Common Core State Standards encourage teachers to focus on reading texts deeply, writing for digital environments collaboratively, and reading and writing nonfiction texts. The use of videos for instruction and production facilitates meeting these standards and engages students in more real-world reading and writing experiences.
Integrating videos in support of literacy practices
Traditional literacy practices emphasized individual mastery of concepts and skills, whereas new media literacy practices emphasize collaborative, social, and context activity. Following are new media examples that describe literacy curriculum at the elementary and secondary levels that incorporate the use of video.
Ideas for the elementary level are found in the article“Devillainizing Video in Support of Comprehension and Vocabulary Instruction,” by Matthew Hall and Katherine Dougherty Stahl. Classroom videos that digitally define a content area vocabulary term are being developed by teachers. The definitions can include narration, music, props, additional people, and manipulatives. In “eVoc Strategies: 10 Ways to Use Technology to Build Vocabulary,” Bridget Dalton and Dana Grisham emphasize, “Sound vocabulary instruction incorporates multiple exposures in multiple contexts of words to be learned.”
With young students, using short videos of narratives as part of comprehension can address higher comprehension skills such as inference skills. In addition, introducing a story using video and discussion can be followed by children reading the story and completing writing activities.
“Teaching Shakespeare With YouTube” by Christy Desmet and Joyce Bruett proposes that YouTube is a popular site for building class assignments for students’ skills in critical reading and writing. For example, YouTube lists nearly 50 entries for videos on Macbeth and videos on Hamlet. These videos can be used for modeling the text for further discussion, writing a critical analysis, or having students produce their own modern-day version of Hamlet or Macbeth. YouTube Shakespeare restricts the length and size of videos to 10 minutes or less.
Identifying tools used for video production
For years, educators have purchased videos or made their own videos using a camcorder or smartphone. Today, students are using Web. 2.0 digital tools such as Flipgrid and Voki, as Kara Clayton shared recently. Flipgrid can be used by students to create their own video response to posts by people such as their teacher. Voki is a speaking avatar program that also gives students a platform for expressing themselves.
Educators are also using YouTube videos in the classroom to get attention, introduce new concepts, provide information, or review important points. The subject of literature is particularly enhanced through the use of YouTube.
Identifying potential challenges of using videos in the classroom
Currently, many schools block YouTube and other social networking sites because many videos are highly inappropriate for students. Locating the right video can also be difficult because the vast numbers available must be vetted for accuracy, reasonableness, and support for the literacy activity. Another challenge when using YouTube is that videos teachers select may not be available at any given time. To ensure availability requires teachers to copy and save it on a thumb drive, computer, or other device.
In “Escaping the Lesson-Planning Doldrums,” Catlin Tucker states, “As students shift from passive observers to active participants, teachers must also shift from being founts of knowledge to becoming architects of learning experiences—the goal of designing lessons that are exciting, engaging and student-centered.” The use of videos can give new energy to planning literacy lessons.
Marilyn E. Moore is a professor and faculty director for the Reading Program at National University, La Jolla, CA.
This article is part of a series from the International Literacy Association’s Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).
There are lots of teachers who use movies as an instructional tool. I remember getting parental permission to show Glory during the Realism Unit in my junior American Literature English class because the movie was rated R. The story of Colonel Robert Shaw, who led the 54th Massachusetts Voluntary Infantry Unit during the American Civil War, complemented “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce, as both depicted the American Civil War realistically with tragic endings. For teachers interested in using multimedia in their classrooms, I would like to share a few things that I have tried over the years.
Using audiobooks over full-length movies
As a second-language learner, I listened to many audiobooks while learning to speak English. Once I became a teacher, I realized my students needed lots of help in improving their reading skills. Watching movies often did not accomplish this goal because their focus was on the pictures and the background music and not the texts.
