To DVD or not to DVD
- Is that the Question?
by Deniz Dündar & Adam Simpson
1. The Past
Firstly, we'll take a brief look at the history
of the moving picture in the English Language classroom.
1.1 'Made for Teaching' Videos
Commercially available videos, explicitly designed
for learning English initially promised to reinvigorate the
language learning experience. As King (2002) notes:
'Video is a much more dynamic medium than
a static text or a sound-only recording.
So, we can see that learning English through
movies represents a novel approach for some students, whose
preconceived notion of learning English is based on their
past learning experiences. For many students, learning experiences
are primarily coursebook-oriented and test-driven, with a
focus on form rather than meaning, and accuracy rather than
communication. Such standard teaching materials can lack a
realistic, meaningful context. Indeed, as Stempleski (2000)
notes, there are numerous benefits to using educational videos:
'They are likely to already have been evaluated
for language, content, and length, and many instructional
videos are packaged as multimedia resources that include student
workbooks, teacher guides, video transcripts, and audiotapes.'
In short, videos presented a refreshing change
whilst adhering to the needs of a pedagogically sound environment.
However, this novelty factor could not sustain interest for
1.2 What was the student response?
There were a number of factors which meant that
ELT videos were not particularly durable. As King suggests:
'Within a relatively short time span, student
interest in video as a teaching mode waned. Watching the same
few video actors and actresses appear in episode after episode
became a dull and uninspiring routine for most learners.'
Mejia (2003) highlights another important factor,
i.e. that such videos were clearly not 'real life', rather
they were obviously contrived for the purpose of teaching
'A drawback to this type of material is
that because it is scripted and professionally prepared, it
often does not use authentic language.'
The problems often noted with regard to course
books, that the material exists just to teach 'language point
X', transferred quickly to such educational videos. This leads
us to consider what alternatives were available to these specially
The obvious alternative to using purpose-made,
professionally-prepared materials was to use something 'authentic'.
Authentic materials on modern formats, such as DVD and DivX,
contain a great many useful features, and these will be discussed
in section 3.1 of this paper. Authentic materials in the past,
while presenting real spoken English, did not offer such benefits
as sub-titles. Yoder (1988) explains a method she used to
overcome this problem:
Hand written sub-titles
Sub-titles photocopied on
to an OHT.
OHP set up next to video.
shown on wall next to TV as lines are spoken.
Yoder comments that this 'worked equally with
a television program or film... the titles were clear and
easy to read.' While this may indeed have had sound pedagogical
value, it is doubtful if the huge amount of time and effort
could have been justified. While this is just one example
of the problems inherent in the use of authentic materials
in the past, pedagogical advantages to using authentic materials
were still evident. Issues relating to this relevance will
now be discussed.
2. Pedagogical Relevance
2.1 What skills can be learned?
Yoder's example, though exhaustively time
consuming, hints at one of the main advantages of using
authentic material, i.e. combining auditory and visual input.
Burt (1999) offers several other reasons for using video
in adult classrooms:
'Video combines visual and audio stimuli,
is accessible to those who have not yet learned to read
and write well, and provides context for learning... for
English language learners... Video can be controlled (stopped,
paused, repeated), and it can be presented to a group of
students, to individuals, or for self study. It allows learners
to see facial expressions and body language at the same
time as they hear the stress, intonation, and rhythm of
As we can see, there are numerous pedagogical reasons for using films in language teaching. Furthermore, the availability of sub-titles on modern formats, such as DVD and DivX offer myriad possibilities for language learning (adapted from King (2002)) :
Motivation for students
to learn English, especially to listen to the dialogs
Bridging the gap between
reading skills and listening skills.
Reinforcement of students'
understanding of English context-bound expressions.
Follow a plot easily.
Learn new vocabulary and
Develop students' concentration
in following lines.
Learn how to pronounce certain
Develop word recognition.
Processing a text rapidly
and improve rapid reading.
Learn different strategies
and styles for processing information
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