Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Power of YouTube: Using online videos as a motivational tool in the EFL classroom

I know it's Mother's Day, but it's business as usual over here so you're getting a blog post about a research paper I wrote for my Methods & Materials class. And it has nothing to do with mothers.

The use of YouTube in the English as a Foreign Language (EFL) classroom is common enough these days, what with all the students being digital natives. The most commonly cited uses of YouTube in the EFL classroom are showing students videos to expose them to authentic language, and having students create videos and upload them to YouTube to gain an audience and receive feedback.

My Methods & Materials professor required that we carry out original research for this paper, so I chose to focus on a lesser-known use of YouTube in the EFL classroom: as a motivational tool, or as a tool that can increase enthusiasm for learning. I conducted the research in my own two classrooms, and focused on the teacher's (my) perception of increased student motivation/enthusiasm for learning. Therefore, my results are more feelings-based than numbers-based, but that doesn't make them any less relevant. The way a teacher feels about her classroom can't really be numerically quantified or graphed on a chart, but I didn't want to deal with student surveys this time around. A teacher teaches better when she feels that the students are mentally present and engaged with the material, and I wanted to see if showing YouTube videos at the beginning of class could have an effect on the level of motivation and enthusiasm for learning in the classroom.

I won't bore you with the complete literature review, but if you're interested in this topic, then you should read Berk, R. A. (2009). Multimedia teaching with video clips: TV, movies, YouTube, and mtvU in the college classroom. International Journal of Technology in Teaching and Learning, 5(1), 1-21.

When deciding what kinds of YouTube videos to show in the classroom, teachers have to consider what kind of tone they're going for - high-energy stuff to kick their students' attention into gear? Humorous videos to put them at ease with each other? Or calm, introspective videos that get the mind ready to think? - as well as what is culturally appropriate. In this part of the world, you can't get away with much, and teachers need to steer well clear of material that appears to question shared values.

The problem I was trying to solve with my research was this: from the beginning of the semester until about the time of the midterm, students are generally pretty good about coming to class and engaging with the material. The surroundings are new, the teacher is new, there's a different mix of classmates, and the subject is new. After the midterm, however, students tend to check out during class - at least mentally, if not physically. I wanted to see if I could help my students muster up a little more enthusiasm and motivation for learning by showing them neat YouTube videos at the beginning of class.

So that's what I did: at the beginning of class during the second half of the semester, about two times a week, I showed a YouTube video. (Actually, two of them were on vimeo.) Sometimes it was a high-energy, awesome video. Sometimes it was just something funny. Sometimes it was a calm, thought-provoking video. Here is a video showing clips of all the videos I used during this research project. It broke my heart to cut off some of them (and I couldn't bring myself to clip down Embrace Life at all).

The results? I felt that showing a short YouTube video at the beginning of class did increase the motivation and enthusiasm for learning of my students. After the videos, they seemed more ready to learn and more excited about doing it. I heard them talking about the videos after class. One student even told me that she looked up other ASL videos and learned a little sign language herself. Sometimes, I think kids just need a reason to get out of bed in the morning (especially when class starts at 8 or 9 o'clock, as mine do), and if one simple YouTube video is the kicker they need, great. It felt good to bring a little whimsy and energy into the classroom, even though it technically meant 1.5 - 4 fewer minutes spent on the textbook.

Plus, I had a lot of fun writing up this research.

If I were to carry out the results of this research in all future semesters that I teach (and I plan to), do you have any other videos that I should show? Remember that it has to be ultra culturally appropriate. Which reminds me - something that I chose not to focus on in the presentation of my research today was the fact that I forgot that there was a (tame, chaste) kiss in the World's Largest Rope Swing video (it's at 2:09). I swear that the sound of my female students' hearts getting set all a-flutter was practically audible when that flashed on the screen. Oops.


Anna said...

Cool project. When I was teaching rhetoric I (and every other first year writing teacher) used tons of vido clips--usually commecials-- under the guise of using visual rhetoric as an introduction to written rhetoric. Mostly, I think it did just what you hypothesized: energized the students. I was at BYU teaching back when Youtube was still forbidden so it was a little trickier to get the videos to show.

I wish I could find my compilation to share with you--some of them might have been useful. It was kind of standard to share your cool vidoes with the other first year teachers. But, they are all from 2008 anyway. Still, here are a couple I remember:

I bet you are a stellar teacher.

Kathy Haynie said...

How did you find/choose the videos? I would like to use more videos in my teaching, but it can be hard to find good ones. Maybe that's a generational thing (as in, I'm a generation older).

(Actually, one of my students blurted out on Friday--when I told them I was turning 58 this weekend--that I'm older than her grandmother. Humph. Must have a young mother & grandmother.)

Kathy Haynie said...

Anna, those are awesome. Thank you!

Jeremy Palmer said...

Great topic for research! Got get em motivated in the mornings man. And the rest of the day...

Susanne said...

Bridget, what do you teach? I think your classes would be so good! I enjoyed the video.

The first half of this one is not so good as you hear Samer and some German lady speaking while you see a picture of Amer readying his "skis", but I think your class might enjoy the last half of this one. It's a Damascene skiing in the Alps about 6 weeks ago. A German lady who lives on this mountain told the guys how they used to "ski" (or slide/sled) as children and Amer decided to try it.

Glenda The Good said...

Oh Bridget...setting your girls hearts all a flutter. You better watch out before you get yourself banned for being more provocative then a Jane Austen book :)

Finding My Way Softly said...

It is funny, I just finished a blog post that has a great video in it, and then I read yours. lol

I am not sure if cancer is something that is culturally off limits in the UAE, but if not, this might make a good video, and starting place for a discussion.

This is the link to my blog post.

BTW, I loved the sigh language video. Do you have the link to the entire video?

Susanne said...

A friend shared this with me today.

Katie Lewis said...

This is awesome. During my freshman year at BYU my physical science professor promised us at the beginning of the semester that he'd blow something up every Friday. You had better believe that was the only reason I went to class on Friday sometimes.

As for video recommendations, I think the SlapChop should be culturally and morally fine. And it's just funny.

Katie Lewis said...

Okay and Can't Hug Every Cat

Katie Lewis said...

But... you are a grandma.

Bridget said...

Wow, I think my students would really like the bullet one. I love that you had to get around a YouTube block back in the day. I'm terrified that YouTube will be outlawed here someday. It's already really buggy and hard to get videos to load without errors.

Bridget said...

I never sat down with YouTube and went looking for videos. All of these were ones I already knew about and have loved for a long time, or other people told me about them.

Bridget said...

He does other songs, too.

That cancer video is great!

Julia - Finding My Way Softly said...

Thanks! My husband and I both enjoyed watching a number of his videos.


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