Making videos educational

I have seen the value of incorporating videos into my lectures, especially to breathe meaning and life into a lesson. That said, I have also found that I am not always very purposeful about it and there are various reasons for this, some of which include: “I need to add an activity, quick let’s download a YouTube clip” or “Good golly gosh, this is boring, lets jazz it up with a video” or “I am tired of doing all the talking, let’s get someone else to drone on about the work”. Granted, these all have their merit, but these cannot be the only criteria we use to find and (critically) evaluate a video or video clip.

When we use a video in the classroom we are able to do the following (and much more):

  • Provide a common experience for all students
  • Generate interest and stimulate imagination
  • Offer different perspectives on or another approach to a topic
  • Demonstrate abstract ideas
  • Stimulate the development of critical thinking

These are all fantastic advantages to using videos, in addition to the fact that it can inspire active learning and incorporates technology. The students also have access to the information outside the classroom, as it is usually just one click away. I have, however, found that videos work best when accompanied by an activity that contextualizes the video, which adds to the preparation, but it does transform the video into a “powerful tool for meaningful learning”.

It is incredibly beneficial to involve the students before, during and after the screening of the video.  Before showing the video ask the students to write down what they know about the topic or outcome the video covers, during the screening the students can answer specific questions provided to them (or one in particular) and, finally, after the viewing they can pair and share with a partner in order to explain how the video supports their understanding of the work or totally transformed their perception of the subject.  Incorporating this activity takes students from their comfort zone if just sitting back and relaxing while watching and motivates them to become actively involved in the process of watching.

Here is to finding, evaluating and contextualizing the videos we use in our classroom to encourage active viewing and participation.

Article inspired by SPARKed: SPARK in Education. “Tools and Techniques for using SPARK in the classroom.  [Available here]

  • Anne-Mart Olsen

    Posted at 2012-10-12 13:21:38

    Hi James, I cannot agree more! Videos can (and I think must) serve a duel purpose. A video that is merely educational can also be DULL. So a video that is educational AND provides "that much-needed jazz" is a winner!

    I also find that when I give my students homework like, watch tv or play a pc game they really to come to the party. Too bad I can't work it into all my lectures.

    Thanks for the feedback though, it is appreciated.

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  • James Staples

    Posted at 2012-09-10 22:32:26

    I have to agree with what you've said here. I also have to admit that I've been guilty of the video sins that you highlighted - especially about jazzing up my lesson.

    What I have found, however, is that a video (or five) can really help to clarify an abstract idea. For my Communication Science 1B class, I needed to discuss how an organisation's short-term campaign needs to carry the same message as long-term communication by the same organistaion. Not the most riveting stuff! Video was the key. And, as you say above, the key was in setting the ground work before showing the video to the students.

    In the lecture before the screening, I gave the students the best homework they could ask for: Watch more TV! In particular, watch for VW adverts with the intention of understanding the messages each advert was trying to convey. In the next lecture, students had to report back as to which adverts they had seen and what the message was supposed to be for each one. A discussion was then started as to what they think VW's communication is all about while I wrote up their ideas on the board. Only then did I take the students on a history tour of VW adverts from the past 20 years. In each case, we were able to find the same thread that they had identified in their own viewings - messages of family, the value in people, and a relationship between the company and the South African citizen.

    In this case, video proved to serve an educational purpose while still providing that much-needed jazz!

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  • Ingrid Pretorius

    Posted at 2012-09-07 11:55:39

    Im in! Have a great video to enter!

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