Communities Resolving Our Problems: the basic idea
[SUP: Sharing Problems] [THINK: Guidance] [LEAP: Solving Problems]

Video and the Moving Image

* "...the most powerful medium of communication in the modern world..." Mark Kingwell

Kingwell (1997) was referring to television when he said it was the most powerful medium of communication today. But that concept should be extended to other forms of moving images as well. Learners should look for ideas and information among three broad categories of "moving image" distribution that are addressed on this page and through the actual online search resources available among these three links:

The term moving image as used here stands for many related terms including motion pictures, video and film. The computer age has had a dramatic impact on everyone's ability to find, evaluate and use the moving image. First, the information age provides simple and quick online resources in Looking for video. As the links above will show, there are numerous and enormous databases of film and video information that enable searching by title, subject, keyword, theme and much more. For reviews, many online databases not only provide information but critique, evaluation and rating of many forms of motion pictures. If the motion picture database does not provide a review, crafting a search phrase with the name of a movie and the word review in an online search engine with often reveal a number of reviews of a show (see example). If someone wishes to accent a certain idea or point or provide an example, a search of such databases using the needed term or terms will often lead to resources that can help emphasize such points. For now, these online databases do not lead directly to the playing of a movie, show or work though such searches increasingly leads to an offer to buy the videotape or DVD online. Most viewers must still do a second search of a movie store or library to actually see it. However, this will change early in the 21st century with increased option for live online viewing as network speeds increase.

The equipment for actually seeing the motion picture composition is not only highly varied, but forms of video and their players are still being invented. A viewer might see a motion picture by visiting a downtown movie theater or play the video using a videotape machine, a videodisc player, a DVD player, or handheld, laptop or desktop computer and computer screen. Most new computers now come with at least a DVD player if not a DVD burner (writing data to a DVD disc). The most dramatic new development is in the distribution of video through or over computer networks. That is, instead of obtaining video from a DVD, a click of a link can send it streaming to a computer hard drive. If the network is fast enough, the video can play as it is being transmitted. Slower networks are used to store the video on a hard drive for later playback when all the data has arrived. The newest service for television allows users to select and store to digital video recorders a mix of television from broadcast networks, cable, satellite and web sites for playback at a time of the user's choice (Markoff, 2004)..

The trend is strongly in the direction of digital video. "Unlike old-fashioned video reels and VHS cassettes, digital video gives educators more control over the content and delivery of a presentation. Teachers can skip ahead instantly to a specific portion of a digital video disc (DVD), for example, or they can download snippets of video through the internet and show them in three- to five-minute clips to introduce a lesson, capture students' attention, or drive home a point" (eSchoolNews, 2004).


screen shotOne of the unique opportunities of the digital age is not just to be able to put a digital video jukebox of thousands of hours of video at the fingertips of students and adults in homes and classrooms, though that is a powerful development (see example on left). The real opportunity is to be able to enhance thinking by copying quotes from existing video compositions, composing and recomposing with video the way composers work with text. That is, paper technology has made it easy to visit the text based works of others and quickly copy quotes to be inserted into new compositions, building new structures and critiquing others. Digital video gives us this same capacity. With digital video, a composer can combine the vast video information and idea resources of major production houses with the editing ability of the desktop and laptop computers and do so while staying within the limits of copyright law. Even if the video is not in a digital format, it is now rather easy to move video from analog to digital format so that computer based composers can use it. Basic video editing applications capable of this computer based editing are shipped free with all versions of Macintosh and Windows XP operating systems.

There is a second unique opportunity that computer technology provides. Unlike every prior form of composition and communication in history, computer display allows video to appear simultaneously with text and all other forms of composition. This might be a videoclip between two paragraphs of a word processor, video on a slide in a slideshow program such as Powerpoint or video in part of a web page (click example on right). Not only can web display allow text to be scrolled by the video in separate frame while the video is playing, but special command tracks can be added to the audio and video tracks to control additional information display features in other frames.

A third unique feature, videoconferencing over the Internet, is now also within reach. Videoconferencing refers to technology that allows live two-way sharing of video and audio. Two converging lines of development have made this possible, increased bandwidth into schools and improved compression of video. Inexpensive cameras and microphones hooked to computers providing low quality have been doing videoconferencing for years. High quality videoconferencing had required special rooms with special equipment. More recently, professional products from Tandberg (image on left), Polycom (image on right) and others have appeared that provide a high quality of videoconferencing service in self-contained units, not requiring connection to a computer, just Internet connection. Though prices are currently a few thousand per unit, these prices will drop. Connection is easy. The same network ethernet jack used by a computer is used by such videoconferencing units. Through videoconferencing teachers will have their own on-demand live television, direct to the classrooms and work spaces of professionals around the world whenever they choose to type in the appropriate Internet address.

However motion pictures are initially stored, educators and thinkers will find it beneficial to have a good understanding of how video is stored and how easy the Internet makes access to the indexes of both digital and non-digital material. This access provides a foundation on which to teachers and students can invent and create new types of compositions, mixing the old and the new.

Explanation of these categories


Film, Videotape, Videodisc, DVD

The oldest format, film, began its entry into the educational world in the 1920's. Edison proclaimed at the time that it would bring dramatic revolution to the educational process. The result of this revolution is: public education systems, no; the rest of Western culture, yes. Numerous resources exist on the Internet that index film and video products. Use them to find resources for your instructional needs.