To help my students to improve their reading skills, I recommended Lit2Go. The site features recordings of classics such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain and Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. In the past, I had also used The Complete Arkangel Shakespeare CDs I borrowed from a local library, but now I suggest using Free Shakespeare Plays on Audio by LearnOutLoud.com while reading a Shakespearean play.
Using song files and music videos
In a lesson about irony, I used two songs: “Short People” by Randy Newman and “Best Song Everrr” by Wallpaper. First, I had my students listen to “Short People” with their eyes closed. Then I played the song again. This time, I asked my students to write down a sentence or two from the song. Afterward, I facilitated a short discussion about the songwriter’s true intent. I played the song one more time and asked the students to create a visual that encapsulated the true meaning of the song. I repeated the process with “Best Song Everrr.” Eventually, I helped my students to understand the different types of irony by asking whether the first songwriter really hated short people and the second songwriter thought his song was the best song ever. I also explained how the use of a certain literary device such as hyperbole contributed to creating a verbal irony.
I also used the music video of The Band Perry’s “If I Die Young” prior to teaching the Romanticism Unit. The music video illustrates the Romantics’ love of nature, their obsession of death by drowning, and their adoration of poetry. It even has a green-covered book of Tennyson’s poems drowning in a lake! First, I played the music video for the students to enjoy. Then I played it again. This time, I asked my students to write down items they noticed. Afterward, I showed several paintings from the Romantic era and asked students to list what they noticed in the paintings. Then we discussed the common items and how those represent the Romantic ideal. I asked my students to find examples that illustrate the Romantic ideals as we read “The Fall of the House of Usher” by Edgar Allan Poe or Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley.
Using student-recommended materials
In addition to my own selections, I also asked my students to find great videos that they think we should use in class. This particular assignment has helped me find several useful videos, including Amy Cuddy’s TED talk, “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are,” which was recommended by a student as we discussed characterization. While reading Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, I used this video to discuss why the author had Jane physically assisting Mr. Rochester, who had fallen off his horse when they first met, and how Jane’s physical act contributed to her strong character. I also used the same video to talk about the importance of nonverbal communication.
Showing short clips instead of the entire movie
Living in today’s media-enriched environment, our students have access to lots and lots of multimedia. That is why I avoid showing a movie in its entirety in class. I remember my students telling me that they got together on the weekend to watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail after I shared a few clips in class as a way to discuss archetypes.
Today’s students need help in developing a critical lens when it comes to selecting and consuming quality multimedia. Teachers can help their students develop their media literacy by carefully selecting and using multimedia purposefully in the classroom.
Kip Glazer is a native of Seoul, South Korea, and immigrated to the United States in 1993 as a college student. She holds California Single Subject Teaching Credentials in Social Studies, English, Health, Foundational Mathematics, and School Administration. In 2014, she was named the Kern County Teacher of the Year. She earned her doctorate of education in learning technologies at Pepperdine University in October 2015. She has presented and keynoted at many state and national conferences on game-based learning and educational technologies. She has also consulted for Center for Innovative Research in Cyberlearning and the Kennedy Center ArtsEdge Program.
Using video production in the classroom is no longer the expensive, intimidating approach to student engagement that it was 20 years ago. As a result of Web 2.0, digital tools are seemingly ubiquitous. With more freedom to use mobile devices in the classroom and increased Internet access, video creation and collaboration has expanded beyond the traditional broadcasting or English language arts class.
Since 2014, I have attended the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy at the University of Rhode Island and have had the good fortune of spending a week learning about best practices for using digital tools in the classroom alongside other K–16 educators. As a result, I have learned different methods for including video tools in my practice without the added stress and expense of purchasing cameras, tripods, and editing software.
