Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Fear and Loathing in Las Videos

Less than two years ago, I made it a personal goal to bring video into my teaching. While I am not exactly a whiz, I can shoot, edit, and post with simple tools like my Flip Mino and iMovie. I also require student created video in all three of my courses.

For the most part, this is all cool. But sometimes, I feel kind of out there alone, floundering around. Since students are used to Skyping, chatting, or creating quick video messages for Facebook with their computer cameras, they don't necessarily arrive to class with high production values for their assignments. As I posted recently, our school has no universal standards for video, so I sort of make them up on the fly.

Colleagues present a different type of frustration. Thanks to the mandate by our administration, each academic department will make a short presentation about their curriculum to the entire staff. Thus, both of my departments have approached me for technical help, so that we can look hip and with it (There is considerable irony in this, since both groups have been slow to embrace techie stuff). Well, I recently made a suggestion to one department and posted in to our ning:

I propose that we include a 4-5 minute video that features the projects we do. . . . .The video would be composed of 40-50 still photographs and a voice-over narration. Each member would identify a cool project he or she does and collect some digital photographs that capture it.. . . . I am willing to edit the video but would like someone else to quilt the narrative pieces together into a whole script. I can then work on cutting down the photos or narration to fit the project.

I suggested we get started immediately. Well, you can still file this one under Procrastination.

Finally, since so many staff members are unfamiliar with actually creating videos themselves they have an anything-is-wonderful level of discernment for student creations. This semester, I have attended two all-school assemblies where student created videos were projected for the entire student body (at the request of adults, I'm sure). They were awful. In one case the editing was sloppy; in another case the sound was dreadful. The problems were so basic that the productions would never have been approved in other mediums. But since they were videos, it was assumed that something sort of YouTubish would communicate to our student body.

All things tech seem to evolve at a glacial pace in education, including minimal expectations.

"with fear in my eyes . . ." Flickr Creative Commons photo by ifranz


WillKnott said...

That last line is a killer, chillingly (no pun intended) true.

Ann Lusch said...

1. The presentation is in some ways a fun thing, but also stressful. I haven't solidified thoughts about format, but I've had flickers of ideas about including Photostory or Moviemaker (sorry, you know I don't speak Apple).

2. There's procrastination when you find other things you'd rather do, and there's procrastination when you are already spending most hours of most days and many on weekends on work and other tasks are simply higher priority. I scheduled my presentation in September because I KNEW that I would need the summer to give it any attention. No promises of greatness even then. Because it's going to be time-consuming, I just know it. And because I might have other things I'd rather do!

Larry Baker said...

good points (as always), Ann. But let's add another

#3. There's procrastination when we engage in the magical thinking that a task will get done by itself or some fairy godfather.

Ann Lusch said...

I get your point!

Ann Lusch said...

This one still has me thinking! Now it's about video production values and your banning use of web cams. I will confess that a few days ago I made a brief video with my web cam to put on a class wiki. I don't have a video camera at home and I needed to get it done now while I have the time. But, it's true that it is a bit fuzzy, and you have inspired me to re-shoot at some point with the media center's Flip, which I assume will be better.

Until I do, though, I don't feel I can hold students to a higher standard than what I have done. And as for the videos in the assemblies, I would not have had a clue about how to fix the problems.

Here's something I am pondering for future years, when I may give projects to the current frosh and classes beyond. They will have cameras in their laptops. Are you going to say they can't use them? It seems a shame if the only use they will get out of that equipment will be to Skype each other in the cafeteria.

Larry Baker said...

And you've still had me thinking too!

I certainly would not "ban"web cams. The most exciting MACUL presentation I attended in March was the incredibly varied ways that these cameras are used in the Holland Christian schools (particularly for creating jpegs). But I don't think their utility extends to polished presentation To me this is the equivalent pencil on scratch paper. I know from many years of teaching writing that there is no greater step in a student's progress toward style than her ability to conceptualize her specific AUDIENCE as she writes. As you know, a note to a friend ought to have a much different style than a letter of application to an employer.

By the same token, a video chat with a teacher would call for different standard than a presentation on a wiki, let alone the entire assemble school community. We can raise the bar without banning anything.

Ideally a speech (or communications) department would formulate standards for the Curriculum Council to discuss. Ideally.

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