ClickView – a classroom technology come of age?

By | September 27, 2014

 

I’ll begin by declaring an interest – I’ve been using ClickView enthusiastically in its various guises across several schools since 2007. I’m a fan of its premise, which is to allow teachers to have instant access to video to support their lessons, without the barriers presented by VHS/ DVD players and TVs or the patchiness, buffering and distraction factor of services like YouTube.

I also love the idea of watching something on TV over the weekend and thinking ‘Oh, that’d be a really good thing to show my Y9 English class’ and then being able to turn up at school and the content is just there, waiting for you. Genius. ClickView is essentially a giant Sky+ box in the cloud, recording everything that’s free-to-air and keeping it for a set time so that teachers can pull down what they need, using a system that’s simple enough not to require a technically-skilled gatekeeper.

We’ve all used video as part of our teaching and in the worst examples, it was such an effort to use it at all that entire lesson plans were built around it. You’d book the TV and track down the appropriate tape (usually hidden on the HoDs desk, under a pile of marking), spend ten minutes sorting out the cables/ tracking/ contrast that someone had set to zero, and finally press play. Silence would descend and the pupils would settle in for an hour of edutainment. The advent of DVDs made this slightly simpler, but didn’t really change the pedagogy of the dreaded ‘video lesson’.

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ClickView wasn’t created to ease the logistics of such lessons, it was created to enable video to be used thoughtfully, discriminatingly, whenever it’s the best way to illustrate something. What we need is curated, on-demand, instant-on video we can flick into at a moment’s notice, use 96 seconds of it, and turn it off again, without any wasted learning time. Some colleagues, those lucky enough to work in enlightened institutions that have unblocked access to YouTube, find what they can and make use of this resource, but it’s limited and not without its annoyances and risks, such as ads or inappropriate ‘suggested videos’.

The product has never really taken off in this country though, for a number of reasons. One was that the supplied content was expensive, mostly Australian and ageing. Another was the interface and the skills required to trim, tag and upload video – this was beyond most teachers. Access to video was tricky at times, for staff and students. Finally, the price was pretty high, and a bit confusing, with lots of modules and options. ClickView have solved all these in their latest release.

The free ClickView iOS and Android app uses Single Sign On with your school network credentials and allows staff and students to access video on demand based on whatever rights you decide to give them. This means that you can stream to the whole class if you want, via the projector, or allow students to watch certain clips individually and at their own pace. According to a colleague of mine who has just started using the app as part of his school’s 1-to-1 roll-out, “It’s also now ridiculously easy for a teacher to locate useful content, grab the bit of it they want to use and embed it into their teaching materials” (@josepicardo). Staff can also use their iOS device to shoot video and upload it to ClickView for others within the school/ class/ world to see, depending on the viewing rights they assign. . Another really clever recent feature is subtitle text search. For example, if you’re looking for content about Climate Change, this search term would show up every instance that someone spoke the words in any video in the library.

The move to flat pricing for everything apart from content libraries is welcome, as rather than being attracted by the feature set and then slowly realising how expensive the whole package is, you now know exactly what you get (a secondary pays £1995 and a primary pays £895 per year).

Overall, their content is still discernibly Antipodean in places (that’s where the parent company is based) but is much improved from where it was a couple of years ago, with CV’s production arm now producing UK-specific content to fulfil gaps in the curriculum here.

But that’s not really where the strength of ClickView lies. If you want content, you can get it anywhere – the real value for me is the ability to curate your own library of little gems that you know are perfect for the things you teach. Each teacher can fill their own Workspace with all the things that work for them, be they clips from ClickView content, stuff recorded off Channel 4 last night or a rip of that old VHS tape that’s been in use for fifteen years.

60 years ago, the dawn of TV in schools promised an educational revolution that never arrived. Pupils sat an consumed, usually passively, and teachers said ‘Shhh!’ a lot. A service like ClickView pushes the technology into the background and lets educators intertwine relevant, visual resources into lessons without shaping the whole session around them. It’s another useful and powerful weapon in a good teacher’s arsenal, which is all technology should ever be.

 

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