Who's YouTubing in class? The professor
While some Princeton professors use traditional teaching methods, others have begun to incorporate audio and video clips, such as those from youtube.com, into their lecture material.
Waterboarding, which involves pouring water over prisoners’ faces and breathing passages to simulate drowning, has been used by the CIA as recently as 2007 to elicit information from suspected terrorists.
“The re-enactments that are available are staged and therefore not nearly as horrific, but even so, it’s rather shocking for some students,” Macedo said of the clip. He explained that he warns students before showing the video and that he only shows videos if he feels that they will make concepts more vivid.
“[The use of YouTube videos] makes the material more real to [students] instead of lecturing in the abstract [about] tidal bores or large waves,” geosciences professor Jorge Sarmiento said. “There’s nothing like a live movie to understand what’s going on in nature.” He added, though, that not all YouTube content is appropriate for an academic setting.
Laurissa Yee ’09 said that videos are more important in some classes than in others, explaining that the clips in her abnormal psychology class left her with a “lasting visual impact” that helped her understand the material.
“In most cases, showing a short clip can serve as comic relief to end the class,” Yee said. “However, in my abnormal psych class, I felt that it was a great educational tool that enhanced our understanding of the subject more than any textbook could.”
French and Italian lecturer Martine Benjamin said she believes that videos are especially appropriate in language courses.
A frequent speaker at the North Eastern Association for Language Learning Technology annual conference, Benjamin noted that many of her colleagues from both the University and other institutions use videos in their classes as teaching tools.
“It made me aware of what my colleagues are doing in other institutions,” Benjamin said of the conference. “I noticed that in all languages we all try to improve our methods … New tools can capture the imagination.”
Benjamin added that she frequently posts videos on Blackboard for homework assignments and that she uses videos during class to “break the monotony.”
French and Italian professor Andre Benhaim said that he regularly shows short videos in class and holds mandatory film screenings, as he considers Blackboard a less effective way to have students watch the clips.
“My main issue with the films is that if I put them on Blackboard, students don’t always watch them even though it’s part of the requirements, and in video clusters they’re missing the aesthetic and narrative aspects because of the digitized format,” Benhaim explained.
Josh Franklin ’11 said that many of his classes show YouTube videos, from chemistry, in which clips are used to demonstrate the molecular basis of things “lighting on fire” or “blowing up,” to medical anthropology, in which he has watched commercials and “Saturday Night Live” skits.
Videos were most helpful in his Russian language class, Franklin said. “Watching films in [a] foreign language has helped me learn the language and cultural context,” he said.
Franklin added that he did not consider professors’ use of videos any different from reading an excerpt from a scholarly text or newspaper in class, but he added that it can be frustrating when a lot of class time is required to set up the video.
“It’s a little obnoxious when you’re sitting in class and they’re trying to get the video to play,” Franklin said.
Benhaim also said that videos can be time-consuming. If he knew how to show videos more efficiently, he added, he would play them even more often.
Benjamin noted that technical difficulties could make showing videos a potential “waste of time,” but said that professors need to adapt to the changing times.
“In the world we live in, we have to use multimedia,” Benjamin said. “[Students] are all about multimedia, multitasking ... I think professors have to adapt to that. It’s a different way of learning. We have to adapt to the modern world.”