Bringing Back Video to the Classroom

Fritz Nordengren's post has me right at the opening by saying, "I’m not an evangelist of tools.  I am an evangelist for how tools empower learners."

The post is about the Flip video camera B001HSOFI2 which I have seen written about online, but not paid any attention to as far as a purchase. That's odd because my MA focused on film/video and I taught video production courses for a few decades. I have a museum of video cameras in my own basement from VHS, to VHS-C, to mini-DV and early digital video cameras that I never really bothered to use for anything meaningful. I even saved my half-inch reel-to-reel student projects from the pre-VHS/Betamax period (though I have no way to play them).

So, why have I been ignoring video both in and out of the classroom?

If Web 2.0 was about being a creator and not just a consumer of web content, part of that is creating video. Students are doing it using their cell phones and web cams and posting it to Facebook, YouTube and other sites. What I don't see is that much video coming out of classrooms. (I don't see as much video being consumed in courses as it was in the late 20th century either - but that's for another post.)

Back to the Flip video. I saw the Educause “7 Things You Should Know About Flip Camcorders” report that says:

For educators, these small camcorders facilitate visual learning, which is frequently more engaging than other kinds of instruction and can transcend language barriers. A video artifact can be a highly effective tool for assessment, and the Flip camcorders offer easy access to this medium.

And I agree. But - I have not seen any compelling use of video in the classroom lately. I think it's because I have been away from K-12 where I suspect the most innovative applications of video to teaching are probably being done.

via Educause:

Those struggling to provide classroom technology on limited budgets may find an inexpensive digital camcorder offers more educational impact per dollar than a new laptop. A Flip could be used to record simple lab procedures for training purposes, such as clinical tasks for nursing or microbiology. The Flip functions well in low light, and students recording field trips, campus life, and peer interviews find the Flip’s low profile doesn’t act as a barrier between interviewer and interviewee. The Flip allows users to create video stories and essays, document procedures, interview experts, and record other activities, even as the technology itself becomes invisible.

FLIP BASICS The Flip MINO HD runs about $200. There are less expensive models too like the Flip Video Ultra.  The camera attaches to your computer with an attached USB port (nice, no cables) and doesn't need an external battery as it also charges via the USB port. They are small digital camcorders, easy to use, have about an hour of recording, come with software (built in to the camera, no installation) to not only create (mp4 files), but edit and post the video to a site like YouTube. The software is not "pro" but you can copy and do some basic trimming of video and basic edits. (What is known as assembly-edits, not the fancier inserts where you move pieces of video out of order - like dropping in a later closeup to the master shot which we are so used to from TV and movies.) Of course, if you have the time, software and talent you can take your raw footage and copy it to your computer and get fancier.

As Nordengren says about having students use it:

They can edit at home, in class, in a shared lab, at Aunt Tillies….the need for dedicated editing platforms becomes a thing of the past.

This is not professional video camera for documentary work, or commercial work. It does not produce “broadcast quality” video. However, I hesitate to use that phrase as a reference point as it is a descriptor of quality that has decreasing relevance in today’s media world. The Flip does deliver very attractive images and reasonable sound that — on first glance — exceeds what we have previously seen in camcorders. The email function is probably easiest — in that it sends the video to a Flip server and sends a message to the recipient where they view the video on line as a flash video. This would be an easy way for students to turn in work. A more public display and potential source of peer critique is the built in posting to YouTube.

What probably interests me the most is summed up pretty well in this from the ducause document:

To the extent that media including video become accepted formats for academic work, devices like the Flip will open other avenues for student assignments. This will draw attention to the importance of developing new rubrics for effective evaluation of multimedia and will raise questions of fair use and appropriate attribution. Finally, students who use the Flip in academic exercises that begin as lifeblogs or citizen journalism may find that their learning opportunities have expanded beyond the classroom and into the wider community.

"Become accepted formats for academic work" is a key to this idea. It reminds me of my earlier attempts with Norbert Elliott to get "The End of the Essay" into motion.

OK people, show me the videos...


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