Internet.  Video carries a certain entertainment appeal factor that helps make it one of the first sources of information that students turn to.  However, the benefits and appeal of video extend to students from all age groups.  Video can serve as one of three important sources of information to students along with in-person, class room instruction and written material, such as a text book.

The traditional classroom lecture is under attach these days by our education experts.  It is viewed as an outdated mode of instruction with little appeal to the millennial generation.  Young people want “active learning”, so that they can participate in the discussion rather than receive a one way flow of information from the professor.  That's all well and good, except sometimes the material is fairly technical, and the students need to be taught.  They don't understand the material, but the teacher does, so they would much rather listen to the teacher than the “clueless know it all” sitting next to them.  Video affords an additional channel for that one way flow of instruction, which from time to time is needed.  Video is not being pitched as a replacement for teaching and answering questions in person.  But it can supplement and reiterate complex material and even reduce the need to lecture as much, which will allow more time for discussion.

One of the appealing factors of video is that it offers a less intimidating way to get started studying.  All students struggle from time to time with getting started.  If a video is available, it will seem easy and relaxing to the student to begin by watching a video.  When they view the video, they will see what they need to do and will have less anxiety about working on the assignments; or they may think of a question and start going through the text book or online written material searching for an answer and taking notes.  Additionally, some appealing factors of video include that it is always available; it offers a self service mechanism to receiving instruction, which for timid students can help remove barriers to learning; it can also be viewed multiple times as needed.

3. The technology required to successfully use video is finally here!

This includes the technology for teachers to easily use relatively inexpensive equipment and software to produce video, the streaming media web servers to distribute videos, and the overall Internet bandwidth which is need to support streaming video.  To start learning how to produce screencast video, see The Screencasting Handbook and associated Screencasting Google Group, which Ian Ozsvald started.

1 comment:

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