DVDs Poised to Become Future Teaching Tool


Claiming DVD technology is the future of teaching, a nonprofit research organization and a DVD/CD-ROM production and marketing services company are working together to promote the use of the DVD format for educational and training applications.

Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) and Comchoice Corp. say DVDs offer unmatched storage capacity, portability, image quality and flexibility compared to traditional videotapes and CD-ROMs. "Today's world requires teaching methods that keep up with students' active lives, stimulate their intellect in an increasingly distracted society, and accomplish all this within exemplary instructional design that addresses standards-based education," says Tim Waters, Ph.D., CEO of McREL. "Our belief is that DVD-based instruction delivers on all these objectives by employing engaging media, capitalizing on what motivates students and seizing teachable moments."

In the Wake of Laserdisc's Demise

Unlike CD-ROMs, both sides of a DVD can be used. The image quality of DVDs is comparable to that of laserdiscs, but because of its size, DVDs are more durable and portable. DVDs also boast unique playback features and can be used interactively in the classroom. And with prices starting at under $100 for new DVD players, the discs make an affordable option for cash-strapped educators.

John Kuglin, vice president of education and training programs for Comchoice, says DVDs have the potential to improve student achievement. "Instructional research shows that computer simulations and graphical representations of physical phenomena help to increase student achievement," he says. "The visual and storage capabilities of DVD technology lends itself well to instructional practices that are consistent with this research." DVDs allow full-motion instruction and can include printable lessons and links to pertinent Web sites. Instruction on DVDs can also be delivered in multiple languages, Kuglin adds.

In the 1990s, the education community embraced laserdiscs as a new technological teaching tool that offered unsurpassed video and audio, as well as greater storage capacity. "Windows on Science" was one such laserdisc program series, implemented by thousands of schools nationwide. But with the pace of technology such as it is, manufacturers recently ceased production of laserdiscs and their players, citing obsolescence of the platform. Kuglin attributes laserdisc's demise to manufacturers who were unable to expand market share fast enough to make the format affordable.

"DVD is a natural next step for schools abandoned by laserdisc providers," says Betty Paxton, principal developer and lead author of the "Windows on Science" series. Paxton is now heading up ScratchCat, an Atlanta-based publisher of DVD-based K-12 teaching materials. ScratchCat's inaugural product line, "Fresh Science," a 24-unit DVD series based on state and national science standards for grades 3-9 is currently in development. The first unit, "Climate and Weather" was just released, while units on plants and electricity/magnetism are planned for the future.

DVD's Potential

Despite its benefits, some educators surmise that publishers may not be as quick to adopt DVDs. In an article titled "DVD and WebDVD Technologies for Education" (online at: www.chem.purdue.edu/gweaver/manuscripts/Weaver_DVD.htm) in the spring 2002 issue of Newsletter:Using Computers in Chemical Education, Gabriela C. Weaver, an associate professor of chemical education at Purdue University, wrote: "Most of the DVD-Video features are only of moderate interest to educators and because of the large inventory of available laserdisc titles, publishers will be slow to adopt the new medium simply for video display, or even enhanced video display." She g'es on to note that "DVD's future in the classroom will be on computers rather than on stand-alone DVD-Video players, like the stand-alone laserdisc players populating so many schools."

But educational software companies, such as Little Rock, Ark.-based BestQuest Teaching Systems, are beginning to see the potential of DVDs as a teaching tool. The company worked with Comchoice to develop a com-plete line of DVD courseware, including "Algebra'scool," which teaches a full year of beginning algebra.

"We wanted to create a mathematics tool so easy to use that even noncredentialed teachers could teach a subject like algebra," says J'e Irby, president of BestQuest. Irby says he chose DVD technology as the basis for his company's product not only because its audio and video capabilities are unmatched, but also because of the medium's dynamic interactive navigation features, which allow for nonlinear access to course content. In other words, teachers can use as much of a lesson as they want and move through it at their own pace.

-Anne H. Kim

DVD Links

- BestQuest Teaching Systems

- Comchoice


- ScratchCat

This article originally appeared in the 10/01/2002 issue of THE Journal.