Production as Plug-in Update: Faculty Concerns

In 2013, I had identified two primary faculty concerns: expectations of student familiarity, assessing your own facility and comfort with media production. Let me try first to reconstruct something of my thinking about these two concepts, then I’ll look more closely at what I wrote then, and then I’ll offer some updates for today.

1.

Though it’s pretty hard to recall much of my process from almost a decade ago, I know that the brief outline of faculty concerns about video assignments I wrote then developed out of my interactions with my colleagues at AC. Several have sought me out over the years for different kinds of advice regarding video and other kinds of digital media, mostly as they relate to teaching: how to use video clips in different classroom situations more effectively, techniques to create videos for in-class demonstrations, ways to capture video and other media to use in class, and what kinds of things to consider if they wanted to assign a video in one of their classes.

I’ve spoken to faculty in chemistry, education, music, physics, and political science about these and other issues related to video and pedagogy, and I’ve tried to really listen to them about why they wanted to use video, what they hoped to gain from its introduction, and what they are concerned about with the process. All of that was filtered into that opening section of the piece, where I was hoping to distill the most prominent concerns those colleagues had shared with me on our way toward finding solutions to their problems regarding video in their classes.

2.

I chose to frame those concerns around familiarity/facility – among students, among my colleagues themselves – because it seemed the most clear and coherent way to summarize what I had been hearing over and over from my colleagues. “Expectations of student familiarity” and “Assessing your own facility and comfort with media production” were, in my mind, mirror reflections of each other, sitting right at the core of the teacher-student relationship and fundamental to engaged, lasting learning.

Writing about student familiarity, I focused on the “range of familiarity” they are likely to have with video making, because in my experience, it can be considerable. Some (even then, more so now) will have essentially all the knowledge they need to produce a video they are assigned, and in the same class there will be some who not only have never made a video for others, but have reasonable anxiety about such work as well. This led me to conclude that “in most cases, you will need to plan for some kind of production skill training “plug-in” in conjunction with your assignment.”

Turning that concern around to faculty facility with video, my focus was on encouraging and empowering my faculty reader, while still being realistic about the range and depth of knowledge necessary and useful to make this kind of assignment work. I wanted to be clear that introducing a video assignment will necessarily require balancing each faculty member’s available resources during planning: “Consider what kind of time you are willing to devote to facilitating student learning of production skills relative to the time you already devote to facilitating their learning of existing material in the syllabus.”

3.

Since 2013, I have had more time to think about this, about the ways video assignments create opportunities and challenges for student learning. One important opportunity of my own was to be a fellow for the Mellon Digital Pedagogy grant the college received in 2014. Many of the more than 30 grantees of that project used video in some way, so I had a chance to talk to most of them at some length about their concerns. The two I identified above have remained central in those conversations, but a few others are worth noting as well.

First, several expressed concern about the role copyright necessarily plays in the dissemination of all digital media, but especially video. This is a concern I’ve heard articulated with regard to the use of existing, copyrighted works as well as with the original works students produce. In both cases, the concern is focused on lacking familiarity with the laws regarding copyright and worrying they and/or their students might suddenly step into treacherous waters.

Second, it won’t surprise anyone familiar with teachers and teaching to hear that concerns about the process of evaluating student video work was a common question I heard. This is in some ways an extension of the question of facility, but as anyone who has taught for some time knows, there are still important differences between knowing how to do something well, and knowing how to evaluate that thing in the context of a course that features it. Especially given the rise of the use of rubrics for evaluation in skill-based assignments over the last 10-20 years, colleagues asked me over and over again where they could find an existing rubric to assess video assignments that would help them frame its central components and communicate different degrees of skill and quality to students.

Third, many of my colleagues asked about strategies for organization and planning of video assignments during the run of the course. These questions were focused on the logistics of actually engaging students and helping them to succeed during the course itself. I did talk around this set of questions to some degree in the original piece, as several of the methods I identified then had to do with when students would receive the knowledge and training they would need to complete the assignment. However, I did not address it head on then, nor do those tangential comments constitute anything I would consider potentially helpful to faculty considering a video assignment today.

I hope to return to all of the concerns above in the longer piece I am working on. More to come.

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