Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Instructional Videos That Don't Break Their Brains

I confess.  Straight up and out of the closet.  I love digital video editing.  I fell in love with screencasting on the first try.  My first video was made with Adobe Premier Elements (a terrible program); then I tried the free screencasting programs such as Jing Pro, Screenr (fabulously easy and great for quickies on the fly) and Screen-cast-O'Matic.  I was seriously hooked after I bought Camtasia Studio 7 and now I'm thinking of trying Sreenflow for Macs.

Why is this important?  For two reasons: a) because effective teaching should include multi-media elements and b) building digital content that teachers can archive on their wikis or class websites is easier today than ever before.  My class wikis are turning 4 years old this year and I've accumulated an impressive amount of digital content, both from my students' efforts and my own.

Flipping classroom instruction is garnering much attention and despite some controversy from inconclusive research, many teachers are setting out to build elements of the 'flipped classroom' into their instructional design.  That means videos or some multi-media presentation will become as important to teachers in the 21st century as paper was in the 20th!  We need to learn how to make effective instructional videos.  Correction; I need to improve my own videos.  When I look back over my instructional multi-media designs since 2008, I run the gamut of emotions from embarrassment (OMG, how terrible is that!) to indifference (ho, hum, boring) to satisfaction (hmm, not bad that one!).   So, I have committed to trying out a new screencasting program on my Mac (the past ones were made on PC) and will report my progress on the blog.

More importantly though, will be the implementation of multi-media design principles from studies done by Richard Mayer, an educational cognitive psychologist at the University of California (UCSB).  Since the late 90s, he has been researching 'cognitive overload' and 'dual processing system'; information comes to the brain through both the eyes and the ears, hence the 'dual' system.  Processing information and holding it in working memory long enough to make 'sense' of it is the brain's challenge.  The teacher's challenge, or anyone designing instructional videos, is avoiding the deadly brain shut-down that happens when too much information is aimed at the students.  Mayer proposes simple design principles that I will explore in the coming weeks and shamefully (or not) share my attempts at integrating these ideas in my videos.  You can give me a thumbs up or down, or maybe just some honest feedback.  I know my students will do the same!

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