The Elephant NOT in the Room: The Use, Nonuse, or Misuse of Video in the Postmodern Humanities Classroom
We find ourselves in a new century ripe with moving images of violence, trials, and strife. However, you won't see most of these in most college classrooms, for it is one of the few places where the television, the elephant not the room, is mostly absent. The question is whether it should remain absent or welcomed, and if the latter, how? "I learn best with those shows you show us" one student of mine from the inner city remarked, enforcing the notion that this device is part of our students' lives as much as our lectures (if not moreso). The reality is that the television is here to stay: now the hard part is figuring out how to use it. If we use it as I often do, as a teaser or interest-raiser, the television can be effective in raising interest for the reading impaired: this book is interesting, read it. However, the risk is a lack of depth that runs into Frederic Jameson's criticism of postmodernism as fragmented. We CAN use video as an effective device (for instance, as substitute teacher when teacher is out-of-town), but the risks of video overuse are a complete takeover of the video in the classroom. Is the teacher the television program or the teacher? Finally, the use of video in cases of hot topics such as religion, does back the teacher: if teacher mentions Mithraism a competitor of Christianity it might seem the idea of a crazed liberal, but if the video does it that's another issue. In any use, the result is a different kind of knowledge, a heteroglossia as Bahktin calls it, of both teacher, textbook, and video program that goes beyond the mere font of knowledge that the former paradigm of college lecturer enforces (see TIAA Cref commercials).
Keywords: Video, Media, Humanities, Teaching
Dr. Andrew Vassar
Assistant Professor, Department of Humanities, Northeastern State University, Tahlequah, Oklahoma