Monday, 9 July 2012

A Goo - You - Wiki - World ?

I recently had the pleasure of working at the Arts-Science Lecture, an event run by the Kroto Research Institute, and this year the speaker was Sir Harry Kroto. It was a fascinating, wide ranging talk, which darted between between a few of his passions; science, art, education, graphic design, and one I've not heard him talk about before; video.

Rather embarrassingly, I did not realise Kroto was deeply involved in two websites which hosted videos and screencasts on a variety of topics. The Vega Science Trust was established by Kroto way back in 1994. As of March this year the charity has closed, but all of the videos on the site will still be made available. The good news is that GEOSET, Kroto's other site is still outputting content. In fact, our own Kroto Research Institute (KRI) at the University of Sheffield is one of the 9 current participating 'nodes' (i.e. institutions which upload content).  

What's interesting about the GEOSET model is institutions can upload screencasts using whatever technology they have available to them locally. At the KRI, MyEcho is often used.  Others use solutions like Mediasite or Microsoft Producer. This flexibility means many institutions are able produce content without being prescribed to specific hardware/software combinations. If an institution doesn't already have a lecture capture solution in place, Microsoft Producer is available as a free plug in for PowerPoint. 

The motivation for Kroto is simple. He wants to help and empower teachers by giving them access to the "worlds best educators," and he believes this is now easily achievable because of the 'GooYooWikiWorld'. Although this may sound like the latest Farmville-esque online game, Kroto offers an alternative explanation on the GEOSET website: 

GooYouWiki World (GYWW): It exploits the Internet to democratise broadcasting by a triple revolution: 
  • 1) A paradigm shift in seeking, finding and accessing information – including embedded material (Google) 
  • 2) Fostering the creation of imaginative (and not so imaginative) audio-visual material – so democratising film making (YouTube)  
  • 3) Encouraging the passion to create and assemble a globally accessible networked cache of all human knowledge (Wikipedia)

This resource is clearly has benefits to teachers and their students, but clearly there needs to be buy in from other institutions to increase the amount of content on the site. There are clearly issues around sharing high quality education freely, when the £9000/year students will be arriving in a few months time. However, this has not been a problem for two leading universities. You may have recently seen EDx, a collaboration between Harvard and MIT, which will offer a whole range of free online classes. Other MOOC's are available!

One thing which did resonate with me at the Arts - Science lecture was that Kroto said video will be "more important than application letters in 5 years time". They will help to show if a candidate is an effective communicator and whether they can use technology in an innovative way. He said students who have been seen on the internet will move to the "top of the pile", and that students who can present online will get the jobs. It's certainly somewhat of a paradigm shift from what a lot of current students are used too. I can remember getting help writing a CV at school, but not on how to make a video based presentation. I guess it's important to note here that school for me wasn't too many years ago ...

However, students are certainly happy with consuming videos as part of their academic work; a recent report by the Students Union at the University of Sheffield on Technology in Learning and Teaching found that YouTube was in the top 5 of websites that students could not 'live without for learning and teaching purposes'. I found it interesting to note that neither Twitter or Facebook features on the below list. 
  1. Google/Google Scholar/Google Mail
  2. MOLE
  3. Online Journal Resources
  4. Wikipedia
  5. YouTube 
Source: An exploration of the impact of the use of  technology on the student experience of learning and teaching, April 2012. Report commissioned by the University of Sheffield Students' Union. 

However, viewing videos on YouTube is quite a different skill to making them.  We want our graduates to have the best chance possible of getting a job when they leave university, and according to one nobel laureate, multimedia skills are essential to that proposition.


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