Is the future of PD grainy?

As I indicated yesterday, I watched the Will Richardson presentation over the internet using Ustream.  It was a good PD session for me but I’m sure that it was a great session for those in attendence.  Why?  All of us heard the same thing.

The difference for the folks in attendance was that they got to see all of the surroundings, could work with partners, have a coffee during break and chat about whatever comes to mind.  I couldn’t.  Their networking had the potential to build something that’s greater than the sum of its parts.

In the afternoon, Will was doing a bang up job talking about RSS and very quickly got into the intricacies of it.  On a few occasions, he mentioned that further information and details could be found on YouTube.

Ah, YouTube.  The place where you can find videos of virtually anything created by would-be and professional editors.  It truly is a place to find anything.  In a world of video, they’re there.  There’s also another genre of video called Screencasts where you create movies to show how to do a particular action.

Last year, when we rolled out a new Kindergarten report card, the documentation was delivered via Screencast.  In this case, I used Camtasia to demonstrate various components.  The good folks at Techsmith have a free offering called Jing to do the same sort of thing.

Kent Manning has created a excellent site devoted to the art of the screencast and has a whack of resources available at his site.  More and more vendors are providing tips and tricks for their products to help end users.  In the past week, I decided to try to use Prezi for a presentation that I was doing.  I was missing one step (turned out a really stupid omission on my part) but the video at the Prezi site filled the gap for me.  However, I had a certain amount of knowledge going in.

In a day and age when numeracy and literacy are paramount, high quality extended professional development session using technology are few and far between.  Sure, there are conferences like ECOO or LeadingLearning but the ongoing computer skill and pedogical use sessions are becoming rare as PD dollars are spent in other areas.

I get the sense that people are becoming increasingly comfortable with whatever skills they have and are looking for incremental gains where necessarly.  I’m reminded of the quotation “Good enough is the death knell of progress”.  I’m thinking that the screencast and YouTube tutorials fill a particular need – that of a little gap in knowledge that can be filled in a segment measured in minutes.

We talk of Twitter as being a place to cultivate a personal learning network.  That certainly is true if you work at it hard enough and cultivate a good network.  I see it as the next logical step in that it pre-supposes that you go to the network not only willing to learn, but willing to teach and to share.

But, can you do the big, deep learnings in this manner?  Could you learn, for example, how to program in Adobe Flash via screencasts or through a network that you’ve developed on Twitter?

Adobe Captivate
Image via Wikipedia

It doesn’t always work for me.  I still need to have that sustained, concentrated effort that learning together with others, conversing with others, building with others, etc. provides.

Watching grainy YouTube videos allows for filling the gaps but still is grainy in the whole learning experience for me.  Give me a project; give me a deadline; give me people to work with and I’ll do a much better job.  Working through the process in Texas with Will as the guide is far more effective that a quick video for that deep learning that I need to master a concept.

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