Creation and asynchronous conversation
Though our world is huge, we can help our students engage in conversations that go beyond a 140-character tweet or an abbreviated post on social media. Flipgrid is one of the tools that I have leveraged in my classroom in order to engage students in conversations with people with whom they might not normally communicate. This year, as my ninth graders stepped into my classroom, I knew they were my first group of students who had no memory of the events of September 11, 2001. I wanted them to hear firsthand what others had experienced. To do that, I created a Flipgrid, which started with friends and grew beyond people I knew. The interviewees used Flipgrid as a video tool to respond to a prompt about their own memories of September 11. I shared this Flipgrid with my students, who not only watched but were able to create their own video response to posts that resonated with them. Flipgrid offered my students an opportunity to have a dialogue with others through the affordances of connected learning. (Note: If you have a memory of September 11 that you would like to contribute to my Flipgrid or continue a conversation with one of the people who posted to this grid, I would love for you to share it here.)
Leveling the class participation playing field
Another creation tool I stumbled upon in its infancy and that I now use frequently with my students is Voki. Voki is a speaking avatar program that allows users to choose an avatar, make it unique by adding clothes and finding hairstyles and accessories, and add a voice through three methods: microphone, telephone, or a text-to-speech device. Certainly, the avatar design is what draws students in, but one of the most powerful aspects of this tool is that it gives students a platform for expressing themselves. Students can comment on a topic important to them or simply share what they’ve learned. Voki is also excellent for formative assessment. Though I didn’t realize this tool’s power at first, students who are often uncomfortable talking in class or who are physically unable to talk get the opportunity to engage in classroom discussions. The avatar does the talking for them through the text-to-speech option. There are many other ways to use Voki in the classroom; for instance, I’ve had students comment on politics or create advertisements for a product they were trying to promote. Teachers can also use Voki. For example, I have used the Voki Presenter option to teach elementary-aged students how to spell word family sounds. It’s a versatile tool, and many of the options are free to students and teachers.
As a veteran teacher, I know that when students are engaged, they love learning. By providing instructional approaches for developing student expression that go beyond the traditional multiparagraph essay (which typically is not read by anyone other than the classroom teacher), digital media has the potential to be a powerful approach to education. Not only does video production allow students to communicate with a broad audience, but it also provides them with an easy means to become civically engaged citizens.
Kara Clayton is the media studies teacher at Thurston High School in Redford, MI.
Makerspaces are informal learning contexts that have become popular because they feature hands-on exploratory learning driven by interests rather than curricula. These learning spaces provide a rich context for collaboration, communication, and literacy development. This post explores three aspects of learning in Makerspaces intended to spark new thinking about instruction in classrooms and beyond.
Making as a culture is a learn-by-doing endeavor. As makers engage in making, they’re innovating—expressing creativity and problem solving. In these spaces, learners choose to make things they like, need, or could use, as they express creativity or artistry. The Maker Camp Projects gallery and Makerspaces Projects show a range of examples. The learning that surrounds making capitalizes on just-in-time learning as makers work together to figure things out or research ideas as the need arises. Engagement in learning is real, as is the desire to create. Achieving a goal is fed by a need to know or a desire to explore. In this way, making is perhaps the most authentic form of inquiry.
Makerspaces create an environment where learners of all ages come together to learn from one another. In making networks, the desire for sharing ideas that lead to improvements or hacks to make design better are paramount. In these networks, crowd-sourcing approaches are the norm; everyone contributes to make products and directions better for the whole community. Sharing encourages and empowers learners—other readers use resources, documents, and archives that have been posted to create/recreate what has been shared by others. Makers seek each other out online to share advice and mine specific expertise.
Makers are collaborative as part of the culture; sharing is part of process. Digital sharing involves writing and communicating with others on sites that makers commonly frequent (such as Instructables and Make:). Makers document their processes and share “in progress” work within networks to look for ways to use or improve a process or product or to riff on ideas shared by others (remix and make new things). Specific examples of making networks can be found in Making it Social: Considering the Purpose of Literacy to Support Participation in Making and Engineering, in the August 2016 issue of the Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy (JAAL).
