Learning technologists share an abiding faith in the power of the creative process. We believe that students learn when they create. In grad school we were told that the divide line between a graduate student and an undergraduate is that the graduate student is creating knowledge. We want push opportunities to create knowledge out to all of our students because we believe that it is the teacher who learns, the speaker who learns, the writer who learns, the blogger who learns, the mashup producer who learns.
This belief in the power of creating for learning aligns beautifully with the read/write Web 2.0 tools that dominate the Web. The bar to creation, publishing, distribution and sharing has fallen radically with blogs, YouTube, Flip Cams, iMovie, Jing, Ning, Slideshare, etc. etc. One of the great tragedies of the current Course Management System (CMS) model is that it is not built around the premise of creating, sharing, commenting and building. Rather, it is largely built around the professor controlling and directing (with apologies to Moodle people out there... I know they see their system has built around a different philosophy).
An important trend in course design is to build in student media projects as alternatives to traditional semester-long papers. The idea is that rather then only watch videos that students take the curricular media and create their own new media projects. Students can use simple video editing tools to create voice-over mashups from the videos assigned for class, and then publish their creations for the world to see on the Web.
One thing I learned this summer in my sociology class is that students will not always follow the script. I had what I thought was the brilliant idea of making all the videos we watched for class available on hard drives (in iMovie project format) so that the students would not only watch the videos but turn the videos into their own mashup projects. Getting the videos in a full-length format that the students could mashup took some work and negotiating, as their is are (understandable) concerns around copyright. We decided that students would need to work on their mashup projects in our media lab, and could not leave the building with the hard drives where we placed all the media. And it was lots of media....including the following videos: Declining by Degrees, The Persuaders, The Lost Children of Rockdale County, and The Devil's Playground.
Much to my surprise my students were less then excited about making mashup with the videos that I had provided for them. What they wanted to do was go off and find their own video clips. They were much happier grabbing clips from YouTube, or interviewing other students, then using the media I had provided. In fact, if I had not "forced" them to use the assigned videos then none of them would have done so.
Why don't our students want to work with the media we (with great effort) provided for them? One reason may be simply that the videos I assigned students to watch were too long. Students really do work and think in small chunks. Perhaps we should fight against this tendency and insist they watch whole videos, read whole books, etc. etc.....A second reason, I think, has to do with control. Students want to be in control of what they watch. They want to search and find, particularly if they are creating, rather then be given the ingredients.
At this point I haven't completely digested how this experience will change how I work with faculty in setting up active learning mashup video assignments. Intellectually I really like the idea of making any video that students watch available in a format that they can change, manipulate, mash, and share. I think it is important to go beyond providing media in a streaming format and work to get the materials in a format they students can build on. I think we need to push the boundaries of how we get media to our students. But in practice my experience was not what I thought it would be, and the students were not as excited about having all the media available to them as I was to deliver it.
You can check out the results of the students work here.
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