I stumbled across a number of Biology video resources via the iBiology site earlier today and took a minute to watch a few shorter clips in the collection and came across this one. Not only does it prove that octopus are pretty amazing creatures, but I also thought it was a decent example of how video can be used effectively in a lesson. Here’s why I like it. But first, the video:
So, why is this a good use of video? Well, before I get into that, I should say that the part of the video I want to focus on is the video within the video. So, even though this is essentially a video lecture, it is the way the instructor uses video within that lecture to illustrate something that might otherwise be difficult to explain that I find particularly well done.
First, it shows a field scene – something that would be very difficult to otherwise explain in words and static images. Using video makes the learner feel like they are right there in a place that they might otherwise not ever see. In this case, the bottom of the ocean. Effective video takes learners to places (or times) they might not otherwise be able to go to.
The dramatic effect of the octopus changing from camouflaged to visible happens virtually instantaneously, and that instantaneous moment simply would not carry the same weight if the instructor tried to talk about it or show a series of photos. It is unexpected. It piques the learners interest. Notice how the instructor builds to that moment in his lead up as well, setting the scene of the shot as a rather boring underwater scene. His language signals that something is going to happen that will soon transform that boring underwater scene. He is building curiosity through his language, and when the moment of unexpected transformation happens, you are engaged.
Notice, too, how the instructor is not simply playing video and having students watch it, but is actively interacting with the video and explaining what is happening while it is happening. At a number of places, he is pointing and drawing the learners attention to details in the video as it happens. For example, at :27 seconds, he points to the screen and says “now watch here”, making sure that the attention of the learner is in the right place to catch the key concept he is trying to explain
Then, after the video has been played in forward at full speed, he plays the video at half speed backward, giving you a completely new perspective of the phenomenon the student just witnessed. Again, at :40 seconds in, he makes sure to point out what he wants the learner to see “watch the ring form around this eye”.
He then pauses the video and brings up a series of stills to further explain the concepts, adding a text overlay to the video with a bullet list of keywords explaining what a hi-fidelity match would be. This further underscores what he is saying. And then in his summary he augments the video on the screen further with a few more points underscoring the key concepts of the short video. Key here is that he includes question prompts to spur deeper thinking for the students and spark some curiosity about the concepts introduced in the short lesson. There is a slight problem in that the juxtaposition of the final shot overlay’s the teacher on top of the text, obscuring some of the text, but it’s a small quibble.
So, even though this is a video lecture, I think it is a well done bit of lecturing based around a compelling video. The instructor is naturally engaged and dynamic and the presentation is snappy. Having the instructor on screen humanizes the lesson and allows him to carry out the kinds of interaction with the video that make the video clip pedagogically strong, like directing attention to key moments in the clip. There is a lot packed into this 2 minute video and if I was working with faculty in a traditional f2f classroom, this clip would probably make its way into my training arsenal as an example of how to effectively use video in a lesson.