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Teaching Writing in an Interactive Video Format

Anyone who is experienced at teaching writing in a computer-supported classroom will wonder why I agreed to teach a Distance Learning Class in an Interactive Video format. Clearly, it is not the technology I would have chosen as the primary medium of communication with the remote site, nor is a classroom in which only the teacher has a computer an ideal environment for teaching writing. Yet interactive video is a useful technology. Until one has experience with a given technology, its relative advantages and disadvantages are not immediately apparent. 

At the outset, however, it is not a lot of fun. The teacher has to help students become comfortable in a strange environment. If the students have taken another class in the ITV medium, chances are likely that the other instructor has taught using a  lecture mode, thus making it difficult for a student-centered teacher to validate a different model of instruction that invites--even insists--that students take an active role in the course. 

Advantages of Teaching in an Interactive Video Format

  • students have a chance to interact with a different group of classmates with different interests and attitudes
  • teachers must be organized in order to orchestrate the class effectively
  • students develop their communication skills by talking on camera
  • students have opportunities they might not have otherwise
  • teacher has an array of software and hardware at his/her fingertips: document camera, high-powered computer, a White Board, the World-Wide Web, Powerpoint, Forum software.

Disadvantages of Teaching Writing in an Interactive Video Format

  • students do not have access to a computer, thus can't read other students' writing (the class is less a real audience for one another than it should be)
  • difficult to conduct workshop based, student centered classes (teacher must leave the podium and walk around the room)
  • requires considerable cooperation from the remote sites to keep remote students on task
  • large degrees of interactivity result in choppy, discussions (when cameras switch to remote sites, there is a delay until the technician focuses in on the person asking the question; if someone at another site interrupts--or sneezes--the camera abruptly shifts to that site)
  • preparation for class requires twice the time as preparing for a non-TV class
  • difficulty of recycling effective lessons (unlike the time spent in designing an effective web site, where the site can be re-used and re-cycled, much of an interactive tv class must be totally re-done. Of course, slides and a-v materials can be re-used.

Potential Uses of Interactive Video/Audio Conferences

  • offering courses not typically included in the curriculum
  • addressing inequities by offering courses which do not exist in some schools (as is the case with San Benito, which has no AP courses). As long as a course is being taught, there is the potential that it can be taught in tandem, simultaneously--at the physical site and at the remote site.
  • exposing students to different kinds of teachers with different teaching styles
  • conducting staff development activities for multiple sites
  • providing collaboration possibilities for project teams at different sites
  • running focus groups  
  • arranging for special guest speakers 
  • providing simple means for producing live shows or special events

 Overview | Preliminary Comments | Pedagogical Choices | Moving On | Conclusion | Bibliography