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Why Use DVD in the Classroom?

DVD: Using Your Imagination in the Classroom

By William Lambeth, teacher
La Mirada High School, La Mirada, CA

Video in the classroom has become an essential teaching resource. Beginning with the VCR over two decades ago to current technologies providing teachers with a variety of video sources, the incorporation of video presentations as part of course content permeates the modern classroom.

DVD video will revolutionize teachers' access to and ability to utilize video resources for teaching. It's a revolutionary change because the digital format gives the user a degree of access and control over video presentation content never before possible. DVD technology builds on the laserdisc concept of instant accessibility to video segments by use of frames and adds some cool options that enhance lessons and help students become active learners. Students are more likely to be active learners if engaged in their work and using DVDs.

Thirteen Days DVD

DVD is user friendly, too. Setup and playback is as easy as using videotape. Learning how to use DVD features of chapter and frame access requires only a few minutes of instruction. Insert the disc into the player and the menu screen opens. The menu feature is what makes DVD so powerful. The disc's storage capacity is so much greater than previous technologies that additional video options can be offered the user. These options include access to the movie divided into related segments--the chapter feature. There are often additional features such as interviews with the leading actors or the director. If the movie has historical content, the disc may contain news footage from the event or historical commentary about the event. For instance, in the movie Thirteen Days, the director, writer, and actor Kevin Costner provide commentary on the movie; there is historical footage that includes John F. Kennedy, Khrushchev, and others from the time; visual effects scene deconstructions; two documentaries, and Infinifilm option which allows access to content specifically related to a scene via pop-up menus. There may also be an option for sub titles. Only the advanced features included with the most expensive DVD machines require a significant investment of learning time to make them useful.

The bare bones DVD player is a video playback machine. The player operates much like an audio CD player. The front panel will have start, stop, forward, reverse, and pause. The rear panel will have output jacks that may include RCA, S-video and cable. The digital format will give you high quality playback for years of classroom presentations. Do not confuse DVD video with the DVD-ROM technology, which is a component of many computer systems. DVD-ROM is intended as a replacement for CD-ROM for computer applications. DVD video will play back on DVD-ROM equipped computers. But DVD-ROM discs will not play on a DVD video player. This issue has confused some users because the two technologies were introduced at about the same time. DVD video has many applications for teachers. But its real value comes when you use the many features built into most DVDs but available only on a DVD player capable of using those features.

The most common player for consumers usually has a chapter access capability. It is typically a low-cost machine because it has few added features for use in the classroom. Virtually every DVD is divided into chapters that appear as options at the beginning of playback. A teacher who wants to access any given chapter of a DVD may select one from the opening menu. Typical pause, fast forward and reverse options are also available on these machines. Since that is the use a home consumer will make of DVD, there is no economic sense adding additional capabilities, which increase cost. The market for these machines is driven by release of movies on DVD. The educational value of the "made for Hollywood" movie is often relevant to course content and the connections a teacher makes between that content and the DVD video selected to support it.

Because a basic DVD is so easy to use, teachers often assign students projects using them. By providing the topic, the disc, and a player, the teacher can encourage students to expand their range of options as they plan, produce, and present material related to their learning.

The language and subtitle features open DVD for use across the curriculum. The presentation may be for an ELD or foreign language class. Turn on any one of up to eight different languages that may be available if included as part of the specific disc you are using. Turn on the subtitles option and the foreign language dialogue selected may be compared with the subtitles printed in English.

One issue of importance when introducing a new technology into the classroom is cost related to investing in new equipment and the reality of limited funds. Videotape players are common and taped programs are inexpensive or free. It is expensive to build a new video library when one already exists which meets many of a school's needs. The process of change from tape to DVD begins with one teacher who sees the advantages of the new technology and becomes a local promoter of it. Demonstrated usefulness is a powerful way to promote wider use. The library funds at most schools may be used to purchase video resources. Begin building a collection with requests for a few titles. Those titles may be duplicates of ones available on tape. The features that make DVD better than tape will be a selling point for expanding purchases in the future. Those features include:

None of the above will be of any use if there are no DVD titles for use in your classroom. As mentioned above, begin to build the library with a few critical titles. Many education publishers have begun to produce DVD titles from their video and laserdisc libraries. Movies that have been released on DVD are also a source to consider. The move to DVD will be faster if educators ask suppliers for the DVD version of a tape every time the issue arises. Commercially available players with chapter access can be an inexpensive way to start. The additional options available on a player made for use by educators will be more expensive but "affordable" when teachers see the value added to their classroom presentation.

For a number of teachers, using DVD in the way just described is an adequate addition to their resources. But there are some really cool features which can be used to make DVD a more powerful teaching tool especially if a teacher invests more dollars in a playback machine made specifically for education and spends more time in learning how to use advanced DVD features. One player that takes advantage of all DVD features is the Pioneer DVD-V7400. In addition to standard features, on the front panel is a PS-2 computer keyboard/mouse connector and an input jack for a bar code reader. The bar code reader you may have from your laserdisc player will work with the Pioneer DVD bar coded lessons. This player includes a remote control, which is essential for making your presentations. The remote allows access to all the options listed above. Use it to select segments from an entire disc to present only those portions of a disc relevant to your lesson.

Click on the link below to access a DVD lesson using the movie All the President's Men, based on Nixon and the Watergate investigation. This is only a sample of what can be done. Use your imagination to make connections between what you teach and the power of digital images to assist those lessons.

Free DVD Lesson