Instant feedback and enhanced learning through live video and photography

Flip Cam
Flip Cam - one of many options for video

I am going to give a specific example of an activity I completed today, but I feel live video can be greatly beneficial in a number of subjects which I’ll briefly outline later in the post.

Today with my Year 10s we were starting the topic of Motion from the Additional Science syllabus, with a lesson on distance-time graphs. The lesson started with discussion of how to interpret distance-time graphs and a couple of important, but reasonably mundane, activities, followed by a re-cap of the delightful speed = distance / time equation and calculating the average speed during various timed sections of motion.

Our department has a fine selection of small toy cars, so it was time to get them out.

The instruction went something like: “Create a course for your car, use any objects you need in this room – but make sure there is some acceleration and some deceleration in there. Then plot a distance-time graph to show the motion of your car through your course.”

It suddenly came to me that videoing one or two of the groups’ contraptions would be a good way of using their own work to help describe the distance-time graphs. Usually one might think ‘great idea, but I don’t have any equipment, video cameras etc to hand for this to be possible…but I’ll update the scheme of work so this can be done in future’. Not these days; HTC Hero and Bambuser to the rescue.

Bambuser allows you to video anything from your phone and it will broadcast, live, to at a unique address to your username. It can be made private so that only people given the specific link are able to view the video [obviously important in a school], and the videos are stored and can be viewed whenever you want in the future. You can change the resolution, video detail and sound quality to suit 3G or Wi-fi and they also allow you to download the video as a .flv file. I’ve not investigated the alternatives, but I am aware that there are some including a Ustream app which may or may not be superior in some respects.

One of the videos:

[reasonably low quality to maintain a healthy stream on 3G throughout]

I then proceeded to show the video on the projector, full screen – quality was fine. As a class we plotted the motion as a distance-time graph with acceleration, deceleration and then constant (zero) velocity at the end. We then, due to time restrictions, just estimated lengths of parts of the track and timings (by watching the video) and calculated the average speed for each of the different parts of the motion. If time wasn’t an issue, students could use stopclocks to get more precise and accurate timings of the sections from the video and if multiple students were to do this you could take an average and get fairly reliable results. You could also measure the lengths of the tracks with a metre ruler – all of which allows further discussion of How Science Works, different variables and valid tests and so on.

Without the video much of this is still possible to some degree, but the ability to have whole-class collaboration on what the results should look like and making improvements to the reliability of the results is fantastic.

Of course, video and photography of activities as they happen can provide instant feedback and can enrich student learning in a variety of subjects. My colleague, ICT teacher and our e-learning co-ordinator Daniel Needlestone (@nstone), today used photography of his students to allow them to create fantastic cartoon scripts. PE, Drama and Dance could use filming or photography for specific actions or sequences that can be looked at and scrutinised. Art could use them to encourage students to draw still life of something that they’ve specifically looked for. I’m sure there are a multitude of ideas that we can come up with for other subjects; it truly is a great teaching and learning opportunity.

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