|Australasian Journal of Educational Technology
2008, 24(1), 73-90.
The digital video database: A virtual learning community for teacher education
Winnie Wing-mui So, Vincent Hing-keung Hung and Walker Yee-wing Yip
The Hong Kong Institute of Education
This research started with the design and implementation of an online digital video database, followed by a study of how three student teachers used it in building a virtual learning community that enabled the sharing of teaching practices during their first teaching practicum in the teacher education program. The student teachers made use of teaching practice videos that were edited into 'learning objects' ready for peer evaluation. The peer evaluation was conducted by an online discussion forum among community members, which provided the data for analysis. The findings give insight into how comments and feedback flowed within the learning community, and how the videos in the form of learning objects helped to generate various categories of teaching practices. Finally, a follow up focus group discussion provided useful data regarding the possibilities and limitations of creating a learning community centred on sharing constructed learning objects in an online digital video database.
One possible solution to these limitations is the use of text based retrieval techniques in which video content and context are annotated by free text, making them searchable by keyword (Marques & Furht, 2002). Once integrated into a searchable database, videos become learning objects that can be shared and reused. To maximise their effectiveness as learning objects, videos should be small and unified in format so that they can be shared across different digital platforms. For example, streaming and downloadable video in Windows Media Video (WMV) format and MPEG format are two basic unified digital video formats that can be shared by users with Internet access. Both formats can be viewed in Windows Media Player, which is bundled with every Windows XP and the new Vista operating system. For the reuse of video aiming at a specific teaching purpose, MPEG video allow users to download and save video files for further editing and reuse.
From the perspective of a learning object economy, resources are often conceptualised as blocks of content that interlink to produce a course. Analogous to Lego bricks, these blocks can be recombined with other blocks and reused in a different course (Littlejohn, 2003). Wiley (2000) defined learning objects as any digital resources that can be reused to support learning. Learning objects produced by publishers, teachers, support staff and even students, are stored in digital databases, where they can be easily accessed, recombined and reused within online courses (Duncan & Ekmekcioglu, 2003). More recently, Haughey and Muirhead (2005) conceived of learning objects as an effective and efficient means for providing virtual content that could be shared with others.
To maximise widespread utilisation, standardisation of learning objects is an essential prior condition (Littlejohn, 2003). The digital video database should have the potential to store various video formats including AVI, MPEG, MOV and streaming WMV. This ensures interoperability of resources between different electronic environments and platforms such as Windows and Macintosh. With an effective classification system, it is easier for users to find what they are looking for in a database (Littlejohn, 2003).
Figure 1: The major features of the video database
Figure 2: The Transaction Bin for sharing of videos
Figure 3: The various streaming rate of videos
Figure 4: Interface of the Video Communication Panel
The Transaction Bin was initially designed to assist in the post-production of video teaching resources. Rough cut or finalised post-production video clips can be dropped into the Transaction Bin of an individual user for viewing and further amendment (Figure 5). All videos in transaction can be accessed from specific hyperlinks. With this function, videos can be distributed to a large number of users at any time without any further videotape duplication. With the additional implementation of a built in Video Communication Panel, users can post comments related to any video segment, informing the system administrator to follow up or update. The main design principle of the Transaction Bin is to improve the transaction rate, save time and reduce the use of storage devices and consumable materials (e.g. disk space, CDs, etc).
Figure 5: Interface of the Transaction Bin
Khine and Lourdusamy (2003) had once successfully implemented collaborative learning into teacher education under the Conversant Media platform with video annotation. Twenty-five student teachers were invited to participate in a pilot project to reflect on instructional issues in authentic teaching through online discussion in a computer laboratory. Three video clips about authentic classroom teaching were shown to the student teachers. They then gave feedback concerning the clips by video annotation through the Conversant Media platform in the computer laboratory. Though the pilot study demonstrated a breakthrough in using video annotation to enhance students' reflection on instructional issues, further technological breakthrough is expected on longer periods of video produced in streaming formats for web based annotation and discussion out of the laboratory.
