Digital equipment carries many advantages over traditional (analog) video. Digital video easily can be combined, edited, and reshot. It can be shared over the web, and video that is online in a digital format can be searched easily by other users seeking similar information. Because of these advantages, digital video is rapidly changing every aspect of education, from the classroom experience to professional development.

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) is an avid supporter of digital video in education. Through the United Star Distance Learning Consortium Inc., ED is funding a multi-year program to create new standards in educational video use. The primary program, known by the acronym STAR, is developing professional development courses. As with other distance-learning courses, these will be available for educators to take at their own convenience and at their own speed. In addition, the results from early users of STAR training courses will be used to create professional-development strategies for various districts around the country. It is anticipated that as many as 100 training modules will be created by STAR and its partner educators in the next five years.

Western Illinois University, one of the STAR participants, has been at the forefront of using digital video. Its TechKnowledgy Project provides free technology training to teachers in several states, mostly broadcast by satellite. With STAR funding, these training videos will be published on the web.

Some online educators caution that facilitators are still needed to work with teachers taking the courses. They argue that the incredible variety of online courses will require even more human interaction to help potential users determine which programs meet their needs.

On the student front, groups such as the SchoolFirst Foundation are using digital video as a resource to bring information to students in new and interesting ways. SchoolFirst is giving an entire video production and distribution network to a handful of schools in underprivileged urban areas and showing educators and students how to use the technology.

SchoolFirst Foundation leaders say students are excited by the chance to use cutting-edge technology, and their hands-on experience will result in better retention of information than lecture-and-reading models. One key to the SchoolFirst Foundation system is that it’s relatively easy for even teachers with no multimedia experience to operate.

Another group, USA Video Interactive, sees a day when “streaming video” will enable teachers and students to be in constant communication with school administrators, parents, and even the community at large. Streaming video is a term for web-based video that can be seen as if it’s television—live and in real time. Taken to its ultimate potential, streaming video would enable students to share their experiences on a field trip, for example, even as they are taking the trip. While this may seem far-fetched, highly respected companies such as Sun Microsystems and Lucent Technologies have signed onto a project being developed by USA Video.