Digital eye contact – important or not?

Here is a life hack on how you easily can make your video calls more personal and closer to a meeting in real life. All you need is two mirrors, one small, one larger, and a smartphone tripod for the small mirror above the built in camera.

Livslångt lärande eller svärande?

Våra lärosäten satsar allt mer på det som brukar gå under benämningen ”Livslångt lärande”. Uppdrags- och vidareutbildningar för näringslivet och yrkesverksamma. Mycket talar för att en stor del av dessa kurser kommer att ges online, eller delvis online. Tanken är god, men jag oroas över att styrkeförhållandet mellan mediepedagogik/produktion och IT-teknik är så ojämnt.

Vi kan nog utgå ifrån att alla lärosäten idag har erfarenhet av att hantera IT-system av olika slag, och har en inbyggd IT-support i någon form. Det finns alltså redan, mer eller mindre, den tekniska kompetens som krävs för att kunna utveckla digitala kurser. ”Det här är ju toppen, bara några videor också så är det klart! ” Någon som känner igen sig?

Den här ”bara-några-videor-attityden” lägger grunden till en väldig massa onödiga problem och leder sällan till riktigt bra digitala kurser.

Tänk om det vore tvärtom! Lärosäten har järnkoll på mediepedagogik och produktion av kursvideor men har knappt några kunskaper alls om IT-teknik. ”Finemang, bara en app eller två så är det klart!”

En kursvideo är inte bara en video, den behöver produceras med precis samma omsorg som IT-system och appar har utvecklats och köpts in för att passa våra olika utbildningar på bästa sätt.

Det handlar om mediepedagogik, tillgänglighet och vilken typ av videor och mediekoncept som engagerar våra studenter. Den kunskapen är minst lika viktig som kunskapen om IT-tekniken bakom innehållet i kurserna.

Om vi inte minskar det här kunskapsglappet och jämnar ut styrkeförhållandet mellan IT-teknik och mediepedagogik/produktion riskerar vi ett livslångt svärande istället för ett mediepedagogiskt och tillgängligt digitalt lärande.

Visual and Digital Quality, Autumn 2020!

We have all experienced a very different and stressful spring semester, which has now turned into summer holidays and vacations for most of us, but it also gives us some space for reflection on what we have experienced and worked with during these chaotic months.

I have worked with digitalisation of education for 10 years and for me this is nothing new, but I have full understanding and respect for everyone else who has been forced into an unwanted ”panic skills development”.

August and the autumn term are not far away, but there is still time to plan and make the ”right” decision about the next round of a more digitalised education.

I would like to help with some recommendations for teachers before the autumn term, or call it a manifesto for visual learning and digital quality if you like.

– Make demands on your school / university to give you the right tools and skills development to be able to conduct a digital version of your teaching. You should not yourself need to look for ”free apps”, apps that are not as user-friendly or media pedagogical – pens and paper etc. are not free either!

– Do not take chances with your digital teaching. Without education or experience of what works or not, it is very hard to succeed in producing and distributing digital learning materials.

– Think about accessibility, media pedagogy and student engagement in everything you produce and distribute.

– Network, help each other, and share learning materials!

Good luck!
Jonas Thorén

Just a video?

I have previously mentioned that video and film in education are nothing new. But in recent years, digitalization has led to an explosive increase in the use of audiovisual learning materials of various kinds.

There are those who claim that video is an overly passive teaching material, and it definitely can be. A video created without any knowledge of media pedagogy, accessibility and engaging media concept has extremely poor conditions for acting as learning material.

Today, when most of us have access to a smartphone, we also have access to a video camera, microphone and an endless number of apps. However, this does not automatically make us photographers, video producers and media educators, etc. Sure, anyone can take a picture and film with their smartphone, but when the material ends up in the teaching instead of in the holiday album it can have very negative consequences for the education. If you do not know what constitutes ”real” quality in a video, it is almost impossible to succeed.

This quality I often talk about is not about HD-quality and pixels, it is less important in this context. Instead, it is about accessibility, media pedagogy and creating engaging educational videos for our students.

Can anyone produce a video for their teaching?
Absolutely! It is no more difficult than learning to use Powerpoint for teaching. But now you have to learn new things – for example a proper video editing program, film and record audio with a smartphone, and most importantly, learn how to produce a learning material that is accessible, media pedagogical and engaging. Everything else is just a waste of time and an unnecessary risk-taking with students’ learning and educational quality.

Can an educational video make a difference?
I recently received feedback from a Swedish teacher who let her students see one of the The Learning Lab show’s videos, in combination with physical labs and assignments in the classroom.

