Film and Video in the Classroom
On average, children watch over twenty-five hours of television per week. This alarming statistic is not surprising, especially to educators who often compete with television for the students' time and attention. Granted, Christian educators must battle the negative effects of this medium. However, they should also recognize its positive effects and enlist videos as an imposing ally in the cause of Christian education.
Films are powerful communicators because a person remembers five times more of what he hears and sees (as opposed to what he only hears). The visual element gives the motion picture its special impact; and the bigger the image, the greater the impact. Yet the visual element is often neglected when people show videos. The VHS video format provides a convenient and economical means for distribution, but the effectiveness of video depends greatly on how it is used. Each viewer must be able to hear and see the video in order for it to communicate.
When showing videos authorized for public performance to a group, determine the image size needed for your audience with this "Rule of Thumb": the number of viewers should not exceed the diagonal inches of the screen. For example, a 25" monitor can be comfortably viewed by up to 25 people. Additional monitors can be connected together to accommodate larger groups. If an LCD video projector is used, the room will need to be darkened and the sound should be set up to come from the front near the screen.
In addition to their use in the classroom, videos can be assigned for viewing at home. Teachers already help students judge good literature and music; should they not also guide students in selecting media programs? Videos such as Macbeth, City of the Bees, Evolution: Fact or Fiction, Overcomer, John Hus, The Printing, Love's Relationship, and others can supplement class material or provide the student with an opportunity to earn extra credit. Work sheets can be made up to help the student focus on key information. Oral or written reports can be shared with the rest of the class. Arrangements can usually be worked out for students who do not have access to a VCR or TV.
Using good videos in this way will not only turn the students' TV viewing toward achieving productive goals, but it will also teach them to apply the "Replacement Principle." Beyond simply removing negative viewing habits, students are learning to replace them with positive alternatives. Just as an appreciation for good music or literature must be developed, the skills to select good videos must also be taught.
Unhappily, when it comes to the selection of TV and video programs, good judgment is often cast aside on the basis that the media programs are being viewed only for entertainment. Public television has conditioned us to think that some programs are educational while others are entertaining. The fact is all TV is educational. The brain cannot be turned on and off, depending on the nature of the program. A person learns and is influenced by everything he or she watches. Programs billed as "just entertainment" often do more educating than the programs produced for that purpose. Young people, as well as adults, need to learn how to choose carefully what they watch as well as how much they watch.
How can a teacher make available videos that provide a positive alternative? He can develop a list of recommended videos or establish a lending library of videos that have been previewed. Schools and churches can make videos a part of their regular libraries, providing both an educational resource and an outreach ministry to families. This ministry leads to yet another benefit from incorporating home videos into your teaching: helping students who come from families that may have special spiritual needs or even unsaved loved ones. Some video assignments would probably be Christian films such as Sheffey. As students view these Christian videos in their homes, they gain tremendous spiritual blessings, as may their families and friends who watch along with them.
While parents bear the primary responsibility for teaching their young people to select wholesome videos to watch, teachers can be an important reinforcement to their efforts. Teachers can also help young people see the educational benefits. The opening statistic reflects the viewing habits of children in the general public, hopefully not the average Christian school student. But the fact remains that all Christian youth must battle with the issue of what is acceptable entertainment. Educators can help them develop the judgment they need by offering worthy alternatives to the many negative choices elsewhere.