Video in School Communications' Plans

By Nora Carr

Although advances in technology and high-speed Internet connections have made video streaming of lengthy programs like school board meetings, town hall forums, and staff training more palatable, shorter is still better when it comes to online video. The same holds true for traditional video production/distribution and cable-casting.

American adults’ attention spans are notoriously brief, and multitasking is only exacerbating the challenge. The average sound bite on television news is only seven to 10 seconds for a reason. The potent, emotion-laden combination of sound and moving pictures gives digital video an edge over other applications, particularly when it combines humor and interactivity.

Two good examples of this technique are “Scholar Ladies (Get an A on It),” a video produced by a small private school in Milwaukee, and “Hot for Teachers,” a video produced by parents at Wonderland Avenue Elementary School, part of the Los Angeles Unified School District. Both can be found on YouTube, although “Hot for Teachers” was originally uploaded to Funny or Die, a comedy website.

Both digital videos are just a few minutes long; both package important messages wrapped in humor. “Scholar Ladies” uses hip-hop music and dance to encourage students to study harder, while “Hot for Teachers” asks California parents to exhort elected officials to raise taxes and spend more resources on public schools.

The Wonderland video stars actor Brian Austin Green of television’s “Beverly Hills 90210” and movie actress Megan Fox of “Transformers” fame. At one point, Fox urges viewers to “call, write, and annoy the governor until he cries for his mommy.”

While humor taps into another online trend, it can be risky business for school districts already struggling to find common ground among diverse constituencies. School board members and administrators will need to make sure that a solid policy is in place and that it is communicated to anyone who picks up a video camera.

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