Future of the textbook

I saw an interesting presentation by the co-founders of Smarthistory.org, Beth Harris and Steven Zucker, sponsored by UMassOnline on October 1 (more, detailed info). Smarthistory.org is a project to create a Creative Commons based, online art history text book (Harris and Zucker are art history professors). You can watch the video of their presentation below.

I have two takeaways from the presentation. First, about the technology I used to record the video, the new iPod Touch. I was able to record 40 plus minutes of high definition video (720p) with decent audio and video quality, which took almost no effort. It’s not professional broadcast quality, but given the circumstances — like the lights being turned down — the video came out well. Our instructors should think about using this or similar easy video technology to create content for their courses.

The second takeaway from the talk is also video related. The folks at Smarthistory.org are using video in some interesting ways, including using Second Life to take virtual tours and do commentary about the Sistine Chapel. Other videos feature Harris and Zucker standing in front of a piece of art and having a conversation about it (not in Second Life), like this conversation they had while in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.

Hey, instructors, you too can do this! Making quick field videos with commentary, no matter what you study, is entirely possible. I can picture biologists, economists, historians, and zoologists taking their $150 video cameras into the field and creating brief commentaries that can bring students into your world.

Anyhow, enjoy the presentation from the fine folks at Smarthistory.org.

Photo by Old Shoe Woman and republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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