Motion pictures move classes forward

An AP Biology class peers down an athlete’s esophagus and into her stomach, where stomach muscles busily squeeze food into pulp. The muscles convulse and students flinch in disgust as they watch. As the class proceeds from the stomach to the small intestine, a narrator expounds on hydrochloric acid streaming down the walls of the stomach.

Because actually taking a field trip down a human digestive tract is impossible, biology teachers use video resources to supplement learning material, as do many other departments. This particular video, “The Universe Within,” was produced by NOVA. The images inside the body were obtained using fiber optic cables.

“Some units lend themselves to using videos as a resource to reinforce points that are made in a lecture or a lab or to illustrate processes or occurrences that we cannot see in the classroom environment,” science teacher Lawrence Axelrod said.

Videos are used in more than just science classrooms (see infographic at left).
In Shakespeare classes, students watch clips of movie versions of every William Shakespeare play they read.

“We get to see different perspectives,” Kirin Bhatia ’08 said. “It helps us view the text in a different light.” Research studies support the claim that students learn more when taught from both video and lecture.

The United States Air Force Academy separated students in a class into “video” sections and “control” sections. Control sections were taught solely by lecture, whereas video sections were presented with video clips. After the first unit, students in all sections were given the same test.

The results were striking. Students in the video sections performed 9.3 percent higher than students in the traditional sections on questions that tested concepts taught by video. All students performed at the same level on questions addressing lecture concepts. The results imply that classes learn more effectively from both video and lecture than from solely lecture.

However, the study also found that students who were exposed to video clips did not enjoy the course more.

Still, Bhatia said she enjoys the videos and her class is always enthusiastic when videos are used.

“Students like videos a lot because it’s a break from things like lecture,” Axelrod said. “Some kids will learn better from seeing things rather than hearing auditory explanations.”

Bhatia said students in her class almost always pay attention to the videos. Still, Axelrod said movies provide an opportunity for sleep deprived students to slumber for a few minutes.

“There’s always a student in any class who tries to use the time to do work for another class or is too sleepy to pay attention,” Axelrod said. “The vast majority of students are paying attention to what’s going on.”

Axelrod integrates the clips into his lecture by frequently stopping the video.

When the camera moves into the small intestine, Axelrod pauses the video and tells the class about nutrient absorption, and students pick up their pens once again to take notes by the light of the video screen.