When watching a video just isn’t enough: The future of video learning in the classroom

By Edwina Baden-Powell, head of production, ClickView

Video in the classroom

When we think of video in the classroom we generally think of TV programmes, curriculum-produced content, YouTube videos and yes, the 2-hour feature film. Gone are the days of wheeling in the AV trolley to play said feature film, then two hours later turning the lights back on to find heads asleep on desks. The technology we use for playing video is now a seamless part of our lives, but is it the tech or the videos that have changed most dramatically over time?

It’s a no-brainer that video is gaining popularity in classrooms to assist in reaching learning objectives. Video is engaging, it gives students a break from their teachers, and offers a chance to hear from an authentic voice, such as an expert in their field. It suits learners of all types and at all levels, engaging a different part of their brain to trigger an emotional response to the world around us. Video learning isn’t just a supplementary support, it’s a core teaching and learning tool.

But how has technology impacted the use of video in the classroom and the way it’s viewed?

How tech has enriched video in the classroom

The days of format shifting, where AV techs transferred VHS to DVD, DVD to mp4, ingested and catalogued ageing videos, are finally over. The rise of platforms such as ClickView has solved that by giving schools the tools to curate their own digital libraries of video resources, as well as manage relevance and links to the curriculum. They can track who’s watching what, and lock down anything inappropriate.

Tech has given teachers tools for customising the educational video experience. Breaking a video down into smaller clips allows teachers to scaffold the content, tailoring their lessons to the different ability levels in their classroom. Their students then have access to that content (on repeat!) when they take it home on their own devices, creating opportunities for further discussion and application tasks when face-to-face with the teacher. Most importantly, it saves teachers time. Digital video libraries can be easily searched to find relevant material that is aligned to the curriculum. TV programmes can be edited quickly to show just the right bit – without the ads. Schools can ingest their own videos and share them, with one or multiple classes, in just a few clicks.

Tech has given teachers tools for customising the educational video experience.

For the students, the tech allows them to take part in active and reactive viewing; to participate fully in the experience. Viewing can be self-paced, played at their convenience at home without the distracting temptation of going up the YouTube garden path. Engaging pupils with a multimodal approach is easy with interactive questions and multi-player quizzes. They can even create their own videos, uploading them to receive and act upon feedback from other students. Giving students access to video makes it easy to reach them where they’re at.

How video has changed with the technology

It’s not just the technology that has changed; the content production itself is vastly different from 10 years ago. In curriculum-produced videos the most common style we would all remember is the dry ‘talking textbook’ approach, which laid out the curriculum and illustrated it point by point. Now, video needs to be used (read produced) in more creative ways to inspire and model critical thinking, rather than for pure exposition. In our productions, accompanying resources are front of mind, formulated at scripting stage, and programmes are produced around opportunities for student interaction, not the other way around. Rather than choosing video as a supplementary source, teachers are creating lesson plans with educational video at their centre. Viewing an educational video is no longer a passive experience of receiving instruction.

The length of videos has also changed dramatically. As little as 10 years ago, producing 30-minute films was the standard; they were made to fill a typical teaching period. Nowadays, videos between 5–10 minutes are largely preferred by both students and teachers. These keep students fully engaged and allows the teacher to deliver them in context. Students can be given playlists of short clips for revision or for project research, giving them autonomy to direct their own learning.

Let’s not forget the rise of teacher-produced material, made for flipping the classroom, which is steadily gaining popularity amongst students. Teachers are becoming YouTube stars like Mr Bruff, the rapping English teacher. But even the most basic videos can be incredibly effective in creating a community of flipped educators; all it takes is some screen-recording software and an internet connection.

Technology has spurred on a new wave of content production including VR and 360 video. These are becoming a legitimate learning tool in the classroom. The most successful are managed by specialists who can bring the content to you via a class set of headsets running back to a central system, so the class can share the experience rather than viewing in isolation. Instead of the world coming to you, 360 video takes the student out of the classroom and into other peoples’ worlds as a powerful way to foster empathy.

Technology isn’t everything, but getting eyes on the right content is. That’s where technology hits its stride. Whichever perspective you take, from the content point of view or the tech, either way, it’s students who are the winners.

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