Sunday, July 29, 2012

A checklist for choosing suitable video clips

Check the quality of the video
If you can’t hear what people are saying or see what is happening discard the video: it will leave your students with a bad impression and they won’t learn anything from the video.
Check the length of the video
If the video’s too long, identify and make a clear note of exactly which time segments you can use.  Be sure to prepare an introduction to segments that don’t begin at the start of the video so that students have some context to work from. If the video is very short, perhaps just a minute or two, decide whether the content is worth the effort of setting it up – having said that the video may short but it may also be just what you need to change the pace of the lesson and focus on specific language used for a particular purpose.

This short 1.5 minute clip of a brainstorming session (good and bad versions)  offers very specific target language examples making it a useful resource for a variety of reasons.  See my review of this clip:
Check the content for target language or other content
Determine the purpose of using the video clip.  Often in EFL classrooms or for self-study purposes there is target language to focus on.  If the clip contains a specific range of vocabulary, perhaps language related to an activity or location; or phrases for achieving particular purposes, such as asking for directions or giving opinions, these can be good reasons for choosing the video.  If the clip is to be used for intercultural communication training purposes you should again clarify the specific purpose.  Perhaps the purpose is to contrast attitudes or behavior, perhaps focusing on elements of the cultures that are noticeably different from one another.
Check the difficulty level of the language
English language difficulty is of primary concern to the EFL student.  If the language is too difficult there may be no benefit at all to viewing the video.  Similarly, if the language is too easy advanced students may not feel theyare gaining much from the experience. Having said that, more advanced students can often benefit from content in other ways.   
Language difficulty and target language are often related, so if there is particular target language identifiable in the clip then to a certain extent you can justify using the video.
Consider whether the video adds value to the lesson
Ask yourself whether the same results be achieved through other channels. If they can then ask what the advantages or disadvantages of using this video are. 
Check for subtitles
To many students reading subtitles whilst watching a video makes a big difference in their understanding of it.  Determine what the purpose of the video is and whether or not subtitles are beneficial to the task.  Perhaps both options at different times for different reasons may be suitable.  Some videos come with permanent subtitles while others give the viewer the option of turning them on or off.  On YouTube videos the CC button gives this option, if available.
Check the video for its interest factors                                            
Although a video may be of a suitable quality, contain the target language , be of a suitable level for the students, be a suitable length or be divided into sections for easy use and may or may not have subtitles, if the content is boring, inappropriate, out-of-date or aimed at a completely different audience there may be no point in showing it.  Recognize who the student viewers are and determine whether or not the actual content of the video is of use and interest to them.
Check the context of the video content
If the video forms a part of something greater like a tv series, or if the clip is a segment from a movie, or if the content is something a little unusual, it is worth presenting some context to the audience first.  Without this kind of background understanding some of the content might be lost to the viewers even if they fully understand the words that are presented on screen.  One approach is that you could simply tell the viewers the necessary background details first.  Alternatively, you might show another small clip, or a trailer, from the show or movie first and then elicit comments from the audience for them to build the context.  They might need help with this so a list of prepared questions for them to answer could enhance the activity.
Consider what lead-in activities and follow-up activities you can use
If a clip is deemed suitable for a lesson or part of a self-study programme its position in that lesson or programme needs to be decided.  In other words, when should the video be used?  What should happen before it and after it?  How should it be used? How many times should it be shown? Can it appear in more than one place in the lesson or programme?  Does it provide opportunities for learning about more than one area of communication?    These and other questions help determine the video's effectiveness.
It takes a while to make the most of video resources, but the variety of learning opportunities that they offer make them essential tools for language and communication studies.

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