Video as a Medium of Communication
YouTube videos have been a really important resource to me throughout my adventures learning to code. Video as a medium harnesses both sight and hearing, as opposed to just a static page, and allows a much greater level of detail and replicability (every keypress, application, mouse click, etc.) for technical guides.
Throughout my adventures teaching coding I've been trying to look for a good medium to convey tutorials.
Comparison of Teaching Mediums
I've undoubtably used so many text-only resources for coding. StackOverflow is all text, Medium blog posts about setting up your Webpack config are all text. Man pages and all documentation is text. Text is incredibly convenient, incredibly dynamic, indexible, and incredibly easy to serve. However, while writing and distributing text content is easy, distributing good text content is very difficult. In today's digital age, humans aren't really used to reading long blocks of text, and if your tutorial isn't very engaging while also being detailed, it's easy to get derailed and totally lost.
The history of lecturing goes back to the times of medieval universities. A critical aspect of this lecturing was the transfer of the instructor's original source to a student's handwritten notes. In this case, lecturing was the only way to transfer information before the invention of the printing press.
Lecturing's value, as well as its downfall, comes from pacing. All students must follow the pace of the lecturer. This helps a teacher ensure a class of students are all at the same level; however, falling behind or losing track of a lecture then can render the rest of the lecture useless. Depending on the student, their strengths, and their prerequisite knowledge, lecturing can often spend most time on content a student already knows, and the least on the areas with which they're least familiar.
However, lecturing is easy for a teacher, and allows them an efficient means of communication through physical presence, and lectures with demonstration and audience interaction can connect the student, teacher, and class together.
Video is somewhere in between text and lecturing. Video captivates the student a lot more than plain text does, and with pausing (you can't pause a lecture) and YouTube speed controls, it's possible to adapt video pretty closely to a student's pace. However, video isn't indexable and searchable the way text is, so to find a video snippet explaining one small technical detail may take a lot of searching and watching, and possibly not the result you're looking for.
Video requires a lot of investment on the part of the teacher to create, record, produce, and script, and can really only follow one path of reasoning. However, it's considerably more accessible than physical teaching (limited to students at schools offering the classes they want to take), and through modern visual effects and editing can be a lot more condensed and punchy than a lecturer talking. Therefore, I think they're a great medium for specifically focused, project-based, coding tutorials!
My First Video
Setting Up Equipment
Remember what I said about "a lot of investment on the part of the teacher"? Yeah...
Turns out, I had a Behringer Xenyx 502 preamp,
a Shure SM57,
and a mic stand lying around. Setting this up was pretty easy. Plug the microphone into the mic port on my preamp (it accepts a mic and two stereo line-in), use an adapter to connect the stereo output to a standard size AUX microphone plug. Unfortunately, most computers (my Thinkpad T430s and MacBook Air included) have an audio port that serves as both the microphone and headphone port.
This AUX port uses a fourth pin on the top for the microphone. Adapting a microphone-only AUX cable to a combo one requires a dongle like this one:
Overall, I'm happy with my setup.
I have a new appreciation for the patience and tenacity of YouTubers. I had to re-record the tutorial about 15 times because of fumbling up the intro, writing the code in a way I realized was confusing or didn't work, and because I forgot to turn on my audio recorder for a take. The few takeaways I have are:
- Speak slowly and clearly.
- Don't be afraid to re-take a part.
- Come up with a script to roughly follow, and try out the tutorial once (i.e., write the code and narrate).
Now the next challenge: editing. I've been able to clip together the audio and video, speed up some parts, and enhance the vocals with iMovie. Editing up a good intro is surprisingly difficult. I'm not releasing this first video, but I'll keep trying different things until I'm happy with the result.