-----------------------------Grassroots Video in Secondary Schools-------------------------


Part One: A Survey of Grassroots Video in Secondary Schools


“Over two hundred schools in the United States are now engaged in the production of films, and the schools engaged in this work have produced a total of more than 374 films”. The author continues, “Teachers are becoming greatly interested in film production, and student participation is one the more important aspects of school film making today”. The statements were made in 1933 by Edgar Dale in the study, Film production in School (Finch, 1939) Over seventy years later, “films” are still being created by teachers and students in the high school setting. However the number of digital video is staggering: students and young adults were responsible for the creation and publication of a great percentage of the over 7.2 billion videos viewed online in 2008 in North America (Horizon, 2008)

A research document published by the New Media Consortium, The 2008 Horizon Report, named Grassroots video as one of five emerging technologies to make an impact, within one year of publication, on teaching, learning, and creative expression (Horizon, 2008). Grassroots video emerged from a previously named trend entitled “user-created content” (Horizon, 2007), and user-created content is undoubtedly among the number one providers of video content on the Internet.

Who is creating grassroots video?

Multimedia Serves Youths' Desire to Express Themselves
Students Speak Their Minds Through Digital Media
At-Risk Students Make Multimedia
Student Participation with Accessible and Engaging Digital Production

A brief survey of article headlines such as those above (from http://www.edutopia.org) shows the pervasiveness of digital media and grassroots video throughout public education high school classrooms. The use of this emerging technology by students is very encouraging and suggests that educators understand the effectiveness of media in influencing learning of 21st-century digital natives. The proliferation of video by students is due in large part to how easy it has become to create and to share clips. Digital cameras, flip videos, smart phones, and accessible desktop applications (Windows MovieMaker, iMovie) are available in increasing numbers to most students and teachers in North America, and other parts of the world, who want them.
As well, video content is as easy to post to the Internet as is text by using sharing sites like YouTube, Google Video, Schooltub.com, teachertube.com, all which accept a variety of common formats, seamlessly converting the digital stream to a watchable format to anyone who wishes to view them online.

Not only students, but teachers are also creating, sharing, and publishing grassroots videos to expand the walls of their brick and mortar classroom. The related content of YouTube.com, school tube.com, teachertube.com and others, displays the simplicity and creativity many educators’ grassroots videos. These videos served to instruct, explain, explore, or expand on the learning provided in class.

What do these videos look Like?

Grassroots video for high school students appear to be categorized in three specific groups: those created by teachers directly related to assignments, those created by students in response to teacher-directed assignments, and those videos created by students for the sole purpose of creation and self expression.

An art teacher found, then provided students with the following grassroots video that was posted on her blog to help her students understand the relationships between primary, secondary, and tertiary colours:

This presentation enabled the teacher to provide a learning object that was high interest, free, easily accessable, and with relatively little time and effort on the part of the classroom teacher. Grade 9 students then responsed to the video by creating their own colour wheels that showed evidence of the effectiveness of the grassroots video as "part" of the course:


Another teacher in a high school CTS Community Volunteerism course provides students the option of presenting a final project in video format rather than in written form. The majority of students in the course chose to provide the teacher with a grassroots video as a preference, suggesting that the most students in the class had the means, ability, and motivation to do so:

What are the educational ramifications of grassroots video?

As an education tool, grassroots video can be a powerful medium. One reason is that there such an abundance of video seemingly available on any content area imaginable. (And grassroots videos are not just on the Internet: videos can be placed and then accessed on a wide variety of mp3 players, cell phones, and mobile learning devices.)

This positive feature could also be its more negative one:

"Do-it-yourselfers can take advantage of commercially available support such as clip art, canned color schemes, PowerPoint™ templates, and the like. Unfortunately, these tools have little or no ability to guide the user’s choices in terms of pedagogical or artistic sensibility. One can produce a slide show that looks slick but is a disaster in terms of visual appeal, psychological impact, or instructional value." (Molenda, pg 115)

There are questions that need to be considered by educators and content designers as this trend proliferates such as in what ways can the grassroots videos, then – especially with content that is student-initiated and directed - be soundly integrated into a learning environment. And if not properly vetted or integrated by the classroom teacher, what skills will have to be brought to bear by all stakeholders to provides the secondary school learner the discernment to judge the validity or useabilty of the messages, data and images found throughout the grassroots video domain?

Finally, if we consider Molenda's definition of education technology improving performance is by "creating, using and managing" (italics mine) (Molenda, 2008) how do instructional designers implement and evaluate the proper, ethical use of grassroots videos that are so ubiquitous and easily accessed by both the learner and the teacher?

These questions, and others, point to shifts in authority - academically, artistically, morally, and ethically - and the continued (and perhaps exponential use) of user-created digital content in the public environment presents a challenge to any educator who wishes to present content that is directed and controlled. (Further discussion on these questions and others is continued in the research section below.)

The flipside is that teachers can present these very challenges to the learner, enabling the student to consider the ramifications of what he or she presents to his peers in the role as content developer, taking an active role in learning, understanding that the learner is "no longer satisfied to be consumers of content...[p]roducing, commenting, and classifying are just as important as the more passive tasks of searching, reading, watching, and listening.(Horizon Report, 2008)

Part Two: Research on Grassroots Video in Secondary Schools

Existing Research

Considerable important research has been conducted related to developing technologies in secondary school education. As one of the key emerging technologies, grassroots video is a distinctive force in secondary school education. Grassroots endeavours are not new but the phenomenon of grassroots video related to formal education had received little scholarly investigation until recently. In the last few years, research is beginning to emerge.