Figure 6: Comments on the Video Communication Panel
The Bulletin Board interface illustrates a new technique on how users can manage a digital video database by using text based retrieval technique. Figure 7 shows the Bulletin Board interface with three components. The Bulletin Board header displays the video title, video provider, a button for further comment and a button for the conversion of feedback and comments into PDF file format (Figure 8). This enhances portability, compatibility and sharing, as PDF files can be saved or emailed, passing on discussion threads along with the created video segment. The Theme Area is for the display of the title, reply button and a hyperlink to the segment created by the users and community members. Through the hyperlink, the segment can be viewed for further comment and feedback. The Discussion Forum displays responses to the segment marked by members while watching the videos at the Video Communication Panel.
Figure 7: Interface of the Bulletin Board
Figure 8: The PDF file conversion of feedback and comments
Since the objective of the study was to explore how the interactive functions of the video database helped student teachers acquire knowledge of good teaching practices by sharing and receiving suggestions from other members of the learning community, the participating student teachers were required to provide videos showing their teaching in the classrooms. The recording of teaching was done by the student teachers, setting up camera and microphones by themselves in their own classrooms. The student teacher then followed the instruction guide provided by the researchers to upload the whole segment of teaching, which was of 30-40 minutes, to the Transaction Bin of the video database. During free time whenever they had access to computers, the student teachers could view the videos provided by the other community members and employ the 'Mark-In/ Out' function to match the feedback or comment with the exact timeline of the videos.
Adopting the concept of learning objects, student teachers wrote short descriptions to be shared with the learning community, with these small sessions ranging from a few seconds to a few minutes related to particular parts of teaching. Members were required to indicate an overall remark about the teaching segment in a positive connotation like 'Good', 'Suggestions', or "Good with suggestions' as the subject of the comment before they started working on the teaching videos. The general remark of "Good" represented satisfactory teaching performance, "Suggestion" represented problems identified with the teaching performance, and "Good with suggestion" represented positive feedback toward the teaching segment but there is still room for improvement. The video providers and other community members could then view the comments with reference to the marked sessions of clips, through the hyperlink in the Bulletin Board, and post feedback to each of the comments, if there was any.
A 90-minute focus group discussion arranged by the teacher educator was held with the three participants, targeting the other two research questions. The discussion mainly focused on the learning process of student teachers in developing good teaching practices through the learning community and video database during the teaching practicum. Besides, the student teachers also discussed the constraints found in using the online digital video database and the barriers identified in conducting video shooting of lessons. The discussion was audio recorded with a research assistant also taking written notes. It was expected the focus group could help with the identification of factors affecting the learning effectiveness of the learning community and challenges the community members had faced.
The three community members, Student Teacher 1 (ST1), Student Teacher 2 (ST2) and Student Teacher 3 (ST3) uploaded five lesson videos altogether, resulting in 41 posts within the learning community concerning teaching practices, of which 29 are comments made by the community members in watching the teaching videos, 11 are feedback provided by either the video providers or other community members in response to the comments, and one is a further comment provided by a community member (Table 1).
|Comments / feedback from |
video provider / other
|Further feedback |
|1||ST1||4 by ST2|
4 by ST3
|2 by ST1|
1 by ST3
|2||ST2||2 by ST1|
2 by ST3
|2 by ST2||0|
|3||ST2||2 by ST1|
2 by ST3
|2 by ST2||1 by ST3|
|4||ST2||2 by ST1|
3 by ST3
|1 by ST2||0|
|5||ST3||4 by ST2|
4 by ST1
|3 by ST3||0|
Four patterns (Figure 9) are identified from the analysis of the flow of comments and feedback. These include: a) a community member gave comments to the video provider (18 posts); b) a third community member added comments in response to the previous comment (1 post); c) the video provider responded to the comments from the community member (9 posts); and d) a third community member responded to the interaction between the video provider and a community member (1 post).
Figure 9: Four patterns identified from the analysis of the flow of comments
The following is an example of a comment given by a community member (ST1) to the video provider (ST2) without further follow up feedback.
ST1 gave comment to ST2 on Video 4: The noisy environment of the classroom made the class difficult to control. Apart from rewarding students with stickers, their behaviour could be effectively controlled by the use of a combination of hard and soft techniques. Besides, it was a good idea to have pupils record the types of waste at home to be a follow-up activity of the lesson.The following interactions show the posting of another message from community member (ST3), in response to ST2's comments, on the teaching video (Video 1) of ST1.
