Thursday, July 06, 2006

Diverse - day one report

I feel as though I'm on a bit of a mission over the next few days. We've recently made some commitment to bottom out the thorny questions surrounding the capture of lectures (using whatever technologies) and so the strand I've been pursuing here has been to do with gaining insight into that.
The subtitle of this year's diverse is 'Developing innovative video resources for students everywhere' and so not only do I expect some interesting and innovative insight I expect our session on Media Interventions to be well received.
However the conference's own history has emerged from the Diverse project at Derby which, quite a while ago now, was exploring the capture of lecture(r)s on video....
'Video lectures and the feeling of learning'
I began by attending a presentation called 'Video lectures and the feeling of learning' presented by Palle Quist from Aalborg University, Denmark. Essentially he described some research he had conducted with the best way of presenting the lecturer. Having noted that captured lectures that run for more than 10 minutes will bore the student, he described how he had tested the formats of 'fixed talking head', 'camera following presenter and moving to slides' (replicating what a student's eyes might do), PowerPoint with voice over, 'the full length standing news presenter' against a projected backdrop, and the slightly more casual, but very similar approach adopted by weather presenters. The first three used academic presenters and the final two used examples taken from TV. So unfortunately the research was flawed. He found that students chose the professional, familiar approaches. The suggested conclusion would be then that we should move away from the lectern approach and adopt a professional, high tech approach with professional performers...
The question of whether we should move away from the capture of the lecture (nevermind the lecture itself) was not considered.
A paper in the same session demonstrated a much more interesting and realistic approach (though that was not its prime intention) of a lecturer presenting in a studio to a small handful of students (we didn't get as far as discourse... though who knows it might have taken place). More on that paper in a second.
The next was
'Online presentations: an alternative to lectures?'
Valerie Will from the University of Paisely described her experience of using Impatica for PowerPoint. The interesting thing for me was why, as a teacher, she had decided to do this. Her reason was that she felt it gave her students more opportunity to explore and review difficult theoretical content that they had struggled to engage with in the lecture theatre. Yes, there's a good reason to recording lectures: repeatability and review. But on all other counts (pedagogy, time, production values, support, etc) this is not a viable approach in my book. We looked at software like Boxmind a few years ago - a similar system - and our immediate response then was to try and break the box of talking head, rolling transcript, synchronised audio and PowerPoint. Cognitive, multimodal overload or what? However she had the personality to make a talking head work, but not many do. She discussed the need to be highly scripted and very well rehearsed. She also noted that she depended heavily on technical support.
Triple L
The Triple L project from the Netherlands was introduced in the next presentation. This new project is setting out to create repositories of video lecture learning objects. It was a very interesting presentation of a sound project acknowledging the important ideas in Laurillard's Conversation Frameork (SMS is one way in which they expect to encourage that interaction). I never thought I'd appreciate a bit of theory - must be getting old! The project's goal is to 'Reuse live events (yes!) as learning objects within learning environments.' Still the lecture was the 'event 'that was used - albeit in the example they showed they had brought the lecturer into close contact with a small group of students.
Project Pad
I didn't mange to get to the session on Project Pad due to clashes - this is the tool used by Glasgow Caledonian's Spoken Word project (in collaboration with the US) to allow for the annotation of media. This project is something I really want to find out about as it touches on a lot of my own interests. Maybe tomorrow...
The Keynote was very interesting: Patrick McGhee (Vice Chancellor (Academic) at University of Central Lancashire). It's good to see a VC so tuned into the mobile technologies that we're interested in. There are some very useful points I would like to bring into our session tomorrow, especially the idea of video to 'inspire curiosity' (actually that phrase is probably in there already as it's fundamental to the Media Intervention idea. He also said that video pedagogy development is a subversive activity - damn right. I only hope we don't shock too many people tomorrow! The point being that the technology and its history of use is hard to escape from.
Maybe it's the lecture capture strand I'm trying to pick up on, but I'm not getting much sense of innovation at the moment.
Panel session on lecture capture
There was a panel session on video capture of lectures. I won't go into detail. However there are a lot of people here hung up on production values rather than pedagogic values. Someone said students love captured lectures, but they would now have high expectations of video production. I suggested students love PowerPoints too - not necessarily the best learning tool, and not necessarily the sexiest artifacts a student could encounter from an aesthetic point of view! I feel I could lose some potential friends, but what the heck.
At the end of the session I had a chat with Chris O'Hagan, who is the person behind Diverse I think. Someone who has undoubtedly innovated in this area for a long time and achieved a lot with it. He was very open to my semi-sceptical position and appreciated my comments that we were in danger of missing an opportunity to remodel our pedagogies with technological and theoretical advances rather that to reinforce C19th approaches and philosophies embedded in the lecture model.


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