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Virginia Journal of Education


Digital Video
and Social Media

by Glen Bull, Joe Garofalo and Daniel Tillman

Interesting and important changes are occurring in the World Wide Web, led by the transition to a read-write Web. Much of the content on the Web is now contributed by users.

The Digital Ethnography group ( ) at Kansas State University tracks these changes. Each day more than 100,000 videos are uploaded to YouTube alone, and the typical contributor is a teenage author working outside of school. Eighty percent of the digital video clips are created by the users who post them.

Extensive use of digital video is now an important facet of youth culture. Today's youth are not only contributing to blogs and wikis and participating in instant messaging and texting via cell phone but are increasingly creating and editing digital video. The effect is evident in video production courses at the university level: Students increasingly are coming to these courses already familiar with concepts and editing techniques that once had to be explicitly taught.

Inexpensive, easy-to-use digital video cameras are accelerating this trend. The Flip digital video camera exemplifies this ease of use. Users simply press the "record" button once to start recording and a second time to stop. A USB connector flips out and plugs directly into a computer to transfer the video. The camera functions as a flash drive and includes built-in video editing software. The software will also transfer video clips to YouTube or transmit them via e-mail.

The Flip camera has captured over 10 percent of the video camera market with a price of $180 or less. One million Flip cameras will be provided to non-profit associations ( ) over the next five years. Educational discounts for schools are also available on the Flip website.

The success of the Flip camera illustrates convergence in digital technology. The ease of transfer across formats erases technological boundaries that formerly kept content confined to its originating medium. When a video transmitted to a TV via digital satellite is recorded on a cell phone video camera, wirelessly transmitted to a friend's PDA, and then uploaded to YouTube with added critical commentary, convergence has occurred. Exponential growth in content generation is occurring as these technologies become more ubiquitous, intuitive and affordable. The emergence of these capabilities contributes to what has been termed the Remix Culture.

Youth culture's increasing engagement with media and technology outside of school encourages educators to consider ways to connect this enthusiasm to school content-that is, to take advantage of the capabilities of digital media by creatively applying them to learning objectives in schools. Social media contains one element of a potential answer. The term social media refers to the fact that youth are both creating media and engaged in conversations about media. The video clip is used as a springboard for a conversation.

A video developed by Michael Wesch, director of the Digital Ethnography group, illustrates this trend. The video, The Machine Is Us/ing Us ( ) has been viewed more than three million times on YouTube and other sites. Wesch comments on his blog, "I know I could not have done this with the technology available three years ago - certainly not 13 years ago - so the world really is different." This video has stimulated extensive conversations about ways digital technologies allow different approaches to education.

Specific uses in school can depend upon the discipline. For example, in science, data acquired with sensors and probes can be synchronously displayed with video of an experiment. The ability to provide linked representations in this manner can allow students to visualize the meaning of a graph and connect the graph to pertinent features of the phenomenon studied. The Casio EX-F1 camera, released this month, can capture science demonstrations at a rate of more than a thousand frames per second, greatly extending what has previously been possible in schools.

PrimaryAccess ( ) is a digital video tool we developed to address the needs of social studies classes. Primary source documents are at the heart of historical inquiry by scholars. A drag-and-drop interface allows students to mix photographs, maps and documents with their own scripts in an online story editor to create short historical documentaries.

In both cases, these three trends - (1) transition to a read-write Web, (2) ubiquitous use of video, and (3) the rise of social media - provide a framework for thinking about effective use in schools. Students can create media that serves as a starting point for conversations extending the classroom. Effective integration will require skill on the part of the teacher and new perspectives about literacy in a changing world.

Bull and Garofalo are co-directors of the Center for Technology and Teacher Education in the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia. Tillman is a graduate fellow in the Center for Technology and Teacher Education.



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