As Books Cool, Video Rulez.

“Shorter, shorter, until there is left one syllable that says everything.”

Elias Canetti.

I say video will “consume” text because even though sustained silent reading will always be around, studies show remarkable, dramatic shifts in the amount of pure text reading time – just google “read less”.

Despite sales figures showing people are buying more books, it does not mean people are reading more. They aren’t. However, figures and data showing an apocalypse of people reading less are wrong too. It’s what I mean by “consume” rather than replace. Video slowly is becoming something we read. Podcasts belong to the video category too and have seen exponential growth. We read differently, SSR – sustained silent reading is what is decreasing but we do consume all kinds of text but often through the form of audio/video. Just look at the growth of Youtube since I made that remark. It’s astonishing. But alas too, people will still SSR but in much smaller numbers. That’s all. But I think it does entail a dramatic shift in public consciousness, that decrease.

Previously, I’ve written at length on this topic, on my public blog, comparing the book and the video as teaching/learning tools. It’s a complex issue. But one thing is certain, video is and will play a major role in our teaching – we are returning to a more oral form of learning and this is great for English learners and teachers in particular.

This post highlights in a general and matter-of-fact way why video as a learning/educational medium is on the ascent and print/text is on the decline. This post comes after my long history using video, producing educational video and as a Director of Education for a large ed-tech company and now, a platform – ELT Buzz Video, that I’m committed to making the best there is for teachers/learners of English, given the new role and power of video plays and will play in our classrooms.

Here, let me lay it on the line and lay out the major reasons why, for language learning and teaching – video is in the ascent and much superior to a book. And the reason why all teachers need/must/should use video as a teaching medium and aid.

#1 Videos Talk!

Yes, seems obvious doesn’t it? Video has audio that unlike the clunky, choppy CDs of the textbook, provides premium contextualization for the learner. You encounter words in a visual context, a real context. When Xmas shopping recently, I picked up a book about 2 inches thick. Each page had audio! And you could record audio! But it was a monster, ugly and awkward. I thought to myself – why bother, I’ll just use video. Also, think about skype and videoconferencing – people talking with people through video. Textbooks, no matter how sweet you speak to them, never answer back in any way resembling a real human. Textbooks will keep trying but they’ll only be throwing money out the language classroom window.

2. Students can’t lose a video

How often do students lose a costly book? Often. Money down the drain. Videos are always there, in the cloud, available and at one’s beck and call. Let’s not forget – dogs can’t eat videos either!

3. Videos scale and that =s $$$$$$

Videos aren’t printed, one by one by one. They are online and thus, “shared”. This means they are cost-effective and can be offered at a lower cost than books. They scale. Video will win out in the dog-eat dog of the educational economic market – no question about that. Even production costs are decreasing astronomically every month.

4. Videos have emotion

I wanted to say paralinguistics but emotion covers even more territory and really is important. Books just sit there dry and uninviting. Sure, some nice images help but the smile doesn’t move, there is nare a scream or a curse. Video emotes, it pulls you in, it engages the learner and lights up the hippocampus, getting us ready for the language learning topic. Further, videos become personal. They are human to human. Also, they come in devices – netbooks, pads, readers, and phones, we love and make our own. Books aren’t sexy and therefore will remain less loved.

5. Videos are image-heavy.

Images are important to language learning (and so too sound – see point #1). Books can have a few images but videos have hundreds per minute. Can’t beat that in terms of benefiting the language learner, can you?

6. The video brings “reality” into the classroom

The book is and always will be, an approximation of reality. The video IS reality (or usually is). The importance of authenticity and connecting the learning with immediate, real aims and purposes (thus the importance of functional language) is vastly underrated. We learn inductively and through our connection to real-life problems, situations and environments. Only this can give us “game time” and allow us to grow as language learners. The book will always fail at this.

7. Videos let freedom reign.

By this, I mean that they don’t impose structure, artificial structure onto the teacher or learner. They aren’t 1, 2, 3, follow the lines, paint by numbers in approach. They aren’t over-engineered to entrap learners into exercises and scopes and sequences. Books as such artificial artifacts breed dependency – but have you ever seen a fluent speaker referencing his/her book while speaking? Videos, in contrast, allow learners to go forward, go back, skip, play slow, play fast, check out words as needed, have a translation or not, subtitles or not. They prepare us for reality. Video allows choice – books as printed things are “my way or the no learning highway”. Videos let freedom reign.

8. Videos Talk back.

To come full circle with point one – videos can provide help with student production. Shadowing, where students repeat the audio of the video and try to copy the speaker, is a strong activity for learners.

9. Students can produce videos

Sure, students can make a textbook and other “text” projects but it takes a damn long time and is hard work. However, they can make videos easily and use them for their own learning. Using their cell phones, it is simple as pie. And we all know that as we create, we learn. Learning is a very constructivist process. See this beautiful student example – Lemon Tree remix.

10 Video is where it’s at.

Don’t undervalue the power of a trend, a fashion, what’s hot. Right now, while I’ve been typing this post, 36,000 hours of video have been uploaded to Youtube (1200 hours / min. x 30 min). Students are visual learners, their eyes and brains meet reality with a different consciousness. This will have important effects/impacts and we’d do well to note this trend and get ready for the future which is video learning. It’s coming, no matter how much we bury our own and our student’s heads into books…..

Imagine you are teaching a Billy Collin’s poem. Let’s say “Budapest”. Would you want to use a book, just the words or use this video?

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