Friday, November 03, 2006

Social Studies and Videos

I hesitated to talk here about video, being a history teacher and all. But Barb's post on te Fischbowl inspired me to share.

Many of my students will tell you (or complain to you)that I can take a 30 minute video and turn it into a 3 hour tour as I stop the video and have so many discussions. I ususally believe that these conversations are more important than the video and the video is simply a vehicle for the conversations. The weaknesses in my methods tend to be my inability to stay on track time-wise with the department's curricular goals and the fact that most of the conversations are based on MY questions or observations that I ask the students to respond to. Rarely do they create the questions or pose the observations that become the video conversations.

So...what did I try? In A.P. Government, I have shown a video for the last 6 years called "Why Can't We Live Together?", a Tom Brokaw special that examined the issue of race, white flight, perceptions and self-fulfilling prophesies in a middle/upper-middle class suburb of Chicago that tends to mirror our world in many ways. The conversations in class can often be uncomfortable for some as we speak publically about an issue that few find comfortable. This time, as we watched the video, I held back from stopping it (for the most part). Instead, they blogged as we watched. They shared their observations and questions. We responded primarily through the blog and I only stopped to have a discussion based on a question or comment they had posted.

What did I think of the experiment?

There were some positives. Students, for the most part, were not passive watchers, but active participants with EACH OTHER. A number of good conversations were held, much like those in the past. Some students shared great resources or anecdotes. We have a record of the conversation which is interesting to look back on to see how the conversations changed as they were presented with new information.

But, regardless of the positives, I'm not sure I like it. Some struggled with the multitasking. Much of what the video offered was missed or ignored. Instead, some students turned to a more generic discussion of race. While I like them having the conversation, the video offered some specifics that challenge or support many of the generic pieces. From many, those were missed. I watched a number of students only watch their laptop screen as they tried to keep up with comments.

Additionally, blogging is the wrong tool. Maybe something like skype would be better, but I had not yet created that capability in class. Blogging made the conversation very jumpy as responses to comment A are not seen until eight to ten other comments have been posted.

A few outsiders joined our conversation, one who threw gasoline on a fire. Because of the topic, I then had to be even more vigilant with each new post as I felt like I was no longer responsible just for what my students posted.

Will I try it again? Probably, but I will try a different tool, will discuss more the multitaking aspect and their responsibilty with the video info. But I suppose I should wait for them to respond before I decide.


Derick said...

I don't really have a comment on the multitasking part, but I'd have to say skype won't be a particularly good tool to use. After all, why use an internet voice program when you can simply raise your hand in class and say something? Plus, I think skype has a limit on the number of users that can actually talk to each other at once, so really its only useful purpose would be to talk to outsiders. If you want a tool that lets people talk to each other efficiently while watching the video, some kind of instant messaging program would be better.

Karl Fisch said...


Mr. Meyer is referring to Skype's chat feature (IM), not the voice feature.

Derick said...

Oh didn't know, always just associated skype with voice chat.

Derick said...

Well, seeing as how no one else is posting, I might as well get on topic. It was very hard to multitask, as not only did I have to read and understand the fast-paced blog, I was also supposed to watch, listen to and understand the video. Even if a chat client is used, I'd probably end up paying more attention to that than to the video itself.

Hikingout said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Hikingout said...

Really, the multitasking problem is not something wrong with the classroom environment, it was with us. We should be able to do a blog and watch a video at once. If it really bothers you, give a quiz at the end of the video on what happened, as long as we get to see the whole video, and in one sitting. It is hard to remember everything the video says over five days, two of which we actually watched the video.

Multitasking is not beyond us.

The main reason we had trouble with the blog being so off-base from the movie is the issue that was presented in the blog was too well-known. There is a lot of political diversity in this class, and naturally, racism itself will take up most of any question with a hint of racial controversy. Try again with something that the class will not have a lot of prior knowledge or opinions about, for example, pick a not well-known supreme court case, create a blog, show a movie. I guarantee that this will yield the results that you wanted because every student will have to listen to the video if they want to blog at all. The blog must be dependent upon the video.

Derick said...

Multitasking is definitely beyond me. I can't really do much more than listening to music as a side to whatever i'm focusing on, and to think I would be able to watch a video and make intelligent comments about it while reading other people's comments is just a bit too much.

Kurt W. said...

I do not think that the problem with this excercise was not us, so much as it was the task. This video was loaded with interviews and commentaries that had potential to spark great debates. That was the problem, the movie was too full of information. By the time I would want to post something, another topic would be on the video. It was not that I could not multitask, after all I did post, it was just that things were moving too fast to generate a good conversation and then pursue that conversation. This movie was not a good choice to try this new style of digesting what we, as students, are shown. Perhaps a different movie could be used. History documentaries are more ideal for this situation. Most of these movies are full of facts, with mentions of arguable philosophies here and there (the opposite of our movie). This type of video would make it easier to hold a conversation, because students can afford to miss the facts that they will inevitably miss, without harming their overall benefit from the movie.

A summary of my post: Do not scrap this idea, just adapt it with different tools.

Kell-EH said...

I think some of us had the impression that our descussion was on race generally, using the vidio as a conduit for discussion. This may have added to the multitasking issue. I say give us another chance.

Karen Janowski said...

Are there other options? Possibly...
Especially for an experiment in effective tech integration to promote student learning and discussion.
How about next time have students watch a video online and then blog during the course of watching. They can pause when they need to, rewind when they need to and review as they need to. (Provides differentiated instruction as not everyone can multitask well. I know I would have had a very difficult time watching the video, absorbing the information, processing and analyzing it and THEN creating written expression! Yikes!)
This seems to be better tried as a homework assignment over a weekend.
Love that you took it to the next level though and that your students responded to the assignment itself!