Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Video or Text: Does the form of representation make a difference?

Have you ever thought about how different forms of representation can influence the meaning you derive from the content being presented? If it affects your interpretation, then how do your students react to content packaged within various media?

On the Masters that I am undertaking at the moment with the Open University in the UK, we've been asked to represent our personal learning environments (PLE) using a different medium in comparison to the first representation.

In the previous post, I used a Keynote slide to illustrate my PLE. I decided to represent it this time using a more interactive medium: video. Why interactive? The underlying technology here is asynchronous audiovisual technology.Therefore, it can be paused, rewinded, fast forwarded and repeatedly viewed, or you can release your creative powers and remix and repurpose. You can adjust the volume or turn it off and analyze how various effects or lack of them,  influence your interpretation of the content. You can choose to view a video when and where you want, providing you have the necessary hardware e.g. computer or mobile device. 

As an English language teacher, I find this form of representation  invaluable.  This is partly because of the points I have mentioned above, which are features that enable a student to engage with specific material at their own pace and in a manner that suits their personal learning strategies. Additionally, I can use it as a form of asynchronous communication with my students as opposed to  textual representation via mail, sms or private chat rooms. For those in other educational areas it can be used as an effective means of capturing lectures   and enhancing learning, as discussed here by Mikkel Godsk (2012) in online and blended learning environments. Supplementing courses with audiovisual material has the advantage that students can review course content as often as they want, as well as assisting clarification of meaning and  empowering students with responsibility for their own learning. 

 It's not a new technology, but due to sites such as Vimeo and YouTubeEdu which make accessibility so much easier, you can go beyond supporting just your own students and other private groups  and interact with other like-minded communities. You might find yourself reaching out to someone who can learn from what you've decided to share and of  course the reverse is also possible.

So what effect do differing forms of representation have on you? 

Compare for yourself. Don't forget to experiment with the video. Does it a have a different effect on you with or without the sound? Is the sound track significant or unrelated? Is one viewing enough? Do you see or absorb more with a second or third viewing? Do you feel you have a better understanding of who I am and my PLE from the video in comparison to the Keynote slide? How many identities am I revealing? 

                            Keynote Slide: My PLE 2012 

                                       Video: My PLE 2012

'Media's symbolic forms of representation are clearly not neutral or indifferent packages that have no effect on the represented information ... Being part and parcel of the information itself they influence the meanings one arrives at, the mental capacities that are called for, and the ways one comes to view the world'. 
(Salomon, G. 1997)

In my opinion, it makes an enormous difference what kind of medium I choose for my own personal learning. Occasionally a webcast of a lecture can help deepen my understanding of an academic paper covering the same topic by the same author. It's this awareness that constantly reminds me to reflect on what media  I'm going to use before, during or after a language lesson with my students. It's something that I reflect on, whether it's a larger language module that I'm designing, or an individual lesson or series of lessons.

Just as you and I react differently to various forms of representation so to do your students. I think especially in the field of language learning where authentic oral communication is so essential and where students tend to measure their progress by their conversational skills, the use of audiovisual technology is a true enhancement. 

These are just a few ideas for using this form of technology for language students:

-  students can view authentic language scenes and extract specific lexical information
- they can create their own in order to practice certain situations e.g. shopping, job interview, asking for directions etc.
- they can utilize transcripts with videos, record themselves taking on various roles, then compare their pronunciation and vocabulary choice
- vary the genre e.g. news, sports, social scenes in order to experiment with a broader range of discourses
- you can set tasks using video to check their comprehension
- don't forget digital storytelling as a collaborative project
- you can capture part of your lessons in order to carry out a deeper  linguistic analysis and share this feedback with your students
- you can share this captured lesson with your students and let peers comment on each other
- use it as a means of asynchronous communication between yourself and your students or between students themselves. If students don't have mobile devices, you can use a web-based tool such as Voicethread or an application such as MailVu (available as an app and as a web-based tool).

 As the Salmon (1997) quote above suggests, various literacies are called upon when shifting between differing forms of representation, so don't assume that your students have the necessary learning strategies or literacies e.g. listening, reading, viewing skills or digital literacies. Provide them with guidance and support when using new media and provide them with prompts and reminders when using familiar media.

 It's all about what is appropriate for your teaching and learning environment. Mine is very much embedded within a digital world, being a Skype teacher, so what suits me is not necessarily what you need. It's about adaptability and flexibility. Create what you can; remix and repurpose; share with others whatever medium it is. And keep in mind that it does make a difference which medium you choose. Not everyone will respond in the same manner, but varying your use of media in class or giving your students a choice, will have an effect on how they react to the material being delivered and it can also help to maintain interest and motivation.

Reference List

Salmon, G. (1997) 'Of Mind and Media', Phi Delta Kappan, vol.78, no. 5, pp. 4-10

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