Video Goes to School, Part I

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a three-part series on the use of video in education. Part Two of the series focuses on the use of streaming video and other applications to enhance instruction. The series culminates in June with an in-depth look at how students are using today’s technology tools to produce their own videos. Also in the June issue, eSchool News will announce the winners of our first-ever Student Video Discovery Awards.

By Cara Branigan

From watching films in class to having students produce and direct their own movies, video is taking a stronger foothold in the classroom. And the impact on students is huge.

“Video is engaging, can be edited or segmented for appropriateness, and is familiar to students, but more than any other reason, the content can be managed and entertaining,” said Lisa Salmonson, a teacher at Florin High School in California’s Elk Grove Unified School District.

Students “are far more engaged, and typically find as much entertainment as they find learning.”

With the rise in the number of multimedia-enabled computers in schools, higher bandwidth capability, and lower costs for video editing equipment and software, more and more teachers are embracing video as an instructional tool.

Teachers get their video from whatever sources are available to them. When it comes to showing movies in class these days, it’s not just from a VHS tape or DVD. Teachers nationwide are showing video piped into their classrooms via computer from web-based services or educational web sites.

According to Quality Education Data’s “Technology Purchasing Forecast, 2004-2005,” 38.8 percent of school districts now use streaming video, and 17.7 percent are thinking of offering it.

“We have teachers who get clips off the internet, from Holt Online, from [Discovery Education’s] unitedstreaming, from netTrekker, and more,” said Michelle Campbell, a technology services teacher at Elk Grove Unified School District. “Once teachers are aware that this is an option, I’ve found they are very resourceful and determined to find the best of what’s out there for their students.”

Salmonson says she often uses footage from cable television in her lessons. Some of her favorites include The History Channel, The Discovery Channel, The Learning Channel, C-SPAN, and PBS.

“I’ve used ‘Modern Marvels’ to take a look at computer architecture, ‘Twentieth Century’ to look at cyber crime, and numerous videos to drive home points about specific people and their part in technology history,” Salmonson said.

Depending on the classroom, video is displayed on television monitors, or projected via an LCD projector onto a white board, or shown to small groups of students gathered around a computer monitor.

Video accompanies lessons in all subjects, too–from English, to history, to science, to social studies, to physical education.

“In my opinion, all areas of curriculum could use some type of video reinforcement–either VHS, DVD, or computer-streamed if available,” said Tony Lederer, a teacher at Elk Grove’s Calvine High School.

As long as video is implemented well, teachers seem to agree that it’s an excellent instructional tool.

“I have seen video impact and improve student performance,” Campbell said. “Students are able to truly expand and deepen their understanding of the concepts. Students also tend to have increased engagement and motivation when teachers integrate video.”

“We have some idea [why video raises student achievement], but we don’t know exactly why it works,” said Franklin J. Boster, president of consulting and research firm Cometrika Inc. and a professor at Michigan State University. Boster’s private firm was hired to study unitedstreaming’s impact on student achievement in experiments conducted in Virginia and Los Angeles.

He speculates that student scores improved with video instruction because video captured student’s attention more; they were shown high-quality content; students could access and watch the same video again and again; and it makes the teachers better by modeling different ways to explain the same content.

Unlike VHS or DVD movies, video collections available via the internet allow teachers to easily locate and show small portions of the video that complement the lesson–and that correlate with specific state or national standards.

“I use clips to enhance a specific part of a lesson–usually only a few minutes at a time–rather than showing a long, 30-minute clip and expecting students to retain all of the information,” said Brooke Byrnes, a fourth-grade teacher at Cora Kelly School for Math, Science, and Technology in Alexandria, Va.

“Even a two-minute clip can make the difference in a child’s understanding,” said Byrnes, who loves downloading clips from unitedstreaming’s service. “For example, I recently showed a short clip about solar and lunar eclipses during a science lesson. What might have otherwise been an abstract topic became very clear with a visual representation.”

Student-created video

In addition to presenting pre-packaged video to students, many teachers are finding increased benefits from having students make their own recordings.

Except for maybe mathematics, eSchool News learned that student-made movies touch nearly every area of the curriculum–from how to stretch properly before a physical education class to how to build a computer from the motherboard up.

“Math is the hardest place to get teachers to buy into video as a tool for teaching,” said Karen Littlefield, instructional technology coordinator at Mid Del Schools in Oklahoma, which has 17 elementary schools, five middle schools, and three high schools.

Movie-making has become a widespread addition to the instructional strategies used by teachers throughout Littelfield’s school district. “We’re moving more and more into the realm where both teachers and students are making videos,” she said.

From kindergarten to high school, students and teachers alike use digital video cameras, Apple laptop computers, and iLife software. Sometimes, the videos serve to demonstrate students’ understanding of a particular topic; in other instances, students are learning about the topic as they record and edit their own movies. In all cases, though, video is a great motivator for students.

In elementary school, for example, students learned synonyms and antonyms with the help of a video camera. The teacher gave students words that are antonyms and then asked them to locate and record situations that demonstrate those words and share the video with the class.

