The Psychology of the Video Clip

I don’t know about you, but as an English teacher I was always faced with resistance from students when I showed video clips.  Everything started off just fine when I pushed “play” but when I went to push “stop” or “pause” to engage in some learning activity, whether it be a reflective question, a think-pair-share, or a writing assignment based on the video clip, you’d think the world was coming to an end  from the moaning and groaning.  I wish I could say this was only in middle school (which it certainly was), but it happened in high school, too.

Now, be encouraged!  There’s hope!  If you get in the habit of showing a one-minute You Tube clip at the opening of class, not only will you gain your students attention, change their emotional feeling in the classroom, and possibly spark some interesting learning-focused discussion (depending on the quality of your questions), you will also be training your students to understand video clips as a distinct unit of educational experience.

Prior to coming in to your classroom, students experience watching videos and movies as a leisure activity.  When you show a video in the classroom, the students merely borrow expectations from their past experience and  assume that this current interaction with video will be the same – dim lights, popcorn, and relaxation.  And of course, it can be argued that after years of watching videos in classes, students would be used to seeing short video clips for instructional purposes.  If they don’t react that way, then we have two possibilities: 1) they are not used to seeing short video clips for instructional purposes or 2) they are and yet they whine and complain when the video shuts off in order to derail your lesson.  Either way, our students need to be re-programmed!

Showing a You Tube clip at the beginning of class is a great way to set expectations for students for a productive interaction with video: 1) I show the video and we all get focused on some entertaining or stimulating visual content, and then 2) moments later, I ask you to process that information or produce something that demonstrates your thinking. (*this brilliant thought is courtesy of Tom Spain)

Another way of looking at this: use the cultural currency of You Tube (students understand seeing a brief clip from countless hours of entertaining themselves and friends at home surfing You Tube) to retrain your students to expect brief video experiences followed by rich discussion or engaging writing prompts.

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