Genres are social processes in maker spaces and digital platforms provide multiple ways of sharing ideas formally and informally. Makers often compose multimodal online how-to guides that are presented through a mixture of images, videos, and text based directions. These posts also include reviews of what’s made (i.e., directions for making, extensions or hacks). Face-to-face interactions are a critical part of the social interaction of making as well as learners working together to support one another as they learn new strategies and processes. Within community makerspaces, students often serve as apprentices who monitor maker spaces while serving in roles that build their identities as experts with tools and technologies. For more resources and examples, visit Maker Space for Education.
Instructional design choices that draw on the above principles can help youth develop agency, including taking charge of their own literacies and teaching others, in a community-oriented environment that treats individual learning as part of the greater, interconnected whole. Additional resources, readings, and reflections about how to facilitate learning within Makerspaces or similar environments are linked to Renovated Learning.
Jill Castek is an associate professor in the Department of Teaching, Learning, and Sociocultural Studies at the University of Arizona. She co-edits the column Digital Literacies for Disciplinary Learning in JAAL.
In 2008, the state of Rhode Island required all high schools to show evidence of students’ proficiency across all subjects in order for students to graduate. My district decided that a senior project would be the vehicle used to demonstrate this proficiency. Senior projects are an opportunity for students to self-select a topic and use their senior year to explore this topic through research, an applied learning product, and a final presentation.
When we first started the project, our school required ongoing documentation of the project over the course of the year. We asked students to collect papers showing their progress and interaction with an expert in the field through paperwork. The papers were filled out, signed, and housed in a binder. However, in 2015, we realized that this process has little value to students.
We began to wonder: How might we make the shift to a more authentic learning experience for students to share their projects with a more global audience? How could students better represent their learning and exploration throughout the year?
Our solution: We decided to replace paper with a digital platform for creation rather than collection.
Since 2015, every senior in our district has the opportunity to build their own website to showcase their learning. When we started, students were introduced to Wix, Weebly, and Google Sites as free website builders. Now, two years later, students are feeding content into their sites through social media tools like Instagram and Tumblr or documenting their year through Twitter or Instagram, then curating their experiences with multimodal tools such as Storify.
Building Critical Skills
Through these experiences, our students have not only deepened their understanding of new topics but also developed important skills in analysis, visual literacy, responsibility, and reflection.
One senior described the process: “I loved making the website and I think it is a great visual for every senior project... I think this is a fantastic way to leave a positive and educational mark on the Internet compared to the negative things students put on the Internet nowadays.”
Student-created websites are not only visually appealing but informative as well. We encourage students to think about how they can “go deeper” by embedding instructional YouTube videos, hyperlinking text to articles or community resources, and blogging. In turn, their senior projects become an important source of information for others. If an outsider wants to learn what one student thought about writing a children’s book, the student’s project website provides all of the resources. If someone else wanted to learn how best to start a vegan diet, another student’s website provides information about that.
Finally, the stamina students need to build and then continually add to, edit, and enhance their sites provides real-world applications and life skills that are often overlooked in the world of standards, testing, and grade-level expectations.
Impact and implications
Creating a website as an alternative to a portfolio is not groundbreaking. However, we have found that our students now have the ability to use portfolios to help them think critically about their experience with a self-selected topic over the course of the year and how to represent their thinking in both traditional and visual texts. Students become real authors and begin to understand how to remix content to tell their unique story of growth and learning. Because this tool is web-based, student authors also have the ability to share their work with the greater global community for feedback and to build credibility. While this is used with seniors in my setting, students at all levels can create their own websites for projects or portfolios to showcase their work with the world. I encourage you to try something similar with your own students!
Amanda Murphy is the Senior Project Coordinator and a social studies teacher at Westerly High School, Westerly, RI. Amanda received a Graduate Certificate in Digital Literacy through the University of Rhode Island in 2015, and she is a FuseRI Fellow with the Highlander Institute. Connect with Amanda on Twitter.
This article is part of a series from the International Literacy Association’s Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).