Comment given by ST2 on Video 1: Not all of the groups could finish the worksheets within the given time. The teacher should allocate different tasks to the groups before conducting the group activities. For example, instead of completing the entire worksheet, each group should be responsible for completing different parts of the worksheet. In this way students could have sufficient time to complete the given tasks and less time could be spent on the worksheet.The following dialogue shows how the video provider (ST1) responded to the comments given by a community member (ST2) with explanation of what she had done during lesson preparation.
Feedback given by ST3 in response to ST2's comment: I agreed with your suggestion, but from the video provided by ST1, I noticed that all the tasks have been completed by pupils by the end of the lesson.
Comment given by ST2 on Video 1: The contents of the readers did not seem to match with the worksheet. This would affect the implementation of pupils' activities.In the following dialogue, community members gave encouragement and support to each other, with interactive flow of comments and feedbacks among the community members.
Feedback given by ST1 in response to ST2's comment on her teaching: Most contents required by the worksheets were very general, answers could be found in almost readers. I agreed that some readers have more in-depth information while others are rather simple. Actually, all of the above factors have been considered during the design of the worksheet, but due to my limited experiences in teaching, it was the best that I could have come up with at that moment.
Comment given by ST1 on Video 3 provided by ST2: It was good and efficient to use a questioning approach to help pupils revise what they had learned in the previous lessons. The only down side was that the questioning was rather time consuming and tedious.
Feedback given by ST2 in response to ST1's comment on his teaching in Video 3: I agree with your observation. To shorten the time and prevent pupils from losing interest, the questions should be clear, simple, and carefully organized. I also recognise the long questioning session made the lesson tedious. One of the reasons for the inappropriate time management in teaching might due to the crash of room-usage with another teacher, resulting in a disturbance of the original teaching plan.
Further feedback given by ST3 in response to ST2: Yes, unanticipated incidents happened in class were beyond teachers' ability to handle and might affect pupils' learning.
The followings are comments made by ST3 and ST2 on the use of resources and teaching design marked as 'Good', signifying that the community members appreciated the successful teaching performance of their peers.
ST3: The teacher paused the tape at the right time to ensure pupils were paying attention. And worksheets were provided to pupils to give them some ideas on the content of the lesson. (Comment 4 on Video 4)The followings are comments made by ST2 and ST1 on use of resources and pupil participation respectively, with 'Good with suggestion' indicating that the community members suggested alternatives for peers' consideration in their teaching.
ST2: The design of group activity could effectively facilitate pupils' collaboration. (Comment 4 on Video 1)
ST2: It is good for the teacher to display related photos/diagrams during pupils' presentations. This could help pupils have a concrete and better understanding. But the photos focused mainly on topics related to 'human adaptation to the environment', it would be better for the teacher to have photos on other aspects in order to provide pupils with a holistic. (Comment 5 on Video 5).The following shows comments marked with 'Suggestion', made by ST1 about teaching technique and the use of resources respectively. In general, the community members are found to be making proposals for improving teaching and learning rather than negatively criticising one another.
ST1: The idea of having pupils reported after group discussion is good as it might enhance pupils' learning. But it is also noted that their reporting skill was not good and in most cases pupils were afraid of doing so - one student even broke into tears. In my opinion, pupils might have performed better if they were allowed to stay in their own seats while reporting. Moreover, the teacher should encourage other pupils to make comments on what the others had reported, which could promote pupils' participation and the outcome would surely be more fruitful. (Comment 2 on Video 5)
ST1: During the discussion about 'what rubbish has been disposed of?', if the teacher had guided the pupils to think about separating the rubbish into reusable and non-reusable ones and identifying their usage, the discussion would have been more constructive and more in line with the theme than simply discussing what rubbish the students had disposed of. (Comment 1 on Video 2)All comments on classroom management were marked as 'Suggestion' but the suggestions did not came in the same form. For example, one comment posted to Video 4 showed a community member proposing a different way of managing the class while the other one showed another community member more directly pointing out a problem in Video 4.
