Safari Montage is local school server-based “video on demand” solution that seeks to address multiple issues problematic for students and teachers accessing bandwidth-demanding video streams. Typically, schools have insufficient bandwidth out to the Internet to support large numbers of users simultaneously accessing video streams located on off-campus servers. This is just one reason I have argued vehemently that state governments should provide robust Internet bandwidth to ALL schools, both rural and urban, rich and poor. The Internet is the communication highway of the new millennium, and those who are not on the fast track are going to be off the map.
Safari Montage supports (wonderfully) both Windows Media and QuickTime formats, and is indexed with a database permitting creation of customized playlists with user-defined in and out points. The 8 minute explanatory video on the website provides a good overview, including good explanations of how local video streaming solutions like Safari Montage take advantage of robust LAN connectivity and avoid slower (smaller pipe) connections to the Internet which characterize most school district network topologies.
The last statement of the explanatory video is, “Safari Montage: It kind of makes you wish you were a student again.” I agree video content can potentially be exciting and more engaging for students than printed text– but we need to recognize that the instructional pedagogy underlying this product seems to exclusively be a traditional one: With the teacher as the sage on the stage, the students as the quiet, attentive and passive listeners, and the “approved content” (this time provided via video streaming instead of a textbook) as the centerpiece for learning.
The company does provide another product, CreationStation, which permits educators to add video content to an additional school server which functions similarly to the Safari Montage product. This can include student-created video content, but there is no indication on the website that the video streamed via Safari Montage could be used/remixed by students in their multimedia projects and custom digital stories.
My main thought regarding products like this is that schools do not really need fancier methods of accessing static videos to show children. This product looks nice, it is glitzy, and I’m sure to a degree we all like to watch videos. But there are often LOTS of videos available in school libraries, and teachers are already familiar with VCR (and now DVD) operating procedures. Is it advantageous to be able to create a custom video playlist, with defined in and out points? Yes, to a degree. But this is still level 1 technology use, which in my mind is NO BIG DEAL.
The sort of educational technology use I am most interested in doing and promoting is level 2 technology uses, which are the transformative uses. As Mike Muir noted on his April 28th post, “When High-Access Computing Works,” quoting Brian Page:
It is no longer about integrating technology; it is about integrating students into the learning via the technology.
Unfortunately, Safari Montage does not appear to directly support or even empower this type of “level 2” technology use model or vision. In contrast, the Internet-based video delivery and access solution UnitedStreaming explicitly supports the reuse of multimedia content in student-created work. According to the UnitedStreaming benefits page:
This incredible resource [UnitedStreaming.com] empowers you to capture the teachable moment in your classroom, incorporate clips into a multimedia presentation and student learning environments, and it’s ideal for project and inquiry based learning.
Both of these are commercial curriculum options providing much more robust access to video content, but the underlying pedagogies of each product are quite different. Pedagogy should drive instruction and instructional purchases, NOT technology. If I was a district technology director, campus principal or district superintendent, I would license UnitedStreaming, skip Safari Montage, and invest heavily in professional development for my teachers so they learn how to utilize the available digital resources for constructivist content creation BY STUDENTS.
On the technical side, unlike Safari Montage, UnitedStreaming DOES rely on the school district’s connection to the outside Internet to stream video. I am not sure if a campus proxy server can help with this or not, but I would guess it could. Either way, districts using UnitedStreaming have an even stronger case to make to school boards and state legislatures for robust Internet connectivity.
As I have written before, it is not enough to teach students to READ the web and the world– even if we are doing it through visual literacy as well as traditional text-based literacy approaches. We also must invite and empower students to WRITE the web and the world. That is what authentic, constructivist learning is all about. That is the sort of classroom I want to teach in and have my own children learning in. They can come home to watch lots of engaging videos.
I found the Safari Montage link via Techlearning.
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