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Teaching with Videos
by Ron Person
For thousands of years, storytelling has been one of the most engaging ways of educating children. Through stories our children learn our values, our experiences, and the facts of our world. Now our most powerful storyteller is television, a medium often corrupted by mass messages and values outside our control. But you can turn off the mass transmission and use this powerful storyteller to make your homeschooling more effective and memorable.

This article is an overview of how you can use video as a potent teaching tool. The next five articles in this series detail specific examples and methods for teaching with video.

Advantages of Using Video
Experiential Teaching is Memorable
Good teaching captivates. It engages learners and transports them into the teacher’s experience. Good movies or documentaries do the same. We see, hear, and feel what happens onscreen. Daniel Goleman, Ph.D., writes in his best-selling book “Emotional Intelligence” how neurophysiologists have shown that strong emotions weld learning into our brains.

Movies like Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice fill us with humor and emotion while showing us the people, clothing, and culture of England two hundred years ago. The emotion, combined with visual impact, helps us remember the characters and the settings.

Even documentaries can have a force that helps us learn and remember. Who can forget the images they’ve seen of scientists walking at the edge of erupting volcanoes, lions chasing a baby gazelle, or man’s first steps on the moon? We weren’t there, but we’ve felt it and we remember it.

Extending and Compressing Experience
Videos allow us to extend our experience through time and space. Any child who sees the life-like computer animations of dinosaurs in Allosaurus: A Walking with Dinosaurs Special will remember them longer than if they had just read a description. In The Blue Planet, deep ocean researcher Dr. Penny Allen takes your children with her as she descends into the deepest level of the ocean discovering new forms of life that live off sulfur gas. These types of learning experiences are impossible without videos.

If we use the Timeline series on DVD, your children can see actual newsreel footage of John F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King, or Mahatma Ghandi. They are seeing the news as it was delivered.

Teaching with Different Learning Styles in Mind Good teachers usually involve as many senses as possible when they teach. This reinforces learning by immersing the student in a topic. Propping a child in front of a video may capture his/her interest with a good story, but greater value comes when you combine videos with hands-on activities, discussion, critical analysis, reading, writing, vocabulary, and Web research.

When you immerse a student in a subject you give him/her different avenues of learning. For example, children who have difficulty reading can learn about Africa by first watching selected segments from the National Geographic series Africa. Then they can immerse themselves in Africa using different learning styles. They can make and play African musical instruments (tactile), draw African designs on T-shirts (artistic), learn African words (audible), and cook African meals from recipes found on the Web. The video sets the feeling and motivation while the other activities reinforce learning and memory.

Preparing Learners for Videos
I asked one precocious fourth grader what she had done that day in social studies. She said she had seen a video and then stated its title for me. Being familiar with the video I asked her why the teacher had shown it. She said she had no idea. (This comment was from a girl who reads five grades ahead of her grade level.) My conclusion was that the teacher had not prepared the class to learn from the video. The students had no idea why they were watching.

Minds need to be prepared before learning, by setting a context -- something videos excel at. The context can create motivation for learning and a schema or model of how new ideas relate to old.

There are a number of ways you can prepare your children to learn with videos:

Advanced organizer
Tell students ahead of time why they are watching a video. This way they can focus on what is important to the lesson. For example, if a neighbor’s child is diagnosed with asthma you might talk to your child about asthma and then watch the “Buster’s Breathless” episode of Arthur Goes to the Doctor. During the video stop and discuss why Buster doesn’t want the other kids to know about his asthma and why he feels different.

For older children you may want written objectives. Why do birds build different-shaped nests in Animals In the Wild: Amazing Habitats? In the video Allies at War why was there such a difference in attitudes between Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle, and Franklin D. Roosevelt?

Prepare the vocabulary
Most of us have experienced the strange occurrence of selective perception – you don’t notice something until it is pointed out to you and then you notice it everywhere. For example, the yellow Volkswagen Beetles you never notice until your child says it’s his/her favorite. For the next week you see them everywhere!

The same thing is true when using videos for learning. Prepare your children before the video for new words and experiences. This allows them to listen for the words and savor how they are used. Without being primed for them, new words will pass by unnoticed and unrecognized.

Have children pronounce vocabulary words and guess how they might be used in the video. For example, “How might the words ‘sound barrier’ or ‘mach’ be used in the video Faster than Sound? You might even make a scorecard or bingo card using vocabulary words. If you are using a DVD, you can note the time in the video when a word was used so you can quickly return to that location to show the word’s use. Discussion questions
Studies at Stanford have shown that one of the most powerful ways of using videos is to watch for approximately fifteen minutes. They then stop the video and discuss what they saw and how they interpreted it. Discussion lets children hear other perspectives. And memory retention is higher with this technique.

Videos can also help you discuss literature. Few readers would give up being immersed in great fiction, but it’s sometimes difficult to discuss a great book when people are at different locations in their reading or if considerable time has passed. As an alternative use a video as prompt. Sit together and watch the video. Use it to spark discussion about incidents you are reminded of from the book. Again DVD’s make it convenient to jump to specific chapters in a video or to jump to a specific time. Of course, you will want to discuss how the director created a movie that was different from the book.

Give students power
Who controls the video? Is the remote glued to the master chair? Should children watch once and remember, or do they have the power to start, stop, replay and take notes when they wish. If children are going to write about their impressions they may need to see it more than once.

Learning works best when it occurs at the time it is needed. If your children are watching a video and have a question, let them pause the video and find out the answer. That doesn’t mean they have to ask you. It might mean a discussion among themselves, using a dictionary, and so forth.

Selective Lessons and Reinforcements
The introduction of DVD players has made teaching with videos easier. Most DVD’s are segmented into chapters like a book. With an onscreen menu you can select which “chapter” you want to see. You can also go directly to a specific time in the video without winding through a long tape. This makes it easy to see selected segments.

Finding the Videos You Need for Homeschooling
How do you find the documentaries and movies you need to enhance a lesson? With the right resources it’s not too difficult.

For older children and adults you can search movie reviews on the Internet Movie Database at IMDB has few titles relevant to teaching middle school aged or under. The best way to search seems to be by selecting a Genre, then browsing through descriptions and reviews. Once you find the video you want, check with your local video store for availability and pick it up.

To buy educational videos, take a look at Library Video, Their search works well as does their Genre lists. They have a very extensive collection of videos you can purchase for prices ranging from $13 (Arthur Goes to the Doctor, DVD) to $99 (Ken Burn’s Civil War series).

To rent educational videos, check out Mentura, Hundreds of their DVD’s include Learning Guides with hands-on activities, discussion questions, and vocabulary. They rent DVD’s, deliver by first-class mail, and have no late fees.

Future Articles
Future articles will describe specific learning areas and how you can combine videos with hands-on activities, discussions, and vocabulary to create an immersive learning experience. We’ll see how videos can be used to enhance reading, writing, speaking, listening, drama, science, ethics, and more. For example, imagine a thunderstorm passed over your house at night. The next day you show “IMAX: Stormchasers,” a 38 minute video about hurricanes, monsoons, and tornadoes and the meteorologists who chase them. After the video you move to the kitchen where you create your own miniature weather systems with a cookie tin, hot water kettle, pie pan, ice cubes, and oregano. It’s gonna be fun!!!

Copyright, © 2000, Mentura, Inc.

Ron Person is the author of more than 28 books published in 18 countries. He has owned an adult training company, volunteer teaches as an elementary science teacher, and has an MS and MBA. Ron is the Learning Evangelist for Mentura, Inc.