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Use: Teaching, Learning & Media Literacy

I just retired and I've always wanted to learn how to quilt but I don't know the best techniques.
I'm planning my honeymoon. I've read the travel books, but I want to see what these places are like before committing.
I'm a college freshman and I'm a little overwhelmed by all the library has to offer.
I'm going to vote for the first time next year. How can I tell if the candidates are telling the truth in the campaign ads?

I'm doing a report on animals, but I don't read very well. Can I use video to learn about animals?

All of these people will be accessing audio and video resources, but they may need some help from a skilled librarian.

Whether people are learning about our government from C-SPAN or exploring nature on the Discovery Channel, the quality of the experience depends on building a teaching and learning environments that aligns with the goals of the experience.

Audio and Video in Learning

smilesLike books and other materials, audio and video materials can help of all ages learn. The extent of learning will depend on the quality of the materials as well as the learning environment. Students can passively sit in front of the television or computer screen. Or, they can actively participate in the library program, one-on-one experience, or classroom activity.

People come to a learning experience with various learning styles. Some students learn better from visual images while others prefer the auditory channel. Video materials are multisensory and can meet both the need for visual and auditory stimulation. When sights and sounds are combined, people become more engaged. As a result, they learn more and remember more of what they have learned. Because people watch television everyday, video is a medium they can understand and interpret easily. It makes sense to take advantage of library users’ senses, interests and viewing skills in selecting instructional materials.

Versatility is another reason for the popularity of video. Because materials can be randomly accessed through the use of a remote control, users have more control over the learning environment. The video can be stopped and a still frame can be analyzed. Or, a segment can easily be reviewed.

Videos can also communicate concepts dynamically. Books are often an inadequate means of conveying information. Videos can broaden the scope of learning. Animation, computer graphics, time-lapse, still-frame, slow-motion, and high-speed production can add new dimensions of understanding that go beyond the basics of text on a page. The addition of computer and web-based hypermedia materials allows students to explore materials by randomly accessing pictures, graphics, text, and sounds as needed. For example, still photographs and text information are an important way to learn about life under the sea. However, videos can bring the sea creatures alive for students by letting them dive into the ocean through the eyes of a camera. They can see, hear, and experience life close up without leaving the classroom.

ArthurPeople with limited experience benefit most from video. Many children have never been outside their city or town. Country kids may never have seen or talked to a person of another race or culture. Many children from urban areas have never see farm animals closeup. Videos can provide a virtual field trip for these students. By adding the element of an Internet environment, students can even hold a live webcast with people from other parts of the world.

Video technology can take people to places that even cameras are not able to go. Life in prehistoric times or the motion of a molecule can be explored through reenactments and animation. Video technology allows students to view, interpret, and discuss human interactions. By providing a context rich environment, students can explore the world of ethnic persecution through the eyes of a young emigrant girl or experience the problems of acceptance, rejection, and peer pressure.

Many educational and instructional videos come with user guides that help teachers integrate the programs into the curriculum. For example, the television program Arthur is popular with primary age children. Their website contains program listings, teacher activities, and student projects.

Examine the Standards for 21st Century Learners from ALA-AASL and the Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education from ALA-ACRL. Identify outcomes that relate directly or indirectly to the use of audio and video materials.

Read Matteson, Addie (May 2016). Teaching with Hamilton. School Library Journal, 44-45. Available through IUPUI.

Designing Viewing and Listening Experiences

Effective use of video programs is more than just arranging for necessary equipment, sitting people in front of the display, and “turning it on.” Several procedures of preparation should be followed.

These approaches are useful whether you're working with young children, adults, or senior citizens.

