Making video discoverable – a core need in Glow Futures #EDUScotICT

I recall my own primary education – when the “treat of the week” was to participate in a music lesson broadcast by BBC Radio 4.  Imagine the situation where children throughout the UK were all, at the same time, listening to those broadcasts and singing along in time.  This use of radio broadcast technology was always a high point in the week for us as children – and it was the only time during the school week when we were allowed to turn the radio on.  As I recall there was no more than a loud speaker in our classroom (as was the case with all classes) and the radio receiver was located in the head teachers office – with a network of cables connecting every classroom.  Simple but effective!

Times have changed in the “X” years since my primary education and today’s pupils would probably not be inspired so much with that single media analog technology as a means of singing lesson delivery!  Today, learners have come to expect both multi-media and interactivity as basic ingredients of their technology experiences.  So many of today’s children have a games console in their home and an ever-increasing proportion have a smart phone in their pocket, both of which have the capability to entertain and engage in education using multi-media resources.

Video is an increasingly accessible medium, which can enhance the transfer of knowledge and understanding in a very dynamic way.  It is the case that video traffic now represents a significant proportion of that which transits the internet today.  The following graph shows how internet traffic growth has been developing since 2010 and also shows how it is expected to grow over the next few years to 2015.  As it clear from the graph, video represents a very significant proportion of this picture.

The tool used to generate the above graph is publically accessible at teh following URL http://ciscovni.com/vni_forecast/index.htm

It has often been said that “a picture is worth a thousand words”.  There is no doubt in my own mind that video does add another dimension to the situation and provides a host of additional opportunities for the capture and distribution of knowledge.  Children today live in a media rich environment where video plays an ever-increasing part of their experience.  Television is a pervasive and constant source of entertainment and many “educational programs” but currently we see increased use of high definition video in the computer games industry.  3D TV is now also a reality and the rate of technological change seems to be on the increase.  The only significant changes I can recall in my school education was the introduction of the calculator and of course broadcast TV – relatively well in to my secondary school period.  But today’s pupils are being subjected to constantly changing ICT landscape in their own out of school experience – the school experience may well move at a slower rate of change for a variety of reasons of course.

It would seem to make good sense that education should be able to take full advantage of video to enhance and improve the learner experience both in the classroom and beyond.  Modern technology can make it possible to package video into small clips which can be linked lesson contexts to illustrate a wide range concepts and situations.

This brings me to the point of this post – making video discoverable – it has been possible to digitize video content for some time – but making video content discoverable through search is inherently more difficult.

Postman and Wengartner state in their book “Teaching is a subversive activity”

Being illiterate in the processes of any medium (language) leaves one at the mercy of those who control it.

Untill recently, is has been necessary for the publisher (owner) to add text tags which can then be indexed to make video content searchable.  But recent technology developments have made it possible for the publishing service to translate the (spoken) audio track into text/key words.  The text representation can then be used to give users access to particular sections of video dealing with identified key words and also the video can be indexed by existing search engines.  The end effect here is that video can be made much more “discoverable” than was previously possible.  Although this is “new” technology I believe that this should be a core requirement for Glow Futures.  Pupils and teachers need to have the capability to both publish and discover video content in order that maximum benefit can be derived from this medium.

Youtube.com which was conceived as a means to share video footage captured during a social event is now accessible to all internet users who have a device suitable of capturing video.  How many mobile phones now have a video camera as standard feature?  This technology is now so accessible that people are able to share their captured experiences with great ease.  There are also a host of resources which are now useful in the context of classroom lessons being delivered via the network and on demand.  Look at some of the KahnAcademy which uses youtube to publish hundreds of lessons which can be accessed by any pupil needing to hear another presentation of the lesson they did not understand so well.  This is only one example and I know there are many more which could be referenced in this context.

(I am aware of at least one example of a video publishing product in development which is leading edge examples of this technology being deployed – look to a future post for some details)

I would assert that we cannot ignore video as a mechanism to enhance the education experience for our children.  Video is no longer a one way experience – learners can use video as a source of knowedge and learning but they can also use it as a mechanism to share the product of their learning.

Thinking back to my own primary education I can recall the production of physical models and art work which was displayed on our classroom wall.  I was also motivated and inspired when I was able to have my work included in the class display whether it was a model, written piece or a painting.  Pupils today can and should have the opportunity to share their work with their peers and parents using the most appropriate technologies, and why not video?

I think that the Canvas project ( linked to the Glow authentication system) is a great example of a product which has real potential for enabling learners to share their art work using video and still images in an online virtual world. I believe we need to see more of this sort of approach in the future.

I believe that its arguably easier to publish video content using todays technology that it is to construct and publish a web site ( see last para ).  We need to ensure video content can be fully exploited not because it is the latest possibility but because of the added value thay the medium bring to the learners experience.

I see no good reason to prevent access to web and video publishing technologies to facilitate pupil sharing as well as consumption of good quality learning artifacts.  Video should be planned for and facilitated using the best of available tools.  Yes Youtube is one possibility but there are even better tools available to day which can make video even more accessible and powerful as a teaching and learning tool.

One difficulty with video has always been that the content of the video – motion picture and sound could not be easily indexed.  Have a look at the auto text captioning which is now available in Youtube where the audio track is coverted into on screen captions.  This is far from perfect at the moment but  I do believe that this technology will greatly improve over the next few years.

So let us hope for a consistent strategy across every Scottish classroom so that pupils and teachers can be equipped with the means to access the vast range of available video resources.  Let’s open up existing known repositories whether on the public internet or on education specific services.

For me,  access to video should be a core requirement of Glow Futures – bring it on!.

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