Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Thinking About the Effective Use of Video

The economics is simple to understand: Video production costs are dropping while the cost of the printed word is rising. Ergo, the increasing use of video for educational purposes. The question on my mind is whether anyone really understands how to effectively utilize videos for teaching and learning.

I've used two types of videos in my economics classes. One type utilizes professionally produced segments illustrating key economic issues. These tend to be about 15 minutes long and they include interviews with experts, narration, music, and scenes of everyday economic life. The second type of video I've used are those that I've produced in my office. These have me talking about an economic issue for about 2 to 3 minutes.

Regardless of the type of video, I've always implicitly understood that videos are primarily devices to increase student engagement. The real learning takes place as students, their interest piqued by a video, approach the tasks associated with deep learning with an attitude that makes them want to think and learn. The linked CBS News item tells a different story.

Increasingly, videos are being used as the primary or even sole learning tool for some kinds of courses. The title of the story asks the question, "Can Video Replace the Written Word?" I don't want to seem old fashioned, but my answer is a resounding, "NO!"

It strikes me that watching a video is even more passive than listening to a lecture. If we want to create an active learning classroom environment using video then we need to create interactive video presentations. Interspersing videos with questions, surveys, and activities promises to increase the value of videos as learning tools. But videos should still mostly be used as supplements because the written word is indispensable for most educational purposes. For proof, I offer you Meet the Press. Yes, you can tape the show, but you'll notice that the producers offer during the closing credits to sell viewers a transcript. Most of us don't need a transcript because the level of information content we require is satisified by watching the show. Professionals, however, need a deeper understanding and so they buy and read the transcript. Our students often need a deeper understanding too, and so faculty should assign a textbook and students should buy and read it. If the typical student is anything like me, maybe they should read it more than once. It won't hurt the textbook a bit if it's read over again.


Blogger Dr. Tammy said...

Videos are an excellent example of "one-way" communication. As we know, "one-way" communication creates "distance" (separation) between the facilitator and learner.

Even a lecture does provide some room for limited questions, which presents some opportunity for "two-way" communication. Although, courses with limited lecture (15 minutes), followed by open, small group discussion (45 minutes) provide a better environment for real learning and personal application.

This leads us to the Theory of Transactional Distance in regards to video instruction. This theory addresses the effect that "pedagogical" distance has on instruction, on learners, on teachers, the curriculum, and communciation. It doesn't have to do with geographical distance. Transactional distance is defined a relative vs. absolute.

For example, if I use a video, which is one-way communication, the "transactional distance" is far greater than "lecture with some discussion", as one-way communication allows for NO dialogue, interaction or engagement. The video (one-way communication) creates "great distance" (interaction/engagement) between the professor and learner.

In another example, if I use class time mostly for discussion with limited lecture, the transactional distance begins to close in. Very little pedagogical distance exists be the facilitator (professor) and learner.

The key to closing the gap in "transactional distance" is increasing dialogue, which results in student engagement, retention, personal knowledge creation.

This doesn't mean videos don't have their place in learning. I use video's when it truly supports the learning. However, I follow up the video with an interactive, lively discussion, then personal reflection and application.

(Note: the concept of transaction was derived from Dewey and developed by Boyd and Apps, 1980. It's discussed heavily in the area of distance education.)

10:12 AM  
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11:16 PM  

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