Killing two birds with one camera

camera phone A case study in classroom videos…

Teaching a course in which students may range from the downtown corner-office professional to the kid who serves him his coffee can be challenging.  Psychology professors teaching adult and graduate courses at Northwest University sought to find a balance between the high-level content expected by students and the lack of experiential knowledge that put some students on an unequal playing field.  The problems of developing low-entry content with deep value were compounded by the realization that adult students don’t have time to waste after a day at work.  Students in the face-to-face adult courses were easily “annoyed with repetition, ambiguity, and lack of conciseness,” while simultaneously being too fatigued to engage in the class’s content.  As a result, an attempt is being made to use the major advances in multimedia technology to develop more engaging course material that will efficiently deliver content in an interesting manner.  The professors are working on a program to have undergraduates develop a series of dynamic content videos that will be actively integrated into the adult and graduate lessons, “instead of having to be introduced merely as an interesting side-line.”  The resulting program has turned some traditional undergraduate classes into “a kind of laboratory,” where students are put in charge of creating the videos that will teach others.

student-video-team

The program attempts to boil down each topic by asking, “What is the most essential idea which we wish to get across and how may it be effectively visualized?”  From there, class study groups work to outline, script, and produce their videos.  Some initial “shifting and sifting of personnel” was required to ensure that each group had members with the skills to make a successful video.  In addition to lots of traditional research, groups also made a point of viewing and critiquing existing educational videos in order to improve on them.  The professors have been genuinely surprised by the level of knowledge and application that the undergrad students were able to bring to their projects.

When it comes to filming the projects, a surprising number of the students already have the technology and know-how to produce a video of acceptable quality, many even including student-produced musical scores.  Also, many of the students are “very creditable” actors, so there has been very little production knowledge and effort that the professors have had to bring, allowing them to simply overview the student projects to ensure their academic quality.

The end result has been a set of videos that introduces each face-to-face class’s topic, increasing interest and sparking questions that set the stage for that day’s material.  Occasionally the video is replayed following the lesson so that students are able to re-examine it and pick out specific points made during class.  And more importantly, the professors have found a way to improve both the educational environments for their adult students and those of the undergraduates who have the opportunity to learn through this unique program.

But without a doubt, the most interesting aspect of this project…

is the simple fact that this is not a current story.  This was done in 1936.  If they could manage a task like this with what was then a truly emerging technology of silent movies that required something called “film” and that required lip dubbing the dialogue to match the actors’ mouths, just think how easy a project like this would be to implement in the age of 1080p smartphones and YouTube.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.  It’s not the tech.  It’s the teaching strategy.

Read the original story here:  http://www.archive.org/stream/educationalscree16chicrich#page/8/mode/2up  (and find other cool stuff at archive.org)

Then for an ironic and slightly sad chuckle, read this story on how “universities are just starting to incorporate media creation into their educational experiences” today after a “slow creep” for the last decade.

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