In the 7th grade, I had this really terrible teacher who would show movies about once or twice a week. He’d sit in the back of class and read the newspaper and my friends and I would pass notes, draw caricatures of the teacher, or simply make plans for after school: anything but actually watch the movie.
Unfortunately, this is (more or less) the image most people have in their heads of showing movies in class: a day off for both the teacher and the students. Of course, many of us show hour-long films in our classes and our students manage to avoid spitball fights and get a lot out of the film. This is one advantage of teaching college students and not 7th graders.
However, there are other options for using videos in class. For instance, short film clips can be a great way to illustrate a concept or to start discussion. Back in the old days when we had to haul around the A/V cart to show a video in class, it wasn’t necessarily worth the effort just to show a two minute clip. However, now that all our classrooms are hopefully equipped with projectors, DVD players and laptop adapters, it may be time to rethink the ways we can utilize video in teaching.
Television in the classroom
Television series are a standard that highlight both contemporary and historical social trends in an organized and narrative fashion, making them ideal for use within the classroom. Whereas other types of filmed media (such as feature length films and documentaries) are often too long to show during a single classroom period, episodes or segments from a television series are usually short enough to be played in their entirety, thus preserving the director’s intended messages while still leaving time for lecture and classroom discussion. Additionally, each episode or segment often represents a completely new theme or issue, allowing for instructors to return to television series that students are familiar with and were also successful in promoting student engagement in the past.
In addition to simply bringing in DVDs and showing short clips that illustrate sociological concepts or could serve as a springboard for further discussions or debate, here are some other sources to try out:
iTunes Podcasts – If you download iTunes and go to the iTunes Store, there’s a “Podcasting” section and within that there’s a section for Video Podcasts. A lot of news organizations and other semi-serious outlets are producing free video podcasts of their content.
Hulu – Hulu.com is an effort by NBC & Fox to make their TV shows available for free online & there’s a lot there: from new TV shows to an archive of lots of old TV shows and many full-length movies. You cannot download the movies, which is a shame, but you can embed the clips into your own website and there’s a cool feature where you can set which portion of the clip plays in your embedded instance of the clip, which is very cool if you wanted to, say, embed a clip on your class website and only want your students to focus on one part of the clip.
Network TV – Hulu is good for NBC & Fox shows, but an increasing number of shows on CBS (CBS.com) and ABC (ABC.com) are freely available for online viewing.
PBS Frontline – http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/view/ – Dozens of episodes of Frontline available for free viewing online.
Joost – http://joost.com – Kind of like Hulu, but not as cool or as user-friendly.
YouTube – Obviously, there’s YouTube. Google video tends to have more serious/professional stuff, whereas youtube has more homemade videos.
video.google.com – A growing collection of videos online by google. Search for anything – see what you can find. (You can download most clips to your hard drive as well.)
TED Talks – http://www.ted.com/talks – About TED: “TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Since then its scope has become ever broader. The annual conference now brings together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes). This site makes the best talks and performances from TED available to the public, for free. Almost 150 talks from our archive are now available, with more added each week. These videos are released under a Creative Commons license, so they can be freely shared and reposted.”
Miro – http://www.getmiro.com/ – Miro is a free, open source video application that is integrated with thousands of free video feeds from all over the internet. It’s sort of like iTunes and the iTunes store, only everything is free.
http://freedocumentaries.org – You guessed it, free documentaries online.
Archive.org – This site is a massive collection of free online video, audio and text. Within the video section, there are some subcollections that may be of interest to some of you:
“The Beat Within” – http://www.archive.org/details/beatwithin – video diaries of young people inside the California prison system.
“Shaping San Francisco” – http://www.archive.org/details/shaping_sf – A “participatory social history of San Francisco.” Short films covering many aspects of the city and its history.
“Cinemocracy” – http://www.archive.org/details/cinemocracy – a collection of 1940s pro-war propaganda films, by some of the best directors of the time and commissioned by the US government directly.
“Mosaic Middle East News” – http://www.archive.org/details/mosaic – collection of television news clips from throughout the Middle East, translated into English.
“Media Burn” – http://www.archive.org/details/media_burn – “over 3000 hours of material reflecting historical, political and social reality as seen by independent producers from 1972 to 2002, almost entirely without a narrator or news announcer. It is a major dose of American studies, media history and electronic literacy.”
Movie Trailers – http://www.apple.com/trailers – Movie trailers provide short, but information-packed, previews of movies that can be fascinating when put under a sociological microscope. Whether you’re interested in representations of race, gender or class or in consumerism and marketing, movie trailers often offer quick, fun examples.
Old TV Commercials – http://x-entertainment.com/downloads/ – A collection of old commercials from the 1980s, with an especially large collection of advertising directed at children.
Richard Beach’s Teaching Media site – http://www.tc.umn.edu/~rbeach/teachingmedia/ – Beach is a professor in the U’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction and he’s written a textbook on how to teach media literacy. This is his website for the book, and it’s full of links to video materials as well as ideas for how to integrate them into your classes. For example, Modules 4, 5 and 6 introduce critical approaches to interpreting media representations and advertising, while Module 7 discusses how to talk about the role of ideology in various film genres.
Comedy Central – www.comedycentral.com – Comedy Central puts a lot of video clips from their shows online. Many, of course, are probably useless in the classroom, but some of their shows frequently have some clever social commentary, such as The Daily Show, http://www.comedycentral.com/shows/the_daily_show/index.jhtml, and The Colbert Report –http://www.comedycentral.com/shows/the_colbert_report/index.jhtml.
Media Education Foundation – http://www.mediaed.org/videos/index_html – Contains short preview videos to most of their videos.