Tuesday, February 12, 2013

YouTube another MOOP (Massive Open Online Pedagogy) Learning will not be televised, it will be digitised.


Alfie Days is one of my son's friends, lives in the next street, and his Pointlessblog has nearly half a million YouTube subscribers, and at 19 earns a lot more than his parents. This is the power of YouTube.
I'm not in that league but often start lectures and talks with the statement that the lecture or talk is a waste of time if it's not recorded and put up on YouTube, as many more people will watch online than offline. This is an obvious pedagogic benefit - you reach more learners. But its a lesson that's lost on most traditional educators, who largely deliver once-only, sheep-dip experiences. You're restricted to numbers in the hundreds or a thousand or two at conferences but online, the sky's the limit
Learning platform
YouTube is the new television, the largest audio-visual channel in history and the second largest search engine, after Google. Over a thousand people earn over $100,000 from YouTube advertising on their channels and over a million earn other sums. It has uncovered new ways of watching, patterns of attention and new ways of interacting with an audience. In short, it is a new learning platform that breaks many of the old rules around learning.
Unlike education, the web has a habit of producing pedagogic models that have massive user adoption. Short, instructive video is one such Massive Open Online Pedagogy (MOOP). YouTube showed that short, video clips have a serious contribution to play in learning. YouTube EDU put lectures online but if anything this was the old world porting its old bad practices into the new world. A bad one hour lecture isn't made better by putting it on YouTube and believe me, YouTube EDU is  jammed with bad lectures. It’s TED, Khan, Thrun and the millions of other short instructional videos that have irreversibly changed the learning landscape. These are innovators who understand the use of video in learning and have adapted it to their audience's needs. Education will not be televised, it will be digitised.
Hurley and Chen
Chad Hurley and Steven Chen are the founders of YouTube, one of the most successful and remarkable websites ever created. Hurley studied Fine Art; Chen Science and Maths. They met when they both worked at PayPal and three years later founded YouTube in 2005. It was sold to Google for £1.65 billion in 2006. Youtube’s word of mouth and word of mouse recommendations, starting with Saturday Night Live’s Lazy Sunday clip, led to immediate exponential growth.
How it works
Anyone can upload and share their clips (up to 10 minutes) for free. You can upload in a whole range of video formats which are then converted to Flash Video (.flv) for presentation on the YouTube site, a format that is widely compatible. The video clips also have some HTML that allows them to be linked to from blogs and other sites, with an autoplay feature. This is especially useful in social media where both feed off each other.
Education and training
Although set up to share entertainment, often funny and surreal, it now has thousands of education and training clips. Its mass appeal has allowed it to build and support a service that has a strong brand and a robust infrastructure. It has grown as a bottom-up repository and now contains a huge wealth of useful content in subjects as diverse as language learning, science, medicine, mechanics, plumbing and so on. You name it, YouTube will show you how to do it.
Its pedagogic power comes from the sheer size of the repository and range of content. Like Wikipedia it is growing exponentially and as more serious content appears, teachers, trainers, lecturers and learners can use this content as a free resource.
KISS (Keep It Short Stupid)
YouTube has certainly influenced the way video appears and is shown on the web. Most of the clips have the pedagogic advantage of being short, avoiding overlong, instructional content and therefore cognitive overload. It has put paid to the half hour and one hour programme, driven by broadcast TV, which was only that length as it had to fit timetabled schedules. How long should an instructional video be? Only as long as it needs to be and no longer i.e. short.
Quality and learning
A second change is that many of these short clips are often low on production values (less of an issue now as even low cost cameras produce high quality images. This confirms the research by Nass and Reeves at Stanford, who showed that the quality of video is not an important factor in learning and retention. This is because our visual system has evolved to cope with low quality images such as poor light conditions and so on. Note that the quality of audio does have a strong effect on learning and retention. You can’t get away with tinny or variable volume in your audio.
New pedagogic approaches in video
Creatively, YouTube has spawned lots of new genres of video instruction:
Khan blackboard and coloured chalk – simple but effective as the learner’s mind is not cluttered with seeing Khan – it’s the semantic content that matters, not talking heads.
Thrun’s hand and whiteboard – again it’s not Thrun’s head that matters but seeing worked problems and solutions.
RSA animations – clever animations that end up as a single infographic.
TED talks – shows how lectures should be – passionate experts, no notes, no reading, little PowerPoint and short.
Software demos – just show me the steps one by one.
Physical demos – point the camera at the engine, radiator or whatever I need to fix and show me how to do it, with commentary. I just take my tablet to the place I need it.
Sports coaching – wayward tennis serve? Watch an expert coach you in slow motion.
If you van video it, it’s somewhere on YouTube.
Learning by doing
Learning by doing has always suffered in the unreal world of the classroom and school. An important advance has been made through YouTube in vocational and practical learning, where real tasks are shown on video. These often involve the manipulation of real objects and the demonstration of processes, all of which can be seen full screen, increasingly on portable tablets and mobile devices. The pedagogy of learning by doing can be brought into the learning environment via YouTube.
Video and motor skills
Even sports and other motor skills can benefit from coaching on YouTube. Musical education has been revolutionised by the demonstration of fingers on chords and other techniques. Sports coaching in almost every imaginable sport is commonplace
TED talks
Easily denigrated, the talking head is still popular on YouTube. The video blog, expert talk and many other examples of someone giving their all, is still there. TED is perhaps the most interesting example, a respected brand that focuses on the expert speaker to deliver punchy sessions that eschew traditional lecturing for short, passionate and informative talks. TED gives strict instructions to their speakers and understands that video and lectures are not about the transfer of knowledge but the passion of the expert and a vision.
What you don’t see much of on YouTube is drama. It’s not that drama can’t be used for teaching and learning, just that it’s expensive and difficult to produce. Corporate training videos used to be full of TV presenter-led instructional videos and drama (I know I used to make them). This has died a death and often seems rather wooden and indulgent.
Context missing
Beyond ‘channels’ what YouTube doesn’t give you is context or structure. People like Roger Schank recommend indexing videos and using learner-led questions to find video answers, especially from a bank of experts. Khan has software that contextualises maths in terms of pre-requisites and so on. In other words, video often needs to be used in a blended context if the learning experience is to have breadth and depth. Nevertheless, there’s still a massive role for the one-off video that solves one query or practical problem.
Conclusion
YouTube has the advantage of being a powerful global brand. The fact that video cameras have become cheap, even embedded in phones, has meant the massive creation of content, as well as watching. It is shaping the way video is created, distributed and watched on the web. It has the potential to act as a vast education and training resource of free content, lowering costs for learning. More than this, it has introduced pedagogic changes around the use of video; its length, quality, format and breadth of uses. As a pedagogic approach it is clearly useful in both formal and informal learning, an enduring Massive Open Online Pedagogy (MOOP).

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