The great promise of combining readily available global learning opportunities with super-high-speed computer networking was on display this month in a new partnership between Internet2 and the Open Student Television Network (OSTN).

Part of a three-day “Ingenuity Festival” at Cleveland State University, the event featured nine hours of student-directed and student-produced films, documentaries, and television videos that were sent around the world to hundreds of educational institutions in dozens of countries.

The festival also featured interactive videoconferencing, which linked educators and student directors with members of the press and audience participants for a live question-and-answer session.

OSTN, an initiative of the CampusEAI Consortium, delivers educational, foreign-language, news, and entertainment content and services to 60 million subscribers at more than 4,500 member campuses in 46 countries around the world, the organization reports. Internet2, an advanced networking consortium, connects universities and other institutions at speeds 10,000 times faster than the commercial internet.

The implications of the OSTN-Internet2 partnership are considered far-reaching, both in terms of breaking traditional geographic boundaries and in exposing students to new and creative learning outlets.

Prashant Chopra, OSTN’s chief executive officer, believes that video-technology skills “can only aid those who want to learn more…, especially as the role of creator and viewer overlaps more and more.”

Chopra explains: “The film festival and OSTN, in general, aim to make student film and video visible to the broadest audience possible, including students and educators globally, so that these groups can see what’s possible in student production at a variety of higher education institutions–not just what’s being produced at the most well-known film schools.”

Ann Doyle, program manager for Internet2’s Arts and Humanities Initiative, adds that “high-quality videoconferencing and video-streaming technologies…provide students access and exposure to new opportunities otherwise not available to them.”

The films shown during the festival at Cleveland State were selected from OSTN’s library on the basis of two criteria, Chopra said. One was high production values, including writing, humor, special effects, and professional quality. The other criterion, he said, had an emphasis on local filmmakers, inasmuch as the festival celebrates technology and arts achievement in Northeastern Ohio.

This year’s festival was a showcase for the best work submitted to OSTN since 2004 from more than 50 colleges, universities, and previous film festivals. The event featured several institutions in the region–including Cleveland State, Oberlin, John Carroll University, and Cleveland State University–as well as the University of Southern California, Brown University, Duke University, the Asian Young Filmmakers Forum, and the International Film School of Paris (EICAR).

“We ultimately tried to reach the broadest audience possible,” Chopra notes, “so OSTN’s publicity included coordination with the Ingenuity Festival promotional efforts, as well as web advertisements, eMail campaigns, and other local promotions in coordination with Cleveland businesses.”

Both OSTN and Internet2 say the film festival this month demonstrated the ability of internet technology to deliver high-quality digital entertainment, as well as to promote a global learning atmosphere.

Chopra says the two groups are already in the planning stages for next year’s film festival. In addition, according to Ryan Chartrand of Mustang Daily, a student newspaper at California Polytechnic State University, OSTN plans to start a national collegiate news show for students in journalism who want their stories broadcast to the world. Students would be able to submit their clips to OSTN through Internet2, which would then send the stories to member institutions.

A short-film showcase during this month’s festival at Cleveland State highlighted five films. One was Guided Storm, by Tascha Eipe, who participated in the Asian Young Filmmakers Forum while on a one-year residency program at the Jeonbuk Independent Film Association in South Korea. The film presented a past-to-present look into the complications of relationships.

Another short was Cataracts, by Nina Sarnelle. It was a blurred, abstract, black-and-white film meant to expose the viewer to what it is like to live with cataracts. Sarnelle produced it while studying cinema at Oberlin College.

Also shown were Attack of the Cephalopods, a Simpsons-type cartoon comedy by Eric Bramley and Dave Logan, who made it during a video and digital program at Duke University; Crispy Bacon, by Olivier Farmachi of EICAR, which merged still black and white photography with digital video to the beat of techno music; and Roskosmos, by Rom Alejandro, a student at the University of Virginia, exploring the psychological battles of two Russian cosmonauts stranded in space in the late sixties.

Two of the short films won awards during Brown University’s Ivy Film Festival 2007. Guided Storm won the Special Jury Award for Originality and Creativity, and Roskosmos won the Grand Jury Award for the Best Overall Film.

The festival also featured documentaries, one of which was Trauma, by Robert Duns of John Carroll University. The film dealt with the suffering of children exposed to gang violence. Another documentary, Voices of the Past, Faces of the Present, by Genna Duberstein of Ohio State University, presented interviews of survivors from WWII Japanese internment camps.

Student-produced television programs shown during the festival ranged from comedies, such as Something Else TV (Luke Johnston, Ball State University executive producer), to late-night shows, such as Akron After Hours (Phil Hoffman,University of Akron, executive producer).

The student-made videos revealed both talent and motivation. Duberstein, for example, taught herself how to shoot and edit during production, as well as to research through online archives. The videos also showed that students around the world are using multi-media tools to create, inspire, and improve people’s lives. And Duns’ eye-opening Trauma has been shown to youngsters in the Huron Hospital Youth Division Program in East Cleveland, Ohio. The video tries to prevent young people from joining gangs by exposing the pain–not the glamour–behind gang membership.

Links:

OSTN
http://www.ostn.tv/website/preloader.html

Internet2
http://www.internet2.edu/

Film Festival Video Archive
http://www.internet2.edu/arts/filmfestival2007.html

Cleveland State University
http://www.csuohio.edu/

The CampusEAI Consortium
http://www.campuseai.org