Today, I was sitting in my kitchen and was thinking I hadn't called family in Missouri in a while, so I called my Aunt Vanessa over FaceTime (video). At the time I didn't know they were in the middle of a field and my Aunt was waiting for Randy to finish on the tractor. Then it hit me. We couldn't have done this ten years ago. What has changed?
I remember setting up distance learning labs in my previous district to get access to programming such as Mandarin Chinese to our students. The logistics around the setup were impractical. It seemed as though the stars needed to align for everything to work flawlessly. We would use these expensive Polycom cameras with encoders and punch holes through our firewalls to get the video to come across bidirectionally. Then there was the setup of all of the IP addresses to know to dial into to connect to the remote classrooms. Initially, we even installed an internet connection just for video conferencing. All of this was just the technical side. There was also the enormous amount of scheduling challenges for this synchronous activity to happen. That was 15 years ago; now things have changed.
Broadband and mobile technology have exponentially impacted change and provides the necessary access that video demands. Netflix started its streaming service in 2007, and in 2010 Apple introduced FaceTime to its iPhone product line. Toss in the availability of 4G LTE around the same time, and you get mobility and the sufficient broadband to deliver video.
Now not only do we have smaller and thinner devices, but we also have quicker speeds and quality is outstanding. Cameras are recording video in 4k quality, a truly cinematic experience, even with the capability of storing it in free services such as YouTube. We can consume, engage, and create videos in mobile experiences that was only true to expensive professional equipment just ten years ago. The statistics of video in our internet ecosystem are immense. Just look at some examples below:
What does this mean for education?
Dyane Smokorowski introduced me to Skype in the Classroom. We used a cheap Logitech camera hooked up to a laptop and scheduled time with another classroom. That classroom was overseas, and the students did not know where they were. The activity that followed was impressive. The students were asking questions to build clues on where the other students lived and their culture. The experience was called a Mystery Skype. There are now five exciting ways to bring the world into your classroom: virtual field trips, Skype lessons, Skype collaborations, Mystery Skypes as I explained above, and guest speakers. There isn't a need to set up complex network routes, firewall rules, etc. It is as comfortable as making a call on your mobile device. Every year in Omaha Public Schools, we participate in the global Skype-A-Thon. Last year the Skype-A-Thon event connected nearly half a million students and traveled over 14,500,000 virtual miles in 48 hours!
Jim Knight, author of Better Conversations and Focus On Teaching, outlines the shift video can have on instruction:
In Omaha Public Schools, we are using his practices to focus on quality. In the past, we had worked so hard on our coaching tool that primarily focused on the number of visits. Now we are moving to more purposeful practice. In Focus On Teaching, Jim outlines the use of video in the form of microteaching.
Because of technology and social media, our circle of influence is massive. Our use of video is how we consume, engage, and create in this world culture today. I want you to think this week, how is video impacting your day today?