Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Video and Teaching

by Susan Codone

From the interactive videodisc series Jasper Woodbury by the Cognition and Technology Group at JasperVanderbilt toYouTube today, the availability of video for instruction has grown exponentially.  Elliott Masie wrote on March 2, 2010 that "the introduction of video into almost every aspect of our learning and work tasks is profound and disrupting."  He goes on to say that "Rising bandwidth, lowered equipment costs, ease of editing and growing expectations of learners will make video a profound component of our learning efforts going forward."

Sloane Burke and Shonna Snyder, writing in the International Electronic Journal of Health Education (2008) say that Internet-based resources like YouTube integrate relevant content and help students reflect on how to apply what they've learned.  In their article YouTube: an Innovative Learning Resource for College Health Education Courses, they say that as a teaching supplement, YouTube videos inspire and engage learners and "...support their digital learning style."

Ashley Falzetti, writing in Feminist Collections (2008) says that she seasons required texts with YouTube videos to provide content for denser theoretical readings (Reading YouTube, Contextualizing Theory).  Using YouTube for educational videos has proven to be more popular.  Martyn Poliakoff and Brady Haran created the Periodic Table of Videos, with a video for each of the 118 elements.  Since launching they have attracted millions of hits and won a 2008 award for excellence and education (Teaching Chemical Engineering, Feb 2009).  Even something as staid as pathology has found a home at YouTube, with the University of St. Andrews (UK) identifying YouTube as an informative and accurate source of histopathology learning (Medical Teacher, 2009).

Theory and Pedagogy

Theoretically speaking,  social learning theory by Albert Bandura Jasper
best describes what happens when we learn from video.  The Theory In Practice (TIP) Database states that Bandura's theory emphasizes the importance of observing and modeling the behaviors, attitudes, and emotional reactions of other people.  The most common use of social learning theory is through commercials; we watch them, learn from them, and often model their behavior by purchasing the intended products.  In much the same way, students can watch educational video and model the attitudes and behaviors they see.

Pedagogically speaking, the theoretical foundation for learning through video is constructivism and active learning.  Wikipedia says that active learning is really an umbrella term that refers to instruction that focuses the responsibility of learning on the students.  Since videos can be an extension of a one-way teaching method, the student is still a passive learner and in danger of cognitive overload due to dense video content (Lee and Sharma, 2008).  Active learning can compensate for these problems by engaging the student and promoting cognitive activity.  Group work and student discussion are important components of active learning.  Lee and Sharma recommend showing videos in short segments, with time in between for students to participate in group activities and discussions about what they have seen, and what they predict might be next.  Just allowing students to watch video without breaks for reflection and discussion keeps learners in a passive mode and inhibits knowledge transfer.

Personal Example

In my classroom, I teach engineering students about engineering ethics.  I have learned that a thorough study of past engineering disasters often results in learning about what ethical decisions should have been made.  One such example is the 1996 ValuJet 592 airplane crash in the Florida Everglades.  Flammable cargo was loaded before flight, breaking ethical and official airline regulations.  A documentary video exists on YouTube that is broken into five 15 minute segments.  These are ideal for viewing, followed by reflection, group discussion, and even debate on the ethical issues after each segment.

Other YouTube video segments I have used in class include the Bhopal chemical plant disaster, the Challenger and Columbia accidents, Three Mile Island, and the Kansas City Hotel Walkway Collapse among others.  Each time I use video in the classroom student engagement and attention are high, and I believe that learning occurs at a greater rate than if I were just to describe the tragedy or have the students only read about it.  The videos help the experience come alive for students who weren't yet born when the Challenger exploded.

Elliott Masie said that videos are becoming a large part of our learning process.  In the classrooms, videos can be used to bring life to experiences and help students engage -- as long as they are used well, with plenty of time for student reflection.  YouTube and other video-sharing sites make finding videos easy, and most professors are equipped with classrooms able to show video.  Videos make a great supplements to lessons; I encourage you to use them with your students today!

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