Published a few months ago, Fahser-Herro and Steinkuehler (2009) highlight the Web 2.0 “potential to transform teaching and learning” (p.56). Within the impetus to redefine today’s definitions of literacy, the study notes “a collaborative model of content creation fostered by tagging and sharing ideas, editing and remixing media, and collectively solving problems in intensely visual mediums” (p. 56). Video sharing plays a large role in this participatory environment. The report also raises questions about the value and use of such technologies and education, and lack of pedagogical research and evaluation of social media across educational settings. The study notes that “grassroots video use, YouTube in particular, has risen sharply [in 2006] with significant growth in the use of video sharing sites across all groups (Rainie, 2008, in Fahser-Herro & Steinkuehler, 2009, p.58).

Also recently, Heid, Fischer, and Kugeman (2009) study in-depth, educational initiatives including secondary school and teacher training settings, premised by the last few years of social computing tools such as video in “an unprecedented take up, changing the way people access, manage and exchange knowledge, and the way they connect and interact [and] this trend is accompanied by the emergence of structurally different learning styles” (p.97). The research looks at impacts, outcomes, and barriers to assess current practice and effects. Video is involved in different case studies and used to provide real life examples. In one initiative, students “produce their own narrative movies which represent and explain tasks to be carried out by other students” (p. 57). Involved in user based content sharing, the pedagogical approach follows constructivist learning theories. The research synthesizes the study results and notes among many points that a traditional learning environment is usually limited to the communication about the content while in the study settings, users can “work more directly on the content itself” (p. 85).

Naslund and Giustini (2008) look into teacher librarians who use emerging social software tools to find that the “social, participatory Web now seems increasingly important to academic success” (p. 56). The study notes that, rather than finding information, students want to be involved in creating it. More pointedly, teacher librarians see that “millennials prefer to learn by doing, insist on personalization and want to take part in shaping their learning environments (Rainie, 2008, in Naslund & Giustini, 2008, p. 63). Along with YouTube and Teachertube, students are using Google Video, OurMedia, and Animoto for easy creation and video sharing videos. Further two-way interactivity is found with Jing and WordTalk for visual and aural learners. Through such tools, students can learn together, develop information skills and exchange ideas about school assignments. Nashland and Giustini note that the future will see “social software applied to digital learning spaces in pedagogically-innovative ways [and] bring rich media together in an experimental but collaborative platform… with peers and interact globally “(p.65).

Meeder (2008) explores videoblogging in education, with grassroots video as the basis. Students record footage of their choice then import and edit the footage using video-editing software. Within the blog environment, students and teachers can exchange feedback in the form of posts from others. The study explains different educational uses. For example, in part of the study, a secondary school teacher in the United States used video to instruct Japanese students in the English language and the students in both cultures gained cultural learning as well. Meeder includes other teaching and learning situations and addresses accessibility issues such as adding other formats for the videos to enable computer or Internet access. The use of screen names protected students’ identities while the experiences allowed different learning styles and multicultural education. The study emphasizes the visual element and the “personal element to user created content which allows for student-led learning… [and] provides an avenue for collaboration, not only between students, but among students, teachers, parents, and others in different fields of interest” (p. 17).

For secondary school teaching and learning, other very recent, scholarly research studies remain few. Recent research underscores the versatility of tools like grassroots video for the classroom and the consensus appears positive with some caveats included. Numerous other reports provide important information, such as Towell’s (2009) article which finds that one of the new technology roller coaster rides is ‘the inexpensive video (also grassroots video or multimedia video) arena includes video capture, manipulation, storage and distribution” (p. 54).

Suggestions for Future Research

As part of a rapidly developing phenomenon, grassroots video is unquestionably being incorporated into high schools around the world. Early research indicates that grassroots video is playing an important role in changing learning and teaching in secondary school. With applications emerging, considerable research is needed and investigation is required in all areas. Within the existing research, calls come for further exploration on just how grassroots video is influencing students and teachers. Among the many intriguing questions, important delvings include:

How do we determine when the use of grassroots video is fanciful and when it has really meaning for learning?

How do we use grassroots video to facilitate authentic ways in which students and teachers can connect, communicate, collaborate, and create?

How do we move away from text centric modes while realizing new ways to capture, collect, represent, and preserve?

How does using grassroots video help to keep high school students interested, engaged, and validated?

Whar are the legal issues of privacy, intellectual property, and copyright?

What are best practices for high school pedagogy, assessment, and teacher development?

Implications for Teaching and Learning

The implications for secondary school students and teachers are significant. Grassroots video allows students and teachers a familiar arena with multimedia features but it also represents a new and versatile approach with additional opportunities for teaching and learning. It has the opportunity for work to be permanently published, widely available, and readily visible. It offers opportunities for further avenues of creativity and expression with new ways of interacting with the world toward greater understanding. For high school students and teachers, the options may foster greater interest and also greater chances for meaningful connections. Secondary school students with difficulty in motivation may find a more inspired alternative to a traditional assignment or class work (Reis & McCoach, 2000). Grassroots video encourages multiple means of representation, to give students and teachers various ways to acquire information; multiples means of engagement, to allow for motivation differences, and; multiple means of expression, with the opportunity gain practice, exchange feedback, and show what learners know in different ways (Rose & Meyer, 2006). Both students and teachers are also afforded possibilities for greater flexibility to accommodate learning styles, with enhanced learning experiences or experiences that were previously not available (Moellem, 2007). Grassroots video allows students and teachers the opportunity to construct knowledge together.