”Thanks for a good show – it took a whole hour to try to solve the two tasks. And as I wrote in the facebook-group, there were several who further thought how much is takes for the entire pyramid, what the pattern looked like for the number of cubes for every lap etc. Good also that we didn’t use a ruler so they realised that if the cube is 1 cm it means that 11 cubes is as much as 11 cm. It was even a student who wondered where I bought the cubes because he wanted to build at home as well. And a girl wanted to take it home over the weekend to figure out the volume of the entire pyramid minus the burial chamber – if the burial chamber in the model was three cubes high… So thank you! ” (Åsa Hagström, teacher, Göthrik’s school, Varberg, Sweden)

The Learning Lab Show – episode 1
A Math lab based on a media pedagogical video.
Students at Göthriks School, Varberg, Sweden.

I firmly argue that a video produced with some care and in a media educational way can definitely help students become a little extra interested in a subject – and that little extra can sometimes do wonders for motivation and learning!

The digital elephant that no one wants to pretend!

Schools and universities have had several years to become more digital in their education. Unfortunately, far from everyone has taken it seriously, and the usual thing is to focus more on IT, educational platforms and digital tools of various kinds.

However, I find it very difficult to understand how to disregard the fact that all this digital technology is simultaneously dependent on a sustainably produced audiovisual learning material that is accessible, media educational, and engaging.

Why does teachers ask for free digital tools for their teaching !?

One of the most common questions I get from teachers is about free apps for the production of digital learning materials. It would be like teachers looking for free pens, papers, computers, projectors, erasers, etc. for their classroom teaching. Really user-friendly and competent tools for, e.g video editing, are usually not free.

I have worked at KTH for 10 years helping teachers to digitize their teaching, and this has nothing to do with the Corona situation. The question of free digital tools has always been there. I think it is mainly about the management’s lack of knowledge of what a more digital learning really means, in practice.

Visualize your teaching!

I got a text from a teacher to read and visualize. The video took about 3 hours to produce. First I read the text using the smartphone and handsfree as a microphone, inside a wardrobe 🙂 Then I imported the audio file into the video editing app Camtasia. Then I listened to the content and searched for relevant visual material, and most of the time I find it at Animation of text and graphics as well as subtitling is also done directly in Camtasia.

This video is in Swedish


I have long advocated the idea of a so-called ”Teacher Team”, a team that has received some coaching in visual and digital learning etc. Teachers, students, teacher assistants, ICT-pedagogues etc. who help each other create, find, package, distribute and administer digital learning materials of various kinds. All for a more accessible, sustainable, media pedagogic and engaging digital, or partly digital, education.

Right tool for right purpose!

Use Zoom, or equivalent, for livestream, smartphones to shoot with, and Camtasia for screen recording, video editing and subtitling!

The result:

Flipped Streaming

Flipped Classroom is a well-known e-learning concept that is largely based on the fact that a certain part of regular classroom teaching is conducted online and at a distance. Streamed videos are common of this type of digital education.

”Flipped Streaming” is my comment to all the increased streaming in education we are seeing now, as a result of the Corona situation.

I have followed several ”digital learning groups” from different countries, and one issue that is constantly recurring is accessibility, bandwidth, streaming, and access to computers.

Unfortunately, this with streaming often invites you to create something that I sometimes call ”fastfood-learning-materials”. Not seldom long and ”heavy” video lectures. Students are dependent on the available bandwidth speed and the digital tools that they happen to have access to, or the tools for which the material is adapted, usually computers of various kinds.

Video and streaming should be used with care and when its appropriate. Everything may not have to be video, and if it is to be video why not take this opportunity and take advantage of the benefits of the video format. Short and more carefully planned videos for download and use offline, and adapted for viewing on standard smartphones. All for a more accessible, media pedagogical and engaging digital and audiovisual distance education.

Flipped Streaming: An e-learning concept that is based on the fact that a certain part of digital education can be downloaded for use offline on standard smartphones, and that streaming is mainly used for conversations, discussions, labs, tests and exams.”

To stream or not to stream video – that is the question we should ask ourselves today!

During the last crazy corona week I have followed a large number of facebook groups from different countries, and I would like to share a couple of reflections on that.

Teachers seem to have a lot of problems with livestreams of video and bandwidth, and Im not surprised, not at all.

Is it really that crucial to see each other online in realtime? Maybe we should ask the part of our population that are blind or have difficulties to see? And how do you think it works for our colleagues in eg. Africa who has to deal with an average bandwidth speed of about 3 mb/s?

Im not an expert in this area, but I do know quit a lot about media pedagogy and smart and simple ways to produce and distribute audiovisual learning material of high quality. Accessibility quality, Media pedagogic quality, and Engaging quality.

I recommend you to spend more time on producing short video lessons for the students to watch before you meet them online. Skip video in your live-lessons, audio has to be enough for a class discussion about the video-lesson they already watched.

I think we all have to use streamed video more carefully, it’s not sustainable and probably not even needed as much as we think it is.

Here is a related blog post I wrote about one year ago after a workshop I had with teachers from several African Universities.

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