Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Skills Equals Opportunity For Educators

To many in the 30-something and beyond generations, YouTube is a strange phenomenon and a somewhat confusing business concept. Older generations do not fully understand what YouTube is about and generally avoid it. 'Kids' spending hour after hour on the computer making & sending silly video clips to each other: "What is that all about? In my day..."
Well, YouTube (and other video sharing web sites) are here to stay and that is that. And if they are here to stay, can they be used in the field of education?
Or more accurately
1. Can the skills 'kids' are picking up in using video creation and sharing be used in education?
2. Can the making of educational videos by students be used in the classroom and how beneficial might this be in improving student understand a topic?
3. Would a 'hands-on' approach to make a video essay allow students to better retain what they are learning?
This article will argue that the short answer to each of these questions is 'yes'. The key is how is it to be done and what resources are out there to help.
Kids today love making videos and sharing them via YouTube (and other video sharing web-sites). Surely these interests and skills could (and should) be harnessed? After all, what is the traditional (boring?) approach to education?
You are given an essay to write/a project to complete. To write the essay, you need to do some research; read a little; take notes; produce a 1000 word essay. Hand it in. Your teacher reads it. You get your mark. You move on and apart from revision, you never see the essay again.
What about if the end product was not a written report but one you produced as a video documentary?
Everything is the same until you get to the 'writing' stage. Tell the story you would previously have written down using visuals. Make a commentary using your notes. Tell the story. Find some suitable video clips. Go and make your own video clips. Bring in your own photographs. Make a video essay/documentary. Hand in the finished masterpiece. The teacher can then watch it or share is with the class. Promote discussion. Compare approaches to the project. Finally upload the video to the school/college web site or YouTube. In other words, the video approach opens more opportunities to learn then the written word.
So in a sentence:
Don't Write An Essay See An Essay
But what is the current state of video use (and the use of YouTube) in education?
Even in 2009, simply using YouTube as a tool for education is seen as quite radical: in a popular web site and forum for history teachers in the UK  a recent talking point was a short segment on the BBC news channel where this 'radical' idea was aired (search 'Roy Huggins school history' on YouTube). What is most interesting about this interview and the general comments on the forum afterward is the thought that these videos have to be made by the teacher community. 'Lets make videos for students and share them', is the current thinking. No discussion of letting the students make the video.
The BBC introduced an annual 'School Report' project whereby school students spend a day making new reports for broadcast on television (although mainly aimed at school web sites). The main point here is that students are encouraged to think about what goes into a news broadcast as well as the technical aspects of making the news report.
Another development is the development of a new degree course based on YouTube: "YouTube for Educators" through the Boise State University Department of Educational Technology.
A short introduction to the course is shown here, 'This is an academic course for students in an advanced educational technology program. It is my belief that YouTube, and video-sharing in general, cannot be ignored within a field of emergent technologies for learning. YouTube is having an impact on society, politics, and the lives of individuals from all walks of life.' (Search YouTube for 'csnelsonbsu ').
But this course is still a step behind giving video clips to students to create mini video documentaries.
In summary, the use of video as an educating tool is slowing creeping along the corridors of the educational establishments. But it is still dominated by a teacher-centered approach.
It is the teacher who creates.
It is the teacher who uses his/her imagination.
It is the student that watches.
To turn this around and make better use of the medium of video, students need to be given control. Students should be allowed to use their imagination and create, not teachers.
Clearly there are hurdles to be overcome to give teachers the opportunity to move into video essays. In order for students to create mini video documentaries they need access to computers, the raw video material and teachers need skills to manage it.
Other questions to add to the mix:
1. How would they physically make these videos: in the classroom? At home? Both?
2. How would schools and colleges go about using this approach to education? Group projects? And which subjects? History? Sociology? Geography? Politics? All the above and more?
3. Do schools and colleges have the staff proficient and confident enough with this new communication medium to teach the youth of today? The Future?
This article asks more questions then it answers; It has merely scratched the surface of the video in education topic.
What is important to note and cannot be over stressed, is the importance of taking advantage of the inherent new skills that the young people of today have developed in using YouTube. Putting them to an educational use is a must.
And after all, when as a student of the late 1980's, this author used the now ancient skill called 'hand writing' in submitting essays and reports; A word processor (pre-Windows, Apple, PC's and the 'net'), was some sort of alien contraption only found in classrooms belonging to strange long-haired hippie types. Today, primary school students use computers as a matter of course.
Will video use in education become the norm in the next 10 years?
The author has developed various web sites & products designed for schools, colleges and university students and teachers.

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