Viewfinder: A PMP, Pico Projector, and Speakers Can Send A Teacher Anywhere.

A Great Use of Camcorders

Recently, I learned about an innovative group of people using camcorders for education in Northern India. The people at a non-government organization called The Digital Study Hall, shoot video of the most gifted and effective teachers in their state of Uttar Pradesh. They use as inexpensive DV camcorders as they can find that have mic inputs, so they can attach a wireless mic to record the teachers. The Digital Study Hall staff then lightly edits the footage and burns it to DVDs to make fast, cheap yet excellent-quality video lessons. These lessons are quite valuable when used in other schools around the state. Some schools are very rural and the local teachers’ abilities are not as developed. The Digital Study Hall staff provides these schools with a TV set and a DVD player, so that the local teachers can deliver the video lessons, one per day. After using these videos, not only do the students’ grades improve, but the local teachers also learn from their virtual mentors, the video teachers.

This is an incredibly valuable use of video. The costs are low, and the users are lay people; they are not trained as video producers, but the impact is huge. The Digital Study Hall is a fantastic example of ICT4D: Information and Communications Technologies for Development. I was so excited about this project that I went to Lucknow to see The Digital Study Hall up close. They really didn’t need any advice on making video of sufficient quality for their purposes. I was impressed with their pragmatic video production values. I was, however, able to help on the video playback side of the equation, via the non-profit charity One Media Player per Teacher.

Some schools do not have consistent AC power. There are recurring blackouts, which interrupt the lessons. In some rural schools, there is no access to power. In these settings, The Digital Study Hall staff was using several automotive batteries with a DC-to-AC inverter. This system is costly, cumbersome and not very portable. Working with products provided by OMPT, we tried to simplify the video playback solution. I brought a half-gigabyte portable media player (PMP), which holds 1,000 hours of video, and a pico projector-a handheld LCOS-based video projector that utilizes LEDs as a light source.

We purchased a set of computer speakers, UPS batteries and a solar panel in the market in Lucknow to provide DC power for the speakers, PMP and projector. This setup uses much less power than a TV and DVD player. The system is more secure, because the teacher can lock it up at night easily. Agricultural extension agents will also use this equipment to provide advice to farmers, and health care educators will use it to help train villagers on topics like hygiene, nutrition and sanitation.

I am really proud of the work being done by The Digital Study Hall.

Matthew York is Videomaker‘s Publisher/Editor.

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