Using Video Clips in teaching and learning history.

I’ve been asked to do some thinking about using video in the history classroom.  It seems to me that there are several ways.:

  • Knowledge transmission – as a rich medium, video brings attention and interest advantages for ‘getting information across’, with the usual caveats about the difference between being taught something, and learning something; The links in the using video page give some great tips about using video in this way:
    • watch without sound – guess what’s going on;
    • give them a misleading spider diagram – they have to work out what is true, and what is not;
    • list 10 things you learned from the video;
    • getting them to write their own worksheet;
    • allocating ‘expert groups’ to look at and record notes on specific aspects of the video, who then feedback to the rest of the class; and
    • cloze passages based on the information in the film.
  • Other tips on the internet begin the transition to thinking about film and video as a ‘source’ for history, with the accompanying dangers and opportunities that this provides for active learning:
    • Noting the timing of ‘evidence for something’, which could be factual stuff, or evidence for certain standpoints or interpretations;
    • Interpretations work in itself offers many important opportunities to think about how history is constructed;
      • What is the view of the maker of this clip
      • What is the view of the speakers in the clip
      • What evidence has the film maker used in constructing this view of events
      • What are the tricks of the trade that the film-maker uses to persuade us
      • What are the hidden messages of the clip
      • What is the context for the clip; and
      • Why was this clip made in this way at this time?
      • Critical evaluations of interpretations – Hunt’s recent documentary on protestantism.
    • Students could use video to make their own interpretations of history – or to construct what they consider might be the interpretations or points of view of others.  This can range from the technically very simple to the more complex:

      • Using clips with the sound turned down – write a newsreel commentry from both sides of the historical action;
      • Using video editing software – arranging clips to construct a view of history
      • Using video editing software – cutting, arranging and voicing over clips to create an argument, or to present the arguments of others.

    • Initial stimulus material – in order to enable students to see ‘the point’ of doing something, or to enable them to see why particular enquiry questions might be interesting or important – even perhaps getting students to ask their own questions of the material
  • Significance – looking at groups of films – why do films get made about certain events, or people?    What is it that different film makers find significant about different people?  Why do certain aspects of events get covered in film reels?
  • Sense of time and place – one teacher uses videos from youtube eg this one on the dark ages for her GCSE classes in order to give them a chronological sense of place and of the ‘flavour’ of a time period when doing studies such as medicine through time, that involve long stretches of history.
  • Preconceptions – A video clip from the BBC Mitchell and Webb comedy series in which two SS officers, upon noting that they have skulls on their hats, worry about whether they are ‘the baddies’.  I use this video by asking students why it is funny, and why it is shocking.  Occasionally I ask why it might be different if it were made in other countries.  The idea is to get students to think about what this film is saying about the way that people see themselves and their ancestors and nation in history.
  • Interpretations – One teacher uses two videos, one excerpt from Blackadder (Haig planning an attack using model soldiers and a dustpan and brush), and one showing the queue of ordinary people waiting to file past Haig’s body lying in state.  The second video is show without explanation, and is designed to get questions out of the students.  Only when the video is half run will students recognise that this is a funeral, when the fact that it is Haig’s funeral is revealed.  The students are then inspired to ask questions around the central theme of why has haig’s repuration changed so much since his death.

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