A video streaming service that delivers clips of educational videos on demand to teachers’ desktop computers has been found to boost student achievement by nearly 13 percent in some Virginia schools. Teachers say the online service helps engage students’ interest while making lesson-planning easier.
The service, called unitedstreaming, offers teachers access to more than 2,000 complete videos that can be streamed or downloaded on demand to a desktop from a server. It was developed by United Learning, a company that has been producing and distributing 16-millimeter educational films since 1954.
The company has catalogued and indexed its entire collection of videos into more than 15,000 two-to-three minute clips, so teachers can choose to show an entire program or just a short clip without needing to fast-forward or rewind.
“I prefer the clips,” said William Collins, seventh and eighth grade social studies teacher at Central Middle School in Charlotte Court House, Va. “[With] some of the videos, as good as they are, it’s not practical or necessary to show the whole thing to teach the objective.”
The videos cover a range of subjects, including math, social studies, health studies, art, science, and language arts. Teachers can search for content by keyword, grade level, subject, or state and national teaching standards.
“I don’t have to go to the library,” Collins said. “Right here at my desk, I just go onto the internet and within two minutes I have a segment I can use in my lesson.”
Once teachers have selected a video or clip, they can choose to view the video by live streaming or download it to their computer. Downloading allows teachers to access the clip at any time without being connected to the internet.
“I incorporate [clips] into PowerPoint presentations to reinforce concepts and different objectives that I’m teaching,” Collins said. “[The service] works so well with PowerPoint.”
For a civics lesson, Collins can show a video segment that discusses the history of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, for example, and why the amendments were added.
The video incorporates both reenactment and historical footage. “You can’t bring that out in a textbook or a lecture, no matter how good you are,” he said.
Showing video clips in class breaks up the monotony of a lesson. “It adds variety, which is really good at the middle school level,” Collins said.
Teachers like the short clips because they can get the idea across faster. “We have so much to teach and so little time to teach it. Our teachers can pick and choose what to show to use their time more wisely,” said Claudia Bates, curriculum coordinator for Virginia’s Charlotte County Schools.
Children are more attentive and can retain the point better, she added.
“Sometimes the clip starts abruptly and ends abruptly because of the whole editing process, but it is still handy compared to showing a whole 22-minute video,” Collins said.
The streaming video capitalizes on the high-speed internet connections many schools have today. Schools can choose to cache the content on a server at the school or central office, at a regional service center, or at United Learning.
Schools can add their own video collections to the same system for teachers to access, providing they own the digital rights to the content. Unitedstreaming features an upload manager tool to facilitate this process.
The content is always increasing, according to the company. For example, United Learning recently signed an agreement with Discovery Channel School to incorporate some of its content into the service.
After using unitedstreaming, Collins said, his students improved substantially on Virginia’s state test. The eighth grade history class improved from the 44th percentile to 87th on Virginia’s Standards of Learning (SOL), he said.
“I’m not giving [unitedstreaming] all the credit, because our teaching improvedbut it certainly helped,” Collins said. In addition to using unitedstreaming, the school’s two history teachers aligned their teaching to Virginia’s standards and incorporated other presentations and videos in their lessons.
“I think all combined, it helped,” he said.
Collins’ students also participated in an independent, scientific evaluation of unitedstreaming that found student achievement increased by 12.6 percent. More than 1,400 elementary and middle school students in three Virginia schools participated in this study.
The research was based on one economics unit. Researchers tested students on their knowledge before and after the unit. Some classes were exposed to unitedstreaming content, while control groups were not.
“The research showed among the experimental students an increase in their performance by 12.6 percentage points compared [with] the control group,” said Jim McColl, vice president of United Learning. “This is certainly an example of technology helping in the classroom.”
Charlotte County Public Schools