12 Ways to Use Multimedia Videos in History Lessons


Published: 19th March 2008

Dan Moorhouse provides:

12 ways to use multimedia videos in lessons:

1)      To develop an understanding of the ways in which different Interpretations of events are formed. For example, pupils studying Northern Ireland as a GCSE coursework unit may be asked to consider how and why there are different Interpretations of the events of bloody Sunday. At the beginning of a study of this complex study, present students with one multimedia presentation outlining an Interpretation of the events. Ask them to consider why the events of that day happened, to think about ‘blame' and any justifications. I use this video on bloody Sunday for this purpose - Bloody Sunday After watching the video discuss the reasons for the shootings, ask them who they think the guilty and innocent parties are. Then ask them why they think this. Focus on the way in which the video, representing the media, has highlighted certain issues, whilst ignoring alternative images and statements. Follow up tasks could include pupils creating videos presenting alternative interpretations, making use of different images, statements and views.

2)      To support writing frames on issues where pupils need to consider whether decisions were justified. For example, this video on the dropping of the Atomic Bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Atomic Bombs Video) is used alongside note making exercises leading to an essay in which pupils consider whether or not the dropping of the bombs was justified. Essentially the video is presenting them with Truman's justifications, along with images and statistics that show the human cost of the decision. Used as an introduction to the note making and planning of the essay, this video can act as stimulus for a debate about whether the bombing was justified.

3)      To provide a Chronological overview of course contents. A relatively simple and straight forward idea. In this video, Chronology, I have simply included a series of key events covered in a study of Russian History at GCSE level. The video can be utilised as part of the introduction to the course, to provide them with an overview of what will be studied but also has uses in revision sessions and can simply be played as pupils enter the room for lessons to reinforce knowledge of key dates, events and personalities.

4)      To model annotation exercises and ensure pace in lessons. For example, in this video on the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Dissolution Video, pupils are provided with print outs of the sources included in the video, have the annotation task explained to them and are asked to highlight a key phrase in each section of the source, whilst it is shown on screen.

5)      To develop an Understanding of the ways in which Propaganda has been used in the past. Students often find propaganda and associated issues quite difficult to comprehend, and many of mine take media footage and portrayal of the rich and famous for granted, and as fact. In this video on the way in which Stalin developed the Cult of personality, Stalin, pupils are asked to consider the different types of image that are used and note 5 themes that Stalin appeared to have focussed on when deciding how to portray himself to the public. Pupils quickly identify things such as closeness to Lenin, the Military and Industrial themes along with things such as Stalin's appearance as a wise, caring and strong leader. This has helped students to understand the reasons why images were doctored at the times, and can easily be linked in with other issues on the course. Similar videos would work well on studies of Nazi propaganda.

6)      To encourage and develop inquisitive minds. In this video Slave Trade a variety of images related to the Slave trade are used. Students are asked to note down what they think the images are showing, and are prompted to do so at various stages in the video. The clip can be paused to provide more time, to enable discussion of the evidence seen in each section and to enable pupils to ask questions. In the second half of this video, I usually ask pupils to create a list of questions that they would like to know the answers to. Normally the questions that pupils come up with can be referred to when outlining how the class will develop their understanding of slavery, and shows them that the scheme of work is closely related to things that they want to know about.

7)      To promote local history elements of international conflicts. When teaching about the two World wars I try to emphasise the impact that the conflicts had on the local area. There are clearly many ways of achieving this. One of the most popular methods that I've utilised is through linking the conflict with local sportsmen in the First World War. In this video, First World War, I outline the feats and fates of a number of local sportsmen. The video can be used in a number of ways. Firstly, it makes the war locally relevant to pupils, many of whom support teams for whom these sportsmen played. It provides an opportunity to discuss social history and place events into some kind of context (issues such as International footballers actually being allowed to fight often crop up in discussion - would that happen nowadays?) likewise the value of money at the time is often noted - £1000 pound transfers being noted as substantial. It also offers a route into the study of the way in which the war was fought, as pupils can be asked to concentrate on the way in which the men perished, which provides a number of clues as to the way in which warfare was conducted at the time.

8)      Lyric analysis tasks. There are many examples of songs with a historical theme. Many of these can be used alongside related images to create a video that introduces a task based around the lyrics. Classic examples of these include songs relating to the Levellers movement, the troubles in Northern Ireland and the Vietnam War. Perhaps one of the most often used artists for this purpose is Bob Dylan. In this video, Dylan, Tony Fox has used Dylan's song about Emmett Till in a video that could be used for the purpose of introducing lyric analysis.

9)      To provide pupils with an opportunity to record and present their work in a different way. It's all good and well having teachers creating lots of clips and showing them to classes but there's a huge amount of potential for pupils to create multimedia resources. Using movie making equipment, and podcasts, provides students with another means of thinking through their understanding of the past, can allow them to be more creative in their work and offers them a means of creating things that they are more likely to enjoy, reuse and remember. Examples of these include Tony Foxes students writing alternative lyrics to an Arctic Monkeys tune to create a video relating to the Suffragette movement, which can be accessed here - Suffragette. An alternative is this video created by pupils for use in an assembly, Assembly

10)   To engage and inspire. Movies can be made that inject humour into the classroom, whilst having a very serious purpose. The Revision Pig video, Revision Pig, for example results in howls of laughter from pupils whilst making some very serious points. As it's so amusing, pupils are quite willing to listen to it several times and do take the points quite seriously.

11)   To tell the story. As one of the pupils in the BBC interview said, we can sometimes ‘rabbit on'  a bit. Videos can be used to tell the story in a basic but engaging way. For example, this video on William the Conqueror, Conquerer, provides a basic narrative of the events of 1066 in a way that pupils find accessible and enjoyable - though it is annoying when pupils start singing along...

12)   An alternative to the ‘Newspaper Report.' The BBC Class Clips series provides several excellent opportunities to do this. Show a video clip without sound but with ‘news headlines' and ‘breaking news' comments at the foot of the screen - easy o insert in most movie editing programmes and already inserted into a number of the BBC Class Clips series. Pupils watch the clip several times with a task of creating the newsreader script for the news broadcast. Pupils can then make use of an IT suite or laptops in the classroom to add the voiceover, creating their own news report on events. An exemplar video created by American colleagues about the way that D Day might have reported, is available here, D Day