The Learning Power of Educational Video (as taught to me by my son)

Here’s part of the prompt for this month’s Blog A Month Challenge found here:

Our optional topic for March centers on the learning power of educational video.

Great movies challenge our thinking, speak to our emotions, and take us to distant worlds both historical and fantastic.  Integrating the power of videos into your classroom, professional development, and/or school culture offers even greater potential impact as there is the opportunity to reflect, discuss, and critique the quality and message of the video.

Suggest one to two of your favorite videos (Ted Talks, YouTube Clips, Vimeos, Movie Clips…etc) that you have used in your school setting, and share how you used it. Explain how incorporating this visual into your presentation or lesson has helped you to achieve your goals.

Now I’d better admit right at the start; I’m not a ‘video’ person. It’s not my first choice of media to learn from. I rarely click on links and watch videos. I will, however, gladly read an article/blog post/etc., and I almost always click on links to photographs or images. I’m not even really a movie person anymore, much to my husband’s dismay. I think it has something to do my notion that a video or movie will take too much time. I would need to think on it a bit more to figure out the resistance and general disinterest.

You may be wondering how the direction of this post is going to turn around to the learning power of education video, the topic for the month shown above. I’m getting there through the lens of motherhood and leaving the obvious direction that the topic above seems intended to take. Hope that’s okay. It’s the way my mind went…

Like many of our youth, my teenage son is a video fanatic. While he would barely read a book to save his life, and he hates reading in general, he devours youtube videos like no one else that I know. He’s one of ‘those boys’. He’s really, really active, he’s really, really quick & bright, and he’s really, really horrible when he’s bored. He doesn’t like school and he’s a bit of a nightmare to engage in a classroom (understatement of the year), but when he wants (key word here – ‘wants’) to learn or do something, absolutely nothing, and I mean nothing, can stop him. He’s more than a little intense and has this indefinable quality that I love and can only describe as his ‘edge’. I love him to pieces.

So what does this have to do with the learning power of educational video? Well, for him, and for many of those lumped in with him into that demographic that we want to keep in school and engage and help succeed, for him and those like him, the fact that the content can be engaged through video as the media IS the learning power. I’ll expand on that, and hopefully it will make sense.

Lately my son has been watching TED and TEDx talks. All on his own. No prompting from me about educational value. He watches them on his phone, anywhere, anytime and at home on his computer. He watches them first on his own and then, if he feels that it’s worth it, he’ll invite me to watch with him. He also shares links with friends. I’ve noticed him quoting the speakers from the videos in general conversation. The topics of the videos usually make sense to me. I understood immediately why he wanted to watch Rodney Mullen: Pop an ollie and innovate with me and why he’d want to watch Forget what you know: Jacob Barnett but he branches off and engages with other, seemingly random, topics too. Vine, Instagram videos and his own youtube channel round out the multimedia aspect of his lifestyle.

He’s paying attention. He’s learning independently and making meaningful connections to his life and his interactions with his peers and his family. I’ve been analyzing it a bit because it’s obviously deep learning and it’s interesting to me because he is a really tough kid to ‘teach’. It’s tough for teachers to get him to learn. It’s also interesting to me because video is such a foreign way for me to learn. Yet it’s so natural and easy for him, not to mentions a complete and total contrast to trying to get him to learn from a book or virtually anything written on a piece of paper.

I should mention at this point that my two sons are being raised with a high critical awareness of the content they consume and participate with online and elsewhere. Anyone who knows me will understand the passion for (digital) citizenship that I carry around deep seated within me, and that has been an important contributing factor to my childrens’ behaviour online and in general. We talk about gaming, social media, online interactions, etc., all the time. And don’t get me wrong, he still watches his share of ridiculous content too (he is fourteen and stupid humor is at an all time high with him) but the fact that he’s choosing to watch high quality educational content is noteworthy. And it makes me proud, and hopeful. Maybe this is how he will get through the next few years and find success after high school. Maybe video is the key.

I didn’t exactly take the prompt and answer the questions above. But I did make a powerful connection between video as being key for some children to engage with content and learn in a meaningful way. For some students, like my son, the learning power of educational video is the fact that because it is multimedia, it is more likely to engage. For whatever reason, multimedia content will make some students pay attention. Is it their ‘language’? Their learning style? Their literacy? I’m not sure, but if your goals are to engage and help your students to learn, then the type of content is something to attend to. A small shift, but potentially huge gains for our students.

I have many, many more questions on this but I think that’s enough for today. I’ll keep paying attention to learn more and I’m looking forward to the Blog a Month Challenge topic for April! Thanks for reading!

Afterthought – if you’d like to check out some great videos with educational content, check out the Rodney Mullen and Jacob Barnett links above – lots of interesting bits that relate to learning and the field of education! 

Learning to walk as a master

Last month I completed my Masters in Education in Educational Practice from Simon Fraser  University. This was a graduate field program, meaning that it was designed for working  teachers to complete while continuing to work full time. It involved teacher inquiry into our  practice using qualitative research methods. It was easily the most transformative learning  experience of my life and I feel as if I’m walking through the world differently these days.

What did I learn? I’ve been cooking my thoughts, as Dr. Kelly, our prof, would say, to try to  make sense of the year’s learning. It took me ten days to relax and come down from the  intensity of the thesis submission and final comprehensive presentation. Once I relaxed, I  realized how exhausted I am, both physically and mentally. Aside from the sleep deprivation,  which I can remedy by returning to a normal bedtime, it’s a good exhaustion. It’s similiar to the wonderful feeling I enjoy after a long run when my body feels physically worked and tired, but the better for it. And what was it, exactly, that exhausted my mind? What’s actually still cooking in my thoughts?

