This past Sunday when I was in my hometown of Manhattan, Kansas, I heard and watched a sermon by a pastor that got me thinking: When are video clips constructive and desireable when giving a presentation to an audience, and when do they distract or even take away from the message the person is trying to communicate? I think the pro-edtech in the classroom message may, at times, mislead people to think that ANY sort of media included in a lesson is a positive and should be enthusiastically embraced. The example I saw wasn’t a “bad” example of using a video clip per se, but it did beg this question. So, here are a few of my thoughts on this question, I’ll be interested to hear what you think.

Reasons or times to USE a video clip in a presentation:

  1. When the topic addressed or context portrayed in the video clip is unfamiliar to the audience, i.e. they do not have pre-existing schema for it.
  2. When the video clip communicates at an emotional and non-verbal level, which cannot be adequately or effectively retold with mere words. This could involve music that evokes emotion.
  3. When the visual imagery of the video clip is exceptionally powerful and communicative.
  4. When the video clip is humorous and funny, and the humor of the moment could not be easily retold.
  5. When the video clip includes people speaking in a language which is not the first language of the presenter, and the ideas communicated transcend spoken words.

Reasons or times NOT TO USE a video clip in a presentation:

  1. When the scene portrayed can be easily retold by the speaker to good effect. A still image of the scene might be used as a background to speak to the point, rather than the video clip.
  2. When presentation time is short and the video clip is long.
  3. When the video clip does not evoke a particularly strong emotional response from the audience.
  4. When the video clip is hard to hear (volume-wise) or very dark. Basically when the clip is poor-quality so that it’s effect on the audience might be minimal.
  5. When the presentation is being recorded for rebroadcast on the Internet or television, and the presenter does not have redistribution rights to the video clip.

What other reasons to use or not to use video clips can you think of? I’m guessing that teachers who have access to United Streaming and use video clips from their library regularly during instruction might have some good insights to share on this topic. On their website, United Streaming claims that “scientific research” supports the claim that instruction supplemented by video clips increases student achievement. They cite two studies:

Virginia Evaluation 2002
This independent evaluation examined third and eighth grades students in two areas of study — science and social studies. Improvement among experimental group students who received instruction aided by unitedstreaming showed a 12.6% average increase in achievement over control group students.

Los Angeles Evaluation 2004
This evaluation, conducted in the Los Angeles Unified School District, examined mathematics performance among 6th and 8th grade students. Students who received instruction aided by unitedstreaming showed a 3% to 5% average increase in achievement in math scores over the control group.

Despite this research, I’m not convinced that video clips are effective or desirable in every context. I think teachers need to be selective and intentional in their use of video clips, and so do students. We should avoid the tendency (which is sometimes visible in student projects) to “just include a video clip” in a presentation because it’s cool and gets people’s attention. Certainly activating an “anticipatory set” at the start of a lesson or presentation is important, but I’m not convinced video clips offer a panacea for student engagement. I love to use video clips in my own presentations and I think they can be very powerful, but I think we should all pay attention to the times video clips ARE and ARE NOT desirable and constructive in the communication process.


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