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Critical mass

The best way to view and discuss digital video is on the web, says Stephen O'Hear, creator of iCritique

An important factor in the success of digital video is that students benefit from a sense of audience, and are able to give and receive critical feedback. It is therefore vital to put in place systems that allow finished work to be shared and discussed. While many good software tools exist to support the capturing and editing of digital video, not enough thought has been put into how digital technology and the internet can support the publication and dissemination of learner produced content. Which is why I developed iCritique, a web application that allows for the creation of an online community of viewers. It's a tool that streamlines the process of publishing and viewing digital video work on the internet, and that easily enables online discussions of the work published.

At the heart of iCritique is the ability to centrally organise and categorise media into a database, and automatically create online discussion areas that are directly linked to individual pieces of work.

This relational approach helps to focus dialogue between learners and encourage discussions that do not stray off topic. It also counteracts one of the challenges teachers face when using the web as part of a lesson: the hyperlinked nature of the web means students are just one mouse click from leaving the curriculum.

During its development, iCritique was piloted at Long Road Sixth Form College in Cambridge where over 600 students take media courses each year.

The initial impact gave the students encouragement and enjoyment from seeing their work online. However, both students and educators will need time to learn how to use web-based tools such as iCritique.

It is impossible to predict the many possible future uses for tools like iCritique, but it is clear that software which supports the publication and discussion of learner produced content will encourage a more complete approach to exploiting digital technology.

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