2011 TC Pressroom
Teachers College, Columbia University
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Interactive Video Learning System Developed

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Professor Herbert Ginsburg

Professor Herbert Ginsburg

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Working in conjunction with the Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning (CCNMTL), Herbert Ginsburg, the Jacob H. Schiff Professor of Psychology and Education at Teachers College, has developed a system to make the inclusion of video object lessons in classroom instruction more efficient and interactive.

The system, Video Interactions for Teaching and Learning (VITAL), consists of a library of videos to be used for a particular course in digital format and programming that not only gives students access to the videos from a Web browser, but also the ability to select any part of the clips and use them as video annotations in essays. Though Ginsburg first used VITAL in his course, Development of Mathematical Thinking, the system has since been adapted for other courses and departments, including Clinical Practice with Couples, a School of Social Work course taught by Tazuko Shibusawa and Susan Oppenheim.

Ginsburg has been using video as a supplement to his lessons since the late 1960s and found their addition to be valuable but frustrating. First, he was faced with numerous problems in class: forced to cue up video, fast-forward and rewind, cumbersome tasks that broke up class flow. Second, there were few good options for making sure that students could review the materials outside of class, and Ginsburg noted that even placing videos on reserve at the library presented difficulties.

Two technological advances allowed him to develop a better way: the proliferation of high-speed Internet access and the increasing ease of transferring old video into digital form and streaming it over the Web. With students able to access the video materials at home, it cleared a path for what, to Ginsburg, is the "really important part" of VITAL: interactivity.

Prior to each class session, students must access the relevant videos and write interactive reports using online tools to select the video clips and insert them into the text as annotations. Not only does this ensure the students have absorbed the assignment, Ginsburg said, but it also "has transformed my teaching and, I believe, my students' understanding of the course content."

One of the benefits of using VITAL is that the technical framework includes an authentication system and a set of database tables to keep track of every student's effort, including maintaining markers to track their progress through the weekly assignments. This allows for more immediate feedback to both student and teacher. In addition, Ginsburg has developed a final project for his classes that involves students making their own video case studies and writing an annotated paper that explores the pedagogical issues in the clip; he believes that the process has "improved [my students'] final essays tremendously."

But Ginsburg stresses that VITAL is not an automated replacement for the professor: "One thing I can say about VITAL is it has created more work for me. These technological solutions don't remove the instructor."

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