Preview Video

Carefully evaluate each video program you use with your audience. Have you viewed or are you familiar with the program, or is the video a title that you selected out of a list? If someone else recommended the program, do you have faith in their judgment of the content, the needs of your audience, their age level, etc.?

bearsFor example, you may be familiar with the Berenstain Bears books and videos. The video called The Berenstain Bears Learn About Strangers discusses issues in dealing with strangers. Before showing this in your classroom you need to determine whether the Berenstain Bears characters will be above or below the interest level of your students. Also, dealing with strangers can be a delicate subject. Does the video use the same techniques you wish to promote in your classroom?

If you are not personally familiar with the program, preview the video. Titles can be misleading and catalog descriptions can be in error. As you view the program, determine if the content matches your objectives for the group. Is the video appropriate for the age of the viewers? Is the vocabulary level appropriate for your audience? Will the video challenge watchers and make them think? Identify any new terminology that you will need to explain or introduce. Check the sequencing and pacing of ideas presented; make sure that the material is appropriate for and will hold the interest of your viewers. Is it an appropriate length for the students? Could a portion of the video be used? Determine if the video takes a realistic view, if the information is timely, accurate, and reasonably unbiased. If the material is biased, can you correct that bias by providing your students with additional information?

Do you need to show the entire video? As you preview the video material, question whether you need to show the entire program to your group. Sometimes, all that is needed is a portion of a program. In some cases, you may find that just one still image or frame is useful. Remember that your class time is valuable. Today’s students are already exposed to hours of entertainment programming. You do not have to show the entire video program if what your group really need is just a four-minute section.

Let's say you're doing a baking programs in your public library. You may want to watch a short segment from a baking television program rather than the entire show.

Search through available video sources to determine if there are video segments that were designed and produced for a specific grade level or curricular area, but would be useful in at a different level (re-purposing the video material). Short video sequences can be used without their soundtrack; you can deliver your own narration.

Let's say that you've recorded one of the many excellent videos from the Weather Channel. If you're introducing a topic, use a small segment from a video on floods or hurricanes to stimulate interest in the topic. Later you might show other segments as your unit progresses.

If carefully done, re-purposing of materials can effectively enlarge the use of the material. This will save monies that might be spent on alternative programs, can enhance your curriculum, and motivate participants to view material from different perspectives.

Prepare Room

Before presenting the video material to your group, consider the learning spaceand how you intend to use the programming. Is the video material going to be viewed individually, in small groups, or by the entire group?

The lighting, seating, and viewing angles should be analyzed to determine if students can easily and comfortably see the display screen. Video programs do not require that the room be darkened; however, you should make sure that ambient light from windows and overhead lights does not glare on the screen. Adjust the blinds, cover windows, reposition equipment if possible. Even if you are showing an entire program, there are often long, extraneous lead-ins, credits and the like, that can be skipped. Adjust the volume so that the program does not blare out when it begins. You may have to bring the sound level up as soon as it starts.

Prepare Viewers

Now that the equipment and your learning space are arranged, your participants also need to be prepared. First, briefly review previous material that leads to the programming. Point-out or discuss some of the relationships between prior knowledge and the current lesson. Discuss how this new video material fits into the entire learning experience. In other words, explain the big picture. Make sure that the viewers understand the purposes or objectives for this video material.

If you're doing a public library program on preparing for a job interview, discuss the audience's experience with interviewing. Talk about how to prepare for the interview and how to listen and react in the interview siutation.

HenkesYou need to gain the attention of your audience. Motivate them by creating a need to know about the information in the video. Leaders often do this by posing questions about the topic, listing key points that are to be covered, identifying things that students should be looking for, and introducing new vocabulary. A handout can be used to provide the participants with guidelines for their note-taking and to provide “advance organizers” for the video content.

Without providing some "setup," many viewers will enjoy the video, but get little out of the experience. For example, the School House Rock series is a popular and entertaining way to learn concepts such as grammar. However, the video should be an integral part of the lesson. Will it be used as an introduction to a grammar lesson, as practice, or as review? Your decision will impact what you do to set up the video experience.

