This week’s education assignment entailed the making of a movie. The goal was to create an informational video for incoming college freshmen. I’m sure that those of you who have gone through college know how it goes; there’s always ton that you wish you had known beforehand. Hopefully our video project will help to alleviate some of this woe for future freshmen.
My first college lesson was don’t buy your books at the school bookstore. Ever. (That is, unless you don’t mind overpaying by several hundred dollars.) Sure, school bookstores are fantastic for that book the professor added on the first day of class, or that spiral notebook you need for class in ten minutes. For every other situation, there are great sites like BookFinder (for purchasing used books) and Textbook Rentals (for rentals, of course). Oh, and make sure the new edition your teacher requires isn’t just the previous edition with a new cover slapped on it! The old editions are half the cost.
Although this^ is my most passionate freshman lesson, it’s difficult topic for a group movie project. We opted for another important lesson: how to do laundry. Not everyone is familiar with the ins and outs of using a communal laundry room. I remember standing in the laundry room with my first load of dirty clothes, completely clueless.
*The washers are the ones on the bottom, right? How do I know which ones are full? :pulls washer open: Well, I guess that one is. How much do I have pay to make these things run? And which one of these stupid buttons do I pick? I don’t want to end up with midget clothing! Oh good, here’s an empty one. Wait… there’s a black lacy thong left in this one. Wow, so this is college. Maybe I can get some forceps and pick it out…*
If you’ve never used a laundromat or a communal laundry room and want some tips, here is the link to our freshman laundry tutorial: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-HdIFOEsXMM
I’ve never filmed anything before, and I must admit this project was a blast. It was great to get out of the classroom and write up scene scripts. It was also a challenge and a learning experience. It’s difficult to coordinate ideas with two other people and still come out with a decent product. I can only begin to imagine the angst of corporate film producers who need to coordinate with scores of other people in order to bring their ideas to life.
How does all of this apply to education and the classroom? Well, our technological abilities have not yet matched those of the Matrix; we cannot download lessons directly into our brains. On the contrary, videos are often a cue to students that they can turn off their brains until the video ends. However, if those films are reinforced with worksheets, analytical questions, and frequent video pauses, then they can become potential learning experiences. Here are a few ideas for effective video use in the classroom:
Lab Safety – After teaching students about lab protocols, show a video of a student not obeying the protocols. Have the students write down what is wrong and why, and challenge the students to find as many errors as possible in the video.
Geography – After teaching students about geographical formations and plate tectonics, follow up the lesson with a video on continental drift. A visual representation of this process can do wonders for comprehension. To keep students active, pause the film and question the students on vocabulary terms and concepts.
Parts of Speech – Yes, Schoolhouse Rock is still a valid teaching technique. Most of my college peers who can still recognize the parts of speech give the credit to these videos. The videos aren’t magic; you can’t just pop in the video and expect students to grasp the complexities of grammar. Nonetheless, they are still a fantastic teaching aid and reference.
Physics with Bill Nye – Why not? I can think of no better video aid for an introduction to simple machines. Complex units such as simple machines are much more tangible with visual and auditory reinforcement. A better example might be a demonstration of simple machines in action, but for teachers with limited resources, film might be the next best option. (If you’re lost, simple machines are tools like levers, pulleys, and ramps that make all of our lives easier.)
Cultural Exposure – Maybe you’re teaching a history course and want to show students to a Zoroastrian temple, or maybe you’re an art teacher and want to point out the three different kinds of Roman columns. While pictures and drawings suit just fine, a few video clips might make your topic infinitely more tangible. After all, nobody ever said you had to use the entire video.
My best teachers only used video clips because they were trying to drive home a single point. If you ask me, presenting whole film usually represents laziness on the part of the teacher. Class periods with a high video ration should be saved for just before break or summer vacation. That’s not to say that good teaching can’t come from video usage, but a screen will never have the same impact as a teacher in creating a dynamic learning environment. However, I do anticipate that the significance of videos will increase as the world continues to integrate. Who knows where communication technology will take us in time?