Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Communication and Bandwidth

I was sitting in a presentation today and heard a man discuss how students are communicating and telling stories through video.  The stories were emotional and conveyed a sense of the student being connected to content.  A light bulb went off in my head.  I had been thinking about what we are losing with the communication through video, what we are gaining, and how did we get here.  I sit here and type, knowing that very few will read this.  I am ok with that.  This is how I process and how I put my internal thoughts onto something tangible.  If you are reading this, then I hope you get something out of it.  My epiphany was simple.  Our communication is determined by our bandwidth.

How we communicate has often been determined by the medium available for communication.  That medium has grown from story telling around a small gathering of people, to spoken word, to written work published in a book or a periodical.  There was also radio and later TV, but, except for a select few, these were mediums that a select few used to produce.  The majority of us were consumers.

With the onset of the internet, that written word became digital.  With the limited bandwidth we could view what others had created, download, make endless copies, and distribute.  That has become simple.  In the early 2000's we created and communicated through audio podcasts.  We were able to listen to what others were saying, both synchronously and asynchronously.  Some of the more "techy" people produced their own podcasts.  This took more time initially, but that has since gotten faster.  As bandwidth increased even more, services like youtube, vimeo, netflix, and hulu (among others) became a reality.  We no longer needed to open a cupboard or have the "Don't scratch the DVD" conversation.  We just hit play and magic brings the video to our screen.  Not only that, but these sites are easy to use and there are millions out there creating and editing their own videos

For as long as I can remember, I have written papers.  My thesis and dissertation were well crafted, static documents that are arguably irrelevant now as they were written 3 to 5 years ago.  Accompanying these papers was a presentation.  A story that I told my committee about the paper, summarizing years of research into a 15-30 minute presentation.  Though my presentation could be seen as a story, it is one that utilized very little bandwidth.  In fact, only 5 people saw it.  It was the best presentation ever... Prove me wrong.

Our students write, just like we did.  They present, just like we did.  But have we increased their bandwidth.  They have the ability to turn their stories into videos that others can stream in their classrooms and on their computers.  Are we letting them?

What are they losing in creating a video?  When students write, who reads it?  Is it an authentic audience?  What if we let the students move beyond simply writing a story?  Would we be losing anything if our projects were no longer write something, but produce a video?  Students would still have to write.  They would then storyboard the video with pictures and video that they could create and curate.  They would need to record a narrative, practicing enunciation, public speaking skills, the English language, and academic vocabulary.  They would record, fail, record again, fail again.  but when they were proud of the video, they would have constructed meaning from different sources of media and produced a project on content that they will never forget.

If we have the capability to communicate with so much more information, why don't we?

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