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Only a few years after I started teaching (in 1995) I attended and presented at a scholarly conference that was chronologically focused but interdisciplinary, and had classicists who were language specialists, historians of various stripes (economists, demographers, military specialists), archaeologists, numismatists, and art historians.  I come from an interdisciplinary area studies background, and the research was great to hear, all the various approaches to late antiquity (4th through 7th century, principally).  But I was teaching at a small non-research I university and there were very few others who taught anything similar to what I did, and this conference was one of the first times I had been in a discussion with people who taught material similar to me.  So I took advantage of the opportunity and talked with them about what they did in their classes.  

It wasn't much use, as their primary teaching tended to be graduate students, and the people I was talking with were not interested in undergrad teaching, or at least in teaching non-specialist undergrads.  That in and of itself was a surprise, as I had spent a couple of years already at a place where undergrad teaching was the main goal of our university and I was surprised to be confronted with someone who didn't really care about teaching in the way that I already had been convinced was the better way of approaching my job.  

But I don't remember the specifics of the conversation aside from the horror one of them  expressed at the idea of using a video in class.  He said he had been teaching for a decade and had not once used a video.  While there are some aspects of using a video for teaching that are not desirable there were already times when I found it a particularly useful means of communicating certain content, and I still think that.  For better or worse, follow me beyond the loop de loop d'orange, and we can continue the conversation.

I occasionally use videos in class, particularly with architecture study.  The static approach to buildings that is provided by plans, elevations, photographs, and isometric projections is not as effective as mobile images that mimic the walk through a building that a person would experience.  Now there are interactive websites that provide fly-throughs of buildings but at the time there wasn't any way to share the experience with slides -- we now have computerized powerpoint projections but at the time there was nothing for it but showing a video.  I still use them to give a better sense of place -- you get sounds and movement.  And sometimes there is a lovely plummy accent which is a nice break for students who get tired of hearing my voice.

In the past several years, as our students become more and more connected (not that all of them have internet access at home, but more do every year), I have been using videos outside of class as well as in class.  One can put videos on reserve in the library, access videos through a digital library to which our university subscribes, and I can also assume that at least a portion of the students have Netflix or Amazon, and others can access things online whether legally or not-quite.  In this semester, when I have been missing class for conferences, university events that have required us to cancel classes for the day, or illness (I had a cancer checkup this past week in a city that was an hour and a half drive each way, so could not meet with my class on Wednesday), I have tried alternative assignments as well as having someone proctor an exam and a library orientation designed specifically for the assignment I was giving them.  These assignments are videos.

I asked a colleague to show one on a Friday to a class, and when I went to look it up, I found out it was available through a digital library, and I could get by with sending the link to him.  He showed it to the class, passing around a sign-in sheet that day so I could be sure who had seen it.  This was a video on the Parisian World's Fair of 1900, and discussed how the colonists dealt with their colonies and the display of cultures and their material.  I have used it in the past, because it has photographs I have not been able to access otherwise, and teaches students quickly about the western gaze and how the west objectified even those cultures they admired.  I am sure the video works better when I am there to lead discussion but it still covered valuable material, and moved the class along when I could not be there.  

The other video I assigned to that class was one I found on YouTube, a documentary on spirit beliefs and practices in Sulawesi.  It was your standard National Geographic-ish documentary, with a British narrator, indigenous music, cute children, pretty women, and exotic food and animals.  There would be much to discuss in the construction of the image of the "other" but what I wanted students to get specific content and imagery -- what do houses look like and why do they take that form? who attends and participate in the funerals?  how else do they commemorate the deceased? what world religions do they practice and how are they combined with the indigenous beliefs?  I told students I would be putting the link on the course webpage and that they should watch it before class on Friday, as Wednesday I would not be meeting them as a class.  I thought it would be a good introduction to island cultures of Southeast Asia, and would allow us to move further more quickly on Friday.  I sent them a link to the class page from which they could access the video, and made sure it was available in plenty of time for them to watch it on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday.  It was only an hour long, so the same length as the class itself.

On Thursday night I decided to check how many students had taken advantage of the link to the video and was, not surprisingly (but disappointingly) informed that only eight students had used the link to access the video.  I have several colleagues who have been trying short quizzes over readings on a weekly basis, quizzes that are set up on line and have to be taken before coming to class to discuss the readings.  I have not done that, as it seemed a combination of hand-holding and punishment, but those who do it are happier with the discussions in class if students have had to do these short quizzes.  I should have done that myself, I think, and I will do it next time.  But I have built into the syllabus pop quizzes, so the quiz on Friday was largely based on material in the video I had assigned to them.  I am going to grade it this afternoon, and I have misgivings about what I will find.  We will see what the results are.

I probably will not be doing a video again this semester, but I will instead be rethinking how I will use them next year.  I do see value in the variety of material I use to teach a class, and videos no longer need to take up class time that can better be used for discussion or content not available through readings or other methods.  But I cannot do even some elements of what is currently termed a "flipped class" if students do not prepare outside of class.  

