This is the second post in a series about moving the conversation around technology in education from Administration to use for Learning. You might want to read the first, Learning Pathways and precursor post From Ed Tech to Learning
My second idea for a specific learning technology is around the idea of using video for learning.
When I started working at CSU we were primarily a distance education institution. One of the biggest problems I faced as a digital designer was that the internet just wasn’t widely available or adopted. This was pre-broadband and pre-mobile, when the internet was experienced as a series of beeps, bongs and hisses followed by the long waiting times. It was the era where the browser required an animation just to let you know that something, somewhere was happening.
This was an age where the idea of using images, let alone videos, was still edgy and disruptive. When it was available videos were the size of postage stamp (or for younger readers, the icon on your phones home screen) and of such awful quality it didn’t really seem worth it. Video just wasn’t a big thing online, if you wanted video you used a television. Plenty of video was produced in educational settings – some of it was broadcast, or distributed first on VHS, then on CDROM and finally DVD. But by the time we got to DVD things had started to change. Broadband was now more mainstream and podcasts, and their video based twin vodcasts, allowed you to download video and it didn’t really matter how long or slow it was, left overnight you had a sparkling new media to consume. It wasn’t streaming but it was video delivered online. I worked hard to get us on to this bandwagon and was successful, and then YouTube happened and the rest is history. Because at that point Education seemed to forget about video. We stopped innovating on the idea altogether and just started churning it out and into the growing pool of “content”.
Video had historically been incredibly expensive to produce, it was analogue tech and need a lot of gear to capture and edit. The arrival of digital cameras changed that, video became cheap, even to the point that it was disposable. Despite that we are yet to see video get back on the agenda in education. We now live in an age where almost every student on the planet has access to an incredibly powerful media making device – their phone – but education just isn’t using video for anything but broadcasting out content.
So what about video for learning?
Video allows us to record our world – what we do, see and say – in real time and with amazing fidelity. It is a way to perfectly capture the performance of mind and body, to capture our own unique humanity, yet in education we seem stuck with a desire for everything to be abstracted to text. Instead of assessing someones demonstration of their practice, we get them to write an essay about it. Video can change that. As a medium it opens up so many potential uses and a complete rethink of the ways in which we learn and teach.
If you’re trying to learn a skill, it’s much easier to demonstrate that skill, or your current level of mastery of it, in real life than it is to write it up. Video could be an incredibly powerful tool to do this assessment for a number of reasons.
- It allows students to do it in their own time. Students can record themselves at a time and place they are comfortable in. They can perform on their own terms, as the would in the real world. We can reduce the anxiety of practical exams and allow students to develop a comfort for this kind of learning over time.
- It can capture not just defined skills, but the soft skills too. Video allows us to pick up on mannerisms and non verbal communications. It allows us to work with the students in a more holistic way, to break through the barriers between theory and practice, understanding and communicating.
- Students get an opportunity to actually speak. They can talk to the topic rather than just simply write about it. They are able to present ideas in very different ways than text. They can impart emotion and force that’s impossible in the written word. We can bring back the human aspect of our oral and aural communication.
- They can practice the skills they will need in the real world. If you look at the language of “graduate outcomes” all of our students will be able to hold their own and communicate effectively in all mediums once they graduate. Yet we give them no practice or preparation for this reality. Video allows us to ensure those skills are practiced and evidenced, not just assumed and past on via osmosis.
What video allows us to do is see the other facets of our students. We can share and learn in new ways with video and move into a world beyond text. Video is the tool that will allow us to do that.
Placing video into the context of learning, and being able to watch yourself do a task and get direct feedback is an incredibly powerful learning experience. It’s direct, honest and a hell of a lot quicker to mark than essays. The feedback loop is faster and more direct, learning can happen at pace, rather than the stilted unnatural way we currently do assessments and feedback cycles, where learning needs to happen without validation that learning the right things has occurred. Video is a tool that could allow better and more direct communication between students and teachers. Yes, it has to be scaffolded and requires new skills and learning, but it offers so many efficiencies. Video is also a source of truth as it’s easier to verify the students and their work, thus reducing the need to plagiarise. It allows institutions to trust their students again and build relationships with.
But, we already have YouTube
YouTube seems to define video at the moment, and its ubiquity and low barrier to access does give it a right to claim the title. However, YouTube doesn’t cut it as a learning tool.
For learning we need to create safer spaces, places where there are walls and gatekeepers, because what video in learning is capturing something raw. It’s not processes and polished, it’s about capturing a process, and failure is a big chunk of that. Being wrong, under-performing, these are aspects that we don’t talk about in education, but they are part of the learning process. Video for learning requires privacy because there is a greater sense of intimacy. It needs to be put in a place away from the ever watchful presence of surveillance capitalism and advertising. These are areas where we could improve through development of specific technology to ensure the students are supported in their journey, to recognise them as people and to give them a high fidelity experience that has impact.
There’s also the kind of topics and content we might want to post that doesn’t have a place on YouTube. Anything with copyright audio gets an automatic take down, not great if you’re trying to critique a music piece, or legitimately use it as a sound track to your student work. There’s a huge difference between public and private places, especially online and legally.
YouTube is also just a broadcaster, to utilise video properly we need it to act like a conversation. There needs to be a to-and-fro between the teacher and learner. We need to tools to allow us to annotate the video, to provide feedback based on the timeline, because what we have with video is the ability to provide feedback that’s situated in time.
“It’s at this point you could have done X”
“When your wrist twisted here you lost control”
“Your point here is spot on, this was the turning point of your argument”
Annotation of the timeline is an incredibly aspect to learning with video. It’s at these direct points in time we can provide the learner with chances and opportunities to correct themselves, to improve and to do so on a level that’s more powerful that a red pen on an essay could ever be.
Video for learning seems to have been forgotten in the EdTech annals. It was something we dabbled in for a while but we didn’t take very far. Yet if you look online, video is all around us. It helps to form and bond communities across social media. It’s a legitimate form of communication and being able to get on camera is a skill that’s becoming more important in the workforce. Instagram, YouTube and Twitch provide insights into ways that we can utilise video beyond the idea of broadcast, but as ways of interacting. Vine and TikTok show how a vibrant communities can develop and how remix is a skill that we could really utilise in education to convey information.
Video is rich media. It’s rich in complexity and fidelity. It’s a rich vision of the world around us. It’s rich in its potential and possibilities for learning with.
So I know I didn’t offer any specifics in this post, but to be honest it’s because video has so much potential. I’m just hoping to stimulate some ideas and discussions in this space. Personally the idea of video annotation tools interests me, and I have had some idea and discussion on how to to do this and what it would look like. I’ve also also seen a student based video system used in our Creative Industries school which is awesome. There’s a lot of potential pedagogical uses for video – from support to coaching, to assessment and accreditation.