In this month’s issue of Streaming Media magazine, Paul Riismandel discusses teaching children about making videos. His article is entitled, “It’s Elementary: Schools Should Teach Basic Video Literacy”. He argues that the ever increasing amount of video in our lives, and in our education materials, means it is becoming as important as learning to read and to write.
Initially, I felt it was a stretch to equate video making to our basic reading and writing skills. But as I read through the article I began to change my mind. Video is a communication tool that’s arguably as powerful as writing, yet many don’t know how to create it. At least not as well as most understand how to write. It’s often thought creating a story with video is something reserved for great screenwriters, directors, producers, or media companies. But that doesn’t have to be true.
You can search the web today and find many (thousands, probably millions but I’ll assume you don’t have that much time to search!) short videos, or even full length independent films, created using minimal equipment. Most will be forgettable. But there will be some that you will remember, some that might even evoke strong emotions, or help you to understand something you’ve never been able to before.
What’s the difference between the ones you remember and the ones you don’t? Chances are it will be the storytelling. I’ve seen the simplest how-to videos tell such concise, and precise, stories that I understood what to do the first time I watched. And I haven’t forgotten how to do the task to this day. I’ve also watched how-to videos over and over just trying to follow the steps or the concept and having great difficulty. I’m sure you’ve likely had the same experience.
Riismandel encourages us to think of creating video as something beyond just a technical skill. Though I’m a writer, I’m also technically minded so the two tend to blend for me. But that isn’t the case for many. Especially children.
For example, my son wants to create videos of playing Minecraft and become as famous as Stampy (who has over 2 million subscribers to his YouTube channel where he posts videos of himself playing video games). So I set him up so he could record his game and let him get on with it. When he was done I showed him how to edit his videos. He picked it up really quickly. Once I realised he really was going to keep going and making more videos (he didn’t lose interest!) I tried talking to him about planning. What would his videos be about? What was the story he wanted to share, or what aspect of Minecraft did he want to demonstrate?
Those concepts were much harder for my 9 year-old to grasp. He just wanted to play and share what he was doing. So he can now start recording and edit videos all on his own. But he has yet to understand the importance of storyboarding or planning out what it is he wants to do. He’s still young of course. But it demonstrates Riismandel’s point: “Sure, there are some very basic equipment techniques that are useful for making better video, but they’re truly no more complicated than improving one’s penmanship”. The technical challenges can be overcome with practice and training. Learning how to convey a story or meaning in a video is something entirely different.
In our technological age, teaching children to “write” with video is important. Will it be as important as learning to write with words? Only the future will tell.