As I write this, I’ve been told that an article I wrote called “Teaching History With YouTube (and Other Primary Source Video Sites on the Internet)” will be in the May issue of AHA Perspectives. If you’re reading this before then, I wrote my first draft of this essay on this blog here. That will have to do for now. If you’re reading this because of that published article welcome. What I want to do in this post is lay out some points I couldn’t put in the article due to space.
I’m not sure why, but when I wrote the article I expected it to be in their teaching section rather than technology. However, looking at the final product, classifying it in the technology section makes sense. I spend the vast amount of my allocated space on YouTube mechanics and content and almost no time on how to use the content.
Here are just a few thoughts on how to use it:
1) I find that students have a ten minute attention span for video. Anything longer and they zone out even if the material is really compelling. That’s a big advantage over sites like the Prelinger Archives which have whole short films.
2) All films need to be introduced. No matter how familiar it is to you, your students need some context for whatever you show. 99 times out of 100, you’re older than they are, and they weren’t there. Even if you’re showing something from the Nineties, they were probably tuned out anyways. You have to tell them what they missed.
3) Unless the film is silent, don’t talk through it. That’s annoying. However, make sure you talk to them about the film after you show it. That way it doesn’t feel like an add-on to the lecture. Instead, you’ve integrated it into the points you want to make that day. Indeed, no matter how good a lecturer you are, short films can make key points better than you can.
and finally 4) The information that goes along with the film can often be a good teaching tool. This includes the comments below the clip, the introduction provided by the poster and even their personal information. Last semester, I used a clip from a documentary from Hiroshima that didn’t show the United States in a particularly flattering light. When in response to a request from a student to see who posted I found that they were from Iran, it was one of the best teachable moments of the semester.