There are so many uses for video in English lessons, but I think the one that inspires me most its ability to remove blindfolds (as Peter Viney so neatly put it). With video we can provide more information about who might say what to whom, what their relationship is, where they are and how they’re feeling. In short, we can provide more context, and context is so crucial for meaning and use.
If we want to teach the difference between the verbs ‘see’ and ‘watch’, for example, we’re going to want to show that seeing is something that happens whether we’re paying attention or not. It’s difficult to set up a natural context to illustrate that in a classroom. But with video we can go anywhere – a kitchen for example where we see someone stealing a freshly baked cookie. ‘Hey, I saw that’ wouldn’t add much understanding as a written sentence in a course book, but demonstrated in context in a video it illustrates the ‘paying attention or not’ concept beautifully. ‘Actually’ is another example. We can tell our students that it means ‘really’ or ‘in fact’, but if they’re going to understand how to use it, they need to see it in use in context. Again, video is great for that. These sorts of things don’t work with audio alone.
So it seems to me that if video is available, it’s silly to teach without it these days. And that poses a problem for ELT publishers. They’d love to employ video widely but they know that sadly many teachers still don’t have access to it, so mainstream courses tend to get published with a bit of video, but not too much because they need to work for everyone. But does ‘one-size-fits-all’ really work because if teachers have access to video, why would they want to restrict their classes with audio? Why wouldn’t they want to step outside the classroom and show (really show) the language in context?
And on a similar but different point – another video benefit that I think has all sorts of (as yet pretty much untapped) potential is animation. We were making a video about indirect questions the other day. You know how the word order changes when questions get embedded with phrases like ‘Could you tell me …?’ ‘Do you know…?’ Take a look at this:
I put that video together rather hurriedly and when I get time I’d like to go back and make it look sharper. But I’m pretty sure that it will be more helpful to play this for my students than to have them look at static sentences in their course book.
Do you have you any suggestions for what I should do when I re-edit it? All thoughts and ideas will be gratefully received and shared. And what do you think the main benefits of video are? And do you agree that that if you do have access to video, it’s just plum daft to teach without it these days?