There’s a Greek word – thambos – that describes those mixed emotions that go with being utterly dumbfounded by something way beyond one’s understanding. Normally allied to terror, awe or both, the term ‘thambos’ seems to fit perfectly when it comes to our response to modern technology.
We’re all used to using technology, yet it’s frequently an astonishing and mesmerising experience for us – especially for teachers, many of whom will experience ‘IT thambos’ frequently.
But we needn’t be afraid – not when there’s world class technology out there, backed up with world class support. One slice of technology people should definitely embrace is the video platform. It’s a form of education technology that isn’t new, having long become a core part of modern day university life. Using Lessonbox MediaSpace, many leading seats of learning have been able to create something resembling a custom Vimeo/YouTube-style site for their campus, allowing staff and students to securely create, upload, share and watch videos, presentations, screencasts and other rich media content anytime and anywhere.
Universities have previously used MediaSpace for distributing lectures and teaching materials, for promotional purposes, as a student information service and to build rich media library – and now it’s available for schools to use too, via desktop software or a mobile app.
For those unfamiliar with Lessonbox MediaSpace, think of it as a warehouse for storing your media collections that happens to also have a delightful array of powerful control and governance tools. Essentially, it’s a cloud-based web service that simplifies the conversion and distribution of different video, audio and image media formats to help facilitate collaboration, sharing and learning.
My number one consideration when putting it to the test was its ease of use. Like many reading this, I have neither the time nor the technical ability to risk getting lost in jargon, complicated set-ups and having to juggle endless sub-menus – I just need the thing to work.
Thankfully, it turns out that Lessonbox MediaSpace is an impressively intuitive video-centric site that’s simple to use. There’s plenty to learn, of course, but with lots of ‘how to’ videos and a face-to-face support service to draw on, the answers to any technical queries are never far away.
New users receive a full training session from the Lessonbox team. One of the many features that particularly impressed me was the ease with which you can personalise your own MediaSpace by using one of the supplied design templates or by uploading your own style sheets. MediaSpace makes the branding and personalising side of things easy. Once you’ve uploaded your logo and chosen your preferred colours and fonts, you can set about creating your own categories, building smart channels and turning them into mini-portals and making your site either fully public or available to authenticated users only.
It’s important to understand that Kultura MediaSpace isn’t conceived as a ‘record and dump’ tool, akin to the YouTube experience – it sets the bar much higher than that. You can use it edit videos, add commentaries and even generate video footage using its desktop recorder.
Looking back, I’ve personally wasted so much time hunting and jumping through hour-long video timelines for specific footage I’d like to share with students, only to make a hash of things and look completely inept. MediaSpace protects against such blunders by offering a comprehensive video search functionality that allows for efficient searching within a video’s subtitles to skip directly to the location of a particular phrase, as well as by chapter or synchronised slides. The aforementioned editing tools let you act as a barber for your content – trimming and clipping with ease, while also being able to add captions, edit thumbnails, create chapters and add bookmarks.
Recordings can be captured via a webcam, or you can directly record the output your computer screen, while MediaSpace’s mobile app support for iOS and Android lets you to create, share and view content on the move. Users get to comment on, rate, like and share any videos they watch either internally or via external social media sites, when permitted. They can also subscribe to specific channels and receive email notifications when new videos are added.
The beauty of MediaSpace is that you’re able to retain full control over your own privacy settings and make channels entirely private if you wish, making them into zones and destinations for students and teachers only.
The uses for MediaSpace in the classroom are potentially very exciting. You can create interactive video quizzes, with on-screen hints and an explanations for correct answers. Teachers will be able check when pupils have watched a video and what they’ve learned with the aid of the analytics feature, which can generate engagement reports detailing how users have engaged with your content, such as whether they stopped viewing a video early and when.
Personally, I’d been keen to let my students create their own quizzes, as this would demand more of them and get them diving into the content with more of an exploratory mindset than they’d have from merely answering questions set for them.
Another obvious use for MediaSpace is to assist with CPD. Teachers can often complain of working in silos; when used appropriately, MediaSpace provides the means to set up a community of professional practice, in which you can create your own library of what works best for sharing among colleagues or staff in other schools. Suddenly, you have very powerful training resource with extensive collaboration features that allow for co-editing and co-publishing.
It should be noted that Lessonbox MediaSpace entails a significant investment. By way of an example, a license for 51 to 200 users equals a price tag of £5,250. If you’re canny, however, you could potentially spread the cost by talking to other schools in your area, so that the costs per individual reduces in line with the number of users.
You might be wondering at this point how well MediaSpace integrates with your existing technologies, and it’s a relief to report there are no worries on that score, compatible as it is with a wide range of learning management systems and identity providers.
VERDICT: Seeing is believing
Lessonbox MediaSpace – Powered By Kaltura is an exciting video platform that’s been specifically designed to transform the way you deliver lessons, communicate CPD and build a learning community.
Start using it, and there’s a good chance that it’ll change the way you do things in school and the way your students learn, too.
Reviewed by John Dabell