Frontiers of digital video research in the learning sciences: Mapping the terrain

Ricki Goldman, Carmen Zahn, Sharon J. Derry

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In the highly acclaimed 1975 volume Principles of Visual Anthropology edited by Paul Hockings, anthropologist Margaret Mead wrote about the future of video recordings and new tools for conducting research. In 1975, Mead was ahead of her time in observing that continually emerging video-based technologies would enable researchers to record, replay, and learn from the "visual and sound materials" they collected while conducting research. As Mead so aptly noted: Many of the situations with which we deal, situations provided by thousands of years of human history, can never be replicated in laboratory settings. But with properly collected, annotated, and preserved visual and sound materials, we can replicate over and over again and can painstakingly analyze the same materials. As finer instruments have taught us about the cosmos, so finer recordings of these precious materials can illuminate our growing knowledge and appreciation of mankind. (Hockings, 1975, p. 10) This chapter describes various ways learning sciences researchers are using digital video to document, study, and enhance scholarly understanding of complex learning environments. It discusses historical, theoretical, methodological, and technical issues related to collecting and using digital video. This chapter also provides examples of research illustrating specific advances learning scientists have made in applying video research methods over the past 20 years. Our goal is to provide a bird’s eye view of the scholarly landscape of video research in the learning sciences. As Margaret Mead reminded us, with the invention of new, refined tools, we may "illuminate our growing knowledge" of how we study learning and, yes, how we learn about humankind. We start by introducing foundational resources in digital video research in which each of the authors has played a central role. Then we discuss historical and more recent methodological contributions made by innovators and early adopters from visual anthropology, educational ethnography, cognitive ethnography, semiotics, sociology, mathematics and science education, and cognitive studies of learning with video. In the third section of this chapter we address a range of methods and tools used with video data. Then, we offer representative cases of current video research in formal and informal learning settings, including the use of digital video in controlled classroom experiments and case studies in naturalistic settings such as museums. We conclude by offering our speculations about the future of using digital video in learning science research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences, Second Edition
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781139519526
ISBN (Print)9781107033252
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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