If the video is based on a book such as Kevin Henke's Chrysanthemum, you might start or end the activity by reading the book. Or, place the book in a display or learning center.

Focus Attention

Keep the audience motivated to give their attention by insuring that the material is pertinent to their study. Inform them of why the material is important in your class or workshop. If you have selected and prepared carefully, then participants should become involved in viewing and give their attention to the video material. In some instances, you may want to point out important ideas as they occur, taking care not to overly distract and cause students to miss other content. You may try listing ideas on the board as they occur. If the video is long and contains detailed information, consider stopping the program every 8 to 12 minutes for a mini-discussion.

Match the topics and programs with your needs. Let's say you're working on a unit on animals. Use a Kratt's Wild segment to introduce the topic. Provide students with a handout they can complete along with the program. You may even want to stop the video between program segments. Their programs are fast paced and cover lots of ground in a short period of time. If you're looking for an indepth examination of a particular concept, consider a more concentrated Animal Planet program. Again you may wish to provide viewing guidelines such as a vocabulary list or a chart to complete.

Another way to focus attention is by showing a video in small groups. Use the Biography.com website to find a few biographies to complement your history unit. Each small group would view a different biography and report their findings back to the larger group. They could even show short video segments that represent ideas they wish to share with the large group. This approach requires students to actually apply the information that they gather.

After watching C-SPAN, ask students to hold a mock debate or Senate hearing. Or, once students have explored the world of dinosaurs through video, hold a mock archeological dig in the playground.

Web-based video is a great way to involve students in this visual and auditory medium. For example, students might be shown historical photographs or video clips. Then, a lively 2-way discussion could take place between your class and an expert at a distance. An art museum program might include interactive discussions and critiques of pieces of artwork from the museum.

Follow Up

After the video program is viewed, it is important to actively involve your participants with the content material through planned follow-up activities. In some cases, this could be simply having them answer questions on the material or reviewing the vocabulary. Often teachers guide their students through a question-answer discussion sequence. Consider asking clarifying questions, “what if” questions, and “why do you suppose" questions. Ask students to provide examples from the video. Some other ideas include:

Another useful strategy is to organize student panel discussions or debates that expand and elaborate on the content introduced by the video program. Teachers sometimes lead a large group in a brainstorming session. Other times, it is more appropriate to separate your students into small discussion or “buzz” groups. You can incorporate more dramatic activities after viewing by assigning your students varied roles to play, leading students to plan and deliver their own skits and oral presentations.

Follow-up assignments can be made asking that participants continue with additional research, complete projects, or write a story. Remember, the goal of follow-up activities is for students to become actively involved with the content material. They should apply or transfer the information gained into their daily lives and activities. You don't want students to view the material as isolated from other instructional content.


Finally, after all activities related to the use of the video material are complete, some attention should be given to evaluation. Consider the means to be used for gauging whether participants have reached the goals for the video material. Remember that evaluation does not necessarily mean testing. A variety of assessment techniques may be used from formal to informal and from observations to product assessments. As the group leader, evaluate the entire video presentation sequence and note any needed improvements or modifications. Decide if the material has met expectations and whether you want to plan the activity for a future program.

Repurposing Video

To Kill a MockingbirdVideos are great instructional tools because they can be used a number of different ways. For example, teachers can use continuous video, step through individual frames, or scan through the video quickly.

Many popular commercial movies and television programs are available on DVD. If your students read books such as To Kill a Mockingbird or Grapes of Wrath, consider showing segments. Ask students to compare the video with the book. Movieclips provides a dozen video clips from To Kill a Mockingbird. View an example.

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Explore video clips from SparkNotes and Minute Video Book Reports. Think about how they might bring the classic alive for readers. Or, how they might be used to stimulate discussions about books.

Many excellent documentaries can be integrated into classrooms and other library programs.

