Friday, February 12, 2010

Consumer Technology Revisits My Film Class

I have recently come across two interesting blog posts about streaming video. A recent NYT piece by describes state of the art technology for HD on demand movies. I also read on Mashable that Netflix has recently added three hundred of foreign and indie titles to its rapidly growing number of "instant watching" features.

Now, frankly, I am not eager to move into regular viewing of streaming movies. I like big screen viewing and DVD features. I also don't want to deal with the buffering issues or other baggage the HD streaming technology currently carries with it. students sure do use streaming video. I am amazed by how many films they are able to track down online -- legitimately posted and otherwise. And I started thinking about how an emerging consumer technology might once again improve the film class I teach.

A few years ago, when I switched from VHS to DVD my entire approach to discussing the films changed too. DVDs made it practical to review several different clips during discussion-- something out of the question with tape due to winding. Nevertheless, I still have to spend the obligatory 2 hours or so (usually three full class periods) in order to watch the entire film in class. In fact, last year, when I decided to add a documentary film to the mix, I bought four discs to loan, so that we didn't have to use precious class time for viewing.

But what if students could obtain all or most the films through a source like Netflix. For a few bucks per month, they could watch the film on home or at during study periods (We are a 1:1 school), and I would suddenly have so much more time. We could actually visit more films and/or consider them in greater depth. Some kind of classroom license for for the service something to dream about as well. That would be pretty awesome for our learners (and would be an opportunity for the providers to introduce their service to consumers).

Ten years from now, the DVDs we now use may seem as quaint as the reel-to-reels that were on the scene when I started teaching. Any thoughts?

Screen capture of Vudu's home page.


Larry Baker said...

I sent this link to Netflix. Would love to see them comment.

WillKnott said...

God, what a great idea. That was always the problem. Two or most often three days to view the film. It would also, of course, allow you to expand your underground syllabus should you want to. Let me know if you get a comment from Netflix.

Larry Baker said...

Even if we could have the students watch half the films outside of class, it would be huge. Netflix has just started to add some films from Criterion. That would be a big plus. Availability might even influence the films we selected for the course.

Ann Lusch said...

Just to play devil's advocate: (Some) students have pretty hefty homework loads as it is. I worry a little about about how technology allows shifting what was once classwork to outside of class time while the school day commitment remains the same. Now we're going to say, watch a two-hour movie for homework?

Larry Baker said...

I don't see the viewing periods as much different from "reading days", so yes, Ann, I definitely would say, "watch a two-hour film for homework."

But I also think this is a great example of how technology should cause us to reconsider the need to meet in physical space so often. I'd be happy as a clam to meet with the class three times a week to discuss the films.

The other time could be shifted to project work, or ideally, unscheduled time. I see your point, but don't think I would radically crank up the overall time demands on students.

Fran Mika said...

Larry, I'm with you! Since it's not likely that those of us who favor block scheduling as an incentive for interdisciplinary work as well as an antidote to the hyper-fragmentation of contact time will see a shift like that during the rest of our teaching career, whatever we can do to shift a reasonable part of reading/viewing outside our boxed -in physical space/time would make that contact time much more effective. There are so many great (and not-so-great) film productions our department uses or alludes to in bringing literature to life. We know that we can offer film viewing (outside of class time) as extra credit options and students dive in.

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