O Hell, Thy Name Is Instructional Video

I write important things down–not just because I don’t want to forget them, but because seeing them scratched into the page or flickering on the screen grants them a stronger sense of permanence than any other medium. Roosevelt and Reagan didn’t speak extemporaneously when they gave their first inaugural addresses. Gwendolyn Brooks didn’t just hum her poems at recitals. She read from the printed page because she wanted to get things right. We write because it’s efficient, too. Writing a grocery list down is simply more practical than leaving yourself a voice memo. Wouldn’t you hate to listen to the whole list repeatedly to make sure you got everything in the deli section?

You’d think if administrators want to stress that having a diverse learning environment is important, or that teachers should know what to do during violent crises, they’d let faculty and staff know their expectations in writing. Heck, if administrators wanted, they could even require a written assessment to make sure.

Instead, administrators at a local university sent faculty a link to “video courses” in avoiding subconscious bias and making good decisions during active shooter situations, among other things. Each video lasted about a half hour. Each featured modules with questions that had to be answered correctly before the course could be completed.

When I was subjected to these courses, I couldn’t decide if I was angry because the course took important material and presented it at a third-grade level. Seriously. A booger-licking fool could pass the assessments without paying attention to the videos. Or maybe I was furious because video instruction is inherently inefficient. I could have read the scripts and passed the tests in five minutes–or, better still, I could have read a memo written from an administrator that let me know expressly what his/her expectations were regarding subconscious bias or active shooter situations. I am a professional. Treat me like one.

However, I suspect that administrators at every educational level will continue to foist such idiotic material on their teachers. I have no idea why, unless it gives administrators a paper trail to prove how well prepared their faculty are for every contingency–or, more likely still, it offers administrators a chance to “present” such materials without having to prepare anything themselves.

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5 Responses to O Hell, Thy Name Is Instructional Video

  1. Annemarie Coatney says:

    This is something that has always bothered me. The presentation of material in such a childish way implies that the material is childish as well, when it is actually very serious. It turns the topic into an obstacle in the way of a person’s schedule, something to be reluctantly completed and them moved on from. How are teachers supposed to have a chance check their own biases if they only have to think about this topic in the context of a silly assignment? It quite often seems that the senders are just trying to check a box saying “Yes, we addressed this” instead of actually recognizing a problem and trying to fix or prevent it. Not only would presenting the material in a more professional and sophisticated matter make those who receive it take the material more seriously, it would also be more likely to make a difference.

    As for requesting a written version, that would be my preferred reference as well. Trying to reference a video is so frustrating. Not being able to remember where in the video a specific question was answered is a recipe for time-consuming rewinding and fast-forwarding of the video to pinpoint the necessary information. Having written guidelines is a more efficient reference.

  2. Cadi Springer says:

    I couldn’t agree more. While no virtual teaching method seems to work very well with me, the instructional video method works the least, I’d say. Simply watching a video to learn without taking notes is a waste of time and almost nothing is retained from it. They are not entertaining and the creators cannot hold my already short attention span to save their lives. I am also really sensitive to being patronized by people of higher authority than me, so when I feel a video comes off this way I am automatically tuned out. A lot of students experience the problem of being patronized in the classroom by teachers or their peers for asking a “dumb” question or needing something explained a second time. I’ve experienced this at least once in every school I’ve attended, and it is insulting and frustrating. I can only imagine how you felt in this situation you described, and especially about something as important as what to do in case of an active shooter. Maybe you and other teachers who felt that way can seek to make changes about this in different classes where videos are used mainly to teach. Many teachers, such as yourself, use alternative methods in their virtual classroom and hopefully more teachers will use similar methods as we all get accustomed to online learning.

    • Madison Flowers says:

      I agree with the post and the comments stated above. Virtual has been quite the struggle for me in terms of grabbing and holding my attention span. Personally, I feel that instructional videos are the easiest way to lose my attention which causes my knowledge of the subject to greatly suffer. Watching a video and not being able to take notes in order to learn and have a permanent reference to the material is pointless to me. Echoing off of Cadi, I agree that teachers and peers often patronize fellow students in the classroom. I feel like it has happened to everyone at least once. Therefore, I can understand how you feel this issue is undermining to one’s intelligence.

      Relating to your statement about school shootings, a serious topic such as this should not be given in a third-grade format instructional video. There is no guarantee that everyone will remember the information that they watched or if they even watched the video at all. The lives of everyone in the school are in danger and the procedures to handle a situation such as that should be in written format where it is accessible to the school faculty at any time. In addition, even simple things such as school policy should be written down in order to prevent complications.

      I feel that in instances like this you and other teachers could present your feelings towards these videos respectfully in order to compromise on an efficient learning method.

  3. Chingun Tsogt-Erdene says:

    I agree with you. Instructional videos are not effective, especially if important written notes to refer back to are not possible. It is frustrating that they made a serious topic of an active shooter in a third grade styled instructional video. It is a shame what those administrators have done and shows how much they actually care about it. It also must be frustrating to the teachers that feel they were being treated like they were fools.

    These are the lives of children we are talking about! Procedures to handle a serious situation such as that should not be explained through a silly instructional video and instead be in written format where it is accessible to faculty.

  4. Merideth Johnson says:

    This reminds me of my junior year orientation at MSMS. We went to Shack Auditorium to watch some informational videos on how to respond to serious situations such as bullying and suicidal peers. Everything was going well until one scene in the suicide segment of the video that was of course meant to be serious, but actually made a few people laugh at the way it was presented. I can’t remember what happened, but the video lessons we were watching were very outdated and to us it was cringey and almost comical they way they addressed certain things. We all knew the topic was not something to laugh, but this old video did not seem to be the best option in teaching us about what to do in serious situations.

    Video lessons are terrible at keeping students engaged. They may be useful in short-term situations and for light topics, but if we are talking about learning an entire course by watching nothing but videos or attempting to learn how to recognize a suicidal person by watching videos, in-person learning is the best option because it keeps people engaged and it shows that the teacher cares and could help a suicidal person and others recognize who they can turn to if need be.

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