Videos can be repurposed for use in many content areas. Repurposing refers to using a video in a way that it was not originally intended. For example, the video Molly’s Pilgrim was originally released as an educational film based on a book about a Russian immigrant child. You can easily develop social studies activities related to cultural diversity and individual differences. For example, name calling is a common problem in elementary schools. A segment where Molly is being teased and rejected by classmates is an effective discussion starter.

The video could also be used to teach concepts related to language arts. Let’s say you’re helping students enhance their writing through the use of descriptive words. Students often have a tough time coming up with ideas. Use the visuals from a video clip to stimulate their thinking. You could show two similar segments from the film that show Molly walking to school. The first shows a sad, depressed Molly, while in the second clip Molly is happy and carefree. Through discussing these segments, students can enhance their writing.

Videos can be useful resources for large group, small group, and individualized activities. Be sure to carefully preview a video before integrating it into classroom activities. Ask yourself the following questions:

The key to successful video integration is student involvement. Let students use the remote control or mouse to control the video. During large group instruction, assign a child the remote or pass it around if it's a DVD. Develop small group activities that ask students to view particular clips, then discuss, interpret, or create something. Let's say you have the video titled National Zoo. You might show a clip about why the male lion has "big hair." It would be fun for students to write tall tales about how the lion got its mane. Students could use the lion images in their stories. You might ask students to find a clip that fits a particular need and discuss or write about it.

Addressing Individual Differences through Audio and Video

People come to library programs with different sets of expectations and experiences. They also come with varied learning styles. While some will be motivated by a video, others will be drawn into an audiobook or music activity. The key is to provide a variety of learning experiences to meet individual differences. This type of dynamic learning environment is known as a differentiated classroom.

Librarians, media specialists, technology coordinators and other teachers all play a vital role in selecting and organizing technology-rich resources as well as designing the learning environment.

blues journeyCombining an emphasis on differentiated instruction, promoting multiple intelligences, and ensuring deep understandings, next generation learners combine technologies to meet their individual needs.

For example, a "history in verse" lesson might have traditionally included reading a book of poetry and writing a paper. Today's student might read Blues Journey by Walter Dean Myers which contains an audio CD of recorded verse and music. The learner might use the PBS website to read, listen, and watch information about the history of Blues. Rather than a print product, open source software such as Audacity could be used to record their verse and share it on their blog as a podcast.

Audio and Video Ideas

If you're new to the use of audio and video materials, start with traditional activities and adapt them for a media-rich environment. Let's use writing as an example.

Journal Writing. Rather than a traditional journal, keep a media journal detailing what music is heard and television is watched.

Review Writing. Rather than the traditional book review, try a media review. Watch a movie, listen to an audio recording, or view a television program. Then write a critical review.

Directions Writing. Rather than reading and writing directions, watch a video containing step-by-step instructions for a procedure. Then, write your own instructions for your own video production. Students still get experience writing, but they do it in a different way.

Descriptive Writing. Watch a video and write about the setting of the story like you were writing for a travel book.

Short Story Writing. Write short stories based on the characters in a movie or music video.

Poetry. Watch oral history videos or music videos. Write a poem that reflects the person's experience in the video.

In addition to adapting your traditional activities, consider new ways of thinking about content.

Role of Music. Listen to music that relates to a particular time period. Discuss how it reflects the time. Civil War music, Jazz music, and Rock 'N Rock are three good examples.

Radio News. Rather than just reading the local newspaper, listen to a live radio broadcast or television program from somewhere else in the world. Compare it to local news.

Audiobook. Rather than reading a novel or textbook, listen to an audiobook to gather content.

Think Different

Music can be a great way to incorporate audio into the library. Rather than focusing on a particular genre of music, think about the value of the music content. In other words, what is the music saying in terms of sounds and lyrics. How could it help you address a particular learning outcome?

For example, a popular social studies and writing activity is based on Billy Joel's We Didn't Start the Fire. You can also use Kenny G's songs that incorporate audio news clips. Check out an analysis of the song and some links. You can also watch the video.