Students also videotape themselves reading and then watch themselves to see how they do. “Fluency is a big piece of video instruction,” Littlefield said.

For a social studies project, fifth-grade students videotaped what each phrase of the national anthem meant to them and then edited the footage and the song together for a Veteran’s Day project. In another instance, Advanced Placement science students taped what they found under their microscopes during a water experiment and presented their findings as a movie to the rest of the class.

Kindergarten teachers in the district have been filming their students demonstrating life skills and then showing the films to parents, so they can see what their children are learning at school and can practice at home.

Librarians have even made a video about how to use the library’s card catalog system that is shown during orientation for new students.

“The students are more involved in the learning process and, because the use of the computer is involved, it’s more in tune with their world,” Littlefield said. “We have seen students who used to sleep through classes become more involved. We have seen students who don’t learn as well from the text format catch the concept via this medium.”

Because movie-making is multifaceted, it impacts different students in different ways, said Timothy Grasso, a technology lab teacher at Cora Kelly School for Math, Science, and Technology.

“Some students enjoy the idea of being videotaped, so the quality of their work improves,” Grasso said. “Some students really enjoy the technology part of the projects, and it encourages them to think about their futures and the role that technology will play.”

Some Pennsylvania State University telecommunications students who broadcast the school’s student-run, 48-hour dance marathon live over the internet for a class project were inspired to work harder than ever.

“I could not believe the enthusiasm these students had when they could put together a project that people could actually use,” said Kerrie Carfagno, a Penn State lecturer. “I saw them step up the level of what they produce like I’ve never seen before.”

The project required students to research technology, assess bandwidth and equipment needs, and evaluate implementation and personnel requirements–including volunteers to operate the cameras during the 48-hour period.

“It was really exciting to become real,” Carfagno said. “We had the broadcast available on Internet2, on multicast, and beamed into the Hershey Medical Center.” The event, which started Feb. 18, raised $4.1 million this year for leukemia research.

A 2004 PBS Video Survey conducted by Grunwald Associates found that while virtually all K-12 teachers have access to a television with either a VCR or DVD player, only 26 percent of teachers now report having access to video editing equipment and 14 percent have access to school-based television studios.

While a handful of schools nationwide are teaching video instruction, the equity and access to movie-making software and tools needs to be addressed, Salmonson said.

In most cases, giving K-12 students the opportunity to write, produce, record, and edit their own videos is still an emerging trend. In Pennsylvania, for example, video instruction is not part of the core curriculum, but some enterprising teachers who see the value in video production teach it to students as an extra-curricular activity. Michael Cichocki and Sean Recke, technology education teachers at Salisbury Middle School in Allentown, Pa., set up a television broadcast studio at the school with consumer-quality electronics that students use each morning to broadcast the announcements.

Volunteer students arrive to school an hour early each day to get the daily, eight-minute show to air. Each program features two anchors reading from a teleprompter, two weather reporters stationed outside, and a sports reporter. Each student has a role. Some act as the producer or director, while others man the camera, the audio equipment, the teleprompter, the graphics, or the video editing software, Adobe Premiere.

The morning program leads students through the Pledge of Allegiance and offers a report on school sports, the day’s weather forecast, what the cafeteria will serve, and reminders about the upcoming events, such as Family Fun Night or Book Fair.

“The impact has been incredible,” Cichocki said. “The kids who are part of our studio are usually the students who are not involved in athletics or other outside activities.” Participating in the school’s television studio serves as an incentive for this “unique” group of students to keep their grades up, he said.

Walter Cramer, technology education teacher at Parkland School District in Allentown, is another teacher who offers video editing to students as an extra-curricular activity.

“Although video editing does apply under the umbrella of technology education, it has not been accepted as part of our curriculum,” Cramer said. But his efforts have been positively supported by school and district administrators, and the Parent Teacher Organization provided the funds to buy video editing software (Adobe Premiere and Pinnacle Studio 9), additional hard drives, FireWire cards, cables, and more.

Cramer’s students have filmed everything from school sporting events to special events that might be happening in their classrooms. And students often enter their videos in local competitions. One student even won a $2,500 gift certificate from Panasonic for a video entitled “Our Soda Can Tab Collection.”

“Although many students have the desire to learn video editing, the time dedication [required] is phenomenal,” Cramer said. “Some students begin the process and don’t return. The ones that dedicate the time have a blast with it.”

Related stories:

Video Goes to School — Part II

Video Goes to School — Part III

Digital video content and delivery systems

Technological, societal factors drive video trend

Video resources

Video editing and production software

See these related links:

Elk Grove Unified School District

Cora Kelly School for Math, Science, and Technology

Mid Del Schools

Salisbury Middle School

SalisburyMiddle School’s Morning Announcements

Parkland School District

Pennsylvania State University

A former associate editor of eSchool News, Cara Branigan is now a free-lance writer living in Ontario, Canada.

eSchool News Staff

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