Video Just Can’t Be Beat!


I can’t think of any other medium that students like better than video.  How can you beat the sound and site stimulation of videos to engage students in the learning process? Have you ever watched your students suddenly come alive in the classroom at the mention of a video?  From what I have observed in the classroom, students preferred learning style is watching videos.  Add creating videos to this mix and you have a very powerful learning tool.


Our students have grown up with videos on the TV and Internet. It is a medium that they can tell their own stories and listen to the stories of others.  They are used to downloading their favourite clips from the net.  Why not harness that interest and create authentic learning experiences like the ones described by Linda Joseph in “Digital Storytelling” (MultiMedia & Internet@Schools; Jul/Aug 2006)?  Among the life skills Joseph notes students learn when creating their own “cultural histories” are cooperation, organization, communication and building a sense of community (p. 14). 


With prices dropping on small digital cameras and as Jefferson Graham writes in his article for USA Today, “Video websites pop up, invite postings,” the improvements that have been made with digital cameras in terms of their video-capturing capabilities such as smaller file sizes have made video sharing easy for the average person and I would argue, for the average student or teacher.  The sheer number of free video hosting sites that make video sharing possible have also grown by leaps and bounds in the past couple of years.  This makes video sharing all that more attractive and easy to do.  To get a sense of how many sites there are, check out Rate it All


The collaborative learning possibilities made possible by video sharing sites are unlimited.  Students can demonstrate their learning by creating their own videos, they can learn from the videos of their classmates and teachers and they can learn from and about others from around the world in the videos they share. 


Writing can improve as students compose scripts for their videos and respond to the videos of others.  As Brenda Dyck writes in her blog, “video clip[s] can be used to introduce a concept or theme, instigate a discussion, or serve as a writing prompt.”  Students’ creativity can soar as they design sets, props, and costumes.   They can learn new technical skills by learning how to film videos and produce them.  Videos can encourage the budding actors in the class and give an outlet to those interested in animation. 


In “A Teacher’s Tour of YouTube”  author Chris O’Neal lists numerous ways to use videos effectively in the classroom.  I particularly like his idea of using videos as a vehicle to teach media literacy skills.  Since our students are constantly bombarded with media images in their daily lives, I think educators need to do all they can to teach them how to view media with a critical eye.  As students begin to view videos more critically, O’Neal writes that would be an excellent opportunity to discuss issues regarding copyright. 


Teachers can use video sharing sites to find videos that will help them teach and reinforce curricular concepts.  They can join teacher networks that are interested in similar topics, add RSS feeds to get the latest videos on a particular topic and share materials.   Teachers could also create and share their own videos for both student and teacher use.    These videos could be linked to teachers’ blogs so that they can be viewed at any time by students and teachers.  If students had their own blogs, they could link their own videos to demonstrate their learning.   Some blog hosting sites like allow students to place their videos created in WMP Movie Maker directly onto the site (too bad I can’t do this in WordPress)



Encountering questionable material is the primary concern with video sharing sites.  Although O’Neal believes that the benefits of using video sharing sites in the classroom far outweigh the disadvantages especially in terms of having their students produce their own videos, teachers need to be aware that sites like YouTube and TeacherTube are “completely unfiltered and only mildly moderated.”  For this reason, teachers could find the videos they want at home (since YouTube is blocked at many schools this would be necessary anyways), convert them to a format that can be played in most school systems such as WMP and then show them to their students.  Teachers also have the option of using sites like and School   that are moderated.


Really, the possibilities are endless.  With a little pre-planning, video sharing is sure to be a Web 2.0 tool that will have students engaged in their learning for a long time to come.



It took at least an hour to upload this video of my son’s Suzuki violin group onto the Viddler site but it’s finally visible.  This would be a great way to share videos with the entire violin group.  Do you recognize the song?



Is anyone else’s head spinning like mine?


