Using Videos to Manage a Rowdy Classroom: Smart, Constructive or Simply...

Blended Learning

Using Videos to Manage a Rowdy Classroom: Smart, Constructive or Simply Lazy?

By Jenny Abamu     May 17, 2017

Using Videos to Manage a Rowdy Classroom: Smart, Constructive or Simply Lazy?

Ariana Garcia, a teaching resident at the Great Oaks Charter School in New York City, had trouble managing her eighth-grade class when she first took over.

She says her friendly demeanor is better suited for teaching sixth-grade students and had to make a few personality adjustments to tackle eighth-graders. “One of the really big struggles for me was classroom management. The kids say I have a cartoon character voice, and I smile a lot,” says Garcia in an interview with EdSurge.

To address this problem, Garcia decided to give her students more voice in the classroom operations, asking them to lead discussions on topics they cared about and conducting several surveys on their interest. One thing that one of her surveys revealed was that students wanted more videos to be shown throughout the lesson.

“So I said, ‘Ok. I am just going to do my five-minute lecture, and the rest is going to be video, and you can get information from the ways you told me you wanted,’” explains Garcia. “When that happened, the classroom management just become easier because they knew I cared.”

Introducing videos in her lessons helped Garcia control a rowdy classroom. But by shortening her lectures from ten minutes to five in order to include more videos, some researchers wonder: How much is too much? Is giving students screen time because they want more videos the optimal use of the medium? Is showing videos an appropriate way for teachers to deal with a rowdy class?

“This this the little secret in the K-12 sector that nobody wants to touch,” says Dr. Renee Hobbs, the founder and director of the Media Education Lab and a professor of communication studies at the University of Rhode Island. “It is super sensitive and complicated.”

Hobbs is one of the few researchers who has written critically about the use of videos in the classroom. Her research paper, “ Non-optimal Uses of Video In the Classroom,” published by the Learning, Media and Technology Journal in 2006, is one of the few papers that addresses instances where teachers used video for non-optimal purposes in classrooms, including in lieu of classroom management and to give the teacher a break.

According to Hobbs, the problem starts outside of the classroom, with parents. “Kids grow up in a society where their parents have used videos as babysitters; you see them in all of the minivans,” explains Hobbs. “We quiet down kids by plugging them into a video, that’s a parenting strategy.” She explains that by the time children have arrived in kindergarten they are conditioned to be soothed, distracted and occupied by videos on tablets, phones and other devices.

It strikes Hobbs as unsurprising that “this generation of teachers feels that kids are quiet and well behaved when they are viewing videos. Though she notes that schools tried to clamp down when videos became excessive used in classrooms in the 1990’s (by requiring educators to get approval before showing and films). Many of those rules have dissipated as educators moved from VHS to online streaming of movies and video clips—making screen time more difficult to track.

“How frequently do I see video as a reward for good behavior, as a break from learning or as entertainment? It is very common,” Hobbes continues.

However, many teachers and administrators don’t see the increase of screen time in the classroom as a problem. In fact, some educators, like Garcia, are happy about the expanded opportunities to use videos in the class—noting that it provides chances for students to hear a diversity of voices on a subject. “Our students are being raised with a lot of different technology. This is a medium they are familiar with and maybe even more comfortable with than written word,” says Garcia. “As long as it is purposeful and will help the learning objective I think more videos is a really good thing.”

There should not be strict rules about how much video is too much, Garcia believes. “It depends on the lesson and the objectives.” She sees her students as clients and says that if videos offer what they need to learn, she is happy to make them available.

She does note that there are times, particularly during holiday seasons or exams, when educators use lots of videos that do not appear to have a direct purpose. “It is really hard on days around breaks to have students willing to engage with material when half of the class is not present, so I understand. I don’t know if it is a huge problem,” says Garcia.

Hobbs seconds that idea, noting how some teachers and students need non-optimal video breaks throughout the day in order to keep going. “Look, this is a survival strategy,” explains Hobbs, noting how some elementary teachers schedule video breaks into the day to manage student’s attention and energy. “It’s complicated because we don’t have good evidence on how frequently that occurs because there is some sense of shame. Teachers know it's not a good thing to show too many videos, so they don’t own up to it that much.”

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