Saturday, October 17, 2009

Film in Social Studies.

The article, "Tinsel Town as Teacher: Hollywood Film in the High School Classroom," uses infuriatingly bad statistical practices. At best we should avoid using statistical analysis on Likert scales, and should never attempt to draw inferences from such analysis. This does not prevent the author of this article from doing that and obscuring the meaningful research that was done. (For example, if 49% of the respondents select 1 and 51% of the respondents select 5, it would not be true that most of the people feel videos to be moderately useful.)

A few things that would have made this study a little better are:
  1. What are the EOC (or comparable tests) results in the classes that use large numbers of movies?
  2. What is the student response to the "film every day" category?
  3. What is the correlation between 1, 2 and the use of supplementary materials?
The other article, "The Burden of Historical Representation: Race, Freedom, and Educational' Hollywood Film" answers some of these questions and provides some more meaningful insight.

The most dominant reason for using Hollywood films in the classroom, from both studies, was empathy. Would it not make more sense to help the students literacy skills in an effort to do this? Students may make a video portraying some aspect of Slavery or write a RAFT that puts the student in the role of the slave. Granted, this can be done within the confines of the video framework, but was not mentioned in either study. Would it not be more meaningful for students to take some time to produce some sort of empathetic product of their learning?

In today's culture, a 1:1 classroom in particular should not be completely reliant on vide, but should also see to explore a wide variety of different online media. Primary sources and meaningful secondary sources about on the internet and provide a medium for students to engage in historical material. Should not we use this material to enrich our students experience instead of a video every day?

A fear that I have with a proliferation of video in the classroom is that it can be non-interactive. Students may come to subconsciously believe that specific things should be watched more than engaged. Take, for example, the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Millions of people watched as it happened, but few seem to still see this as a possible point of contention with China. Carry this thought over to Tibet, which desperately wants to be free, for good or for ill. Why are the "Free Tibet" crowd the marginalized people instead of the norm? I would raise the question: Has video taught us that it is appropriate to not take action against social injustice.

I do not necessarily believe that this is the case, but to echo what the Stoddard article seemed to indicate, video in the classroom does not seem to be enough and should be supplemented with a variety of other resources. To quote John Wensick (which non of you have ever heard of, and that's ok.) "Don't be a one-trick Pony."

When John taught my cohort about using Video during my M.Ed. Program, he repeated that video should never be left to teach itself. If you incorporate video, make sure the students are aware of the historical inaccuracies as well as how to identify such inaccurate portions of other films.

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