ST1: At the end of the lesson, pictures about the life of people from around the world (e.g. about clothing, transportation, accommodation and food, etc.) should be used to further enhance the students' knowledge on what they had learned during the lesson, and this could also be used for assessing the achievement of teaching objectives. (Comment 2 on Video 5)
ST1: The teacher should reinforce pupils' incentives by rewarding pupils' good behaviour at the end of the lesson. On one hand, this could help encourage other pupils to exercise good behaviour. On the other hand, this would not attract too much pupils' attention to teacher's small gifts during lesson. (Comment 2 on Video 4)
ST3: While the teacher was checking answers with pupils, there were a few pupils talking to each other all the time but the teacher did not stop them. (Comment 3 on Video 4)
ST2: ST1 pointed out my problem of having a long questioning time, which I did not realise during the lesson. Her comment stimulates me to be aware of using simplified questions in a logical order in order not to bore the pupils.The analysis of comments posted by the community member at the online discussion forum provides evidence that the student teachers were able to reflect critically on the teaching of their peers as well as their own. They also took the opportunity to learn from each other's teaching in authentic situations.
ST1: I thought I have tried my best with the design of worksheet, but ST2 could still propose some suggestions for a better design of worksheets.The student teachers reported that by viewing the lesson videos provided by peers, they could also experience the practices of some unfavourable and ineffective teaching behaviours, and this alerted them to repeating the same behaviour in their own teaching. Besides, student teachers who posted the video could review their own teaching again after receiving comments from community members. In turn, the video providers could give further explanations to viewers by providing more background information and rationales on the teaching design or uses of resources. The followings were examples shared by the student teachers.
ST3: No matter how big or how small the problem in my teaching was identified, they enforced me to rethink what I have designed. Sometimes I could justify the rationale of my design was alright but sometimes I couldn't deny there was oversight with my original design.
ST1: I did not agree with the way ST2 rewarded his pupils. Though he tried to explain the rationale behind, I do not think I would do the same in my teaching.The interaction and discussions among community members provide practical learning experiences to student teachers at a critical point in their professional development. They appreciated how these experiences helped them develop competence, improve techniques, create rich teaching resources, and share the joys and difficulties of teaching. Student teachers gained knowledge of effective classroom management strategies from each other and learned how to avoid ineffective classroom management behaviour. Finally, student teachers reported that the learning community did more than provide good opportunities for sharing of joy in their teaching experience, it also helped them relieve from the frustrations due to the problems faced during the teaching practicum period.
ST2: It seemed not easy to arrange an activity which involved pupils in reading information from books. ST1's lesson reminded me of the need of greater attention in conducting this type of pupil activity in the future.
ST3: I appreciated a lot the opportunity to share our views which was the avenue for pressure release during the practicum. Yet, we could also share our good work. Appreciations from community members were encouraging.
The constraints of viewing the video segments
In using the video database for sharing, it seems better to divide the 30-minute video into shorter segments, or learning objects. However, student teachers reflected that it was difficult to make comments based on a very short video segment because they might not know the full lesson planning, background, or details of pupil behaviour and attitude.
In general, the smaller or more granular a resource, the greater the possibility it will be reused in another educational context as a learning object (Littlejohn, 2003). However, larger learning objects usually have greater educational value - it is often less time consuming to reuse a larger learning object, such as video of a whole lesson, rather than constructing a lesson from several smaller and components. Therefore, in terms of learning object size, there is often a tension between increasing educational value and maximising reusability (Littlejohn, 2003).
The barriers to video recording of lessons
It is evident from the analysis of the feedback and comments at the online discussion forum that the digital video database could support student teachers' resources sharing and knowledge building through interaction. Yet student teachers also indicated unexpected barriers to shooting video during the forum discussion which shed light on the possibility of video recording in authentic classrooms. The barriers exist at different levels, including the school level, teacher level and pupil level.
For the barriers at the school level, it is reported by one of the community members that the principal of his practicum school had reservations about the video recording of lessons. It is because the school principal worried that sharing of videos online might invade pupils' privacy if lesson videos were used improperly by others. Though the worry of the school principal was relieved by the declaration of the student teacher and the confirmation from the project team that the video database restricts public access by password protection, the concern is worth highlighting in the design of the video database, that restricted login with password and a closed community is important for addressing the issue of privacy.
