Internet Society Community Grant: Summary
Today, online presentation applications are increasing in popularity and providing powerful tools for creation of instructional materials and accessible information in audio-visual formats. When used appropriately, these tools can support and extend traditional education in valuable ways in both developed and developing countries. PresentationTube Project (http://presentationtube.net) has been established to help teachers and students in the Sultanate of Oman, produce and share quality video presentations that meet Omani curriculum standards and students' needs. PresentationTube offers an easy-to-use free video presentation recorder that synchronizes a variety of visual aids, including presenter's audio and video footage, PowerPoint slides, text, drawings, and web content. With visual aids, like the drawing board, presenters can draw lines, curves, graphs, and shapes on the screen to emphasize or clarify their ideas, so the demonstration can be clearer. The whiteboard helps presenters to type text while presenting using the keyboard making it an ideal tool to add more details, or explain equations using words, numbers, and symbols. The video sharing network involves the learners via scrollable slide thumbnails and discussions, with unlimited video uploading and delivery. PresentationTube video presentations are accessible via any operating system, standard browser, or mobile device and can be used in ordinary classrooms, universities, and distance education programs.
Project background and justification:
The Sultanate of Oman, is neither a rich country, like Saudi Arabia or UAE (in the north), nor a poor country like Yemen (in the south). It does not have the immense oil resources of some of its neighbors. Nevertheless, in recent years, it has found more oil than it has produced. Oman's complex geology makes exploration and production an expensive challenge. Oman’s renaissance programme started in 1970. From an agrarian society without any sort of infrastructure, the country has been transformed into a thriving modern state over a relatively short span of a couple of decades. This has been achieved through the judicious design and implementation of successive Five-Year Development Plans. Connecting all Omani basic education schools to the Internet was one of the outcomes of these plans, which already achieved 5 years ago.
Oman provides free basic and secondary education to all people aged 6–18 through the general education system, and to men and women above 15 years of age through literacy and adult education programmes. The general education system in Oman includes both public and private schools. The public schools account for the largest share and cater for both Omani and non-Omani students.
However, the main problems that have been facing education system in Oman are over-crowded classrooms, test-driven curriculum focusing on rote memorization of unimportant material. In Oman, there is currently a strong emphasis on systemic reform in education at all levels. This development is encouraging stakeholders to collaborate in supporting the achievement of high standards in the schools. Like many education authorities around the world, the Ministry of Education (MoE) has seized on technology as a way to better prepare students and help teachers in achieving their objectives. A special unit within the MoE, called the Information Technology Center, was formed to coordinate the MoE’s effort to infuse technology into schools. According to MoE, infusion of technology implies development in improving the performance of students, arranging of information, and increasing the capacities of information exchange. As a result, teachers face the need to improve learning by providing new means for presenting curriculum materials, illustrate concepts that are less easily explained through traditional media, support new types of learning opportunities, and provide enrichment activities for students whether it is in a classroom or through e-learning environments.
However, many barriers are facing the selection and use of quality online resources in Oman that could be avoided through systems that easily encourage teachers to create and share materials themselves. At the same time, although administrators and teachers are often concerned with the effort, time, and costs required to create and use quality learning materials, there is a lot of duplication in teachers’ production of digital learning materials which could be reduced if they work together.
In classroom settings, multimedia presentation applications have become the dominant tools because it is both readily available and easy-to-use by instructors. Multimedia applications allow instructors to create and manipulate presentations in a wide variety of contexts that can enhance student’s interest and engagement. In addition, it helps instructors clearly identify the main points of a topic or activity while still providing the details through presentation. Instructors can incorporate multiple types of media formats (e.g., diagram, photo, drawing, sound and video) that cannot be easily integrated together into one single medium. Learners are also attracted to presentations applications because of graphical, aesthetic and interactive features it provides. However, in order to be successful, a presenter needs to guide the audience through the presentation, keep their interest, and attract their attention. Although there is interest in the utility of PowerPoint, it is used only by the teacher inside classrooms. In other words, presentation content and visual features are not substitute for guidance a teacher should deliver. If the students are not seeing and listening to the teacher, then learning from the presentation slides in isolation will be less valuable or impossible.
In addition, research and modern online presentation applications and social networks emphasized the importance of considering the potential possibilities that video materials, in particular, presents when deciding how to support the learners. Proponents of videos argue that there is increasing interest in providing learners with recorded materials and video is demonstrated to be an expanding channel for presentation. Providing video on demand to students is used to support facet-to-face, online, or blended learning. Students can choose when and where to use the material and can spend as long or as little time on each learning activity. Watching video is considered as a basis for mental activity. It is socially acceptable and widely used and supported by multimedia cell phones and portable media players. Video is a more forgiving and powerful presentation medium, and does not have to be stand-alone, like a television program. Learners can play, rewind, forward, and pause the video to address their specific needs. It can be used in many ways to encourage interactions between students and the teachers and create engagement.
In conventional classroom setting in Oman, the teacher uses a large wall screen, whiteboard or flipchart and wants to video everything, including him/herself. But if the camera is pointed at screen or play area, the learners would not be able to read from the video because the low quality of the video output (e.g., contrast, reflective surfaces, glare, shadows, small text, limited area, positioning, etc.). This necessitates having a camera operator to pan and zoom as the teacher works. Therefore, the need was emphasized for the development of an unconventional solution to assist teachers automates the process of producing effective video materials from PowerPoint presentations. PresentationTube offers the tool for helping instructors pre-record their PowerPoint presentations. This tool assists instructors in recording and communicating virtual presentations. In addition, the tool accommodates the technical differences among teachers, as well as the requirements of producing video materials for students. The recorder can automate the process and ensure that the instructor only needs minimal technical knowledge and spends no additional time creating materials.
Although online video materials are a worldwide phenomenon that have received significant funding and many countries are moving rapidly in multimedia research and development, they are still a new technology whose worth has yet to be proven, particularly for those in developing countries, like Oman. In Oman, no attention is paid to help teachers produce and share quality digital video presentations so that they can be reused. Therefore, the need is emphasis ed to help Omani teachers establish an easy-to-use, accessible, and free video presentation sharing network and evaluate its effectiveness. This network should be appropriate for teachers’ needs and skills.
Therefore, this project aims to establish and evaluate an accessible on-line video presentation sharing network to help Omani teachers produce and share high-quality online video presentations appropriate for the Omani curriculum, teachers and students. This network would be a leading example for other countries and educational systems in the region.