Television via Network and Cable, Satellite and Internet to digital video recorders

Standard television systems consist of the existing cable, broadcast and satellite television systems. These formats have embraced the Internet as a text supplement to their broadcast guides of show times and topics. Numerous shows and networks now also provide sites and web pages with a range of information for children and teachers about these shows, from scheduling to accompanying software. One in particular, Cable in the Classroom, tailors its database to the needs of educators. New ways to deliver television and full length movies using the Internet are emerging from a variety of companies. These include: Broadcast Networks' service called TimeshiftTV, Akimbo, TiVo, DirectTV, Microsoft IPTV, Apple, and Real-Networks.

Computer Based Video

The newest form of distribution, computer video, is a digital system for storing and sharing video clips on a wide array of computer storage devices (diskettes, hard drives, CD's, CDI's, DVD's, etc.) and for sharing variations of live and canned video across the Internet. As of 2004, DVDs have acquired the reputation of becoming a more dominant market format and force for the distribution of video than movie theaters and VHS videotape. Effective video over the Internet requires the higher speed versions of the Internet referred to as broadband. An increasing common way to distribute video over broadband Internet is known as streaming video. This video is displayed in a window on your computer screen and of course through a projection system can be displayed on a larger screen to a small group or an entire class.

This display on your computer screen might also show standard broadcast and cable TV shows, if your computer has a tuner or is connected to a TV with video out.

The video display might also provide live video and sound from another computer on the Internet, which has a camcorder and microphone attached. That is, Internet video can not only simulate standard television in a much smaller display format, but it can become much more: a video-phone, two-way video and audio for a video conference. This videoconference can include many different points on the network, a conference call. Because the computer is handling this work, the videoconference can be supplemented with whiteboard, file or document transfer, chat typing, and web browsing. As computer speed increases, the quality of such video will match and then exceed that of the reigning standard, VHS videotape.

The video display might also be digitized video that streams from hundreds of TV stations from around the world. Many TV stations now simultaneously broadcast through their local cable channel or network towers which could be easily extended to the Internet.  Consequently, you could either watch their TV station broadcast from your local TV set or on a Web page. If the station is not carried locally, then the Internet with its web page players will be the only way to receive the broadcast. You can watch hundreds of more stations through the Internet than through your local providers and this difference will only grow in the speed of Internet services increase. In fact, if you run server software on your own computer, anyone's computer can be a TV station on the Internet sending whatever video pieces they wish to share.

Critique of Educational Practice

Video raises critical questions about our educational practice. Why have educators isolated ourselves in our emphasis on teaching the use and composition of the written word, ignoring other culturally dominant formats of communication? Cost is no longer a major inhibiter. In fact, the technology of video production today, a camcorder, is far cheaper and easier to use than computer technology. The problem is not availability, as the links above indicate a rich array of indexes to a treasure trove of video and film. The problem is not the methodology problem of computers whose expense keeps schools from providing whole class or large group accessibility in the classroom. Nearly every school building has several televisions on carts that are appropriate video accessibility for classroom sized audiences. Further, recent computer technology makes video composition easy enough for even preschool children to do interesting work.

Unfortunately, part of the real answer appears to overlap themes of multiculturalism onto the theme of multimedia. These would include at least the problems of stereotyping and bias. Educators that decry the absence of intellectual merit in video and television in general, fail to give it a required place at the academic table, let alone a presence commensurate with its cultural import. It would seem unfair to criticize a child (video) for weakness in intellectual growth while locked in the educational basement. We will know that the child is truly encouraged to make the most of intellectual growth in the 21st century when video composition not only receives as much required coursework as written composition, but when it and other media are required in the same composition. The first step in more properly addressing the cultural role of video composition is also similar to progress in multiculturalism. It is a simple and easy step. Just as effective multicultural education requires  in-depth acquaintance with diverse other cultures and people, educators must seek exposure and interaction with the new and diverse video process from its selection to its editing and re-distribution in DVD and over the Internet.

Though many technical problems have been solved, such as finding and editing video, classroom application requires a kind of on-demand instant access that works well in paper and has worked poorly with other media. Solutions are available, but not commonly budgeted. For teacher presentations, such solutions will require a projection system hooked to a computer and fast computer network access to the classroom. For student independent activity, a personal computer and fast network is required. It will also require content online that is reviewed and organized for educational purposes. This last step has still not been achieved. Random searches of the Internet will increasingly yield useful material, but material found and organized by educators and educational publishers and accessible over the school building or Internet are needed to make the use of motion pictures as reliable as paper  resources. Much can be done with technology that is in place in classrooms, but it will be limited to more intermittent, infrequent applications until the technology catches up to the needs of the classroom.

* Kingwell, Mark (December 12, 1997). The Intellectual Possibilities of Television, The Chronicles of Higher Education, XLIV (16), p.B7.

Using Video to Enhance Instruction. eSchoolNews. Retrieved on January 19, 2004 from
Markoff, John (June 9, 2004). New Service by TiVo Will Build Bridges from Internet to the TV. The New York Times. section C1, p.1.


[Updated June 12, 2004 |  UpPageauthor ]