DenverWhen you combine the picture book Take Me Home Country Roads by John Denver (Illustration by Christopher Canyon) with the audio CD you get a new experience. Suddenly the old song becomes a new way of thinking about reunions. What song would you write about a reunion? What would the picture book look like? What genre of music would you use to accompany your reunion story? Why?

Explore MUSIC (Musicians United for Songs In the Classroom) for music ideas.


One of the best ways to find new ideas for your differentiated program is through brainstorming. Here are some ideas for applications of sounds in the classroom:

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Create a list of some of traditional assignments that focus on verbal/linguistic learning such as reading a book and writing a paragraph. Brainstorm ways you could add audio or visual elements to differentiate the activities for a variety of learning styles.

Developmental Levels of Students

As you select audio and video materials to integrate into the classroom, consider the developmental level of your students. For example, preschool children do not differentiate between real and make-believe. This has implications for the kinds of video materials you select and the activities you design.

Develop concrete activities for primary children. For example, ask students to sequence screens from a movie, draw a storyboard of a video, or use a concept map to review the elements of an audiobook. Ask students to map the setting of the video. As students gain experience using audio and video ask them to discuss the nature of the characters and make predications in the story.

RedwallIntermediate students like video storylines with conflict and clear morals. Use fairytales and fantasy to expand their thinking about the world. For example, you might use the Redwall audiobooks. Incorporate music through the use of musicals and music videos.

As students become teenagers, they enjoy movies about young adults their age. Look for videos with real-life circumstances and world issues. They also enjoy videos with fantasy and science fiction related to today's issues. Music becomes increasingly important to many students. This is a great age to examine the lyrics in popular or historical songs.

Multiple Approaches

Notes from the WildTry a variety of methods and resources for experiencing subject matter. For example, rather than a scientific approach to nature, explore nature through sound recordings. Bernie Krause's "expedition" contains a book and audio CD.

Rather than reading about mental illness, start with a video that might generate questions about the topic. This will then motivate students to read the textbooks, trade book, or website materials.

Not all students are hooked by the same approach, audio and video can be a great way to provide different paths to the same learning outcomes.

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Use a movie, music (song, CD, or style), speech, poem (audio), or other media material as the focal point for a unit or promotional activity. Examples: Gladstone (Native American Music), Jazz, Music from Civil War, Folk Music, Billy Joel’s song.

Media Literacy

medialitBring up the term "media literacy" with a group of people and a dozen different ideas come to mind. Some people will think of "film studies courses" where students analyze characters, plot, and cinematography. While others start complaining about the quality of television. Still others will recall a middle school class where they learned about advertising techniques that TV commercials use.

Media literacy, computer literacy, technology literacy, information literacy, science literacy, transmedia literature… what does it all mean? What is media literacy and why are there so many different perspectives?

Media literacy is the ability to read, interpret, use, design, and create audio and video materials for specific outcomes. This includes thinking, learning, and expressing oneself using media.

Since media is all around us, some people may think that everyone is naturally media literacy. Young people are typically large consumers of all types of media including Internet, television, radio, movies, and computers. Of course anyone can become a couch potato and view television and music as a passive medium. Media literate people view their interaction with media as active.

From television commercials to news media, people need to be aware of how media impacts opinions and life. An important part of an effective media literacy program is helping people analyze and interpret audio and video communications.

Explore some ideas for media literacy in the following areas:

Video Programs

People of all ages spend a tremendous amount of time watching live or recorded television programs. How do we help children and young adults become good consumers of these materials? How do we help parents make good choices for their children? Explore a couple of the following resources:

News Programs

News is an important way for people to learn about the world outside their home and classroom. Unfortunately much of the news focuses on violent images such as wars and disasters. It's important for students to gain perspective on these events by analyzing and evaluating what they see. In addition, it's important that adults understand that there are places that will help them factcheck information they see. Use the following resources with news programming:


Television and radio advertising is a multibillion dollar industry. Political candidates, organizations, companies, and individuals all want to promote their ideas or products. People need to be aware of the purpose and impact of advertisements. Check out Admongo. It's a learning game.