I’ve really noticed a steep learning curve this week exploring video sharing sites. For example, I have come across the word, codec, a few times this week and haven’t had a clue what it is until I’ve tried to either watch or embed a video.    From what I gather, a codec is a hardware device that must be present in order to convert analog to digital or digital to analog files.  A “codec” also serves to compress audio and video file sizes to make them more manageable.  It appears that there isn’t just one type of codec and depending on the circumstance you may need one or the other to convert your video or audio files to the format you want and either watch or embed it.  I don’t think I really quite get it yet but I’m trying! 


Speaking of formats, who knew there were so many different kinds?  Couldn’t the computer guys have decided on one or two to make our lives easier???  In the last few days I’ve seen AVI, MPEG, GIF, WHV, 3GP, MP$, WMA/ WAV, M4A. AAC, OGG and FLV files.  Today at school when I tried to use the photo site called Captioner, I forgot to tell my students that the site only accepts JPEGs so we had to take a step back and convert our PPt files to JPGs before we could proceed.  It’s little things like that that really turn off those who are not crazy about technology in the first place. Would you agree?  How comfortable are you with all the different file formats?  Does the average teacher need to know this stuff before they can make or watch a video?


Further to last week’s discussion on educational uses of photo sharing sites, the science teacher and I collaborated on a lesson on germs and the body’s defences against them.  The students used a copyright free site to find clip art of superheroes (defences) and villains (germs) and then we used Captioner to add captions describing the why, what, who, how and when of various germs and defence mechanisms.  The students loved it!


In my “junk mail” at school today, I was sent an invitation to check out a new educational video sharing site called SchoolWaxTv developed by a company called Etraffic Press.  Has anyone else heard of this? It bills itself as Canada’s first  instructional video sharing site “designed with
students, teachers, school administrators, and parents in mind.” Unlike YouTube and TeacherTube, SchoolWaxTv moderates all videos before they are placed on the site.  It guarantees that all content is safe and appropriate for school use.   There is no advertising and its a free service. 


According to the press release, “Etraffic Press is a British Columbia based publishing company that creates textbooks combined with online media for modern learners.  Etraffic builds customized course
content that match regional curriculum combining a variety of
technologies, online tools, gaming, and video media to enhance
the learning experience for today’s student.”


Does this all sound too good to be true? Well, if you’re willing to wait, your video might pass the “censors” and eventually get published so you can share it with others.  Although I like the idea of some type of moderation, I think waiting two weeks to see your video appear seems a bit excessive.  As well, the selection of educational videos to choose from is very small but I guess as time passes and others begin to share, the data base will increase.


Another video sharing site I invested today is called Viddler.  I immediately liked the clean look of this site and how easy it was to navigate so I decided to sign up and get an account.  There are no ads on Viddler which appealed to me from the start and you can tag your videos, search, and create links to flikr and twitter.  After downloading, videos can be commented on and embedded into other social applications.  The comments are moderated by the video creater much like blogs and you can share videos with your friends or the public or keep them private.  The ability to comment on videos makes this a true Web 2.0 tool.  Students could improve their writing skills and show learning by describing what they see in the videos in the comment area.


Like SchoolWaxTV, the database is small so there aren’t many videos to choose from especially from a educational standpoint.  Uploaded videos are also subjected to moderation by the site’s operator similar to SchoolWaxTV although all videos initially go up but may be taken down by the site operater if deemed inappropriate.  As a teacher, I would feel more confident letting my students use this site at school both to find and upload videos.  The only drawback for me is the time it takes to upload videos.  I tried to upload a three minute video and I gave up after 30 minutes.  For this reason, I don’t think it’s useable in schools which is really too bad because the site has many positive features. 


After examining four video sharing sites, I think that TeacherTube is the best option for educators.  Although it’s got some advertising on it, it does the job of uploading videos in a reasonable amount of time for both teacher and student-created videos, it allows for private/public sharing of videos and it has an extensive database filled with educational videos that won’t shock students if they’re surfing the site.




Onward we go!


