Video is a Powerful Teaching Tool for Previously “Unteachable” Subjects

Posted on: by Michael Tringe

How can you engage students inside and outside the classroom in a world that’s flooded with digital distractions? Show up on their phones. Contribute to the conversation with something to say that speaks the language of students living in around the world of social media – video. We recently partnered with Feather River College to develop a soft skills in the work place video curriculum for the New World of Work, and we premiered the video lessons at the annual conference for the National Association of Community College Entrepreneurship in Arizona this year.

While video isn’t a stand along solution – funny videos, interactive videos, and videos that feature students as the main character help hook students in to create texture and context that help them learn about subjects that would be nearly impossible to teach with a regular old textbook in black and white.

Soft skills are notoriously problematic skills in a lot of ways. First of all, employers desperately want students who are empathetic, resilient, and self-aware, just to name a few. But that’s not something that most schools have ever focused on teaching – often leaving students and employers in a tough place when it comes time to hire.

What if there were a way to teach these skills in school during internship programs – that didn’t put students or employers in awkward situations when something awkward happens in the workplace. Video is a great way to get the conversation started – and even better, a methodology with which to teach some of these often challenging behavioral elements.

When Feather River College’s internship program directors approached us to collaborate on creating a video curriculum that was funny, fresh, and different – we did just that. And what we discovered was even more exciting.

By watching a “Funny or Die” style video on previously boring topics – students became engaged in topics that they never would have given the time of day previously. And then by presenting story problem like situations that felt true to life, and by then offering real life like options in video form – students were placed in the shoes of the characters, and allowed to practice making the right or wrong choices in a safe situation.

Video as a medium is useful for teaching these types of skills in a lot of ways. First of all, it takes the fear out of talking about topics that are scary: getting hired, disputes at work, getting fired, and all of those unapproachable things to even consider whispering about in the workplace. Video is also a familiar medium – and it’s fun. We all probably watch a few videos a day if not more – and so why not share something that feels familiar to open the conversation. Since fewer students are reading, it makes sense to show videos that could illuminate their perspective on a topic.

In one interactive video lesson scenario we co-developed for example, a new teacher is presented with the problem that she may have made the wrong choice in choosing the class field trip to the zoo by a more experienced teacher who feels her choice was irresponsible. The new teacher reacts three different ways: apologetically, defensively, and directly. Students are given the chance to see which way they felt was most appropriate given the circumstance.

Students who took the interactive lessons truly identified with the situations and said they felt they could actually understand the characters they saw on screen. After watching the lessons, they also felt that the would be more aware of their own behavior, and potentially even modify their behavior to create a more positive relationship focused outcome.

Video is also not just for watching – it’s for interacting with, and even for making your own videos to discover something about yourself. With multiple endings, students are given the flexibility to choose based on which ending they think may make the most sense. And they can even record themselves role playing in order to view after to see themselves in ways they never could have seen before – and reflect on their behavior over time to iterate and adjust to what feels most appropriate and productive in a work setting.

Overall – video is an exciting new medium that offer an emotional impact that is fun, memorable, and efficient in its fast communication of new information. We were proud to have the opportunity to pilot this exciting new curriculum with Feather River College, and even more excited to premiere the experience at NACCE.

If you enjoyed reading this article, consider reading more about video in the classroom.

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Written by Michael Tringe

Mike Tringe earned his MFA in Film Production from USC and has worked at Creative Artists Agency Film Sales (Paranormal Activity, Black Swan), Vuguru, Michael Eisner's multi-platform studio, (The Booth at the End (Hulu), Don't Ask, Don't Tell (Snag), Little Women Big Cars (AOL), and Blip Networks (300 million monthly views, Smosh, Annoying Orange, Nostalgia Critic).

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  • Absolutely great concept. Is there anyplace to point people to access these videos? Working on a site and network for first-generation college grads, and the soft skills needs and this approach are a great match. Thanks. Sue Cross

    • Hi Sue – Yes! Please email: Amelia Schulz (aschulz@frc.edu) and Rajinder Gill (rgill@frc.edu) at Feather River College. They developed the curriculum and are very excited to get the word out!

      • Thanks. CreatorUp is really interesting, btw. Good luck with it — you’re in a great growth space.

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