An important part of studying them is watching and discussion video footage. For example, early childhood educators are trained in making observations on children with pertinent videos. This paper presents a tool called Conversant Media for the use of synchronous and asynchronous discussion of videos and reports preliminary results of an evaluative comparison of using this tool versus using an off-the-shelf threaded discussion tool.

The Conversant Media tool allows participants to engage in discussions of video footage by attaching comments to video frames. A timeline shows the frames to which comments were attached. The comments themselves start a threaded discussion. Users can navigate the video by clicking on the comments, which brings the video to the corresponding frame. Over time, users see “hot spots” where higher densities of comments are located.

An evaluative study was conducted with 27 participants with one half using the Conversant Media (CM) tool and the other half using a threaded discussion forum. The results show that CM users averaged more posts and more ideas than users of the threaded discussion forum. During follow-up interviews, CM users were able to recite the video scenes that were discussed in greater detail. 90% of CM users would prefer using CM for the next video discussion. Of course, as the authors caution, this may be due to the Hawthorne novelty effect.

The discussion of the limitations of the CM tool version used in the study is particularly interesting. It clearly demonstrates that the value of an evaluative study lies in observing how users in a real-world setting work with the tool.for example, the interface design interfered with the users’ desire to develop threads of greater depth; as it were, most threads only stretched to a second level. Another example is that a group of users were not contributing any comments of their own, instead waited for comments to second or rebut. Both observations lead to insights that should result in improvements in the user interface design of the tool.

The tool presented is interesting because it is quite novel. Also, it shows that there are many instances where off-the-shelf tools are too restrictive and do not meet the pedagogical requirements. As there is an increasing educational use of computer-mediated communication, it would be interesting to see more tools which explicitly satisfy a particular educational need.