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The State of Educational Video 2014
The proliferation of mobile devices and the surge in popularity of the flipped classroom mean that video is at the head of the class in today's schools.
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Today’s generation of students, from kindergarten to university, were raised with video online. For them it’s a natural tool for learning, whether or not video is actually used in their schools. This is something that many forward-looking educators and video professionals have been predicting would happen. Talking with educators for this year’s “State of Educational Video” article in primary through higher education, this former prediction was stated more like fact.

Educational technology professional Jennifer Serviss (top right) says, “These kids are already on their cell phones. Education needs to transform and really embrace the technologies they have now.” One might think she was talking about high school or college students. But Serviss works for Gregory School in Long Branch, N.J., whose students are in kindergarten through the fifth grade.

“I think schools are really going to have to adapt soon,” says James Foley (lower right), manager of digital media development at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RTI). “The bar is getting set high, but not in the way we think.” That’s because students are coming to college with their expectations already set by watching YouTube or instructional video sites such as Khan Academy.

“Faculty see production value as a magic bullet,” he says. “But a lot of the most successful (teachers) are successes because ... their content is condensed and easy to understand.”

I was particularly struck by two strong trends. First, the use of video in elementary school classrooms seems to have made a great leap forward in the last year. This was fueled by the continuing proliferation of smartphones and tablets, which greatly reduce the friction that used to complicate shooting and sharing digital video.

In turn, this means that teachers and students are even less confined to being passive consumers. According to Greg Esteves, technology integration director for the Wolf Creek School Division in Alberta, “We’re at a time in the evolution of education when we’re starting to see that video is going to play an increased role in evaluating students.”

Second is the flipped classroom, which looks to be the strongest overall video trend in high schools and colleges. That’s because it’s a relatively simple idea that maturing technologies, such as online video platforms, make increasingly easy to support.

I will explore these trends in more depth, in addition to some other challenges and outlooks for educational video in the year ahead.

Online Video: It’s Elementary

In her Grade 2 classroom in Wolf Creek, teacher Kendall Johnson says, “Video is used a lot more to motivate kids.” During a physical education lesson last year, she used her smartphone to record students practicing the long jump. Afterward, Johnson reviewed the footage with them in the classroom, providing constructive feedback on their technique.

Serviss assists?teachers who want?to produce videos?in the classroom.?She worked with a?social studies class?that produced a?heritage project?video. Students?dressed up in traditional clothing?and talked about?where they were?from. Then they viewed it together as a class.

Smart classrooms and large-format displays are particularly important so that students may view videos one-on-one with teachers, in small groups, or all together. Additionally, it is not practical to give the youngest students video homework assignments, in part because they are more likely to have limited internet access outside of school.

“By the students viewing it on the larger screen,” Serviss says, “it has a true impact on their self-esteem. Ten years from now they’ll still have that video footage. We’ll look back and show our classes 10 years from now, ‘Here’s your parents, talking about your heritage.’”

Johnson also has been leveraging what might be called the long tail effect of online video at school. “In the gym, if I took video of them playing a certain game last year, I can show it to them this year,” she says. “They can see the kids actually playing the game, so they get a clear sense of how the game is played.”

Teachers at both schools almost exclusively use smartphones or tablets to record video, many of them using their own devices. Additionally, at Wolf Creek, Johnson says, “We have at least an iPad per class.” At the Gregory School, Serviss says the fifth grade has Samsung Galaxy tablets to use in classrooms.

Somewhat uniquely for a public school district, Wolf Creek uses an online video platform, having adopted MediaCore in 2012. The system permits faculty to record and ingest video directly from mobile devices, reducing much of the friction they might otherwise experience in managing their recordings.

More Teachers Flip for Video

Raul Burriel is the streaming media coordinator for Oregon State University (OSU). When I asked him about the biggest growth area for online video at his university, he answered quickly, and without hesitation: “Flipped classrooms.” That’s when teachers record short lecture or demonstration videos that students view before class meetings. Then, valuable classroom time is dedicated to more student interaction and hands-on instruction, instead of listening to a lecture.

“When I look at our Kaltura videos and see batches of 5 minute videos showing up at a time,” Burriel says, “then I know somebody has caught the wave.”

According to Ian Webber, manager of digital media development at the Rochester Institute of Technology, in 2013 “we had an initiative with events and training aimed directly at faculty to explore flipping their classrooms.”

His group provides a range of resources to assist faculty with production. Webber’s colleague, James Foley, says, “Our team has traditionally done a lot of production where we capture presentations. Now we’re moving to them coming down to our studio spaces and getting more hands on in editing and production.”

Foley observed that faculty who have been reading up on their own about the benefits of “condensed lectures” such as those used with the flipped classroom model are “more excited about using the self-service studio we’ve set up, or producing on their own laptops in their offices.”

Burriel sees a similar trend at OSU, where in addition to helping faculty record lectures in their offices, they also support faculty self-producing in smart classrooms. “With lecture capture, [faculty] come into the classroom where they have an interface to start and stop recordings. Instead of a full hour they’re recording 5 minutes at a time.” Those videos are then automatically ingested into the university’s video management platform.

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