YouTube Targets UK Education
by William Pollard
YouTube and Google were part of the "Playful Learning" zone at BETT, a UK technology show for schools at Olympia last week. There were other examples of video in education and developments in schools are closely watched by colleges and universities.
Most Google promotion is online but this rare appearance at a UK trade show shows the attention paid to the technology used in schools. Other companies attend including Adobe and Microsoft so that BETT has the widest scope of any UK technology event.
Juliette Heppell from Lambton School explained that before an official school channel was launched a YouTube search found the school represented by low resolution clips of playground fights. Since better productions were loaded there are now only clips that reflect well on the school, partly because it is realized that YouTube is followed.She showed a video based on a mask workshop.
Tom Pursey from YouTube UK spoke about the range of material available and highlighted Chemistry from the University of Nottingham. He explained how YouTube works and claims that there is something available on any subject "if you look hard enough". Guidance on safety included the options to make videos private if required and to block comments if causing annoyance.
The "Playful Learning" zone was organized by Heppell.net and included a newspaper from the BBC R&D department and some UK academics. The BBC no longer exhibits at BETT following pressure from commercial companies objecting to subsidized educational resources being promoted. Also the BBC is not allowed to claim corporate university status for internal research. However this newspaper, available online as a PDF, has some strong claims that could influence the entire UK educational system.
Stephen Heppell writes that:
"A mass of new and affordable technology for making media is breaking like waves on a shore. Suddenly children are recreating scenes from films using games as authoring tools (known as machinima), 3D printers are spitting out objects that are otherwise impossible to machine, GPS track sticks are adding a sense of “where” to our sense of “self” and, of course, ingeniously creative media savvy youngsters are inventing everything from new ways of flirting to the viral spoofing of flash mobbing."
At this point, what any academic ideas of media literacy might bring to the party these youngsters are enjoying is questionable. Clearly the approach from those seeking to define modern media literacy to those already living it needs to be responsive and participatory, not prescriptive.
Video was evident on several other stands. Techsmith featured talks by Russell Stannard on how teachers can use a video recording for feedback on student work. Screen capture shows the original work and the comment. He estimates that speech contains three times as many words as a written comment. TechSmith offers a free version of Jing with fewer features than in Camtasia Studio. For a quick comment it seems to work well. Versions of Russell's talks are available online. some YouTube interviews were recently added with similar content to the talks at BETT.
Adobe continued to promote Flash for animation and video as well as Photoshop and Acrobat for print. Since the merger with Macromedia I have often found it hard to make sense of what Adobe is trying to do. They often seem to fail to explain the products one expects. But the emphasis on video appears more reasonable over time. They now offer certification of "21st Century Skills" in web design (mostly Flash), video and visual design for print. visual design seems to emphasize Photoshop though InDesign for page makeup is still available but not really promoted.
I can understand that YouTube represents a current direction and shows how Flash can work with online video, but education is still largely based on print. Universities still value journal articles, rarely awarding points for video as research. There appears to be a gap developing that may take a while to work through.
Two years ago Microsoft showed some possibilities in Grava, software linked to Silverlight - a new way to display online video and animation. This year they showed Semblio. There will be support for Silverlight later but this seems to have gone back to existing Microsoft technology. Perhaps they are waiting for people to move on from Windows XP as Silverlight is part of Windows 7.
In an email response for this story Microsoft explained that:
"Semblio consists of an SDK, built on the .NET Framework 3.5, for developers to create and package content; an assembly tool for educators to combine multiple types of content into a single, multi-media package; and a runtime media player that students and educators can use to view and interact with the lessons and presentations."
The use of .NET could limit the platforms on which content is available but the intention for Silverlight continues.
Microsoft is committed to providing full cross-platform and cross-browser support with Silverlight and to optimizing Silverlight to light up every platform on which it runs. Currently, Silverlight will support all major browsers on both Mac OS X, Linux (through Moonlight) and on Windows. The Silverlight team is fully committed to supporting Microsoft’s vision where experiences are seamlessly delivered across PCs, phones, and TVs, all connected by cloud-based services
So this is consistent with the YouTube direction and other speculation about a Web future. Content shown at BETT included the Global Grid for Learning from Cambridge University Press. They offer high quality, classroom-safe digital learning resources from providers including Encyclopaedia Britannica, Reuters and Corbus. Integration is possible with any Learning Platform based on Microsoft SharePoint as well as Moodle.
Apple were not at the show but they demonstrated at the Consumer Electronics show that they can generate interest from a distance. Although Flash is not supported on an iPhone it is still possible to watch YouTube. They may have started a trend for the more Web aware companies not to attend trade shows as such. Studywiz had several adverts for their stand but had actually canceled. They did attend several meetings and updated their blog.
They offer a system of server support for communications and content. They recently announced extending this to mobile devices such as Google phones. Perhaps it just follows from this sort of interest that showing up at Olympia is not required. although Windows is supported, last year Studywiz had a range of Apple equipment and were close to a collective stand for Apple dealers.
From a conversation there I gathered that few schools encourage much use of phones though the iPod is more likely to be used. The Studywiz blog has a post from Regina Cockerill, a teacher at TASIS England, describing the use of iPods for teaching Spanish. I looked in the Apple store in Exeter and found promotion for the iPod Nano that features a video camera. So it seems Apple has abandoned the trade shows for desktop technology but keeps up with consumer electronics. My research will follow what is actually available rather than the speculation in various media.
The High Street context illustrates how informal learning is using available technology perhaps more quickly than educational institutions. In his Plan B blog Donald Clark reported on his impressions from BETT-
Education is so obsessed by the classroom that it is constantly trying to force technology into this one box. Classrooms are designed for teachers to talk to large groups of students, who then troop off every hour to another classroom. To shove technology into this context is like pouring a drink into a sieve. The caged learners are always trying to get out and the technology allows them to do so. So you get this emphasis on expensive whiteboards and table-top computers and all sorts of other nonsense that has been shoe-horned into the classroom leaving poor teachers to man the watchtowers to prevent escapes.
This may be unfair to the intentions of the teachers attending BETT but there is a tension with the wider adoption of devices. Although Samsung showed a range of new eBook eReaders the Sony stand had low visibility for eRreaders, perhaps because of low availability. Prices are still too high for most schools. However applications such as Stanza on iPhones are available and th Adobe ePUB / PDF Reader is available for desktop computers and portables.
There was a wide range of netbooks or whatever the term is for mobile devices capable of browsing the Web. Educational publishers are still mostly concerned to develop contracts with libraries. There are no signs yet that the style of teaching has widely changed, so interactive whiteboards continue to take up much of the BETT space. But the interest around interactive mobile devices continues.
The Open Source Village has moved to the ground floor. Previously they were part of the software space on the balcony. They had DVDs of selected software for schools and a demonstration of Ubuntu for netbooks. Open Source Schools have posted several interviews on YouTube. Paul Haigh from Notre Dame School explains how they find the features that they need. He explains "how to get buy-in" as part of the existing culture.
Other videos are on Blip TV including an interview with Terry Freedman on augmented reality. The stand had an example of the one laptop per child but there are no plans for UK distribution. The achievement as it is seenm in the UK has been to gain attention for an idea. This year there was more display of Windows XP. Intel promoted the Fizzbook Spin based on the Atom N270.
This is impressive ss it can work as a tablet as well as a notebook. I was told that Linux is an option if there was an order for 1000 or more. So Windows seems to be back but this story is not over. The Open Source Village may yet have surprises.
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