Lecturecasts in the Field – slowly does it.
By Danuta G Kaminski, on 11 June 2014
Michael Kaminski (videos creation)
All earth scientists agree that fieldwork is a fundamental activity in our teaching curriculum and cannot stress enough the importance of using this natural laboratory so students can learn geological skills from rock identification to solving complex 3D structures in situ. Utilizing techniques learned in lectures and laboratory-based coursework, students are expected to investigate and identify geological features and phenomena through direct observation.
Our project sets out to enhance these skills by capturing real time teaching in the field. The recorded material is to be used for pre- and post-fieldtrip training.
How we envisaged this project:
We aimed to record selected parts of the field training, and started by testing various scenarios from capturing short explanations, teaching objectives, and a summary session for each locality as provided by the leader; shadowing the lecturer while he guides students doing their individual work. We even tried “snooping” on the students to get their learning perspective. In the 1st stage of this project we aimed to gather a large number of recordings to have the data to critically analyse the video material later and define best practice.
We learned by practice and making mistakes:
-lecturecasting in the field varies tremendously based on the filed objectives and the style of teaching by individual field leader. It needs individual approach.
– shadowing a lecturer is a skill – you don’t get the Attenborough effect by having one camera, one PhD student operator and “one shot” at the action!
– field participants get in your way all the time – they don’t stay still and move into your frame when least desired. At times the “crowds” just don’t allow you to get a good filming spot.
– terrain type and weather conditions can be challenging for taking smooth recording with the best exposure. You cannot come back to the locality when the sun is in the right position!
– ambient noise and more noise. There is the kind you cannot control, like the wind or waves and the kind you try to minimize – that being students going about doing their observations.
– operator’s errors – these vary from batteries that run out of juice in the middle of recording to fast panning and zooming in and out of the frame.
– time is working against you. Fieldwork is planned to a very rigid timetable – hardly ever you get a chance to do a second take!
– budget for post-production video editing – the extent of it will vary, often depending on who will have access to view the material. In ALL cases you will need to do some degree of editing.
– avoid using the YouTube auto-stabilizer – makes the video wavy and induces a form of sea sickness!
|Original video.||YouTube auto-stabilized video.|
|YouTube increases the scales of the video and crops out the edges. Applies a wave-stabliser to reduce ‘shaky’ motion replacing it with a fluid motion. It will affect the readability of the add-on captions.|
What can you prepare for before you start?
Selecting the correct equipment is crucial! We did our research very carefully by googling, talking to UCL Video unit (Patrick and Mike – many thanks for your advice!) and visiting the specialist outlet (Calumet) to discuss our project. In the end we got that right – we purchased an entry-level camera professional Canon XA20 HD together with Canon WM-V1 wireless mics. Don’t forget the long recording battery packs for the camera! Also buy the best tripod you can afford – our Ex-Pro Heavy Duty Professional camera tripod with pro ball head worked well on pebbles and rocks. You will be recording outside so get the weather proofs and a good carry bag to fit it all in.
What have we achieved?
After analyzing the recorded footage from two fieldtrips we have agreed on a best working practice. The most important assumption was to get the individual objectives for each fieldtrip correct and keep it short. Decide on the style of recording – short thematic recordings, documentary style recording, commentaries or training videos.
We have now recorded set of 15 thematic videos documenting the Cornwall part of our 1st Year South-West England trip. We opted for short, thematic footage as best suited to introduce basic geological techniques to our “budding geologist”. In our slightly light-hearted ‘Speed Geology’ video we engaged students to tell us about the rocks they have identified – most of them agreed to talk, as long as they are not being recorded themselves! These videos will enhance our current web-based e-learning pages for this fieldtrip. Because of the intended wider audience and YouTube location we have used the skills of our web designer who produced the videos including standardized branded opening and closing clips. All together it took us 5 days to produce these videos using the Adobe Premier software – a great, flexible package well worth the purchase! In addition, we have also recorded the running summary discussion for each locality – these are longer (up to 15 minutes), non-edited videos and they were made available to students via Moodle (using UCL streamlining service).
On the same trip we have also recorded footage of 3 days of fieldwork in Dorset – we are now working on incorporating them into 3 longer commentaries – one for each day of the trip. The field leader will record the audio separately to overlay the relevant clips for that location. The raw footage was not suitable to utilize as is.
Where are we going from here?
Currently we are testing a new learning approach for the 4th year fieldwork in Germany. This is the last assignment our graduating students have to do and the very last marks they are being awarded. This is a complex fieldtrip that draws on their learning in number of aspects of earth sciences topics acquired through their studies. We aim to provide the pre-field material that gives them enough of the relevant background knowledge “probe” to most effectively prepare them to complete their independent observations in the field, without giving the whole story away. This fieldcast will also provide an English commentaries for some of the museums/geological sites that only provide description in German language.
Was it worth it?
Definitely – both students and staff agreed that this is a valuable learning material – so far we could only use it for post-learning revision. We had run a little survey to ask participating students how they perceived the educational value of these videos with two themes re-occurring in their answers: “great – I actually missed that explanation/demonstration in the field” and “after the 2nd day in the field we get the image overload and the videos allow us to revisit the sites and refocus on what we have seen at each locality”. All students agreed that “this would have been great to watch before we went on the field trip, to alert us to what we will be investigating in the field”.