I have moments of insight. Moments where there is pure clarity as to what I learned and how the MEd experience changed me. And then there are days of feeling lost and scattered and confused about how to synthesize and articulate even one piece of my learning. Is it even possible to communicate one entire year of intense study? Some days I think I need to just wait and, with time, clarity will arrive. Other days I think that to condense all that learning into so few words is impossible and unrealistic and will never happen, regardless of how much time passes.

I decided on a few profound learnings that I can, with certainty, share at this point:

1. I learned to attend, to be wide awake (see Maxine Greene). Not what I expected at all. I expected to learn ‘something’, not a way of being in the world. I hope to share this with others.

2. I learned that, in my humble opinion, to be literate in Canada today, to be literate in the world today, must include the ability to read and communicate with, and through, images. It’s not enough anymore to simply see literacy as reading and writing; overall literacy must include visuals as one of the forms of communication. I finally achieved an understanding of what this ‘visual literacy’ means and learned the beginnings of how to include it into my practice. See works by Elliot Eisner and David Jakes.

3. I learned that my own notion of citizenship has a local, national, global and digital component. Creating global citizens is a popular topic in education these days, especially in the blogosphere, but to me, that’s only one piece. It’s not sensible to have empathy for those in dire situations on the other side of the planet and yet turn a blind eye on those in dire need in your own community. And the complicated beast that became (digital) citizenship in my thesis is a topic I have yet to tame, although I enjoy the constant and challenging attempt to do so and I now, more than ever before, absolutely see this as a vital component to everyone’s education, not just, but especially, children’s.

4. I learned that deep caring for children, all children, sits as the base of my pedagogy. It always has, but I wasn’t aware of how and why until I wrote my thesis. Motherhood is a part of the deep caring, but not all of it. I care deeply for the well-being, the happiness and the future of all children, mine first, of course, but all other’s children a close second. The theme of care, always present before, but now with the added weight of notions like making decisions based on the 7th generation to come and scholars such as Nel Noddings to bolster and add support, is even more prevalent in who I am as an educator.

5. Finally, thankfully, I learned that I found a place of contentment. This is, of course, more of a mental state than a physical place. I often struggle to be content in life. I have high expectations for myself and those around me. I detest boredom and usually create a constant, positive push to improve and move forward in my life. With the ending of the Masters year, however, I realized I need to stop pushing for awhile and just be. And, thankfully, I’m content with that.

And so, all this learning has left quite an impact on me personally and professionally. I will walk through the world in a different way, truly transformed by the learning experiences of this past year. I know that next month, I will walk into my school and my classroom differently. I’ll walk into that classroom determined to advocate for the arts, an approach, a method that children love and that is important for their education. I’ll walk into that classroom knowing that the reality of shared experience extends beyond the classrooms walls and into an intangible environment entered into through technology and that extension is changing, has already changed how we learn, engage with one another, and live our lives. I’ll walk into that classroom sensitive not only to the influence that my family’s complicated heritage has offered, now offers, to my practice, but also keenly aware that each of my students also bring known and unknown family history to their learning and our classroom environment. Finally, I know that I will walk differently as a mother with a new perspective on how to raise my children.

More to come…

 

Imagery: Waking creativity by jenn.davis and Jurassic Park by mallitch, both from Flickr.com and used under Creative Commons licensing.

 

(Digital) Citizenship

Less than two weeks ago, I was excited that eight months of teacher research was solidifying into the central idea of learning relationships. While I originally focused my MEd on student/teacher rapport through a video camera, there is much more going on in the Elementary Connected Classrooms to focus simply on the teacher/student relationship. There are peer-to-peer relationships, the collaborative relationships between the three teachers involved, and then all the crossovers between the almost 70 students and 3 teachers interacting in different ways (not just through the camera) each week. I decided that the term ‘learning relationships’ better described the complicated web of interpersonal connections in our unique setting and changed my terminology to reflect that deeper understanding.

I was, however, only temporarily satisfied with ‘learning relationships’ as the hub of my research. It just seemed too simple and not quite right. Now, after further reflections on my experiences at the Digital Learning Spring Conference and another weekend at SFU with a brilliant professor, I finally think (I hope!) I’ve found the main themes that connect all other ideas at the center of my learning.

At this point, deep caring for children – all children – sits as the base of my pedagogy. It always has. Motherhood is a part of that, but not all of it. I care deeply for the well-being and the happiness and the future of all children, mine first, of course, but other’s children are a close second. I love working with kids and absolutely fight for the best education they can possibly get because, in my opinion, not offering what they deserve in the classroom every day is a disservice to them.
digital citizenship

In my opinion, if we, as educators, truly care about children, we need to honour the learning environment that today’s children are growing up in. If we are guiding them to become good citizens, we need to incorporate digital citizenship into their learning. Each child, family, and community will vary as to the extent to which new technologies have become a part of daily life, hence the idea of honoring each individual’s learning environment. Thanks to some simple online dialogue with David Truss, I’ve decided that (digital) citizenship is the other main theme that binds all my research strands. Citizenship is still the main idea, but with the lesser theme of digital connected to it.

A vital component of (digital) citizenship is how to create and maintain healthy learning relationships. I worry about those, for example, who don’t understand social media because it is the way of the world in a very real sense. We need more educators to become experts in how to use new technologies, if for no other reason than to be good role models and guide the kids; the kids who will use those technologies anyway, regardless of whether or not they’ve received guidance to help keep them productive and safe. Even more important, we need educators who don’t get caught up in the technology, but who become (digital) citizens themselves and then gain a greater understanding of the larger, more meaningful themes, such as learning relationships, within that new technologically-rich context.

Imagery by I am I.A.M. from Flickr.com and altered as allowed per CC license using FotoFlexer’s SuperPixelate.