Talk about great timing!  Out of the blue today at school, another band teacher I know (whom I didn’t know also taught grade 9 Social Studies) sent me a link to a video her class just finished producing.  Her class wrote, filmed and produced a short video about the election for CTV’s “My Vote” called “What I Would Like to Tell the Next Prime Minister.” She said it was featured on both “Canada AM” and the CTV National News.  What a wonderful way to start this journey into the world of video sharing sites and education.  After viewing this, it didn’t take me long to see the benefits of being able to produce and share your learning using video.  Take a look at her students work (I asked her permission to show it to you) by following this link:


After being inspired by this video, I checked out Joanne’s Trailfire on video sharing.  The number of YouTube viewers in 2008 indicated  in the Wikepedia article were simply astounding – 3 billion!  Wow!  Mind you, as a parent I wasn’t that surprised since my three teenage boys seem to always be watching YouTube videos at home.  I think it’s one of their favorite things to do online.  The kind of “internet culture” that is described in the Wikepedia article is certainly evident in my house. 


I found the talk by Michael Wesch on the YouTube video “An anthropological introduction to YouTube” fascinating.  The first thing I thought of as I watched the video, was how the speaker held my attention. There were all kinds of special effects that helped to keep me interested.  I doubt I would have been half as interested in his ideas if I had just read them in an article or book.   There’s just something about film to get your attention, wouldn’t you agree?


I grew up in a T.V. world and I know lots of you have too.  Our children and students have not only been conditioned by T.V. but online videos, as well.  Whether it’s a good or a bad thing (we’ll leave that discussion for another time), they have come to expect to be entertained both in their lives at home and at school.  So using videos to teach curriculum concepts seems to be a natural fit.  Not only can videos help to keep a child’s attention, they can also serve to demonstrate learning as seen by the video linked above.


I can see simply from watching the “My Vote” video, how video sharing sites are helping to develop “new forms of empowerment” as described by Wesch.  Being able to create (and the creativity aspect are endless), take part in and share individual and collective stories and learning through video in easy to use video sharing sites like YouTube, TeacherTube Google video have allowed individuals and groups from around the world to connect in ways that were never possible before.  It is a truly constructionist way of learning that I believe will help to revolutionize the way teachers teach and students learn.


 With these positive thoughts swimming through my head, I proceeded to sign up for a YouTube account and check the site out.  I immediately went to the YouTube Handbook to figure out how I should proceed.  I’d recommend this for first time viewers as it helped me get orientated to the site and figure out at least the basics.


 What I found out exploring the site was that you can search for videos on virtually every topic (YouTube uses self-regulating tags to describe their videos), upload your own videos and share them with either the entire public or up to 25 friends, save your favorite videos (keeping me organized in a digital world), subscribe to feeds, and you can block certain users from seeing your videos.   

I was a little disappointed in YouTube’s uploading policy.  People are warned that unacceptable material is not to be uploaded but it would take a complaint of another patron (and not the company) to “force” YouTube to take the video off the site.  When I signed up for my account, it asked for my birthdate.  Is this supposed to deter anyone from under the age of 18 from signing up?  That’s really feeble.  I noticed that some of the top videos that came up under favorite downloads looked pretty suggestive.  No wonder they want (need???) to block YouTube at schools!  Never mind it takes up a lot of bandwidth, I wouldn’t want students of any age having free access to the videos I saw that came up in the first page, alone.


And ultimately, that is my biggest concern with YouTube from an educational standpoint.  There is simply too much questionable material on it for it to be used as a video sharing tool in schools.  Teachers can use YouTube if they are willing to convert the files at home but many teachers either don’t have the skill to do this or simply don’t want to be bothered.  (Perhaps it’s a lesson for the next technology-based professional development session). Although there’s lots of great material on YouTube, you have to search through a lot, sometimes, to find the “diamond in the rough.” However, great finds can be found such as this video I found on Web 2.0 which was so simple to add to my blog (all I had to do was copy the URL from the YouTube “share” button onto the video-linking tool in my post):


It’s fun to watch all the crazy videos and I know you can learn things, too, but I’m looking forward to checking out TeacherTube and Google video tomorrow, to see if it would be more suited to an educational setting.