The barrier related to the teacher level is mainly teachers' concerns about the additional workload in managing the video recording and follow up analyses, because it would take them substantial time and effort in the whole process of video recording, transforming and uploading; the viewing of videos to give comments; and providing feedback upon comments given by community members.
The student teachers also pointed out that some pupils in their classes were not used to being recorded with a video camera and therefore behaved inappropriately or abnormally. It is hoped that pupils would become more used to the camera as video recording is becoming more popular.
Involving student teachers in uploading their videos into the video database and sharing with each other good practices in teaching signifies an effective integration of video and online community technology. Student teachers are not alone in testing out their teaching theory with classroom practice. They can digitise their teaching practice into video, text and sound and upload to a sharing community for manipulation and re-segmenting (Goldman, 2007). Also, the findings from this study contribute a new approach to how educators can manage a digital video database by using text based retrieval techniques.
Moreover, this study shows that the use of a digital video database in teacher education is not limited to one way or top down applications by the teacher educator to student teachers in demonstrating good or bad practices of teaching. It can be expanded to encompass multi-user peer to peer interactive communication, to support student teachers' learning about teaching. Furthermore, an online video database can create a vibrant learning community in which peers share insights, ask questions and make suggestions. As the Transaction Bin function is evolved into Community Management, users of the video database are allowed to invite others to join the community that emerges from sharing positive feedbacks via marked and annotated videos.
The patterns of sharing in the learning community identified in this study are mainly "one off" comments coming from the community members, with about one third of the comments receiving feedback from the video provider, either responding or explaining the situations in more details. The few comments that received further feedback from another community member and with all three community members contributing to the discussion of the same episode of teaching, have provided useful information for future studies by teacher educators who wish to encourage more interactive sharing of experiences among community members by forming a discourse community (Goldman, 2007).
There is evidence that the design of the video database for student teachers to post their teaching practice videos for sharing has adopted the three areas of concern in knowledge building proposed by Bereiter (2003). Student teachers participated in a community to share their teaching practice with each other for viewing, interpretations and criticisms, in order to build on each other's prior knowledge of good practice in teaching. Student teachers shared the same vision and responsibility to construct the knowledge related to good practice of teaching. Besides, good practice of teaching was not an isolated practice achieved by individual community members. Through collaborative contribution among members in the video database platform, further improvements of good practice in teaching could be achieved.
To conclude, though the original impetus for the establishment of a digital video database was to provide an online database for users to upload and download video teaching resources, the experience gained from the present study and its focus on teacher education with sharing of teaching practices, suggests that the greatest benefits of a digital video database come from its enabling and encouragement of student teacher interaction, with easy accessibility to the videos anytime and anywhere with an Internet connected computer.
It is encouraging in the present study that the three members of the small learning community continued their communication throughout the whole teaching practice period even though the number of participants is small. The way forward is to make use of the experience gained in this study which involved a detailed analysis of the flow of comments and feedbacks within the learning community of a small number of student teachers and extend it to a larger community of student teachers in the teacher education program. Also, a follow up study with the same community members in their second teaching practicum is a direction for future research towards examining virtual learning communities created with the help of the digital video database for teacher education.
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|Authors: Dr Winnie Wing-mui So, Associate Professor, Department of Mathematics, Science, Social Sciences and Technology, The Hong Kong Institute of Education, 10 Lo Ping Road, Tai Po, Hong Kong SAR. Email: email@example.com
Mr Vincent Hing-keung Hung, Assistant Education Technology Officer, Centre for Learning, Teaching and Technology, The Hong Kong Institute of Education, 10 Lo Ping Road, Tai Po, Hong Kong SAR. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr Walker Yee-wing Yip, Technician, Centre for Learning, Teaching and Technology, The Hong Kong Institute of Education, 10 Lo Ping Road, Tai Po, Hong Kong SAR. Email: email@example.com
Please cite as: So, W. W., Hung, V. H. & Yip, W. Y. (2008). The digital video database: A virtual learning community for teacher education. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 24(1), 73-90. http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet24/so.html