by Dr Catherine Armstrong
It's very important while looking for work that you keep yourself informed about the technical developments that could help improve teaching in your field. Not only will this help you when you do get a job by giving you extra skills, but will also impress prospective employers. This article describes some new innovations in teaching provision and practice, and how to learn to use them.
Unless you are a specialist in the field of media or ICT chances are you won't have made much use of digital video cameras in your day-to-day work yet. There is a lot of potential to use this technology to your advantage and it is very easy to learn how to use it. This is the sort of skill that potential employers are very keen for you to have because it will open avenues for their teaching provision. So get on a course and learn about digital video and then make sure you highlight having this skill on your application forms. If you are currently employed by a university, their media services/ICT team should be able to provide you with training. Otherwise, ask at your local F.E. college to see if they are running short courses for members of the public.
The potential: what can it do?
The great thing about using digital video cameras rather than more traditional cameras is their small size; you can get out and about to use it without having to take heavy equipment with you. It is also very easy to set up and programme your own video camera - only a basic knowledge of technology is required (similar to mobile phone operation). The most basic of these cameras now cost as little as a few hundred pounds, so your institution should be able to buy plenty of them for students and staff members to use. You can then save the video that you have recorded either on to cassette or download it directly on to a computer and manipulate it using editing suites. These cameras open up this medium to those with very little filmmaking training. A couple of short training sessions will give you the knowledge needed to begin using this technology.
How you can use it in the classroom
So, why might you want to use it? As a lecturer it provides you with an opportunity for student development, providing a variety of activities for them to undertake. It also gives them transferable skills that they will be able to use to sell themselves in the job market. Depending on your own area of study, film could be used as a tool to enhance student presentations, for example. Get students to record each other speaking in class and encourage them to comment on how to make a good presentation in terms of pace, volume, eye contact and so on. It can also be an excellent tool for information gathering in the social sciences and the humanities. Student teams can be assigned projects in which they go out and interview members of the public. Students other than those from filmmaking courses can quickly and easily learn how to make their own films on any subject and these could be presented as an alternative to written work. This is especially useful if you have students whose disabilities prevent them from performing well in written exercises.
How you can use it to improve provision to students
It is also a useful format for you, the teacher, to use. For example, it can be used to help you improve your own teaching practice. Record yourself delivering a lecture and then judge your performance. It is also helpful to record lectures and provide them for students online. This is useful for students who perhaps might want to go back over the material you provided in your actual lecture or for those unable to make it to class or those who are distance learners. This is a field of provision that many universities are investigating and so being able to offer this skill will become more and more important.
Recording your lectures means that they can still be presented to students in the future if you are unable to attend in person. Obviously there are some controversial questions about this sort of provision. Some lecturers don't like the thought of becoming obsolete by providing a different way for students to gain information. But focussing on the needs of students certainly leads one to believe that providing information in a different format will help those students who learn in different ways.
Video is also useful when providing information to auditors on students' classroom performance. If you give students certain marks for contributing in class for example, recording your sessions will allow you to prove to others that your marks have been allocated fairly.
How will it help you as a jobseeker?
It always improves your chances of being hired if you can show that you are forward thinking and innovative. It may be that digital video does not radically change the way lecturers and tutors teach, but it will certainly enhance what they do. If you can show that you understand how to use this technology, in what situations, and also some of the pitfalls associated with it, then you will have enhanced your prospects in the job market. This is especially the case if your institution is interested in the provision of online learning materials and distance learning, and increasingly most universities want to expand provision in those areas. Show them that you are not only competent in the area of videoing and providing material online, but that you are willing to be involved in strategic planning too.