Video in education: my experience in studying “Sustainability”

I have been studying a course through “Coursera” on Sustainability. As part of the course I am doing a project. The project can be an essay, a video or indeed a blog post. Welcome to my project.

I chose to look at how videos can be used as a significant part of study at almost any level, especially, in my case, in studying at  degree level.

The course material has included a number of specific videos made by the course lecturer Jonathan Tomkin. These have been very straightforward “lectures” but have the advantage for me of allowing me to replay the video or stop it in specific sections to look at what was said or referenced. As many proponents of the use of video in education would point out this has the advantage on the conventional lecture where you miss the important point at your peril.

It also raises the whole area of discussion/debate about “flipped” education. For those who are unaware of this discussion it is based on the idea of having students look at videos of lectures/lessons and then have the chance (in class or in my course’s case in the discussions or online “meetups”) to discuss the topic and delve deeper into it in order to understand it. The main proponent of this has been Salman Khan and his “Khan Academy“.

This idea of video lectures/classes  to support study has certainly been helped by the “online world” that we have all moved into. Coursera is just one example of how online study at all levels has blossomed in the last year or two. The “flipped  classroom” approach is a natural adjunct to this form of study. The other major player in this development in learning has been the all-powerful and omnipresent “YouTube“.

I more and more find that I am going to YouTube for information when I need it. In doing the Sustainability course I have been able to delve into it for “Ted Talks“, lectures and news items as well as excerpts from T.V. and film documentaries. YouTube has become a major search engine in its own right and if there is a name or organisation or topic mentioned in the course I was able to do a search on it and usually found some fascinating videos.

This of course raises the question of the validity of video as information. I believe that video can  present you with visual evidence and “a picture is worth a thousand words”. There is the advantage of having oral evidence to support the pictures. Just like the “flipped classroom” approach the video can be stopped and rewound to a significant section so that notes can be taken.

I am aware that higher education in particular teaches students to become critical of texts so as to develop their own views about a subject. This leads me to an important observation based on my own experience of video in education.I believe that  we must work in the future to develop student’s visual awareness and the their abilities to critique a video in the same way that we presently teach them to critique text.

I will give an example  based on my own study in this course. In week 3 I looked at the subject of protecting fish stocks using the idea of “Catch Shares”. The suggested video was “How To Save  a Dying Ocean” which gave a very rosy review of how the U.S. government was proposing “Catch Shares” as the answer to the depletion of fish stocks off of the coast of the U.S.A. I did a YouTube search and found another video called “The Problem With Catch Shares” that gave a different view that presented the idea as big business putting the small-time fisherman out of business.

If we are to develop video as a means of study then we need to work on students becoming aware of bias, distortion and the fact that the camera can lie and often does. We also need to develop video search skills as much as we are currently developing text search skills.

How then can I sum up my experience of using video in this course? I can say that I have learnt so much from the hours of scanning and then watching videos. I have made full use of the ability that I have to watch, re-watch, rewind and stop the video lectures. I have been able to use the amazing resource that is YouTube to further inquire into the many subjects relating to sustainability. I have listened to some great minds discussing the threats to our world of overpopulation, of depletion of the world’s resources. I have sought for some comfort in solutions and found some optimism in the brilliant statistics presented by the wonderful Hans Rosling. I have discovered some brilliant mavericks who have challenged the status quo and presented their ideas on video, two of these I would suggest you look up further would be Vandana Shiva, look as a start at her video “A Critique of the Green Revolution“. I would also recommend the excellent lecture by Albert A. Bartlett called “Arithmetic, Population and Energy” in which he explains the mathematics behind our sustainability crises.

Video should not be seen as the only form of knowledge and we need critical skills in seeking out and using video as evidence but it is a significant part of education now and needs to be incorporated much more into our education systems than it has been up to now. This is where the world of online learning has led the way and I have definitely benefitted from using video in my studies on the “Introduction to Sustainability” course.

 

 

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