Music, Radio, and Audio Media

Although many media education programs focus on video, audio is equally important. Are children really listening to the lyrics of the music they play?

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Skim through some of the sections of Sound Learning from Minnesota Public Radio. Check out some of the ideas for various subject areas. Select some aspect of auditory literacy such as listening to music, stories, or oral directions. List specific skills that are associated with an area. Select one and describe an activity for public or school libraries that would help address this area. What resources could be used to support your activity?


Does media provide an accurate representation of people of all ages, sizes, races, and backgrounds? From the violence to women heard in rap music to depictions of casual sex found in movies, students need to be able to identify distorted views in audio and video materials. Students also need the opportunity to view positive representations of various people. Explore resources that focus on understanding media and their effects on children.

Media Literacy Resources

Many excellent materials are available online to help you teach media literacy. The following materials provide resources, articles, and links to quality materials. Although most of the websites provide a balanced approach, note that some will provide a more conservative or liberal approach. Select those materials that best reflect the needs of your community. Canada has a long tradition of teaching media literacy. As a result, you'll find that many of the best materials are housed at Canadian websites.

Media Literacy Teaching Materials

Media Literacy and Children

From video games and feature films to music and television, media plays a large role in today's society. Does media have a positive or negative impact on our world? You decide.

From Sesame Street to Ready Jet Go!, research has shown that television programs are positively associated with performance in reading, writing, mathematics, science, and social skills.

doraTelevision: The Great Debate

Television has become a great debate. Some people think that television is a mindless "boob tube" creating millions of illiterate "couch potatoes". Others see the television as a way to educate millions and promote literate, active citizens.

Television can combine education and entertainment. For example, Nick Jr.'s Dora the Explorer is the first American cartoon featuring a hispanic character. Children can go on adventures, solve problems, sing songs, and learn Spanish along the way. Children and parents can even visit the Dora the Explorer website for special features such as Dora's Spanish Words of the Day.

Much of the debate related to television is generated by media hype over the issue. On the other hand, many parents are seriously concerned about the amount of time children, teens, and adults spend watching violent programming. Health experts are concerned about the lack of exercise children get when they spend their time watching television, working on the computer, and even reading on the couch.

The Pros and Cons of Video

Video can provide a motivating, challenging, and stimulating learning environment. It can also be a mindless babysitter. Parents and teachers need to become active facilitators to make video a worthwhile learning experience.

Go to Control Your TV to learn about video and media control.

Many groups are excited about the positive impact that television can have on children. Explore some examples at the websites below:

The Issues

Not everyone is thrilled with the barrage of electronic media, particularly television. There is a strong movement to promote good viewing practices and limit television and video viewing. However there are others that see positive aspects of television and gaming.

A number of organizations and online materials are available to explore the pros and cons of television and movies. The following sites focus on concerns about the use of media with children.

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Watch Jane McGonigal: Gaming Can Make a Better World from TED.
She talks about the importance of game playing in solving the problems of the world. 
You might also want to browse one of McGonigal's articles.

Connecting Media

topsMany children become focused on a particular medium such as music CDs, television programs, or books. All have a role in our society. Children need to be encouraged to explore many different options. You might begin with a book with a gardening theme such as the Caldecott award winning book Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens.

Then introduce a video that shows children how to create their own garden. Use the Internet to learn about what plants will grow well where you live. You could even buy seeds online. Listen to music with a gardening theme. Or. explore nature CDs containing the sounds of birds and other creatures that live in the garden. Finally, go outside and explore nature by creating a garden.

The key to use of audio and video is balance. People need mental as well as physical stimulation. Promote activities that stimulate all the senses.

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