Education Opinion

35 Years of Video in Education: What Has Changed?

By Patrick Ledesma — December 13, 2010 5 min read
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As 2010 comes to an end, just as Black Friday and CyberMonday reminded me of the use of computers in education, all the commercials tempting us to buy Blu-ray players and large 3-D LCD televisions remind me of how the use of TV and video in education has changed.

In the 20th Century we had large VCR’s and heavy tube TV’s suspended from the ceiling in our classrooms. Or maybe we had these heavy TV’s on fragile carts that were always nerve-wracking to move down the hallway.

Now, in the 21st Century we show videos through computers hooked up to LCD projectors displaying on Interactive Whiteboards.

Has the use of TV and video in education changed in 30 years? Let’s look at some examples.

The 1970’s & 1980’s: Classic SchoolHouse Rock

In the 1980’s, who could forget those SchoolHouse Rock videos during Saturday morning cartoons? Your students might think that SchoolHouse Rock originated from the current popular TV show Glee, but we know the original.

How A Bill Becomes a Law

Conjunction Function

The 1990’s

In the 1990’s, it seems that videos promoted creative and engaging personalities that made subjects fun and interesting.

For example, those Bill Nye the Science Guy videos were very handy in the classroom. Many teachers used these videos to supplement their classroom instruction to show concepts in a different way.

The Turn of the Century & Early 2000’s: From VCR to the Internet

Then, those videos moved from VHS to DVDs to larger online digital video collections on the Internet. All teachers in districts or schools that subscribed to these websites had access to these online videos. With the increase in bandwidth and all these videos now online, teachers no longer had to fight for that one copy of the videotape in the school.

The emphasis on content standards resulted in the alignment of videos to the curriculum. Teachers and other educators could link specific video segments to state standards and recommend the best videos for teaching a topic. For example, Discovery Education’s United Streaming is a terrific resource which supplements videos with teacher resources and materials that many teachers could share and link to their instructional goals and objectives.

Despite this level of access and availability, teachers often controlled access to these videos. Many of these resources required school subscriptions and other fees. Or, educational programming was limited to the schedules of TV stations and cable networks.

That has all changed. Where are we now?


We are in an era of On-Demand Video Learning thanks to the Internet, easy and interactive web publishing, and the wide availability of personal video cameras.

We can watch educational video anytime and anywhere we have Internet access. We can watch these videos on any number of our multiple computing devices from our desktops, laptops, tablets, and phones. We can create video and contribute to the Internet. We can interact with others through formal and informal communities and discussion forums.

Anyone with Internet can learn. Everyone has choice.

Consider a scenario of someone wanting to learn a math topic in Algebra. Or, maybe it’s a concept from Calculus.

In the previous century, this person would be limited to those individuals around them. A student’s ability to access and learn the curriculum relied heavily on the teacher. Teachers were the gateways of instruction and learning.

Teachers also had limitations on their learning. Any teacher wanting to learn more about these topics were often limited to local educators, universities, or other resources.

But that was all Old School. What does a 21st Century learner today do differently?

This learner can access the hundreds of math video resources online.

For example, there’s the award winning Khan Academy that covers a variety of topics from Developmental Math, to Calculus, to Chemistry.

Another excellent example is “Just Math Tutorials” at patrickjmt.com that promotes “free and hopefully useful math videos for the world,” covering a variety of topics from Algebra, Trigonometry, and Calculus.

Universities are also exploring the potential of offering free resources online. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Open Courseware offers free lecture notes, exams, and videos.

Or, one can just do a YouTube search on a math topic. YouTube is not just about user created videos of people doing silly things. There are instructional videos on a wide range of personal and professional topics.

Transforming Education

What does this mean for teachers?

It means that teachers can expand their teaching repertoire by learning different strategies and techniques from other educators, organizations, and institutions that post their teaching and resources online. Teachers are no longer limited in their professional growth by the other educators in their building or district.

Teachers can control their learning.

What does this mean for students?

Students have other resources to learn what you are teaching.

Through the Internet, students have a variety of ways to learn any topic. They can learn individualize their instruction to their preferences. Parents have other educational resources to access.

Students are no longer limited to learning from teachers in their local school.

Students can control their own learning.

From Teaching to Learning

Given these exciting developments, I’ve heard some teachers wonder if technologies that facilitate this On Demand Learning will replace their jobs.

I think that’s the wrong way to frame the question.

Instead, the question should be how teachers will utilize these on-demand technologies to improve their own professional learning and create additional learning opportunities and experiences for their students.

Technology will never replace the teacher, but technology necessitates that educators redefine our concept of teaching and learning in an era where anyone with Internet can teach and learn. Many will benefit from these readily accessible videos, but videos can only go so far.

Our expertise and guidance remains essential in ensuring that learning is meaningful and has purpose.

Technology will provide opportunities for innovative educators to reach a larger audience. We can provide individualized learning that meets personal and professional styles and preferences. Maybe some of us will be as accessible as Mr. Khan and PatrickJMT. Perhaps others will be as entrepreneurial like the millionaire teachers in South Korea.

As teachers, our challenge will be adapting our profession to maximize this new paradigm where we will no longer be the center of the classroom as gatekeepers, rather, we join the larger world as the creators and facilitators for opportunities where learning, as oppose to teaching, becomes the center of education.

Are we ready to be educators in this new era?

So, as the holiday approaches, we say goodbye to 2010 and hello to 2011 and next decade of the 21st Century.

One can only imagine what the next decade will bring. This is an exciting time for learning.

The opinions expressed in Leading From the Classroom are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.