How is the ‘web’ going to change education?

I think it’s pretty plainly clear to many that big changes are well underway in how people create, consume and consider media – but every once in a while it’s great to have a physical reinforcement of the changes afoot.

Take a look at the following video:

If I were to tell you this was the latest studio released video from Modest Mouse would you even question it?

The background (from Wooster Collective):

Myself and a couple have friends have entered the above into the Modest Mouse video competition. Using green screen footage provided by the band we cut a simple music video. We then degraded the images and printed out each frame sequentially. (all 4133 of them) We then nailed each “shot” of 50-100 posters to various structures and posts. Then using a digital SLR camera with a long exposure we frame by frame shot each poster. Oh, and theres a little video projection (again, frame by frame on the SLR) just to mix it up. There is no compositing, no shortcuts, just lots of blood, sweat and tears, and a huge Kinkos bill!

Awesome.

I remember a little over 10+ years ago sitting down in front of a non-linear editing system for the first time (A Media100, followed shortly by time with Avid & Quantel systems). At that time they were systems that ran in the tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars, well out of reach of the average consumer – and now pretty much every machine comes out of the box with much more horsepower and many of the features that those systems had, for free.

I’m amazed almost every day now by the talent and creativity I encounter online but it also creates an interesting question for me:

How is the post secondary education system going to adapt?

Tools and information are practically free these days – the notion of sharing your ideas & discoveries with as many as possible is quickly becoming the norm. In 1995 I went to school to get access to equipment that was beyond my means, access to the knowledge I needed, and hopefully connections into the industry.

Now, for the cost of a year’s tuition I can hook myself up with a decent computer a still camera and a video camera, the tools. The net contains countless tutorials, essays and examples where I can learn the fundamentals, the information. And, well, connections have never been easier to make through sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and people’s blogs. So what’s left?

Has post secondary education simply become a reflex rather than a necessity? Are people applying because “that’s what you do”? Certainly there are some disciplines where equipment is still largely inaccessible to the masses (Sciences/Medial) but realistically, how long until we see the first “co-working” labs emerge? Community funded telescopes?

Will (have?) post secondary institutions simply degrade into certification bodies? Somewhere you go once you feel you’ve amassed enough knowledge and experience that you can demonstrate competence?

Blogtv.ca launches

Last night I had the pleasure of going to the launch party for Blogtv.ca – it was held in Kensington Market at little place called Supermarket.

In a nutshell Blogtv.ca is YouTube with live video. Create an account, plug in your webcam and start “broadcasting”. Viewers can login, watch the live broadcasts and participate via chat.

The Event
The launch party itself was a good time – good mix of people, healthy TorCamp turnout and some good conversation. The High Road team always seems to put together fun events and this one was no exception.

The Site
There’s some interesting features like co-hosting – which allows two separate people to broadcast on the same channel. The interface is nice enough and it seems intuitive and easy to use. Ironically enough when I logged in earlier this evening the only person in the “Live Now” section was Peter Dawson, another local TorCamper. It was handy though, as it let us mess around a bit as broadcaster/viewer.

Where’s the Beef?
At the end of the day I can think of a handful of applications where it could be useful but…

blogtv1

Nothing is happening! I think there’s a couple of issues right now that are going to make it really hard to get the traction they need.

1. Talking Heads – The challenge with limiting people to webcams is you’re pretty much stuck with the typical “talking head” framing. Which generally means not very compelling imagery so the speaker/host/presenter has to be pretty compelling.

2. The white-noise tv’s – Nice effect but the problem with it is it SCREAMS “Nothing to see here”. Basically the site is wrapped around one premise and the first thing the homepage does right now is tell the user “we’re not going to deliver on that”.

3. Maintaining interest while momentum builds – When I started this blog I went in knowing that for at least the first month or two, aside from me, my wife and maybe a couple of friends, no one would be reading it. With writing it’s not a big deal, no one’s watching while I write, so it’s not an immediate motivator. With video though, it’s completely different. Sitting at the computer having a conversation of one would be pretty difficult. Imagine getting on the site 2-3 times a week and sitting for 20 minutes talking to yourself/your computer while it confirms to you that no one is, in fact, watching you. Getting people to maintain interest long enough to get to the point of truly having viewers will be a real challenge.

Planting Seeds
I was out at lunch the other day with Will Pate and Mark Kuznicki and the conversation turned to community growth and cultivation. Without going into too much detail Will likened the process of community development to gardening – and I think that sums up the challenge with Blogtv.ca.

In essence, they’ve got a good, fertile garden in what they’ve built – the challenge is nothing has been planted. Judging by the party, swag bag and quality of the site they’ve got some money behind them. If it were my site I’d make sure that I took some of that cash and invested it in nailing down a few well known or emerging video bloggers to ensure that during the peak times across Canada there was always a couple of people live and broadcasting on the system. I’d want them to be good conversation starters, if not a little edgy on any of the political/belief systems out there. Find some people with a traffic halo and try and get them on the site and contributing. Ensure there’s a somewhere for users to end up so they start to interact and even debate. People will start to respond to the seed content, make contacts and the conversations should spill out into the rest of the site.

It’s critical though that anyone brought into the mix to help seed the conversations be authentic. They have to be compelling beyond the format and genuinely believe what they’re trying to share.

For the most part, all the bits are there, it just needs a little bump start.

Disclosure: As with most of these events, there was free booze and some swag given out.