In a literature or drama class, I cannot imagine that videos would be a necessity of classroom work, but not an important outside-of-the-classroom assignment.  I did that this semester as well in my interdisciplinary class, in which an assigned text was World War Z.  We had talked about how it was an unfilmable book, so after having them read the book I assigned the film.  It was not extensively discussed in class, but it was a component of our conversations on the book, and the choices the filmmakers made were ones that we went over as part of the broader review of the novel.  I think that was a more successful assignment, but there I was not trying to get them to pull content out of a video, but to get an understanding of translation from one medium to another before they attempted their own creative work based on the book.  

How do you use video or other media in your classes?  Do students enjoy it, and do they pay attention?  or do students do the multitasking, half-attention thing they might when watching videos at home?  If you teach in primary or secondary school how are things different?  I welcome suggestions how I can manage this better next time around!

Originally posted to annetteboardman on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 12:36 PM PST.

Also republished by Teachers Lounge.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I used to use videos a lot (7+ / 0-)

    not in place of lecture/discussion, but as a part of it. The classes I used to teach--Native American Studies, Archaeology--tend to be very visual. In Native American studies, it was important for the students to see and hear a variety of tribal perspectives.

    I never showed a video without constant interruption. I'd show two or three minutes, and then we would discuss what had been shown.

  •  First year writing (4+ / 0-)

    I teach a lot of first year writing courses.  I love to show a movie at the end of the semester that connects to the topic of the papers we have been reading.  This becomes the in-class final. For example, last semester we finished with a series of papers on the mind that were related to a book that was being read across campus titled "The Storytelling Animal."

    The movie that occurred to me (I don't like showing movies a lot of the class will have seen) was Rashomon.

    I always have the movie on reserve in the library to be seen in the library and show it just before discussing it in class.  I always have a quiz about the movie, so that students have to see the movie.

    I do this to relate the papers we have been reading to the best of popular culture.  And, of course, I think college students should see foreign films and black-and-white films.

    [Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security] do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.

    by MoDem on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 12:51:01 PM PST

  •  I don't understand your first sentence. What am I (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:


  •  I have used videos to teach... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annetteboardman, Aunt Pat

    ..."mathematic for liberal arts majors", but they rarely fit in my upper level classes for majors.

  •  I have used videos... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Aunt Pat, annieli "mathematics for the liberal arts" classes, but they don't really fit in my upper division classes for majors.

  •  TED clips (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annetteboardman, Aunt Pat, kurt

    In my Intro to Anthropology course, which covered a very broad range of material (from sex to religion to politics and everything in between), I used a lot of short video clips to help break up the pace of the lecture.  TED talks can especially be helpful, but I would usually show excerpts.  I also assigned longer videos from TED or YouTube for students to watch before class meetings, and I listed them just like their reading assignments.  Sometimes I also linked to optional 'review' videos for students who might not remember periods of history, for example.  Hank and John Green's Crash Course series on YouTube presents world and US history in 10-minute increments, and some of them were very helpful.

    "One must never tire of repeating that racism is a monstrous error or an impudent lie." -- Franz Boas

    by Varlokkur on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 02:19:01 PM PST

  •  Interesting topic (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annetteboardman, kurt

    I find as a MOOC student that to sit in front of the computer and watch a video, 10 minutes is a good length. For some reason 3 10 minute videos interrupted by a bit of reading is more approachable than one 30 minute video, and it may just be because one despairs of losing one's place in a longer video.

    My college physics classes were guinea pigs for some of the first computer animated physics videos, which were valuable because they could show motion in a way that could not otherwise be demonstrated in class.

    I hear your disappointment that people couldn't be moved to watch a 1 hour video in lieu of attending a one hour class. I'm not sure how to fix that. I wonder if the students could give you good answers to that question.

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 04:40:42 PM PST

  •  Carrots and sticks and videos (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I teach one course that combines didactic and clinical and another course that's very conventional content delivery.

    Videos are very helpful in the clinical course. Since I'm often teaching skills, it helps for the students to see someone implementing the skill. I don't generally have much trouble keeping them engaged; they are aware of the immediate usefulness of the video material.

    I also use video clips during lecture for the other course. I mostly stick with shorter clips, but the videos I use vary from thirty-second youtube segments demonstrating infant reflexes to fifteen-minute documentary materials demonstrating cultural variations in human development. Toward the end of the semester, I use a couple of longer pieces.

    I deliver this course in a fully online format in alternating semesters. In the classroom, I can monitor student behavior and bring wandering attention back to what we're doing. I can't do that with the online students, so I have a number of short written assignments that require them to refer to material throughout the videos.

    Regarding the use of online quizzes to enforce student engagement with materials before class: I resisted this idea for years myself. I didn't want to eat up classroom time giving quizzes every week and I didn't want to put the quizzes online where students could potentially cheat. I wanted them to take the initiative to do the readings themselves.

    I work with a very smart, very driven population of students, though. They prioritize well and can smell bullshit from a mile away. If I tell them something's important but don't attach any points to it, they won't do it. We measure what we treasure, right? I started using weekly online quizzes due before class meetings, and suddenly the whole course became much more successful.

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